Lincoln entered the small-but-growing sport utility truck (SUT) segment for the 2002 model year with its Blackwood. The SUT was first seen in concept form at the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where it took the competition by surprise.
Basically, designers transformed Lincolns Navigator sport utility vehicle into a luxurious crew-cab pickup truck. Other manufacturers followed suit: Chevrolet announced the development of its Avalanche pickup/SUV crossover, and Ford introduced its Explorer Sport Trac, which combines the attributes of a pickup and SUV. Cadillac also entered this arena with its 2002 Escalade EXT.
Lincoln announced plans to sell approximately 10,000 Blackwoods per year, and the company said the vehicle would come with a sticker price of $52,500. Production not only was delayed, but just a trickle of Blackwoods began to reach dealerships and sales were in the hundreds rather than the thousands. After months of uncertainty, Lincoln announced that production on the Blackwood would halt in mid-2002. The final, 2003 version of the Blackwood will arrive in small numbers at dealerships.
A signature Lincoln grille leads the Blackwood, which originated as a Navigator that had its chassis lowered by 3 inches. When creating the concept version, designers replaced the regular Navigator rear end with a pickup-style cargo box that had its sides finished in wood with aluminum accents. The production-version Blackwood followed the same principle. Even though the Blackwood is a fully loaded luxury vehicle, Lincoln claims that it is nearly 50/50 in weight balance.
The Blackwood is painted Gloss Black, hence the vehicles name. A lockable, power-operated hard tonneau cover encloses the 4-by-8-foot cargo box, or trunk. Pushing buttons on the remote key fob raises and lowers the tonneau, which Lincoln says is the first manufacturer-installed power tonneau cover. It is side hinged, raises to a height of 6 feet 8 inches tall and nests into the Dutch rear doors. These doors are used in the place of a conventional liftgate.
Lincolns star insignia decorates the front-door cladding and the tonneaus latch cover. Stainless-steel trim and LED accent lighting adorn the Blackwoods trunk interior. Unlike the Avalanche and Escalade EXT, which feature a movable midgate, the Blackwood has a fixed bulkhead.
Styling touches include chrome on the door handles, mirrors and fuel-filler door. Fog lamps are standard. Low-profile 18-inch Michelin tires are mounted on machined-aluminum wheels, and a load-leveling hybrid air-/leaf-spring rear suspension is installed. The Blackwood rides a sizable 138.5-inch wheelbase, measures 220.2 inches long overall and stands 73.6 inches tall.
Four bucket seats are mounted in a space that might otherwise hold six occupants; each rider gets plenty of room. The seats are upholstered in black Connolly leather and are climate controlled heated or cooled via their perforated-leather surfaces. The interior is trimmed with dark-stained crystal oak wood. The power front seats have extended power lumbar support. The driver faces a wood-and-leather-trimmed steering wheel. A seven-speaker Alpine stereo system includes a six-CD changer. The cargo-box capacity is 26.5 cubic feet. The only luxury option offered in the Blackwood is a CD-operated voice-activated navigation system that costs an additional $1,995.
Under the Hood
The Blackwoods 5.4-liter V-8 engine, which is also used in the Navigator and Fords full-size pickups, produces 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 355 pounds-feet of torque at 2,750 rpm. The Blackwood comes with a four-speed-automatic transmission and either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The vehicle can tow a maximum of 8,700 pounds.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are installed in the front, and the rear seats have child-safety seat tether anchor capability. Antilock brakes incorporate electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and a Reverse Sensing System warns of obstacles to the rear while the vehicle is backing up.
The Blackwood is more of a curiosity than a practical vehicle. It drives easily, and it feels a lot like the previous-generation Navigator when driving on the highway. But thats no surprise, considering the vehicles Navigator origin. Though the Blackwood is trucklike, it is reasonably quiet while cruising. It maneuvers more easily than its dimensions might suggest.
In addition to the price, the Blackwoods cargo space is its biggest drawback. The power tonneau is innovative and enjoyable to watch, but it covers an area that isnt tall enough to hold many of the items that travelers may want to carry.