Lincoln’s enigmatic Blackwood draws the kind of stares and comments that are usually reserved for a sports car instead of a luxury truck.

But then, the Blackwood is more than a luxury truck. In fact, there isn’t really a vehicle quite like it, which is why Lincoln thinks it will be successful in attracting buyers who will want to get their hands on one of the 10,000 or so that are scheduled for production.

In some ways, the Blackwood is the answer to a question not yet asked. There are a number of four-door pickups with short beds, but no one is making a full-luxury model with a bed that is not capable of being used like a truck. That’s another reason why the Blackwood should be a traffic builder for Lincoln. It is unique and exclusive. During my week with the Blackwood, not everyone who gave it a close look thought a $52,500 truck with a bed lined with carpet and stainless steel made sense, but most really liked it.

The Blackwood is important to Lincoln because it joins the Navigator and Lincoln LS as crucial ingredients in attracting new, young buyers to the Lincoln showroom.

Lincoln created the Blackwood by basically taking the cab section of a Ford F-150 SuperCrew, adding the nose, powertrain and cabin of a Lincoln Navigator and setting the whole works atop a reworked two-wheel-drive chassis. It is finished off with a covered, 4-foot, 8-inch carpeted pickup bed that Lincoln calls a “cargo trunk.” The trunk’s exterior is covered with a photographic laminate of black Wenge wood, which is where the vehicle gets its name. The Blackwood concept vehicle had real wood panels separated by strips of polished metal, but that would have been impractical for a production vehicle. The appliquŽ looks amazingly realistic.

The 26.5-cubic-foot carpeted cargo trunk is 27 percent larger than a Town Car’s. It has stainless steel side panels, LED strip lights that illuminate the floor, flush tie-down hooks and twin storage bins built into its sides. The hard tonneau cover is raised and lowered automatically, and the rear Dutch doors open outward for easy loading. To isolate the trunk from vibration and road shock, a cantilever mount allows it to “float” over the frame. The trunk is so well-appointed that it is best used for hauling expensive saddles, nice luggage or sailboat sails. Yard mulch and gravel are definitely not intended.

The downside to the covered, carpeted trunk is that its cargo capacity is even more limited than an SUV’s. That said, the Blackwood’s role is really that of a luxury styling statement as much as anything else, and it does that very well.

Comfort is a big part of the Blackwood equation. A pleasant ride is just as important as a luxurious interior, so a combination leaf-spring/air-spring rear suspension was designed to give it a ride almost like a luxury sedan’s. Special shock absorbers that automatically adjust depending on conditions play a role in the good ride, as well. Huge, 18-inch Michelin ti res were developed especially for the Blackwood.

Since all Blackwoods are two-wheel drive, a limited-slip differential and traction control are standard. An viscous limited-slip differential that should be even more effective will be offered later in the model year.

One of the Blackwood’s targeted uses is towing heavy horse or boat trailers, and the standard 5.4-liter, DOHC V-8 from the Navigator provides more than ample oomph. It has 300 horsepower and a towing capacity of 8,700 pounds. This engine not only has plenty of muscle, but it is extremely smooth and free of annoying vibration.

The cabin contains four bucket seats and two large consoles. The seats are upholstered with soft, supple Connolly leather. The front seats have small fans inside that circulate warm or cool air through surface perforations to heat or cool the driver and passenger. Rear seats fold down for carrying cargo, but the large center console limits the size of objects that will fit.

The Blackwood’s only option is a CD-based navigation system that requires the driver to insert a different CD as the vehicle moves from one region to another. It is priced at $1,995.

The BlackwoodÕs base price is $52,500. The test vehicle was equipped with the optional navigation system, so its sticker price would be $54,495. Warranty
Four years or 50 ,000 miles.

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{Point:} The stylish, limited-production Blackwood is unique because it has luxury-car refinement, SUV size and a covered, carpeted cargo trunk that looks like a pickup bed. A power tonneau cover makes the trunk weatherproof and stainless steel lines the inside walls. A handsome wood appliquŽ covers the outside. Great wheels, a smooth ride and soft seats top off the package. {Counterpoint:} The navigation system was frustrating and gas mileage was typical of a vehicle this size.

Engine: 5.4-liter, 300-hp V-8
Transmission: Automatic Rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 138.5 inches
Curb weight: 5,700 lbs.
Base price: $52,500
As driven: $54,495
Mpg rating: 12 city, 17 hwy.
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