Nobody needs a $52,500 pickup -- especially one that doesn't offer four-wheel drive, comes with a smallish bed, and is only available in one color: gunslinger black. It could also be said that nobody needs a $10,000 wristwatch. But a ton of people buy them. Because they want them. And because they can. That's all that counts.
Lincoln's new Blackwood lux truck isn't about needs either. It, too, is about wants. Because of that, it falls into the quirky, limited-edition big-dollar purchase zone that isn't about tow ratings, cargo capacity, or price/value ratio. Only 10,000 Blackwoods will be built this year, and we expect they'll go to cattle moguls in Oklahoma, big-oil dudes in Texas (or Washington), and a certain number of professional athletes. And you're not likely to see their carpet-and-stainless-steel beds loaded with cow manure or oil-rigging equipment. Obviously, the Blackwood is about conspicuous consumption.
Like any Viper driver will tell you, too conspicuous can be a hassle. While making our 50-mile run to the office, we try to attract as little attention as possible in press vehicles so we can cruise a bit faster.
However, this high-profile Lincoln forced a leisurely pace. At times, it seemed the only truck that might get more attention was the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. Pickups collected around us like iron filings to a bar magnet. It was all smiles and thumbs-up. People love this rig and the prominent profile it cut in traffic.
Beyond its celebrity status, we do have some objective observations after living with the Blackwood on the street and running it through our track tests. Perhaps it's because we've been spoiled by the lusty Lightning pickup and its supercharged engine, but we weren't exactly blown away by the Blackwood's DOHC 5.4L V-8. Rated by Lincoln to tug an 8700-lb trailer, this fuel-thirsty 300-hp engine moves the hefty 5700-lb truck smoothly and quietly, though not as energetically as we expected. The 'Wood motored to 60 mph in a respectable 8.5 sec and went through the quarter mile in 16.2 at 84.2 mph. Not bad, certainly. But a 1500 Chevy Silverado LS with extended cab and 5.3L OHV V-8 (retailing for $27,721) makes the same dash in 8.2 sec and handles the quarter mile in 16.2 at 84.4 mph. Perhaps the Ford engineers will need to make an underhood tweak or two for premium truck duty.
Although traction control is standard, no four-wheeling system is available. That sounds like a potential tradeoff to us. Working exclusively with the two-wheel-drive platform, and its lower ride height, provides some nice advantages in aesthetics, control, and civility. The Blackwood is a pleasure to pilot through traffic (when gawkers made room!), even though the truck's showing on our high-speed-handling test indicated just slightly above-average grip.
The power recirculating-ball steering has great on-center feel (we'd personally argue for a bit more boost at higher speeds), and the ride is quite good thanks to the short- and long-arm front suspension and the clever rear leaf/air-spring setup. The air springs serve as supplements to a single, smooth-ride leaf on each end of the rear axle. When loaded, a ride-height sensor activates a compressor to fill the bladders enough to level a 1200-lb payload. Now, you could blindfold us and there'd still be no mistaking the little cabin shudders of a body-on-frame vehicle. In its defense, though, these quakes are obvious only when hitting potholes or patched expansion joints at higher speeds. That's particularly impressive since the suspension is dealing with the high unsprung weight of the 18x8.0-in. alloy wheels and large Michelin Cross Terrain tires. And finally, the four-wheel discs and standard anti-lock system do a fine job of providing stable stops, with a best 60-0 effort of 144 ft. We'd say the chassis tuning is one this premium truck's best aspects.
Speaking of tuning, there isn't any when it comes to the option sheet. Your paint scheme is going to be black, so no Greenwood, or Redwood. And the cab comes only one way--loaded for four sybaritic occupants. The only option is a $2000 navigation system. The standard heated and cooled buckets are covered with perforated black leather, and the front and rear console storage areas are huge.
It's easy to get comfortable behind the truck's polished wood and leather-wrapped wheel thanks to power-adjustable pedals and a standard tilt-column mechanism. Besides the Blackwood's frontline safety defense of high overall mass, dual front and side-impact airbags and height-adjustable shoulder harnesses are installed for additional protection. Even with the fairly heavy window tint, engineers wanted to ensure protection from excessive heat, so they fitted the Navigator's extra-powerful Arabian Desert-spec air-conditioning unit.
The Blackwood's special cargo bed also adds enormously to this truck's cool factor. First, its exterior is covered with fake but convincing wood panels. (Ford claims the real stuff would have required too much maintenance). Second, it features a power-operated bed cover that can be activated by the key fob or ceiling-console switches--ought to be the center of attention at your next barbeque. Third, instead of a tailgate, it features split Dutch doors for low-effort loading. Finally, the interior of the 4-ft-8-in. box has stainless-steel walls, LED accent lighting, and a carpeted floor. Effectively, this box is 26.5 cu ft of clean, well-lit trunk space.
At present, this is the slickest premium pickup you can buy. But soon, it'll be hit head on in the marketplace by the Cadillac Escalade EXT, which is very similar in terms of content and makeup, though will also be offered in all-wheel drive. There are even rumors that Audi, BMW, and Mercedes might be getting into the premium pickup game. Matching high-profit margins and prestige could make for some interesting (short) bedfellows.