Even before Lincoln's Blackwood is available, GMC has come to market with its new big-motored AWD personal-use 1/2-ton pickup, the C3. To do so, it raided GM's corporate truck parts bin and blended many of the best pieces together. The result is a luxurious, high-content, fine-driving on-road performer that can still work like a truck.

The C3 packs the largest V-8 of any 1/2-ton sold in the U.S: Its Vortec 6000 is rated at 325 hp at 5000 rpm and 370 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. This formidable powerplant (shared with the '02 Escalade and several 2500 series GM trucks) is backed by a 4L60-E HD four-speed automatic and a New Venture Gear heavy-duty all-wheel-drive transfer case. We found the Vortec 6.0L engine in its half-ton packaging nothing short of impressive. Squeeze the throttle a little too fast-better hold on.

Maintaining good traction is always a problem for powerful pickups running with an empty bed. By using a full-time all-wheel-drive system that continuously monitors wheelslip, this setup, along with a few other suspension-stiffening mods, gives the C3 wonderfully balanced grip and handling characteristics that set a new standard for full-size pickup trucks. The resultant ride quality equally suits the C3's upmarket flavor. And for those located in regions enjoying all four seasons, an always-on all-weather all-the-time traction setup is just about the best piece of driving security you could ask for (if you don't need a low range).

However, a truck still has to be able to do some work-and the C3 doesn't disappoint. Although its rear leaf suspension has been modified only slightly, it actually offers higher towing capacity, payload, and gross vehicle weight ratings than its non-C3'd 1/2-ton counterparts. Combine all this with hardened axle shafts, 3.73:1 gears, and a standard heavy-duty trailering package, it's still a real truck, regardless of how well it cuts through decreasing-radius corners.

Plush, infinitely adjustable seating, audio controls on the steering wheel, heated mirrors, exterior splash lighting, a six-speaker/ six-disc premium sound system, lots of leather trim, and OnStar are all standard.

GMC's flagship truck comes one way: fully loaded (with a few minor options) and only in extended-cab form. If you want to have your cake and eat it, too-luxury, room for five, impressive performance, all the goodies, and a 1700-lb payload capacity-the truck chefs at GMC invite you to take a big, fat bite out of the C3.