Styling? Always the question of personal taste, and neither is going to evoke a '61-'63 Lincoln Continental or a Cadillac V-16 of the '30s. Ford styling chief J Mays isn't one for "gingerbread," hence the Blackwood does without roof racks, running boards, or the EXT's flying buttress panels. We're not sure it couldn't live without the fake wood on the bed sides either--but then it wouldn't be a "Black-wood," would it? That said, it's nicely done, and the aluminum strips in between the veneer panels are well executed. The EXT is either bold or garish, depending upon what you like. It's not as well proportioned, and its jewelry and cladding are overstated by a lot. Choose the Escalade EXT in metallic white, champagne, or black. Choose the Blackwood in, well, black.

For some, the verdict will come down to brand loyalty; Lincoln and Caddy owners seldom think of crossing that line, although the right product can sway anyone's patronage. And in this instance, price is a tossup.

From a styling standpoint--and almost more important, from a style standpoint--the Blackwood scores big. It's a smoother, cleaner, altogether less clunkified look; cool as many street rods, and the detailing and finish of the trunk are just too trick. The EXT's big face, overdone badging, plasticky trim, and overwrought cladding just ain't as cool.

As a tool, however--even a wood-and-leather-trimmed, get-me-to-the-country-club-by-tee-time tool--the Cad carries the day. And we say "tool" is how these vehicles must be evaluated, because if you just want a luxury sedan, there are at least a dozen better choices--unless you need to carry plywood or tow a 7000-lb boat.

Of this pair, the EXT is more powerful and offers the choice of two- and all-wheel drive. It can handle real-live cargo--and lots of it--something the Blackwood just wasn't intended to do. The Caddy hauls more, tows more, and seats more. The innovative Midgate allows flexible management of people and stuff, all in reasonably well-equipped luxury and quiet. It's just better as a truck. And whatever badge they wear, that's what the Lincoln Blackwood and Cadillac Escalade EXT are. Right?