- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

A new "woodie" is rolling into the marketplace, but this one is a departure from hulking estate wagons. It's the 2002 Lincoln Blackwood the classiest production vehicle ever built with a cargo box.

This sport utility truck follows Lincoln's Navigator sport utility and the LS luxury sport sedan in contributing to a fresh Lincoln image. Limited to a production of 10,000 units, the $52,500, glossy-black SUT will cast its looming shadow on the driveways of a select group.

Like Navigator, the Blackwood has a large cabin accessed through four full-size doors. However, instead of a covered roof extension behind second-row seating, the Blackwood has a bed.

Sawed off in similar fashion to Ford's F-150 SuperCrew pickup or Sport Trac SUT cargo boxes, Blackwood's 4-foot-8-inch-long bed is its trademark piece of engineering. Unlike most cargo boxes, this pint-sizer isn't trumpeted for its utility. It's lauded as the world's showiest production vehicle bed. This cargo box is like a gold-plated grand piano you might occasionally use it, but its biggest plus is the attention it attracts. Separating it from its Neanderthal pickup cousins, Lincoln refers to the rear storage area of its advanced species as a "trunk."

The allure of this trunk is so high that Lincoln derived the nameplate after one of its distinguishing characteristics the black wood grain on its exterior sides. Dressing up the show vehicle is a heavily stained, exotic African Wenge wood, but the production model gets a simulated version of this wood, generically known as "black wood."

Hints of utility come with tie-downs recessed into each corner of the floor. These chrome-steel D-rings are each stress-rated at more than 500 pounds. For small items such as tools, a multicompartment storage system straps into the tie-downs. Hauling is limited to items requiring a height clearance of no more than 15.9 inches.

This front-hinged top is operated by switches located on the overhead console, the driver's door key pad or key fob. The top can open to a height of 6 feet 8 inches or close leak-proof tight in less than 10 seconds. If an object obstructs closing, safety sensors send a message to the electric motor to reverse and lift the top. The 145-pound cover is a fixture not designed to be removed.

Another access to the trunk is through twin, swing-out Dutch doors at the rear. These permit less-obstructed access than a conventional fold-down tailgate. Hideaway storage bins are incorporated into the doors' inner panels and also can be found in the box's interior side walls.

Wheels are an essential element in capturing show-truck charisma, and Blackwood rolls in grand fashion on low-profile, 18-inch tires with seven-spoke, machined-aluminum wheels. These P275/55R-18 Michelin Cross-Terrain tires are specifically developed for Blackwood to attain ride and handling characteristics that balance comfort and performance.

These tires team with steering and suspension systems that are engineered apart from Navigator. The variable-assist, recirculating-ball power steering system is impressive in keeping the block-long, 5,700-pound giant on track while cornering.

Whether you're driving on the highway or around town, Blackwood's standard 5.4-liter, dual-overhead-cam, 32-valve V-8 offers on-tap power. It moves the rear-drive SUT with 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 355 foot-pounds of torque at 2,750 rpm. Linked with a four-speed automatic transmission, it uses premium unleaded fuel at an estimated rate of 12 mpg, city/17 mpg, highway. Maximum trailer-towing capacity is 8,700 pounds.

Cocooned within Blackwood's four-seater cabin, passengers experience a Lincoln level of luxury, whatever driving conditions are encountered. Appropriately, the interior color theme is a monochromatic black. The upholstery is high-grade Connolly leather, and the wood trim is dark-stained crystal oak wood.

Adults fit comfortably in the front and rear buckets. A surprise is the firmness of the backrests, which are closer to European taut than domestic cushy. Ensuring passenger comfort are climate-controlled heated and cooled front seats. With a turn of a thumbwheel, hot or cool air is pushed through the perforated leather surfaces.

No doubt, buyers of this prestigious SUT know the direction they're heading upscale, but into a region of the market that's relatively uncharted.


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