- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Mark designation has graced some of the classiest cars Lincoln has ever produced, but now it embellishes a pickup truck. At a minimum, it’s a sign of the times, as increasing numbers of Americans use pickups as their basic transportation, luxury car and weekend hauler all in one. This has produced the phenomenon of ever-snazzier pickups, especially those of the full-size persuasion. Fords, Chevrolets, Dodges, Toyotas and Nissans can be decked out with interior accommodations that rival those of pricey luxury cars. It has given customers luxury nameplates as well. Cadillac makes the Escalade EXT and Lincoln brings the Mark LT, the subject here. The 2006 Mark LT is both a reprise and a mea culpa. In the 2002 model year, Lincoln introduced the Blackwood, a luxurious pickup truck with a price tag north of $52,000. It flopped and was dropped, with sales of 153 in its last year, 2003. The Blackwood had no redeeming practical features. Its cargo bed was lined with carpeting and stainless steel, with a hard cover, which made it useless for anything but hauling dolls, pillows and other reasonably clean stuff, and it came only with two-wheel drive. With the Mark LT, Lincoln set out to redress the grievances. The new pickup, with four doors and an open steel cargo box, can be ordered with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It also is priced way lower than the Blackwood. The test Mark LT had a base sticker price of $40,050, which included a load of standard equipment: antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats with leather seating surfaces, wood interior trim, automatic climate control, an audio system with six-disc in-dash CD changer and MP3 capability, remote locking, a garage-door opener and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Options on the test truck included a limited-slip rear differential, power-adjustable pedals, running boards, a power sliding rear window, chrome wheels, a trailer towing package and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, all of which brought the suggested sticker price to $43,605. The Mark LT is a dressed-up version of the Ford F-150 pickup, which is the best-selling vehicle on the planet. It is powered by a smooth and quiet 5.4-liter V-8 engine, which delivers 300 horsepower to the pavement through a four-speed automatic transmission that shifts unobtrusively. There’s plenty of power for freeway merging and charging through city traffic, as well as for towing. The Mark LT can pull a trailer weighing up to 8,900 pounds, and has a payload of 1,620 pounds. The zero-to-60 acceleration time, empty, is between eight and nine seconds. As with any big pickup, however, there are drawbacks. The Mark LT is a huge beast, stretching 18 feet, 8 inches from bumper to bumper, which means you have to scribe large arcs in parking lots to get it situated between the lines. You also have to swing wide around corners or you’re likely to bounce a rear tire over a curb. Don’t expect much in the way of fuel economy. The Mark LT is rated by the EPA at 14 miles to the gallon in the city and 18 on the highway. Real-world consumption is in the low teens. To give you some range, the Mark LT has a 30-gallon fuel tank, so figure on sticker shock at the pump. On the road, the Mark LT cruises in serene quiet and luxurious surroundings of real wood, leather and designer vinyl trim. But traveling is best if the road is straight and without imperfections. Cornering and lane changes require a bit of planning and leisurely execution, though truck handling these days is as good or better than that of big cars only a few decades ago. As with any big pickup with leaf springs in the rear, the Mark LT has a bouncy, undulating ride on rough surfaces, with occasional sharp jolts, and the rear wheels tend to skip over bumps in hard going around corners. All of these inherent characteristics, of course, are no surprise to people who are fond of big pickups, and will pose no obstacle for the customers who want Lincoln luxury and still need the load-carrying capability of a pickup. The Mark LT has a 5.5-foot double-walled steel box in back, with Ford’s easy-closing tailgate. The front seats are big and comfortable, though they lack lateral support, and the seatbacks must be adjusted manually. But it’s easy enough to find a comfortable driving position because the seats have fore-and-aft power adjustments and, on the test truck, optional power-adjustable pedals. Out back, there’s plenty of room for three adults, who can watch movies on the optional DVD entertainment system. However, they must sit upright because the seatbacks do not recline, and the center-rear position does not have a headrest. The seat bottoms flip up for additional cargo, but it doesn’t add much space. Getting in and out, as with most big pickup trucks, requires a big step up, although the effort was made easier on the tester because of its optional running boards.

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