2002 Lincoln Blackwood Review

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TCC Team TCC Team
June 4, 2001
You review the '02 Lincoln Blackwood

In his day, Henry Ford I liked to say you could order his cars in any color you chose—as long as it was black. Well, the folks behind the new Lincoln Blackwood have taken up that mantra, and that’s the only way you’ll be able to order this unusual luxo-mobile.

The Blackwood made its debut in concept car form at the 1999 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was the first public showcase for Ford Motor Co.’s then-new design chief, J Mays, who’d previously made his name on such projects as the Volkswagen Beetle and Audi TT.

The Blackwood seemed absolutely appropriate at the time. Light trucks, in general, were heading for record sales, and demand for large luxury SUVs, like the Lincoln Navigator, was soaring off the charts. The Blackwood also seemed attuned to the emerging crossover market, in this case blending attributes of a pickup, sport-ute and a luxury sedan. (More precisely, the front end of the Lincoln Navigator, the rear of a Ford F-150 pickup, and a new, sedan-style cabin.)

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Crossover potential

In relatively quick order, at least in automotive terms, Ford has put the Blackwood into production. To get a feel of how it has been transformed from concept to customer, we spent a couple days tooling down the California coast, braving 100-degree-plus heat one moment, drizzly skies and fog the next. It was the perfect opportunity to test the massive crossover vehicle and its many slick features—including seats that can be both heated and cooled, depending on the weather of the moment.

Despite the Blackwood’s cavernous interior, by the way, there are only four seats, each sumptuously upholstered. The Blackwood may have its roots in the working world, but this is a vehicle you’re far more likely to take to the opera than the horse farm.

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2002 Lincoln Blackwood

2002 Lincoln Blackwood

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Consider the rear cargo bed, roughly two feet shorter than that of the F-150. This is the vehicle’s signature touch. In the show car, the bed was wrapped in African wingewood, each plank separated by a fine strip of machined aluminum. Lincoln claims the original wood wouldn’t have been durable enough. So, for production, the automaker has gone with a laminated composite board that visually comes quite close to the prototype’s look.

Inside, the bed has been lined in aluminum and tastefully lit with strips of cool colored LEDs. The traditional, fold-down tailgate has been replaced with side-hinged Dutch doors. And there’s a powered tonneau cover to protect what’s inside. The tonneau is not removable, so forget about oversized items. Instead, with 26.5 cubic feet of space, Lincoln’s product development chief, Al Kammerer, suggests you think of this as “the world’s largest trunk,” rather than the back of a pickup.

Dropping four-wheel drive

The same underlying philosophy extends to every detail of the vehicle, including the decision to lower the suspension two inches compared to the Navigator. That move required Lincoln to drop the big SUV’s four-wheel-drive system, replacing it with a sophisticated traction and stability control system, of which we’ll get back to shortly.

2002 Lincoln Blackwood

2002 Lincoln Blackwood

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The passenger compartment is clearly designed with European sedans in mind, and is arguably the most sophisticated execution Lincoln has come up with to date. Gauges and switches are well placed. The use of dark-stained crystal oak and complimenting black Connolly leather is refined. With a few minor exceptions, fits and finishes are more precise than we have previously seen from the American automaker.

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There’s a tilt-and-telescoping wheel, with duplicate controls for the stereo and climate control system. There’s a six-CD, seven-speaker Alpine audio system, the Homelink system, and an overhead information console.

The only option, by the way, is the console-mounted navigation system, which proved one of the better systems we’ve worked with. It includes a feature we’ve not seen elsewhere, a button that tells the computer to automatically come up with a detour, for example, in case the preferred route has heavy traffic.

Heavyweights

This is one hefty vehicle, at 5792 pounds. Yet on the road, the Blackwood is no wimp. It’s powered by a 300-horsepower, 5.4-liter, 32-valve V-8. With 355 foot-pounds of torque, it’s capable of hauling an 8700-pound trailer. And towing performance is enhanced by Blackwood’s load-leveling rear suspension. Up front, there’s a short- and long-arm, or SLA, suspension that helps smooth out bumps and give this oversized cruiser far better handling then you might suspect at first glance.

You’re not going to fling the Blackwood around the corner like a BMW 7-Series. But for something so big, it’s more pleasant to drive than we were expecting.

We were equally skeptical of the decision to go with two-wheel, rather than four-wheel-drive, but our reservations were reversed over two days of driving. The Blackwood’s ability to claw its way through some deep, loose sand suggests that only the most avid off-roaders are going to seriously regret Lincoln’s decision. (And company officials admit they’ll be watching public reaction and could offer a 4WD version in future years.)

Plans call for Lincoln to produce just 10,000 Blackwoods a year, at a base price of $52,500. Is there a market? That’s yet to be determined. When first revealed in LA, it seemed a perfect move for the bigger-is-better American buyer. But this vehicle today seems especially vulnerable to shifting market sentiments and the threat of a gas crisis.

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In recent months, sales have cooled a bit for the Navigator, and some of the other high-end sport-utility vehicles. And with gas prices rising almost every day, one might wonder whether there will still be a market for a vehicle as big and bodacious as the Blackwood when it hits market this summer. But when you’re spending this type of money, even $2.50-a-gallon gasoline probably doesn’t matter all that much.

What’s more important is the way this vehicle looks, drives and feels—and for many potential buyers, how it will be perceived.

There is another issue to consider. Though it may see targeted to a rarified market, Blackwood will soon face some serious competition. Chevrolet has already rolled out its own pickup/SUV hybrid. And later this year, Cadillac will come to market with a version of its own, dubbed the EXT. There’ll be some notable differences, with Cadillac’s crossover featuring a removable tonneau and, significantly, a fold-down “midgate,” which will permit you to carry cargo longer than the bed alone could fit.

So the biggest question is whether there will be enough of a market for all these different takes on an unusual theme.

2002 Lincoln Blackwood
Base Price Range:
$52,500
Engine: 5.4-liter V-8, 300 hp
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Wheelbase:138.5 in
Length:220.2 in
Width:78.0 in
Height:73.6 in
Curb Weight:  5700 lb
EPA (city/hwy): 12/17 mpg (est.)
Safety equipment: Dual front and side airbags, childproof rear door locks and rear child seat tethers, side mirror built in turn signal repeaters
Major standard features: Engine-management traction control system, power tonneau cover equipped with obstacle detection and pinch protection, heated sideview mirrors
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles

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