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Lincoln's new Blackwood is a curious creation, almost as noteworthy for what it isn't as for what it is.
It is not a sport utility. While having four doors and casting a larger shadow than the Ford Navigator, it carries only four occupants. And the luxuriously appointed cargo space behind the second-row seats can't be accessed from the passenger compartment.
It is not a pickup. The bed is topped by a power-operated, forward-hinged, weather-proof, lockable lid that caps cargo capacity at 26.5 cubic feet. The bed's carpeting, brushed-aluminum sides and LED lighting will leave stockers at the local home improvement warehouse store laughing.
But it will give two couples plush, commodious transport for a night on the town. And the bed will accommodate a threesome's golf bags with room to spare.
Perhaps what matters most is few buyers will see another on the road. Lincoln is limiting production to less than 10,000 per year. Exclusivity adds to its appeal, say Lincoln marketing executives.
The Blackwood may look like a truck, but it doesn't drive like one.
Lincoln re-calibrated the Navigator's power steering, front shock absorbers and front suspension and developed a new, leaf/air spring rear suspension especially for the Blackwood, all in an attempt to bestow car-like handling on what's essentially a serious pickup.
The effort mostly succeeds. Steering is lighter than in the Navigator. The constantly adjusting air springs in the rear offer the added benefit of a self-leveling rear suspension.
In addition, the four-passenger cabin effectively shifts the weight distribution rearward from that of even an extended-cab pickup. On the Blackwood, this delivers a near perfect, and very car-like, 50:50 front/rear balance. This minimizes an unloaded pickup's tendency to be light in the rear end, causing the rear tires to lose grip in tight corners. Still, the center of gravity is noticeably higher than in a car, so even though it has fatter tires than the Navigator, drivers will know this is no sports car.
Four-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS do a commendable job of slowing the Blackwood.
Visibility from the driver's seat is good, if not great. Its truck roots dictate thicker windshield and door pillars than on a car. But the elevated seating position lets drivers plan ahead as traffic conditions in front change.
The optional navigation system was less than optimal, however. The maps were fine, if a ways out of the driver's line of sight with the screen mounted at the forward end of the center console below the dash. Like many of these systems, it's not 100 percent and sometimes directed us the wrong way.
The Blackwood is primarily a styling statement. Look at us, at Lincoln. We're different. We're offering luxury where it hasn't been offered. That makes us The Best.
As superficial as this may sound, the Blackwood does well what it sets out to do. The ride and handling are equal to and in some measures better than the Navigator's; don't be surprised to see some of this trickle down in the near future. The interior packaging is well thought out and executed.
The proportions look awkward, but maybe time will train the eye to accept something different from what it's used to.