2002 Lincoln Blackwood

Randy G
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Laguna Beach, California So we're driving a Lincoln Blackwood on the Pacific Coast Highway late on a Friday evening. A twenty-something guy in a stepped-on white GMC Sierra pickup with matching hard tonneau races up alongside, appraises the 'Wood, and gives us an emphatic thumbs up. "Hmmm," we think. "Maybe this is the vehicle that will finally rescue Lincoln from the Town Car demographic abyss." This four-door, four-passenger, sybaritic, seemingly purposeless pickup may not represent the immediate future of Lincoln, but it's an indication of how the division wants to reinterpret the concept of American luxury.

The Blackwood, which is derived from the 1999 concept of the same name, is closely related in content and mission to the Navigator. Lincoln's lumbering SUV has been a runaway success, its image as the ultimate urban conveyance burnished by its role in Sean "Puffy" Combs's hasty exit from a Manhattan nightclub. The Blackwood takes the "image truck" idea further, because it's badder, bolder, and more exclusive, with only 10,000 units to be built annually.

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The Blackwood shares the Navigator's platform and is powered by the same 5.4-liter DOHC V-8. It also adopts some of the Navigator's chassis hardware, including the control-arm front suspension, but with slightly stiffer spring rates, new jounce bumpers, and a slimmer anti-roll bar. At the rear, leaf springs and air springs work in parallel. Acceleration-sensitive dampers sit at all four wheels, with those at the rear axle staggered to help mitigate the live axle's unseemly wind-up characteristics. Lincoln engineers benchmarked the LS sedan's steering for the Blackwood. Starting with the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor's recirculating-ball setup, they incorporated a different power steering pump and stepped up effort requirements. The result is steering feel and linearity that, while not likely to impress Porsche drivers, is something Navigator owners can only dream about. Combined with the well-damped ride and the reasonable weight distribution, the Blackwood is far better to drive than the Navigator. Still, there's no forgetting the nearly three tons of weight being distributed.

The Blackwood isn't weighted down (or hoisted skyward) by four-wheel-drive hardware, because the concept truck was rear-wheel drive, and Lincoln wanted to retain its relatively low stance. The Blackwood should be fine in winter, though, with its bespoke Michelin eighteen-inch all-season rubber, standard traction control, and a limited-slip rear differential. "The key to our system is engine management," says vehicle dynamics engineer Dave Reiche. "The software recognizes deformable surfaces and allows up to seven percent wheelspin, because sometimes you need to let the tires dig into snow or sand just a little bit to gain traction."

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