Lincoln Mark LT pickup is more beauty than beast

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The latest generation Ford F-150 has a handsome, chiseled exterior. Its dashboard is equally handsome with a waterfall center stack, well-positioned round air vents and a four-spoke steering wheel designed for a half dozen controls. The F-150 provides an excellent blueprint for luxury upgrading.

And Lincoln, indeed, has put its stamp on the crew cab version, endowing the exterior with beautiful 18-inch seven-spoke wheels, chrome enhancements and the big Lincoln grille. The LT comes in either 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive format.

But the pen and ink men and women have designed what is perhaps the best truck interior in the business for the all-new Lincoln Mark LT. The Nudo leather seats may be the truck’s best feature. With contrasting piping on the edges, the leather is velvety to the touch. The seats are wide and supportive. The steering wheel and large center-console shifter also get the leather treatment.

The waterfall dash in our test truck was outfitted in real ebony wood surrounded by polished chrome accents. The stereo and climate control faces also feature an expensive chrome look. While the LT may have its roots in F-150 it gets its emotion and feel from Lincoln’s luxury heritage.

The 2006 Mark LT is Lincoln’s second truck effort. The first, the 2002 Blackwood, was a bust. It was also a crew cab, but it was impractical as a hauler. Its glow-in-the-dark bed was covered by a power tonneau cover with Dutch doors in place of a tailgate. It was little more than a big four-passenger truck with a trunk. Only 3,356 units left showrooms over 18 months; hardly worth the effort. The new LT is certainly worth the new effort.

It’s somewhat surprising that Lincoln is back for another try. But when they look across town at what GM’s Cadillac division is doing the competitive urge is just too great.

The Mark LT is certainly more practical than the Blackwood. But is it worth a couple thousand dollar premium over a comparably equipped F-150 King Ranch? But no one ogles a King Ranch as they do an LT, so Lincoln might be on to something.

By the attention the big truck got during its week with us the answer was eye opening. Nnumbers of people were enthralled with the idea of a Lincoln truck, taken in by the big grille and large wheels and the drop dead leather and wood interior.

But being the ever practical (and cheap) reporters as we are, in reality the extra cash brings basically cosmetic upgrades.

And that’s why the Mark LT left us somewhat disappointed. It’s a good truck, because the F-150 is a good truck, but we expected some exclusive luxury appointments on a vehicle with the Lincoln name and Lincoln price tag stamped on the window sticker.

Unfortunately, once you get past the wood and leather, the Mark LT is basically a Ford F-150. It comes with the bigger of the two Ford F-150 V-8s, a 5.4-liter version generating 300 horsepower mated to a 4-speed automatic.

The engine is asked to pull nearly three tons of Lincoln truck in the 4x4 version and that yields rather lackluster performance. It has been measured at 10.3 seconds in 0-to-60 runs and 17.3 seconds at 80 miles per hour in a quarter mile jaunt; hardly the stuff luxury trucks and sport utilities are made of these days.

Granted the 4-speed shifts smoothly and proved effective on kick-down situations. And the big truck will keep getting it when your right foot demands performance on the highway even if it takes a second or two longer to get from point A to point B.

Also on the plus side, the big truck can tow up to 8,900 pounds.

Our test truck came with 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, heavy-duty shocks and a trailer-towing package. But traction control is not available.

The lack of other features, some not even considered luxury on many vehicles, is hard to understand. For instance, satellite radio and navigation are not on the option list. The steering column must be adjusted manually and does not come with a telescoping feature. The angle of the seatback must be adjusted manually on the driver’s power seat. And the power windows lack an automatic down and up feature, something found on some $20,000 vehicles.

Our test vehicle was also lacking a bedliner, which we think should come as standard equipment on a luxury pickup.

Ford has said that several features including navigation and satellite radio will be offered in the future.

The big Lincoln starts at $43,795 including destination charge. Our test truck included options that brought the price up to $47,605. The most expensive of those was a rear DVD entertainment system, almost a must these days if your rear-seat passengers are kids. Other add-ons included power sliding rear window, power adjustable pedals, skid plates, bed extender, chrome box rail bars and a reverse sensing system.

If you are mesmerized by the Lincoln look, then by all means make a deal. You can back up your decision with the knowledge that the F-150 upon which the Mark LT is based is perhaps the best big truck now on the market. And where else can you get a truck interior looking this luxurious and graceful? It is definitely beauty over the beast.

Throw in a 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 12 months free maintenance and it might turn out to be a deal too good to pass up.