The early 2006 Lincoln Mark LT enters the tight little world of luxury pickup trucks as a handsome, utilitarian vehicle that is in one of the few markets not yet entered by Japanese or South Korean automakers.
The 2002 Blackwood was Lincoln's first attempt at a luxury pickup, but it was too specialized to last long. While large and luxurious, it wasn't sufficiently utilitarian, with such things as a tiny cargo area.
Based on Ford Pickup
In contrast, the five-passenger Mark LT from Ford Motor Co. makes more sense than the Blackwood, if any Lincoln pickup makes sense, because it's based on the utilitarian Ford F-150 pickup.
But the Lincoln is more upscale and refined than the popular F-150. It has such items as a dominant "Lincoln waterfall grille" and a hefty chrome band that wraps around it. Its interior is luxurious enough for a luxury car. It has ebony wood accents and premium Nudo leather seating, with French-style pleating.
Keeping the interior quiet from road, tire, wind and engine noise are items including thick side window glass, doors with double-layer seals and liquid-filled engine hydromounts.
Most cars and trucks have many direct rivals, but the only direct competitors to the Mark LT are General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac Escalade EXT and GMC Sierra Denali Crew Cab pickups, both of which have all-wheel drive. While the GMC nameplate isn't as upscale as Cadillac's—at least outside truck circles—it's very much a luxury vehicle.
The 5-passenger Mark LT also is a Crew Cab pickup, with four car-like doors and a roomy back seat. Front seats are large, but also flat and not fully power-adjustable; you must manually adjust the seatback angle. One might expect a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, but the steering column just tilts and adjusts manually.
Rushed to Market
The problem is that the Mark LT was pretty much rushed to market, and Ford Motor didn't want the additional costs of giving this low-production truck features that couldn't be easily adapted from the F-150. For example, the Mark LT has no navigation system, satellite radio or full-time all-wheel drive because the F-150 lacks those features.
However, the Mark LT may seem like a bargain next to the $53,335 Escalade EXT Crew Cab because the Lincoln costs much less: $39,200 with rear-wheel drive and $42,700 with a part-time 4-wheel-drive system that shouldn't be left engaged on dry pavement. (A more sophisticated full-time all-wheel-drive system is being considered.)
The $41,735 GMC Sierra Denali Crew Cab is much closer to the LT in price, but doesn't have the more prestigious and widely known Cadillac nameplate.
Despite being equipped with luxury car comfort and convenience features, the Mark LT's moderately long options list can cause its price to escalate. For instance, options raised the price of my 4-wheel-drive Mark LT from $42,700 to $46,810.
Options include a $1,295 rear-seat DVD entertainment system, $995 power sunroof, $250 running boards, $120 power adjustable pedals, $250 power sliding rear window and $245 rear obstacle detection system. Chrome alloy wheels enhance the truck's appearance, but cost $695.
The running boards help allow entry to the high truck, the sliding rear window is for fresh air lovers and the obstacle detection system is almost a "must" because of limited visibility when backing up.
The EXT and Denali have a 6.0-liter, 345-horsepower V8. It easily trumps the Mark LT's 5.4-liter, 300-horsepower V8, which is Ford's largest and most powerful V8. However, the 5,370-pound Mark LT is lighter than the 5,814-pound EXT and thus arguably doesn't need as large or powerful a V8 as the Cadillac's.
In fact, the Mark LT provides spirited acceleration in the city and a decent 65-75 mph passing time on highways. But it's no lightweight, and the engine thus sounds a bit strained during hard acceleration, even with just a driver aboard. However, high-speed cruising seems effortless.
The Lincoln's 4-speed automatic transmission is not as modern as a 5- or 6-speed automatic, but works smoothly.
Marginal Fuel Economy
One shouldn't expect very high fuel economy with a big, heavy pickup, so the Mark LT's lackluster economy isn't surprising. It's an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 19 on highways with rear-wheel drive and 14 and 18 with all-wheel drive.
The steering is responsive and handing is good, helped by large tires on big 18-inch wheels. Ford Motor makes the F-150 rather car-like because it knows many owners will use it in place of a car, and that gives Lincoln a chance to make the Mark LT drive much like a car.
Generally Smooth Ride
While rather firm, the Mark LT suspension provides a generally smooth ride, although some roads cause a slight side-to-side rocking motion that leads to a little "head toss." The standard anti-lock brakes do well and have good pedal feel.
There are no side-impact or side-curtain airbags in the Mark LT because the F-150 doesn't offer them. But a stability control system is planned for the Mark LT later in 2006, with a navigation system optional for 2007 models. Sirius Satellite Radio may arrive later in 2005.
The Mark LT uses the F-150's shortest (5.5-foot) cargo bed to keep its length manageable for easier maneuvering and parking. A $195 bed extender flips on a lowered tailgate to handle long items. And the heavy tailgate has an assist feature that makes it easier to lower or lift.
However, the Mark LT still is long with the tailgate up and also is very high and wide. It consequently isn't the easiest vehicle to park, garage or enter and leave—even with the optional running boards, although wide doors with big handles help out here.
The new Lincoln pickup truck is a decent alternative to the Cadillac and GMC luxury pickups, although some may feel it is handicapped a little by the lack of such items as all-wheel drive and a larger V8.