The Lincoln brand carries strong images of dark, classically elegant Town Cars and Continentals. But this strength is also its curse. Too many people find it easy to lampoon these stodgy overweight designs. And that seems to be where the brand is stuck-a great history with a questionable future. Even the high-end "Mark" series name, which has defined special Lincoln vehicles over the past 60 years, hasn't been applied to anything very special-lately. But, the company says there is a plan, and at the Detroit Auto Show this year, Lincoln/Mercury rolled out the first of several vehicles (due between now and 2009) that the company says will re-energize the brand. So, along with the Lincoln Zephyr, a new Mark was unveiled-heavens, a pickup truck.
The 2006 Lincoln Mark LT is based on the newest version of the Ford F-150, a fact that makes its pedigree suspect, I thought, as I started my week of testing. In fact, both come out of the same new Dearborn Truck Plant.
So (you are wondering), is this truck just a dog wearing a silk bib?
Let me put your mind at ease right off-in the same way that an SVT Lightning is not an ordinary F-series truck, neither is the Mark LT, despite sharing the same underpinnings. I found the LT has enough genuine uniqueness to form its own character, and it should be quite at home in the Lincoln stable.
Take the chrome, for example. Whereas chrome is considered passe by more than one manufacturer, the LT makes good use of it as a defining feature. Of course, there is the trademark waterfall grille surrounding the Lincoln logo (which is illuminated from the rear when the lights are on), but there is also a hefty band of chrome that wraps the entire length of the truck. The 18-inch tires also run on chrome-plated wheels with the Lincoln star embossed at the center. Chrome surrounds the taillamps, and at the center is another illuminated Lincoln star. Door handles, box rails, the running board, and the exhaust-pipe tips are all awash with chrome, and on this truck it looks alright. A good thing, really, 'cause the price for looking this good is set at around $40,000.
Inside, cream-colored leather (called light parchment) covers the seats, center console, door panels, steering wheel, and headliner. A combination of French pleats and saddle stitching adds refinement to the supple material. Throughout the truck, console borders are finished in a silver-sterling matte color. This finish is consistent throughout, tying together the various interior elements. The gauge cluster features a nice Lincoln signature feature, white dials lit with white light. Other standard interior features include one-button memory function for the driver seat, power adjustable pedals, side-mirror settings for two drivers, sheepskin floor mats, heated seats, and steering wheel controls for radio, cruise, and temperature.
The center stack (with a bright textured aluminum finish) houses the music system, HVAC controls, lighter, and an ashtray big enough for cigars. But all these features are dressed in the same leather and sterling-silver finish. The rear seat is as plush as the front, and with the available ceiling-mounted DVD and CD entertainment system, the only noise you hear from the backseat is the kids shushing you as they watch their movie.
The LT's interior is sumptuous, but it's not all perfect. The rear-seat cupholders, at the rear of the front-seat armrest, are in a bad spot. The first time I swiveled in my seat, my elbow knocked my son's soda can flying. On the dash, the set-up and retrieval buttons for the onboard information systems are obscured by the steering wheel. At first I couldn't find them; afterward, I figured out how to feel for them. Worse yet was the guilt I felt every time I got in with my muddy shoes on, or dripped my coffee on, those beautiful sheepskin mats. This gut reaction, over several days: If the LT was only about looking good, I'd have no use for it-I don't need to feel any guiltier about tracking dirt into my truck then I'm already made to feel for doing the same thing at home.