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2006 Lincoln Mark LT

2006 Lincoln Mark LT

Ford Motor Co.

Product preview

Lincoln pickup indulges buyers

By Anita Lienert and Paul Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

Ford / Lincoln
The modular overhead compartment enhances the versatility of the cabin of the Lincoln Mark LT.

Ford / Lincoln
The Mark LT is available in 4x2 and 4x4 configurations with a 5.5-foot box plus a standard bed extender to accommodate larger loads.

ANN ARBOR -- When Lincoln introduced its first-ever pickup, the 2002 Blackwood, we were amused by the truck's unusual features, including a remote-controlled tonneau cover, a glow-in-the-dark bed, fake wood bands along the body sides, and Dutch doors that replaced the traditional tailgate.

Unfortunately for Lincoln, those things did not win over buyers -- especially hard-core truck buyers -- and the Blackwood quickly faded into oblivion. Lincoln makes another pass at the lucrative pickup market with the five-passenger 2006 Mark LT -- a smarter, less gimmicky take on an upscale pickup that's blessed with superior ride comfort.

In fact, the Mark LT's cabin, dolled up with real ebony wood, dove-gray-and-black leather seats, and an optional $1,295 rear-seat entertainment system, is so deluxe that it nearly justifies our test vehicle's $47,605 sticker price.

The Dearborn-built Lincoln truck, which is on sale now, starts at $43,495, including a $795 destination charge. Our test vehicle had a long list of 11 options, including a $250 power sliding rear window, $120 adjustable pedals, $695 18-inch chrome seven-spoke wheels and a $245 reverse sensing system.

This time around, Lincoln rights all of the Blackwood's wrongs. Where the Blackwood only came in a 4x2 configuration, the Mark LT comes in either 4x2 or 4x4 models, a boon to buyers intent on off-roading or who just want the enhanced traction provided by four-wheel drive.

Instead of a single color -- black -- the Mark LT can be ordered in a wide palette, including red, beige and silver. Blackwood had no optional rear bench seat either, only two bucket seats. But the Mark LT comes with a more practical full rear seat that can accommodate three adults.

Most importantly, the new Lincoln truck wisely skips the goofy and impractical exterior items that defined the Blackwood, like that remote-controlled tonneau cover and Dutch doors, in favor of a conventional, no-nonsense exterior dominated by an imposing grille and chrome highlights in places like the door handles, side mirrors and tailpipe tip.

The Mark LT is quietly impressive on the outside, with small, yet delightful features like door handles swathed with grippy rubber material on the inside to make them easier to grab.

Where Lincoln pours all of its effort, though, is in the Mark LT's cabin, a study in elegance, sophistication and comfort.

Indeed, it is far and away the best pickup interior in the business -- a tribute to Ford's design team, headed by J Mays.

With the Mark LT, Ford solidifies its lofty position as the master of fabulous truck interiors. We can't think of another pickup on the market today that can boast about "French-styled pleating" in the seats -- something that sounds like it was taken out of the Chanel couture handbook.

Even the Mark LT's rear seat is a primer in how to pamper passengers. Our test vehicle's rear seat had individual reading lights, map pockets, cupholders, a 12-volt outlet, and an optional entertainment system. A standard overhead rail system throughout the cabin holds items from CDs to sunglasses.

Next to its only real luxury competitor, the Cadillac Escalade EXT, the Mark LT's interior is superior, with more attractive gauges bearing a beautiful sans-serif typeface and higher-quality materials.

But have no fear. Despite the fact that the ride quality is good enough to fool you into thinking you're driving a large luxury car, not a pickup, this isn't a girlie-man truck. In fact, the Mark LT's oversized chrome-and-leather shifter is so massive that many women and some men will have trouble getting their whole hand around it.

And the Mark LT is a serious workhorse, too, with a towing capacity of 8,900 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,620 pounds -- enough to handle a horse trailer or a sizeable boat.

Despite our consensus that the Mark LT has "status symbol" written all over it, we had a fairly sizable list of things we didn't like about it.

The full-size truck with a standard 5.4-liter Triton V-8 engine that produces 300 horsepower and 365 pounds-feet of torque is a gas-guzzler. The EPA says the Mark LT gets 14 miles per gallon in city driving and 18 miles per gallon on the highway. As a running change for the 2006 model year, the Mark LT is supposed to get a new six-speed automatic transmission in place of its aging four-speed automatic, which should help improved both performance and fuel efficiency.

In comparison, the Escalade EXT's massive 6.0-liter V-8 makes 345 horsepower. The Cadillac pickup comes with a four-speed automatic transmission and is rated by the EPA at 13 miles per gallon in the city and 17 on the highway.

Even though the Mark LT's cabin is generally quiet, we noted wind noise at highway speeds. The Lincoln's wide side mirrors, long wheelbase and generous external proportions make it a bit difficult to park, too. In fact, it stuck out about a foot into the roadway in one Ann Arbor parking structure we parked in -- a testament to its 18-and-a-half-foot length.

To better protect cargo, and the truck itself, we wished the Mark LT's bed came with a bedliner in addition to the $195 bed extender on our test truck, as well as a tailgate that wasn't quite so heavy. And despite the fabulous cabin, we noted that the center console had gaps and was unevenly installed, and for some odd reason, the ebony wood looked a little fake.

In the interest of marital harmony, we wished the nearly $50,000 truck had come with such basic equipment as dual climate controls for front-seat passengers.

We also couldn't help but to compare the Mark LT to the vaunted 2006 Honda Ridgeline pickup, which is the first truck to come equipped with a trunk. Despite the LT's strong points -- and there were many -- it lacked a good place to hide and lock up valuables.

The Mark LT we tested wasn't quite up to our standards on safety, either, but Ford appears to be remedying that. Our test vehicle had a number of standard safety features, such as antilock brakes, but it didn't offer any air bag protection for rear-seat passengers. As yet another running model-year change, Ford is installing first- and second-row side-curtain air bags on the Mark LT, as well as stability control. Those changes are welcome, and will only enhance the driving and ownership experience in what already is the finest luxury pickup on the planet.

Ford / Lincoln
Lincoln pours all of its effort into the Mark LT's cabin, a study in elegance, sophistication and comfort. It is far and away the best pickup interior in the business -- a tribute to Ford's design team, headed by J Mays.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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