Remember when the words 'luxury' and 'pickup' went together like "reality" and "television?" Well neither does Ford. These days, Ford offers the F150 in three levels of lavishness. There's the understated luxury Lariat, the b-b-b-bad to the bone Harley-Davidson and the steakhouse on wheels known as the King Ranch. So when Lincoln charged its badge engineers with creating a replacement for the ill-conceived, ill-fated Blackwood pickup based on a pre-swanked F150, they figured– sensibly enough– that the road to success was paved with bricks of bling.
To distance the Mark LT from its genetic twin, Lincoln's retrofitters substituted a gigantic version of their "waterfall' grill for the F150's demure nose. The end result is bold– in the same sense that a sledgehammer slamming through a plate glass window is aggressive. Just in case you missed the big Lincoln's spizzarkleprow, the LT also rolls with half-chromed side mirrors and chrome appliqués running from the front bumper along the entire length of the lower body sides. Ditto the oversized badges on the grille, fenders and tailgate. If you're a pickup driving homie who thinks that too much of a good thing is a good start, you can option-up 18' chrome wheels, shiny bed rails and dazzling step bars. It's OEM pimpery, Lincoln style.
Fortunately, Lincoln left the F150's elegant interior architecture alone, spending its entire makeover budget on materials. Thicker side windows and double-layered door seals hush an already stately cabin. The expensive looking wood-effect plastic trim of the F150 Lariat makes way for genuine ebony wood trim– that looks like wood-effect plastic trim. While the King Ranch's buttery Castaño hides score higher marks with leather-loving fetishists, the Mark LT's pillows are plenty soft; with a quilted pattern and contrast-colored piping that pay homage to the timeless classicism of the Barcelona chair, created by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the 1929 world exposition. No really.
Ford calls the F-150's interior design theme "tough luxury." Fair enough. Like many vehicles rolling out of Detroit, the interior trim looks luxurious but feels tough. While the F-150 can justify the paradox with its working class cred, the Mark LT's brittle polymers in high traffic areas are hard to tolerate, considering the Lincoln-sized bill arriving at your doorstep every month. The LT sounds brittle too. Crank up the Audiophile stereo and experience tinny treble, muddy midrange and boomin' bass. It's a far cry from the mad skills of the Navigator's beatbox. Speaking of which, where are the other Navigator hallmarks: HID headlights, power running boards, ventilated seats and in-dash navigation? Their omission hints of a tight, post-Blackwood budget.
Under the hood, Lincoln took one look at the F150's engine bay and broke for lunch. Hey, why mess with a good thing? The corporate 5.4L Triton V8 kicks out enough grunt to ensure breezy passing power, accompanied by a throaty growl that almost justifies its pre-pubescent fuel figures. Equally important, the Mark LT has enough torque to tow 8900lbs.– a vital stat given the likely number of Lincolnians looking to pull a Sea Ray in their automotive wake. Although the LT comes in either 2WD or 4WD (with a bespoke low-range control program for slippery surfaces), the four-speed autobox is a cog or two short of class leading. The LT's vented disc brakes provide terrific retardation for one so large, although panic stops induce Titanic nosedive.
On smooth tarmac the Mark LT's ride is luxobarge smooth; an impressive accomplishment for a rig that can carry 1620lbs on its unflinching shoulders. Over potholed roads, Navigator envy continues apace. With its conventional rear leaf spring/solid axle combo, an unladen LT bounces and crashes like any other working class workhorse, while fast maneuvers send the back end into a two-wheeled tango. That said, with its nicely weighted rack and pinion steering, outboard-mounted rear shocks and stiff chassis, the Mark LT is shockingly competent though the twisty stuff. Aggressive cornering yields moderate understeer with a lot less body roll than you'd expect from a 5600lb vehicle sitting over eight inches above terra firma. Of course, the same driving experience is also available at your Ford dealer with few sybaritic sacrifices and considerably less sticker shock.
Like the F150 it is, the Mark LT is an extremely capable all-rounder. By affixing bigger, badder badges, a whole lot of chrome and a few welcome standard features (e.g. a better warranty and free scheduled maintenance for a year), Lincoln has diversified its weak product portfolio with a highly competent, non-Mazda derived vehicle. OK, so Lincoln didn't exactly 'create' the Mark LT. They took a Lariat, put their 'mark' on it and didn't screw it up. While that's not the highest praise ever afforded a modern Lincoln, it's not the worst criticism either.