SANTA BARBARA, CA — Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln division may be turning back the evolutionary clock on sport/utility vehicles (SUVs) with the introduction of its ’02 Blackwood.

At best, it should be called an SLUV — sport “limited-utility” vehicle.

Unquestionably stylish and refreshingly enjoyable to drive, it recalls the curious car/pickup configurations of Ranchero and El Camino — neither of which were able to pull their weight as anxious consumers might have hoped.

Ditto the Blackwood.

2002 Lincoln Blackwood
Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive pickup/SUV
Engine: 5.4L (5,403 cc) DOHC V-8, iron block/aluminum heads
Power: 300 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 355 lb.-ft. (481 Nm) @ 2,750 rpm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Bore × stroke (mm): 90.2 × 105.8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 138.5 ins. (352 cm)
Overall length: 220.2 ins. (559 cm)
Overall width: 78 ins. (198 cm)
Overall height: 73.6 ins. (187 cm)
Curb weight: 5,700 lbs. (2,585 kg)
Market competition: Chevrolet Avalanche; Ford Explorer Sport Trac; Ford F-150 SuperCrew

Described as its “most striking feature,” Blackwood's pickup-style cargo “box” is inexplicably unable to carry any cargo that stands any taller than 15.9 ins. (40 cm). The box's power tonneau cover is not engineered for removal, nor does Lincoln recommend driving with the cover in the raised position. Therefore, it says, loads are limited to groceries, golf bags and everyday items like saddles.

Buying a ‘fridge? “Better have it delivered,” a spokesman quips.

Blackwood's “Dutch door” tailgate design further confuses, because it eliminates the possibility of transporting long loads.

Lincoln defends the $52,000 design by saying its buyers aren't interested in owning a pickup. They are professionals earning more than $130,000 who are seeking to make a statement or simply have fun.

But Blackwood does provide plenty of opportunity for driving excitement. Its 300-hp DOHC V-8, coupled with a unique air-suspension system, contribute to extraordinary ride comfort and handling control at most speeds.

Despite it's inanely limiting features, utility isn't totally tossed out, one might reckon — the towing package is standard, at least.

Available this summer, Lincoln will build no more than 10,000 units this year.