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You will never confuse the Lincoln Blackwood or Cadillac Escalade EXT for sports cars. What you will find, though, is that these trucks are quite deceptive about what is happening just beneath the skin. They are uncannily good in the suspension, powertrain and handling departments.

The Blackwood's suspension is a noticeable and technical improvement over the F-Series SuperCrew's. Both trucks share the same independent short-and-long A-arm front suspensions but the Blackwood adds staggered acceleration-sensing shocks plus a hybrid combination of monoleaf parabolic and air springs in the rear.

The Blackwood's rear suspension's pressurized air springs instantly adapt to additional passengers or cargo, providing automatic load leveling, while the monoleaf rear springs reduce the harsher spring rates found in the SuperCrew's conventional leaf spring designs. Anti-windup bars further dampen any spring windup when the cargo box is unloaded creating a very sticky truck with good rear axle control.

The Blackwood's suspension system.

Lincoln has also done some work with the Blackwood to give its owners better control while driving in all types of road conditions.

While many vehicles handle traction control through brake modulation, the Blackwood accomplishes it almost entirely with throttle management.

Blackwood's traction control system provides either more power through its limited slip rear differential, to transfer additional torque from side-to-side, or its engine automatically reduces power ouput when it senses excessive wheel slip until traction has been restored. How fast the vehicle is moving relative to wheel slip determines the amount of power sent to the wheels.

Lincoln engineers have programmed the engine management system to not reduce power in some situations such as when driving in loose gravel.

The EXT certainly one-ups the Lincoln Blackwood with the most advanced suspension and handling system we have ever driven in a pickup. It's composed of three parts, Cadillac's Road Sensing Suspension, StabiliTrak and All Wheel Drive.

Where the Blackwood's suspension's shocks are primarily circuit driven pneumatics reacting to road force, the EXT's superior Road Sensing Suspension (RSS) is centered around four electronically controlled shock absorbers. These 'smart' shocks constantly measure body roll, vehicle pitch, wheel motion and position and calculate the optimal shock demand for each wheel to optimize vehicle handling and ride performance. RSS really shines in aggressive driving situations, such as emergency lane changes, by reducing or overriding the normal driving forces involved. The result, the outside shocks are stiffened to reduce body roll and enhance handling in the scenario above.

The Cadillac front suspension and interior cutaway showing the AWD transfer case and StabiliTrak electronics (far right).

StabiliTrak combines throttle management and brake control to improve vehicle stability in all sorts of driving conditions. StabiliTrak measure many of the same variables as RSS and when it senses one or more of the wheels slipping, during braking or acceleration, it automatically adjusts brake pressure, engine torque or throttle control to restore optimal control.

Electronically controlled, viscously coupled all wheel drive completes the Cadillac's suspension and handling trinity and truly proves its worth in gold. Driver's never have to think about its safety benefits because it's always there to provide the most traction on the road where its needed and when its needed. The AWD system is the same as the one we reviewed on GMC's Sierra C3.

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