Base MSRP: $29,520
Engine: 4-liter V6 SOHC
Mileage: 15 city / 20 highway
The Ford Explorer Sport Trac combines the passenger comforts of an SUV with the utility of a pickup truck. Based on the best-selling Ford Explorer, the Sport Trac mimics its namesake inside the cabin, featuring a similar dash, instrumental panel and passenger compartment. However, on the outside, the Sport Trac takes on a more individualistic appearance. With its bulky, bulging sheet metal, it looks more like a Great Outdoors kind of vehicle as opposed to the Explorer's more suburban, family image.
Sport Trac's natural resources
Showcasing its versatility, the Sport Trac features a convertible rear seat area that can either be folded (60/40 split) to accommodate lots of gear or left upright for escorting up to three passengers around town - our rear passengers gave the backseat a thumbs up when it came to space, comfort and legroom.
Behind the seats, there's a power rear window that, with the touch of a button, slides up and down providing reasonable access to items in the bed; however, it is not possible to open the cab into the bed.
Speaking of the Sport Trac's bed, it's worth mentioning that this four-foot long, unprotected cargo area is seemingly dent, scratch and rust resistant. Made of a composite material, Ford claims to have tested its durability by dragging cinder blocks across it and throwing steel pipes into it. Their results? Hardly any damage. Scratches or gouges tend to blend into the black grained finish. In addition to this superman covering, the bed also features ten cargo hooks and a waterproof 12-volt power source.
Options worth purchasing
During our week-long test drive, we found the available cargo/cage bed extender well worth the extra $195 it cost. A hinged, stainless steel tube-frame that flips back to the edge of the dropped tailgate, it increases the bed length from 50-inches to 72 inches - perfect for those shopping sprees to Houston. Conversely, when flipped up, this optional cage acts as a barrier for sliding groceries and smaller items by keeping everything corralled inside a 25 by 45-inch boundary.
Inside, we would encourage getting the Sport Trac's optional Safety Cage airbags ($560), which are designed to provide head protection during rollovers. When deployed, these airbags remain inflated longer than conventional air bags to provide additional occupant protection.
Other features such as heated leather seats, sunroof, power seats, automatic headlamps and auto-dimming rearview mirror are available in packages as well as individual options.
The Sport Trac is powered by a 4-liter single-overhead-cam (SOHC) V6 engine that's rated at 210 hp and 240 foot-pounds of torque, and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
An eager to please SUV, the Sport Trac is smooth on asphalt and offers peppy acceleration. Though not particularly "bouncy," we would not classify the Sport Trac as having a car-like feel due to its tall ride height. It definitely leans more toward the truck genre than sedan, especially when you choose the 4X4 feature.
Like the systems found in Explorers and Expeditions, this electronic two-speed shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system is a cinch to operate and provides improved traction on loose or slippery surfaces. For most city drivers, 4X4 is more of a liability (read: less efficient gas mileage) than a benefit, especially where snow and ice rarely make an appearance. However, where it does come in handy, especially the low-range mode is for weekend trips to the beach. In fact, the Sport Trac is one of the more ideal beach vehicles: there's plenty of room for friends, umbrellas, towels and sandcastle tools.
And, don't forget about the 12-volt outlet in the bed - simply plug in an electric cooler before you leave your driveway and you'll have ice-cold beverages by the time you reach the surf.
If you're a fan of the best-selling Explorer SUV family, then you're going to enjoy the Explorer Sport Trac. It provides the convenience of an open bed truck without infringing upon cabin space. And, it does so with an attitude and style all its own.
Warranty: 3 year/36,000-miles
Horsepower: 210 hp @5,200 rpm
Torque: 240 ft.-lbs. @ 3,000 rpm
GVWR: 5,840 lbs.
Maximum payload: 1,520 lbs.