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Pickup? SUV? How about both? The specialized Ford Explorer Sport Trac was a vehicle meant to offer the best of both worlds, which is to say the cargo-hauling ability of a pickup and the comfortable interior of an SUV. It was, in essence, an Explorer with a pickup bed grafted to the back.
There have been two generations of the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. We were never very impressed by the original. Though clever in concept, it lacked in execution. The first Sport Trac was low-tech, underpowered and saddled with poor handling characteristics. The redesigned second-generation model, which debuted for the 2007 model year, was a much better package overall thanks to improvements in its power, cargo and towing capacity, and handling and comfort characteristics.
In most respects, Ford succeeded at its goal of building a vehicle that could act as both a pickup and an SUV. For consumers in need of a vehicle for hauling recreational gear or just something that can be used for light-duty trips to Home Depot, the Sport Trac should work just fine. We recommend shoppers take a look at some competing automakers' crew cab midsize pickups of the same time period, however, as they fulfilled much of the same role and offered advantages in refinement, performance and cab/body style configurations.
Most Recent Ford Explorer Sport Trac Models
The most recent generation of the five-passenger Ford Explorer Sport Trac was offered from 2007-'09. It came in a single body style: a four-door crew cab pickup. Although it shared the fundamental structure of the Explorer SUV, the Sport Trac was nearly 17 inches longer. The added length came from its longer wheelbase, which allowed room for the 4-foot cargo bed as well as plenty of rear legroom.
The Sport Trac's bed was constructed from sheet-molded composite (SMC), which was lighter than steel and wouldn't rust or dent. There were three integral storage compartments, and options included a folding cargo-bed extender and a hard tonneau cover. The bed contained a 12-volt power outlet.
Two trims were offered: base XLT and luxury Limited. The XLT's standard features included power mirrors and windows, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning and a CD player. The Limited adds larger 18-inch wheels, color-keyed bumpers and mirrors, foglights and side-step bars. Major options include a sunroof, dual-zone climate control and a navigation system.
There were two engines offered in this generation. The standard 4.0-liter V6 engine (210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque) was matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. The available 4.6-liter V8 (292 hp and 300 lb-ft) came paired with a six-speed automatic. There was also a choice of either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
In reviews of the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, we found the vehicle competent, with no major faults. Acceleration is average, even with the V8, and handling pleasant enough to fulfill Ford's target of carlike driving qualities. In addition, the cabin was comfortable and worked well enough. Although adequate in most respects, the Sport Trac wasn't outstanding in any one area. Accordingly, we'd advise consumers shopping for a multipurpose crew cab pickup to check out the Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Frontier before making a decision.
Changes throughout this generation's brief span were minor, with Ford adding the Sync system for 2008 and upgrading the optional navigation system for '09.
Past Ford Explorer Sport Trac Models
Sold from 2001-'05, the first Ford Explorer Sport Trac suffered from the launch-model blues. It was based on the old, second-generation Explorer and built around the Explorer's 4.0-liter V6 engine, chassis and suspension. At the time, we noted that we liked the vehicle's dual-nature configuration and many available features, but disliked its sloppy handling, limited towing and hauling capabilities, and subpar off-road abilities.
Changes to this generation were minor, so used-model shoppers should probably not feel a need to focus on any particular year.