2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

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Review: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Redesigned Sport Trac is a big improvement over its dated predecessor.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Versatile
  • New V8 availability
Cons:
  • Marginal rear seat comfort
  • Gauges a little hard to read
  • High cargo bed floor

Tough trucks no longer are the darlings of the vehicle market. They've been hurt by high gasoline prices and a move toward more fuel-thrifty "crossover" vehicles that often deftly combine attributes of both cars and trucks.

However, the truck market isn't about to go away. And vehicles such as the redesigned 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac compact pickup truck make sense for folks who need a roomy vehicle that can be used as the family bus and for hauling—yet is sturdier than a general crossover vehicle.

Replaces Dated Model
The new Sport Trac replaces a dated model based on the 1995-2001 Explorer SUV. The 2007 version is nearly 17 inches longer than the regular Explorer and is identical from the second roof posts—or "B pillars"—forward. But its back doors and rear roof posts are different. And, of course, it has a pickup truck bed.

The Sport Trac's wheelbase, or distance between axles, is a whopping 130.5 inches, or nearly 5 inches longer than its predecessor's. The new model also is nearly 2 inches wider and looks far more attractive.

Smooth Ride
The longer wheelbase, more rigid construction and a new car-like independent rear suspension go a long way towards giving the new Sport Trac a smooth ride, sturdier feel and above-average handling for a pickup truck.

In fact, only the fairly new Honda Ridgeline compact pickup, which also has an independent rear suspension, favorably compares in the ride department. However, the Ridgeline has only a 122-inch wheelbase, and the Sport Trac's body-on-frame construction makes it better suited for towing than the Ridgeline's car-like unibody construction.

The Sport Trac is fun to drive, even for a truck, with precise steering, almost car-like handling and brakes that provide decent stopping distances.

List prices range from $24,245 to $27,940 for XLT trim levels and from $25,845 to $29,540 for top-line Limited versions.

For the first time, the Sport Trac is offered with a V8, available for both XLT and Limited trim levels. It has a 4.6-liter 292-horspower overhead-camshaft unit hooked to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Lively V8 Acceleration
The V8 propels the Sport Trac to 60 mph in a fairly quick 7.5 seconds and provides decent 65-75 mph passing, although it's pretty hefty at 4,516 pounds.

Other Sport Tracs are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 with 210 horsepower and less torque. The V6 shoots power through a 5-speed automatic transmission. While it's no weakling, that engine provides slower acceleration and less towing capacity than a Sport Trac V8.

Two Drive Systems
The Sport Trac comes with rear- or 4-wheel drive, which can be used on dry roads and has low-range gearing for off-road use.

There are almost no estimated fuel economy differences between the Sport Trac V6 and V8. The V6 delivers 15 mpg in the city and 21 on highways with rear-wheel drive and 15 and 20 with 4-wheel drive. Figures with the V8 and rear-wheel drive also are 15 and 21, while those with 4-wheel drive are 14 and 20. Only regular-grade gasoline is required.

The front-seat area is spacious and has supportive bucket seats. The roomy back seat area accommodates three adults, but the rear bench seat is only marginally comfortable on long drives. However, rear seatbacks fold forward for impressive in-cabin cargo room.

It's not too hard to get in and out of the generally quiet interior, thanks to such items as large outside door handles. Rear doors are fairly long, and running boards—standard on the Limited and optional for the XLT—are wide enough to allow easier entry and exit. Many running boards on SUVs and pickups are mainly cosmetic items.

Sturdy Cargo Bed
The 4-foot-long cargo bed has a rather high floor, but is made of rust-, dent- and scratch-resistant composites. Three storage bins below the floor have individual drain plugs.

All versions have a good amount of standard equipment. It includes air conditioning, a tilt wheel, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and power mirrors, windows and door locks with remote keyless entry.

Safety Items
Safety features include anti-lock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and an anti-skid system with rollover sensors. Optional are $560 side-curtain airbags.

Other extras include an $850 power sunroof, $125 power adjustable pedals, $195 bed extender and a $595 locking hard tonneau cover for the bed. The cover handily folds in half, but two persons are needed to remove it or put it back in place.

Luxury Features
Almost every type of vehicle can be bought with luxury options these days, and the Sport Trac is no exception. For instance, the Limited is offered with a $995 leather upholstery package that contains heated front seats, along with a 10-way power driver seat with power lumbar adjustment and passenger seat with manual lumbar adjustment.

Both the XLT and Limited can be had with a $300 heated windshield.

Common-Sense Interior
The Sport Trac's silver-on-white gauges are stylish, but are hard to read under some daytime lighting conditions. However, the interior generally has a common-sense design. Controls are easy to operate, and front visor vanity mirrors are lit. Large outside mirrors come in handy when changing lanes.

There is a deep front covered storage bin, and front cupholders are positioned to avoid spills. Rear occupants also get large dual cupholders.

The hood goes up smoothly on hydraulic struts, revealing an engine set far back for better handling. And one need not stretch to reach fluid filler areas.

While handsome and comfortable, the bottom line with the Sport Trac is versatility. It would have made a bigger splash if introduced several years ago, but has enough going for it to hold its own in a changing vehicle market.

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BB03 - 9/17/2014 10:50:22 PM