Review: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Both the XLT and Limited can be had with a $300 heated windshield.
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.