Ford's SUT Gets A Makeover
When the Explorer Sport Trac was introduced in 2001, it was a little bit ahead of its time for the North American market, and while Ford labeled it as an Explorer to emphasize the SUV comfort, it really rode atop the 126-inch-wheelbase Ranger Super Cab chassis. The Sport Trac turned out to be a very popular vehicle for Ford, bringing in conquest buyers who never before would have considered a Ford product. These customers turned out to be a fiercely loyal bunch, and to reward them, Ford has redesigned the Sport Trac for 2007, even ahead of the languishing Ranger.
The '07 Sport Trac is now truly perched atop the Explorer frame, albeit a lengthened one, sporting a 16.8-inch stretch in wheelbase to 130.5 inches, 4.5 longer than the outgoing Sport Trac. Many refinements found in the Explorer are found in the Sport Trac, the biggest of which is the new frame that is 444 percent stiffer than the old frame, which was seemingly constructed of wet particleboard. This new frame features tube-through-fame crossmembers, similar to the F-150, and uses the Explorer's IRS instead of a solid axle. Another notable change is the introduction of the 292hp 4.6L SOHC three-valve V-8 backed by a new six-speed automatic, which gives the V-8 Sport Trac similar fuel economy numbers to the old V-6 model. Of course, you can still get the venerable 4.0L SOHC V-6.
The exterior is essentially an Explorer from the B-pillar forward, which isn't a bad thing, considering the extra width, which helps with interior comfort as well as stability. From the B-pillar rearward, the Sport Trac gets its own sheetmetal (SMC for the bed). Other than skinny tires, the Sport Trac has very nice proportions and a solid stance. The 4 1/2-foot bed, while useful for smaller items, is still too short to fit larger dirt bikes or large ATVs, possibly an oversight when you consider the Honda Ridgeline, a natural competitor, can fit two dirt bikes in the back. However, Ford does make the most out of the space, with an optional, reconfigurable tonneau cover option, as well as indentations in the bed to accept 2x4s for two-tier storage, a power point, and three weathertight storage compartments.
Inside the Sport Trac, the first thing you notice is how utterly quiet it is. At road speed, hardly any noise makes it inside, thanks to sound deadening and careful aerodynamic tuning of the mirrors and body. The interior materials are very high quality, and the ergonomics and comfort are class-leading. We applaud the fact that navigation and satellite radio are now available for the Sport Trac, and can point only to the dumb door-handle design as a major criticism of the interior.
Over the highway, the Sport Trac, with its fully independent suspension, has got to be the best riding pickup truck on the market, matching and exceeding many premium SUVs. In fact, the Sport Trac is so well composed, it feels more like a unibody vehicle than a body-on-frame truck, exhibiting none of the jiggles and wiggles that can be associated with most body-on-frame designs. The Sport Trac is willing over the roughest pavement and we feel that Ford's engineers really hit their mark with on-road suspension tuning. However, in the dirt it doesn't have nearly enough ground clearance or wheel travel for our tastes, and the suspension reveals a nasty side on certain roads, entering up and down oscillations at surprisingly low speeds, causing the truck to bottom out and top out way too easily.
Still, the Sport Trac will gladly take most owners wherever they want to go in comfort and luxury, and with the 4x4 Auto and 4-Lo settings, the Sport Trac is all-weather-capable and can still tackle any dirt road within reason. We think the Explorer Sport Trac is a great choice for someone who needs a multipurpose truck, but wants a little style with his or her function.
Strong V-8, ultra-refined, good fuel economy, independent suspension
Small bed, low frame, independent suspension
More likely to be seen in the REI parking lot than on the trail
Vehicle model: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Limited V-8 4x4
Base price: $30,235
Price as tested: $34,625
Engine Type: 4.6L V-8
Bore x stroke (in.): 3.55 x 3.54
Valvetrain: SOHC, three valves per cylinder, variable camshaft timing
Mfg.'s hp @ rpm: 292 @ 5,750
Mfg.'s torque (lb-ft) @ rpm: 300 @ 3,950
Transmission: Six-speed Automatic
Transfer Case: Borg-Warner
Low Range (:1): 2.48
Axle Ratio (:1): 3.55
Crawl Ratio (:1): 37
Suspension (f/r): Independent short- and long-arm ( SLA) design, coilover shocks, stabilizer bar/Independent Trailing Blade short- and long-arm ( SLA) design, coilover shocks, stabilizer bar
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes (f/r): Vented disc/Solid disc
Wheels and Tires: P235/65R18 A/S OWL tires on 18x7.5-inch machined aluminum wheels
Wheelbase (in): 130.5
Length (in): 210.2
Width (in): 73.7
Height (in): 72.5
Curb weight (lb): 4,793
Ground clearance (in): 8.4
Approach (deg): 28.7
Departure (deg): 17.2
Max payload capacity (lb): 1,350
Max towing capacity (lb): 6,640
Fuel capacity: 22.5
EPA mileage estimates (city/hwy mpg): 15/20
Seating capacity: 5