- Up to 7,160-pound towing capacity
- More technology options than compact trucks
- Rust-proof cargo box
- V-6 gets worse mileage than V-8
- Engine noise (V-6)
- Suspension noise
The 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is a versatile vehicle with very little to set it apart from the competition.
Is it an SUV or a pickup truck? That is the first thought to cross your mind when looking at the 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Technically, it is an SUV (Ford lists it as such on its Web site) with a pickup bed, and as you might imagine, it delivers the best of both worlds. Although based on the Explorer, it is 17 inches longer than its namesake. The passenger compartment is identical to the Explorer, and the rear cargo area of the Explorer is replaced with a 4.5-foot cargo bed made from a dent and rust-proof plastic compound. The innovative bed has three integrated storage bins and a standard 12-volt outlet. An optional hard tonneau cover and tubular bed extender add all-weather protection and increased functionality. The design is inherently useful for hauling, and with the optional V-8, the Explorer Sport Trac can tow more than 7,160 pounds.
The standard drivetrain for the 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is a 210-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic, and an optional 292-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 matched with a six-speed automatic transmission is available. Consumers have the choice of the standard rear-wheel drive or Ford's ControlTrac four-wheel drive if you want extra traction. ControlTrac offers a two-speed transfer case with a low range just in case the Sport Trac heads off-road.
The 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is mid-size SUV/pickup with truck roots, and it drives much as you might expect from such a vehicle. Ride quality isn't anything to boast about, and you might finding yourself squealing the tires around moderately sharp corners, but it's capable overall in most everyday driving. The V-6 has to work hard to get the 4,600-pound truck up to speed, and although it has plenty of power with a light load, it's noisy and coarse when loaded. The optional V-8 is better, but it doesn’t transform the Sport Trac into a racer—and surprisingly, the V-8 rear-wheel-drive Explorer Sport Trac gets better city and highway fuel economy (15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway) than the V-6.
Inside, the look is similar to the Ford Explorer, which isn’t a bad thing. It seems that Ford heard TheCarConnection.com team’s complaints about the inferior corporate radio and has replaced the base unit with something more up-to-date for 2009. Some drivers also complain about the door handles and the lack of a grab space making it hard to close the heavy doors—so be sure to test this. The quality of the interior, including materials and fit/finish, is acceptable but not up to the level of some of Ford's newer products, like the Edge and Flex people-movers.
The Explorer Sport Trac comes very well equipped compared to compact pickup trucks. Standard features even on the base XLT include full power accessories, cruise control, air conditioning, and Sirius Satellite Radio. The Limited loads the Sport Trac with such things as fancier wheels, heated leather seats, an upgraded center console, and Ford's excellent SYNC system, which interfaces with cell phones and media players and has voice command. Adrenalin models add a more aggressive appearance to the Limited's equipment, including 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, dual exhaust tips, black fascias, and monotone perforated leather seats.
Among the priciest options are a moonroof, a premium sound system with subwoofer and six-disc changer, and a next generation voice-activated navigation with Sirius Travel Link.
The Explorer Sport Trac performs quite well in government crash tests, indicating that it's quite a safe vehicle to be in, although the federal government gives the rear-wheel-drive version only three stars in rollover, which means it's more likely to roll if tripped in an accident. Aiding security is Trailer Sway Control, which has now been added to the Sport Trac's standard-feature list. This system works in conjunction with the stability control and anti-roll programs to keep trailers in line when towing.