The Car Connection Ford Explorer Sport Trac Overview
If you're not sure whether you want an SUV or a pickup, you can essentially have them both with the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, a vehicle that was as much of a genre-buster when it first went on sale for the 2001 model year as it was at the time of its discontinuation after the 2010 model year.
The top rival to the Sport Trac for some of the time was the Honda Ridgeline, although mid-size trucks like the Dodge Dakota and Nissan Frontier could also be seen as strong alternatives. The Subaru Baja also addressed parallel needs for passengers and cargo in an innovative (but more carlike) way.
In its original iteration, on sale from 2001 through 2005, the Explorer Sport Trac was based on the Ford Explorer but also inherited some Ford Ranger pieces. These versions of the Sport Trac included a 210-horsepower version of Ford's 4.0-liter 'Cologne' overhead-cam V-6, with a four-speed automatic transmission. Overall, this vehicle delivered on its promise, although it wasn't especially deft in either towing or hauling, and its handling wasn't all that confident.
The later versions of the Explorer Sport Trac, from the 2006 through 2010 model years, got a longer four-foot cargo bed and adopted most of additional measures of noise insulation and refinement afforded to the more Explorer in its later years as an SUV. Ford also showed some innovation for weekend craftsman and smaller hauling tasks, by offering a special composite bed and both a tonneau cover and fold-out bed extender.
Those models are powered either by that same V-6, making 210 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque and paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, or a 292-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 and a six-speed automatic. They could tow up to 7,160 pounds; and in general, they rode and handled much better.
Between the two engines, neither one makes the Sport Trac quick, but the V-8 is definitely the better pick because it's a bit more confident off the line and seems to have a much easier time with towing tasks and when fully loaded.
For most of this generation, even the base XLT trims included cruise control, air conditioning, and satellite radio, while top Limited versions got upgraded wheels, heated leather seats, and an upgraded center console. Top options included a moonroof, and premium sound with a subwoofer.
Further upgrades included the simplest form of the Sync hands-free calling system for 2008, and then a new navigation system with voice commands and traffic info in 2009. The edgiest model in the lineup was the Adrenaline, which added dual exhaust tips, perforated leather seats, black fascias, and a more aggressive look overall.
Throughout the Sport Trac's existence, you could choose between rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive—and although 4WD versions helped for muddy trails or deep snow and included a low range, the Sport Trac was never a rock scrambler.