The first thought that comes to mind about the 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is: Why? In a Ford lineup that this year includes a four-door F-150 pickup in addition to extended-cab models of the Ranger and the F-150 with mini rear doors, the Sport Trac seems like overkill. Of course, that doesn't mean it won't sell well. Buyers seem to have an insatiable appetite for pickups and sport-utility vehicles, even in the face of $1.75-a-gallon gasoline and all sorts of government warnings about rollover issues. And the Sport Trac is a very good vehicle, even if it defies easy categorization. In some regard, the Sport Trac brings the Explorer full circle. When it debuted a decade ago and quickly became the most popular sport-ute ever made, the Explorer was built on a modified Ranger pickup chassis, just as the Expedition is built on the F-150 frame. The Explorer was popular because it offered the comfort and convenience of a big sedan with the ability to carry lots of stuff in an enclosed area. Now comes the Sport Trac, which has the comfort of an Explorer but the open-to-the-elements utility of a short pickup bed. The open bed means hauling tall cabinets and refrigerators won't be the problem they are in an Explorer. Such conventional hauling is not what the Sport Trac is designed for, however. It's aimed at younger buyers who have an outdoor lifestyle, much like Nissan's successful image buildup of its Xterra sport-ute. There are roof rails designed to accept four different types of crossbars to handle skis, kayaks and bicycles. There's a 12-volt outlet at the back of the cargo bed that Ford says will power a portable power saw, should the need ever arise. And the interior has a rubber floor covering that can be easily hosed down after a trip to the beach. Other items that make the Sport Trac a diverse vehicle include options like a set of tubular bars than mount in the pickup bed and, when the tailgate is down, can be flipped over to extend the useful length of the bed to 74 inches. On the exterior, the Sport Trac is more muscular-looking than the 2000 model Explorers, thanks to its new body-colored grill and wide fender flares. Aft of the hood, the Sport Trac uses the cabin of the four-door Explorer and then grafts on the 51-inch pickup bed. That increases the Explorer's wheelbase by nearly 14 inches. Inside the cockpit, aside from the rubber floor covering (which can be covered up with the carpeted floor mats for a fancier look), the Sport Trac gets new black-on-white dials and a power rear cargo window. The suspension is new to the Explorer line, featuring changes to the rear springs, all four shocks and the front and rear anti-sway bars that are designed to provide a smoother ride. They work. For all its take-no-prisoners looks on the outside, the Sport Trac rides like a well-mannered sedan. Nonetheless, Ford pegs the vehicle's cargo capacity at 1,5 00 pounds and the towing limit at 5,260 pounds. Unlike other Explorers, the Sport Trac comes with just one engine and transmission choice for now -- the 205-horsepower, four-liter V-6 coupled to a five-speed automatic gearbox. Ford promises to add an optional five-speed manual, but there are no plans to include a V-8 option. The government rates the Sport Trac's mileage between 15-20 miles per gallon. Expect 0-to-60 acceleration in the nine-second range. Base sticker prices range from about $23,000 for a two-wheel-drive Sport Trac to about $26,000 for a four-wheel-drive version. That puts the Sport Trac in the mid to upper price range for sport-utility vehicles and well above most V-6 pickups. Based solely on utility, the Sport Trac defies logic at that price, no matter the positive performance. But for buyers who value style over substance, the Sport Trac definitely offers a different way to go.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Rick Popely||Cars.com National||April 27, 2001|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||December 26, 2000|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||September 16, 2000|
|Terry Jackson||The Miami Herald||August 15, 2000|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||May 21, 2000|
|Alan Vonderhaar||Cincinnati.com||May 20, 2000|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||April 16, 2000|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||February 23, 2000|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||February 6, 2000|
|Tony Swan||Detroit Newspapers||February 3, 2000|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||February 2, 2000|
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