Fords SUV/pickup truck hybrid was introduced as an early 2001 model and soon proved to be surprisingly popular. In fact, buyers have been snapping them up eagerly since its debut. Essentially, the Sport Trac is a previous-generation four-door, five-passenger Explorer with an open, 4-foot, pickup-style cargo box at the rear. Ford targets buyers who need a utility vehicle that might actually get dirty by going off-road, hauling mountain bikes and other lifestyle accessories, or carrying lumber and gardening supplies.
A similar concept is being used for the bigger 2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT, Chevrolet Avalanche and Lincoln Blackwood, but Ford was first with the idea. Little has changed on the Sport Trac for the 2002 model year.
To create the Sport Trac, developers first stretched the Explorers frame by 15 inches. They also incorporated more aggressive styling than the regular four-door Explorer exhibited, including flared rear fenders. The Sport Trac measures 205.9 inches long overall with a 125.9-inch wheelbase. It is 71.8 inches wide and 70.1 inches tall.
The rear cargo bed is made of sheet-molded composite, which is a heavy-duty plastic that resists rust and dents. An optional, tubular steel cargo cage attaches to the tailgate and can extend the cargo area by 22 inches. Another option is a lockable hard tonneau cover that protects cargo contents.
Like the regular Explorer, the Sport Trac seats five occupants on cloth-upholstered bucket seats up front and a split, folding rear bench. A standard power rear window allows access to the cargo area from the rear seat. The floor is covered with washable composite rubber that can be hosed down if it gets dirty.
The driver faces an instrument cluster with white-faced gauges. The Sport Tracs center console has a removable soft bag that holds drinks and snacks. A CD/cassette stereo system is standard.
Under the Hood
A 4.0-liter V-6 engine develops 203 horsepower and teams with a five-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. Control Trac II full-time four-wheel drive is available instead of rear-wheel drive. Antilock brakes are standard, and side-impact airbags are not available.
What first seems like a gimmick tacking two different types of vehicles together actually turns out to have practical value. Although the Sport Trac looks strange to some people, owners who actually need to carry both passengers and cargo may well appreciate this trucks capabilities. Still, some may ask, if you want a pickup truck, why not buy one, especially when you can get true four-door models these days.
But be warned this thing is big. It also attracts quite a bit of attention, though thats likely to taper off as more Sport Tracs hit the streets. Climbing aboard can be a challenge for shorter folks, even with the assistance of the rough-looking running board. But once inside, theres plenty of space in the front seat. The backseat is comparably spacious, though passengers may have to duck down slightly when entering.
Handling and performance are standard-issue SUV qualities, and the Sport Trac is easy enough to drive and maneuver. Although acceleration is energetic from a standstill, theres no denying that youre in a truck, and automatic-transmission shifts are quite noticeable. Storage facilities inside are abundant, including a huge covered console box and a helpful open tray. Seats are cushiony and comfortable.