Two-for-one vehicles have caught the fancy of quite a few shoppers lately. Fords sport utility vehicle/pickup truck crossover debuted as an early 2001 model and soon proved to be surprisingly popular.
The Explorer Sport Trac is a previous-generation, four-door, five-passenger Explorer with an open 4-foot, pickup-style cargo box added 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 has been used for the larger Cadillac Escalade EXT and Chevrolet Avalanche, but Ford was first with the idea.
Rear disc brakes are new for 2003. A freshened interior contains revised low-back bucket seats. Fords Safety Canopy side curtain-type airbag system will be available with rollover sensors later in the 2003 model year. Meanwhile, a new Adrenaline limited edition features a 485-watt Pioneer sound system, fog lamps, front tow hooks, side step bars and Thumbprint aluminum wheels. The Sport Trac comes in three levels: XLS, XLT and XLT Premium.
To create the Sport Trac, developers first stretched the Explorers frame by 15 inches. They also incorporated more aggressive styling such as flared rear fenders than the regular four-door Explorer exhibited. The Sport Trac measures 205.9 inches long overall with a 125.9-inch wheelbase. It is 71.8 inches wide and 70.5 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 low-back bucket seats up front and a 60/40-split, folding rear bench. Leather seating surfaces, heated front seats and power lumbar support are available. 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 cassette/CD stereo system is standard.
Under the Hood
A 4.0-liter V-6 engine develops 210 horsepower and teams with a five-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. Either rear-wheel drive or ControlTrac II full-time four-wheel drive is available.
Antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags are not available, but a Safety Canopy side curtain-type airbag system will be offered later in the 2003 model year.
What first seemed like a gimmick combining two different types of vehicles turned out to have a fair amount of practical value. Although the Sport Trac looks strange to some people, owners who actually need to carry both passengers and cargo may appreciate this vehicles capabilities. But some people may still ask: If you want a pickup truck, why not buy one especially when you can get true four-door models these days?
Be warned this rig is big. It also attracts quite a bit of attention, but thats likely to taper off as more Sport Tracs hit the streets. Even with the assistance of the tough-looking running boards, climbing aboard can be a challenge for shorter folks. Theres plenty of space in the front seat. The backseat is comparably spacious, but passengers may have to duck down slightly when entering.
The Sport Tracs handling and performance are standard-issue SUV qualities, and this SUV is easy enough to drive and maneuver. Although acceleration is energetic from a standstill, theres no denying that youre in a truck. Automatic-transmission shifts are quite noticeable. The storage facilities inside are abundant and include a huge covered console box and a helpful open tray. The seats are cushiony and comfortable.