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By Jim Flammang
August 27, 2003
Vehicle Overview Two-in-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 essentially 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. General Motors used this concept as the basis for the Cadillac Escalade EXT and Chevrolet Avalanche.
Equipment changes mark the 2004 Explorer Sport Trac, which features a revised instrument cluster in a freshened interior. Four trim levels are available: XLS, XLT, XLT Premium and Adrenalin. The Adrenalin edition features a 510-watt Pioneer sound system, fog lamps, side step bars and chrome wheels.
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 exhibits. Built on a 125.9-inch wheelbase, the Explorer Sport Trac measures 205.9 inches long overall, 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 can extend the load area by 22 inches. Another option is a lockable hard tonneau cover that protects cargo contents.
Like the older Explorer, the Sport Trac seats five people on cloth-upholstered low-back bucket seats up front and a 60/40-split, folding rear bench. Power lumbar support and leather-trimmed heated front seats 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.
Under the Hood
A 4.0-liter V-6 engine develops 210 horsepower and teams with a five-speed-automatic 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 may be installed.
What first seemed like a gimmick combining two different types of vehicles turned out to have a fair amount of practical value. Even though the Explorer 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?
But be warned: This rig is big. It attracts quite a bit of attention, as do most dual-purpose vehicles. 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.
Handling and performance are standard-issue SUV qualities. The Explorer Sport Trac is fairly easy to drive and maneuver. Acceleration is energetic enough from a standstill, but automatic-transmission shifts are quite noticeable.