First Drive: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Tra ford first drives
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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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San Diego, California – After a one-year hiatus, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac returns as a 2007 model, now using the same chassis, engines and major components as the latest Explorer SUV.

Not that the Sport Trac isn’t a sporty utility vehicle, so to speak, but you might argue that it’s actually kind of a pickup truck. Whatever you call it, the Sport Trac is distinctive, with its extended cab/stubby box look that’s reminiscent of trucks like the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab, Toyota Tacoma Double Cab and Honda Ridgeline. Even Subaru had a go at this concept with the Baja, although I think you’d agree that the Baja is more of a “lite” interpretation.

The 2007 Sport Trac is available in Ford’s familiar variants of XLT and
Limited trim levels, and starts at $30,599, plus $1,200 shipping for the 4.0-litre V6, 4X2 version. The Sport Trac benefits from the new, compact, independent rear suspension from the 2006 Explorer, along with the V6 and 4.6 L V8 engine (same as the Mustang), and it inherits the Explorer’s rugged, four-square looks. It’s also the only truck in this class, other than the Dakota, that offers a V8 engine.

The ride is smooth, the cabin is quiet, the box is deeper than that of the previous model, and the maximum towing capacity is raised to 3,090 kilograms (6,800 pounds) when equipped with the 292-horsepower V8 engine and 2,414 kg (5,310 lbs) when fitted with the 210-hp V6. Torque is up to 300 lb.-ft. and 254 lb.-ft. respectively.

First Drive: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Tra ford first drives
Click image to enlarge

A six-speed automatic is fitted to the V8, a five-speed automatic comes with the V6, and both engines recommend regular fuel.

Noteworthy is the standard safety equipment, including AdvanceTrac vehicle stability control system with roll sensors, anti-lock brakes and seat-mounted side airbags. Adding to the safety story is the “Good” rating (the highest) from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for crashworthiness, and a five-star rating from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for frontal and side impacts for driver and passengers.

Also impressive is the truck’s 444% increase in torsional rigidity, a direct result of the fully-boxed chassis that replaces the Ranger-based platform of the original Sport Trac.

First Drive: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Tra ford first drives
Click image to enlarge

But obviously, what sets this truck apart from the standard Explorer is the exposed box behind the cabin. It’s 1,270 millimetres (50 inches) long, 1,552 mm (61.1″) wide by 536 mm (21.1″) high, and is designed to hold bicycles, snowboards and camping gear for outdoor enthusiasts, or perhaps equipment and tools for people working in light trades. Owners report it’s a good location for wet dogs, muddy boots, and other items you wouldn’t want soiling the back of a conventional, closed SUV. With the tailgate down and the bed extender in place, you can just about fit a 4×4 ATV in the box, but it’s not really designed for that application.

An optional rigid, lockable and hinged tonneau cover for the box keeps the rain out and protects contents should you want more security, while offering the versatility of supporting up to 600 lbs on its surface when installed. An additional lockable storage container is located in the floor of the box, just behind the cabin (this requires getting into the box to gain access).

First Drive: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Tra ford first drives

First Drive: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Tra ford first drives

First Drive: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Tra ford first drives
Click image to enlarge

Cabin appointments are slightly less opulent than a fully equipped
Explorer, but the instrument panel and controls are the same, and the Limited version comes with pleasant, two-tone leather interior and a navigation system (late availability). The cloth interior of the XLT is nicely tailored and the only real difference in the cabin between the Sport Trac and the Explorer is the minor trim and surface textures. But let’s not forget the carpets, which the Sport Trac doesn’t feature at all, eschewing plush rugs for easily cleanable rubberized floor covering and mats.

The Sport Trac’s cabin is not an extended add-on for occasional rear seat passengers. Compared with the Explorer, the Sport Trac is 426 mm longer, and it’s all in the wheelbase. This translates to a full-size cabin, with five-passenger capacity and good legroom for rear seat occupants. A grab-handle to hoist yourself into the driver’s seat would be appreciated (there’s one for the passenger), but once in place the driving position is comfortable and the V8 engine (we didn’t have access to Sport Tracs with the V6) is responsive and sufficient, although the formidable 2,178 kg (4,793 lbs) of the 4×4 Sport Trac is enough weight to exercise that Mustang motor.

First Drive: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Tra ford first drives
Click image to enlarge

The Sport Trac made short work of the off-road course set up by Ford, as it easily ascended steep, rock-strewn trails without needing to engage the 4X4 Low setting. You got the impression that it wouldn’t have flinched on more severe terrain, although it’s not designed as an extreme rock crawler. Downhill manoeuvres were managed by selecting first gear with the automatic selector, shifting into 4X4 Low, and letting the truck creep down with your foot off the gas and brake. The Sport Trac is no off-road poseur, and should have no difficulty transporting its occupants to remote bush locations.

The rugged, chunky look of the Ford Explorer Sport Trac will appeal to active, sporty types, but the tall, smallish box may prove restrictive for some applications. The Sport Trac is a niche vehicle – sturdy, capable, looks the part – and if you’re in that niche you’ll want to check it out.

2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

Pricing:
XLT 4×2 V6: $30,599
XLT 4×2 V8: $32,099
XLT 4×4 V6: $33,699

XLT 4×4 V8: $35,199

Limited 4×2 V6: $33,699
Limited 4×2 V8: $35,199
Limited 4×4 V6: $36,799
Limited 4×4 V8: $38,299




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).