Due to the makeover given the Ford Explorer in 2006, the Sport Trac variant was discontinued for that model year; it returns for 2007, based on the all-new Explorer.

Essentially an Explorer with the rear end lopped off and replaced with a pickup truck box, the Sport Trac is a surprisingly useful combination of SUV passenger comfort and cargo-hauling capability.

Engine choices are an upgraded 4.0-litre V6 or an all-new, three-valve 4.6-litre V8; the V6 mates to a five-speed automatic transmission, while the V8 is hooked to a six-speed automatic. Both engines can be ordered in 4×2 or 4×4 configuration, and in XLT or Limited trim lines; all models are four-door with a four-foot pickup box.

The XLT model includes 16-inch steel wheels, tire pressure monitoring system, side seat airbags, manual air conditioning, CD/MP3 player, cruise control, power locks with keyless entry, speed-sensitive intermittent wipers, power windows with driver’s side one-touch-down control, power mirrors, privacy glass, black roof side rails, grey body side cladding and wheel lip moldings, and Class II trailer towing hitch.

The Limited adds fog lamps, automatic headlamps, monochromatic exterior, 18-inch aluminum wheels, silver step bars, silver roof side rails, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter knob, six-way power driver’s seat, and upgraded floor console.

Available options include a six CD/MP3 player with subwoofer, curtain airbags, moonroof, adjustable pedals, auto-dimming mirror and overhead console, and on the Limited, two-tone leather-trimmed seats, ten-way power driver’s seat, heated seats and dual-zone automatic temperature control.

The popular Sport Trac benefits from its upgrades; it’s roomy and comfortable for front-seat passengers, adequate for those in the rear seats, and despite its size, it feels a bit more nimble than the Explorer. Its rubberized floor makes it easy to clean, and its pickup bed can be lengthened with an optional flip-out extender that allows for cargo to be carried on the tailgate. Unfortunately, it shares the Explorer’s poor inside door handle design, which makes getting in and out tougher than it need be. Overall, this is an attractive, viable and comfortable alternative to a traditional pickup truck.

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