The 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is based on a stretched Explorer SUV chassis, and has a standard 5-passenger interior and a 50 inch (1270 mm) cargo box. Unique features include a rust-proof plastic cargo box, power rear window, a removeable cooler, and folding rear seatbacks. Sport Tracs have a standard 205 horsepower V6 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission.
An SUV and a pickup in one vehicle
The new Ford Explorer Sport Trac is one of a new generation of hybrid SUV/pickup trucks that offers the comfort and roominess of a 5-passenger cabin and the practicality of an open cargo box. You can transport five people in the comfort of its mid-sized passenger cabin and haul cargo that may be wet, dirty or messy, including bikes, ATV’s, ski’s, snowboards, hockey equipment, beach gear, camping equipment, firewood, gardening supplies, gravel, and other stuff best carried outside rather than inside.
This dual character makes the Sport Trac, and other four-door pickups, appealing to families with recreational and practical hauling needs. It’s kind of like having two vehicles in one.
However, like all hybrids, some compromises were inevitable in its design – the Sport Trac’s 50 inch (1270 mm) bed is shorter then even a short-box pickup truck – yet the Sport Trac’s overall length is 17 inches (432 mm)longer than an Explorer 4-door, making it more difficult to maneouver and park.
Whether the Sport Trac’s disadvantages outweigh its advantages may depend on your lifestyle, according to Ford.
Owners have active lifestyles
Ford expects Sport Trac buyers to be one of three types: current SUV owners who occasionally need more cargo room; pickup truck owners who want more interior space; and lastly (and rather strangely) sports car owners seeking a vehicle to set them apart from everything else on the road.
Tim Quesnel, Ford of Canada’s SUV brand manager explains that the Sport Trac is ideal for the daily commute or a trip to the ski hill. “Explorer Sport Trac is perfect for people who want the ability to switch seamlessly from outdoors adventure to everyday transportation needs like commuting or trips to the supermarket.” He continued, “Sport Trac is for people who need to haul everything from occasional building materials for a home improvement project to the old muddy trail bike.”
Based on Explorer SUV
Based on the current four-door Explorer sport-utility vehicle, the Sport Trac shares about 80% of its parts. The Sport Trac’s frame has been lengthened by 362 mm (14.3 in.) and made 40 percent stiffer. In addition, the Sport Trac’s shocks and springs are tuned differently, and the brakes are larger.
Its additional frame stiffness was achieved by adding several new tubular cross members, additional longitudinal gussets, and thicker side rail frames. Also, the Sport Trac uses all-new urethane body mounts instead of solid rubber ones, to reduce road and engine vibrations.
Plastic cargo box
One of the Sport Trac’s most interesting features is a plastic (sheet moulding composite) cargo box, which is rust-free, 20% lighter than a steel box, and according to Ford, ‘virtually indestructible’. The box is 4 feet 2 inches long and 4 feet 5 inches wide, and has six large hooks on the top of the cargo box walls and four tie-down hooks inside the bed, each of which can hold 317 kg (700 lb.). A removeable divider enables the box to be divided into two separate fore and aft sections. The box also has an external 12 volt power outlet. In addition, an optional lockable hard tonneau cover is available to keep the contents dry and secure.
A useful option is a rear bed extender called a ‘Cargo Keeper’. When the tailgate is lowered, the bed extender flips over and locks in place on the tailgate, extending the bed by 1 feet 10 inches to nearly six feet. The only problem with the extender is that when not in use, it takes up space in the cargo box. In addition, I wonder what would happen if someone ran into the back of the truck with the tailgate open and the bed extender down? The open tailgate extends beyond the legal bumper position.
Other unique Sport Trac features include a special roof rack with a 100 lb. load capacity, an optional step-up bar that runs the length of the cab, protective plastic body moulding on the body sides and lower front bumper, and two oversized tow hooks in the front bumper.
The Sport Trac’s interior reflects the outdoor lifestyle that its owners are supposed to enjoy. There’s a removeable soft cooler between the front seats underneath the folding centre armrest – when removed, it can be slung over your shoulder like a duffel bag. The interior also has sporty-looking, well-bolstered front bucket seats upholstered in a durable cloth fabric and a sporty instrument panel with light-coloured round gauges.
A unique feature is a power rear window which can be operated with a button on the dash. It has a ‘one-touch-up’ feature and an anti-pinch protection in case someone’s hand (or head) should get stuck in between the window and the roof. I liked the power window because the driver no longer has to turn around and strain their neck while sliding the rear window open.
An AM/FM/single CD player with four speakers is standard on the Sport Trac, and a powerful 290 watt AM/FM/6-disc in-dash CD player is optional. With this option, rear passengers have independent radio controls and two headphone jacks. Rear passengers also have two cup holders and separate rear ventilation controls.
Another important Sport Trac feature is a rear bench seat that is split 70/30. When there are no rear passengers, the backrests (which have a hard rear surface) fold down flat, creating a large interior storage area. However, there is no pass-through to the cargo box area.
Other unique Sport Trac interior features include washable rubber floor coverings and titanium-coloured trim on the console and door handles.
Standard safety features include de-powered front airbags, three rear tether anchors, three-point seatbelts with load limiters, speed-sensitive wipers, remote keyless entry, coded ignition key, automatically-illuminating interior lights, and battery saver feature which turns off all the lights after 40 minutes after the last door is closed.
4.0 litre V6 standard
Ford’s 205 horsepower 4.0 litre SOHC V6 engine, the same one used in the Explorer, is standard on the Sport Trac. The engine delivers 205 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 240 ft-lbs of torque at 3750 rpm. A 5-speed automatic transmission is standard, and in the Fall of 2000, a new 5-speed manual transmission will be available.
Payload capacities ranges from 540 kg (1190 lb.) on 4X2 models to 675 kg (1488 lb.) on 4X4’s with the optional payload package.
4X4 models have a shift-on-the-fly system with an electronic shift transfer case with automatic locking hubs. A dial on the dash makes it easy to switch from 2WD to 4WD High or 4WD Low. The 4WD High position locks the front and rear differentials together and should only be used on slippery or loose surfaces to avoid binding the driveline. 4WD Low engages a lower gear, and is useful in climbing or descending steep and slippery hills because it enhances engine braking.
To further enhance rear traction on poor surfaces, a limited slip rear differential is available which limits the power differences between the two rear wheels.
Like the Explorer, the Sport Trac has an independent front suspension (short and long arm type, torsion bar) and a solid rear axle with leaf springs, and standard front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS. P235/75-15 inch all-season tires are standard on 4X2’s and P235/75R-15 inch all-terrain tires are standard on 4X4’s. P255/70R-16 inch all-terrain tires are optional.
The driver and passengers sit up high in the Sport Trac, and outward visibility is very good. The step-up height is rather high, and the optional step-up bar may be a good investment for shorter people and children.
The driver’s position is good relative to controls and instruments, and the sporty, bolstered front bucket seats are very comfortable. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom for both front and rear passengers – unlike most extended cab pickup trucks.
Access to the rear seats is also much easier with a standard, front-hinged rear door on both sides. The rear seatbacks are not bolt upright like in many extended cab pickups, and are therefore more comfortable. The rear window is close to the rear passenger’s heads, but there are head restraints.
I found the Sport Trac easy to drive around town and on the highway, but it feels fairly heavy, which it is (1980 kg/4400 lb.). The 205 horsepower V6 engine has enough power and torque for a full load of passengers and a light load, but it’s not designed for heavy towing jobs. My guess is that towing customers will choose a heavy-duty F-150 Super Duty or SuperCrew pickup instead.
The 5-speed automatic transmission is great, changing smoothly and in a timely fashion. The Sport Trac’s ride is comfortable and smooth on a well-paved highway, but the Sport Trac bobs from side to side on uneven road surfaces, a result of its high ride height and mid-sized width. This is not much different from the Explorer SUV.
The Sport Trac has a fairly large turning diameter of 12.9 metres (43.1 feet), not unexpected for a truck of 5230 mm (205.9 in.) in length.
The height from the tailgate to the ground 800 mm (31.5 in.), is fairly high, as it is on most pickups, so lifting anything heavy requires two people. The bed has a corrugated plastic surface which though durable, is likely to scratch if heavy objects are dragged across it. However, a scratch probably won’t be noticed because there’s no paint to scratch off.
The top of the cargo box sides are also plastic, so cargo items can be slid across the top without scratching the paint. The optional bed extender is easy to operate and locks in place when flipped over onto the tailgate. It will prevent large objects from sliding off the back, but smaller items may slip through the bars if not tied down.
Price and options
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for a 4X2 model is $28,345, and the 4X4 model starts at $33,345. My 4X4 test truck included an optional limited slip rear axle ($330), power moonroof ($1070), Premium Sport Group which included P255/70R-16 OWL A/T tires, step bar, fog lamps, and 16 inch alloy wheels ($900), a Convenience Group which included cruise control, tilt wheel, leather-covered steering wheel, remote keyless entry ($650), Cloth Comfort Group with overhead console, 6-way power driver’s seat ($950), Cargo cage ($235), and skid plates ($135). With a freight charge of $815, the total came to $38,530.
Sport Tracs are assembled in Louisville, Kentucky.