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A pickup that's fun to drive, nimble to handle and looks cool, the Sport Trac is ideal for the city and the country.




2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Road Test
Sport Trac is on track for success

By Bill Roebuck

Despite all the criticism that “toy” trucks seem to get, there's a lot to like about Ford's new Explorer Sport Trac. It's got most of the benefits of a sport-utility plus the advantage of a short pickup box for easy hauling of all kinds of stuff, from gardening supplies to a load of kid's bikes.

Sure it's a truck. But it's nimble, quick and fun to drive. “Ah, but that truck engine uses too much gas,” you might think. Not true, for the Sport Trac qualifies as a Low Emission Vehicle (LEV), and has city and highway mileage ratings of 13.7 and 10.3 litres/100 km.

Let's get right to the major drawback of a vehicle like this for family transportation. When you're carrying a full load of five passengers, there's no trunk space. When I picked up a visiting relative in the Sport Trac, I had to wrap her suitcase in a large plastic bag to protect it from the rain that day. There's plenty of tie-down hooks in the bed area to connect ropes or bungee cords to keep things in place. An optional hard plastic tonneau cover is available for the truck bed and would prove practical to protect luggage and other gear in inclement weather.

The big advantage of this truck is that it has four full doors and a roomy interior. It comes with all the comforts of a regular SUV. I think it looks great -- less workmanlike than a regular pickup truck, tougher in appearance than a regular SUV, and classy in styling.

In addition, I found the Sport Trac  easy to get in and out, even though the seats are high off the ground. There's capacity for five adults, with lots of legroom front and rear. The front seats are very comfortable, and the 60/40 split rear bench seat easily folds flat. A novel feature is an optional power rear window, controlled by a knob on the instrument panel. For you old-timers, it's reminiscent of the power rear window on the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser of the sixties.

Standard features include all the usual power accouterments, a single-disc CD player and speed-sensitive windshield wipers. The plastic composite cargo box has a weatherproof 12-volt power point in it. A tubular steel bed extender is available as an option if you need more cargo room in the pickup bed.

On the highway, the Sport Trac handles smoothly and is surprisingly quiet. There's not much road noise from the big tires, nor wind noise from the big mirrors. Ford's designers have used something new called “quiet steel” for the dash panel, which has 100 times greater noise damping than plain cold rolled steel. It obviously works well.

Power is supplied by a 4.0-litre V6 which produces 205 hp at 5,000 rpm and 238 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. The five-speed automatic transmission is available in 4x2 and 4x4 shift-on-the-fly drive configurations. The 4WD switch allows you to choose 2WD for normal rear-wheel driving, 4WD high for slippery surfaces (you'll find at this setting the wheels bind in tight turns on dry roads), or 4WD Low for rough terrain. Towing capacity is 2,409 kg.

The base price for a 2WD Sport Trac is $28,345. The model tested, a 4x4, lists at $33,345. On-board options -- limited slip differential, power moon roof, premium sport group, convenience group, cargo cage, skid plates, leather seating and power driver's seat -- brought the total to $38,665. Competitive vehicles include the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab and the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab.

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, CarTest.ca 2002.

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