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2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

I’m Cool Because I Said So!

    Sport means cool and/or active. (Ed’s Note: Webster disagrees) I drive a sports car; I am cool. I drive a sport utility vehicle; I am active. My presence on the road is commanding. I work a 9 to 5 during the week in the city. On weekends I ford rivers and leap boulders.
     Reality, unfortunately, doesn’t always keep a beat with the rhythm of the drums, as few SUV’s will ever feel more dirt under their radials than a pea gravel driveway. But the stigma is still there, and that is why your editors find it necessary to hit the dirt often and unabashed.
     That or it is some confused manly midlife crisis gene buried deep in our DNA. As neither of your AT editors are over the hill we prefer to just say that it is all part of our job. Hey, if you can justify breaking your New Year’s resolution just one time for a mid-afternoon Twinkie because you told yourself you will go to the gym an extra time this week, then what’s a little dirt between the treads… and the running gear…and the running boards…and the roof rack rails…
     We wanted adventure, the kind of adventure that is spontaneous, yet strategic. Like a weekend run to Montana (Ed’s Note: If you are an employee of Ford Media Relations that did not happen). The Sport Trac just so happens to be set up for exactly this type of adventure. The interior is nothing special, but it is nothing to scoff at either. The windshield is a heated unit with wavy little lines running vertical almost unnoticed except for that occasion when the traffic light is shinning on that wee bit of moisture collected just within your direct line of vision. There is no carpeting. A bit surprising at $34K (probably had to cut it to make up for the cost of the windshield). But no matter, the guys will just get it muddy anyways. The floor is more like a neoprene rubber, which seemed out of place with the two-tone leather seats. Not exactly your hose-it-out interior. If not for the tan pillar trim and seat inserts, the interior would be extremely drab in monotone black. Just consider the black plastic, black faux carbon-fiber trim, black leather, chrome-ringed white faced-gauges, and the most boring black-faced HVAC and radio head units in the industry.
     It is roomy, however. Though admittedly, three across in the back seat for 30-plus hours would have gotten a bit tight. Driver and front passenger seats are comfortable, heated, and puffy. Contrary to Ford’s belief, tushies are not all created equal. The days of the single-setting seat heater are past. The steering wheel is thick and meaty, but the auxiliary buttons are a bit wussy in their action with little tactile sensation; whereas the gear shifter slides with a solid thunk, thunk, thunk. The armrests are a bit low and the instrument panel is way too flat, but these are minor quibbles compared to the placement of the door handle and release. My hand/arm coordination has always been good, but pivoting my arm around my hand outward from the centerline of my body to swing open the door only to then locate the handle which is below the armrest in time to stop the door from being flung open by a nasty tailwind into the side of the very pretty BMW I just parked next to at the Meijer parking lot gets to be a bit tricky. A redesign is underway, and we can only hope whoever thought this setup would be a good idea is never again in charge of anything more important than the odometer font.
     Motivating our five-passenger runabout is Ford’s venerable 4.6-liter 3-valve per cylinder V8 coupled to Ford’s new 6-speed automatic. Under the aluminum hood of the Mustang, this mill churns 300 hp, but in Explorer and Explorer Sport Trac guise this engine produces a more modest 292 hp. So that means the Explorer engine has to haul around an extra 1,437 pounds with 8 fewer ponies to call upon. That isn’t the right kind of math if you ask me. While weather did not permit strapping on our test gear, our calibrated behinds registered that the Sport Trac could scoot off the line. Once you got going it was a whole other story. The Sport Trac motor has 300 lb-ft of torque, but it isn’t available until 3,950 rpm. Which is quite high for a V8, and especially so for a truck engine. First gear, with its 4.17:1 gear ratio, makes good use of this torque, but once the tranny starts sliding through the gears the truck becomes downright wimpy. The top gear ratio of 0.69:1 makes promises of better efficiency, but like any good left-winged senator, finds ways to duck out of the game once the going gets rough. (Ed’s Note: Supporters of left-wing senators may send their angry correspondence to muxlowj@automotivetrends.com.)
     One feature not afraid to get dirty on the Sport Trac is the short and lightweight bed. Like the first Sport Trac, the composite bed is again featured instead of most trucks’ stamped steel construction. Hence, innards don’t get all scratched up from loading concrete bricks and the overall curb weight is reduced. At the forward edge of the bed just outside the cabin is a nifty little compartment for stowing and securing small items or using as a mobile cooler for soft drinks on cross country excursions. It’s not ideally placed, but it’s better than nothing.
     Driving the Sport Trac was decidedly more fun than driving the standard Explorer. For one thing you could drive this thing through the woods and all matter of muck on the weekends, and then turn around and drive it to work on Monday without having washed it and you couldn’t care less. It is a sporty activity truck; it is suppose to be covered in mud. And in general, it actually felt better to drive than the standard version. Thanks to the longer wheelbase the Sport Trac felt more stable on and off the road, and it is just plain better looking. (Ed’s Note: Supporters of the original Explorer may send their angry correspondence to muxlowj@automotivetrends.com.)
     Now the question is would I pay $34,760 for such a vehicle. Well, maybe not, but I would be more likely to cough up the dough for a Sport Trac than I would a standard Explorer. After all, I am far more likely to carry dog food than seven passengers.

The Good:
Neat looking truck, useful heated windshield, better dynamics than regular Explorer.
The Bad:
Terrible door layout, ancient switchgear and no carpet.
The Verdict:
More power than a Ridgeline, less tin than a Explorer.
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