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2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac


A Striking Profile


Rear 3/4 View


4.5 Foot Bed


Massive Chrome Grill


Optional Bed Cover


The Truck End


Aggressive Stance
 


Photos: Ford Motor Company
2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Evolution of the Sport Utility Truck

Article by Jeff Steinwand

Evolution is intriguing. Sometimes kooky-looking creatures thrive, while other seemingly well-adapted ones perish. Species are shaped through generations of continual refinement. Those inheriting the beneficial traits will prevail because of their ability to survive. This theory applies to more than just the animal kingdom; the automobile industry is subject to the same principles as nature.

When it was first introduced five years ago, the Explorer Sport Trac was unique in appearance. It aimed to possess a wonderful combination of genes: the comfort and convince of a sport utility, along with a practical cargo area, a standard truck bed in condensed form. In 2000, it seemed to be a viable alternative to a 3/4-ton crew cab, which were growing in popularity, but rather impractical to use as a family vehicle.

In some ways the Sport Trac was ahead of its time. It was hurriedly created to fit an emerging market in an effort to dominate the competition, but it ended up with some less than desirable traits. The Sport Trac was afflicted by the outdated chassis of the Explorer on which it was based. The basic design spanned more than decade, and it soon began to show its age. The comfort-tuned suspension was sloppy, and the solid rear axle ride provided a jarring ride that was less than desirable for carrying a load of human cargo.

As more things changed in SUV territory, the Sport Trac remained the same. It did not receive an overhaul when the 2002 Explorer was given a complete update, so it lacked the independent rear suspension that almost every other SUV on the road has today. The niche market the Sport Trac served was attacked by predators of all shapes and sizes, and its niche market dwindled.


Sport Track Unveiling

Texas State Fair

Al Giombetti Posing

While previous generation of Sport Trac ceased production in June 2005, the Sport Trac has survived. Just this week, Ford revealed the next generation 2007 Sport Trac at the Texas State Fair. The half-truck half-SUV has been reborn with a fresh new look, pulling many styling cues from the 2005 Adrenaline concept. It lacks the ground-hugging stance and vented fenders of the street-inspired concept vehicle, but otherwise the new Sport Trac follows the concept very closely. The next generation sport utility truck also is more massive in appearance and larger in size, two inches wider and five inches longer than the previous version.

The 2007 model is now based on the modern Explorer chassis. From the front doors forward, the Spot Trac is identical to the 2006 Ford Explorer. This includes the massive chrome grill, which extends from the hood to the lower fascia, and compound headlamps with integral turn signal lamps. The rear doors have been altered to accommodate the xenografted truck bed.

The bed design is distinctly more truck-like than before, taking influence from the current F150. If approached from behind, one could mistake the Sport Trac for its full-size cousin, but the cargo area has been shortened to just 4 1/2 feet. The bed is molded from a plastic composite. Its exterior is painted like the rest of the body, and the inside receives a dent-proof liner. As with the previous generation, this cargo box features exterior anchor points, but now has added notches in the plastic liner to accommodate 2X4s as crossbars so that a standard 4x8 sheet of plywood will fit horizontally on top of the wheel arches.

At the base of the cargo area you will find utility bins beneath the bed floor. Small boxes are located in the area just behind the wheel wells, one per side, just large enough to hold a six-pack of your favorite beverage. One large box is located at the front of the bed, spanning its width. All three boxes are weather-resistant and include drain a plug so to accommodate ice to keep your beverages cold.

Inside, the Sport Trac gets a rugged rubber floor covering with the ability to handle any mud or grease you may throw at it. Berber-carpeted floor mats provide comfort, along with a leather option, which gives all five occupants two-tone seating surfaces. Heat and 10-way power adjustments as also options for the front seats. Various innovations include a heated windshield to eschew snow and ice, ergonomic interior door handles, and a console-mounted gear selector similar to the one found in the F150.

More excitement can be found under the hood, where a standard 4.0-liter V6 engine resides. Providing 210 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 254 pound-feet of torque at 3,700 rpm, this engine is mated to a standard 5-speed automatic transmission. The engine uses advanced technology to reduce tailpipe emissions to the same level as the Ford Escape Hybrid. Upgrade to the 4.6-liter V8 with 6-speed automatic and you can reap the benefits of 292 horsepower and gain the ability to tow 6,800 pounds. This engine is expected to break the 20-mile per gallon mark in highway cruising.

You can put that power to the ground with the optional Control Trac four-wheel-drive system. If the rear wheels lose traction, the system will automatically divert power to the front wheels.

The Sport Trac inherits the "tube-through-tube" frame design from the F150. Frame cross members pass through the main frame rails to provide a chassis that is 444 percent stiffer than the previous model. The frame is also used on the 2006 Explorer, although the wheelbase has been stretched 16.8 inches on the Sport Trac, and a two-piece driveshaft has been added.

The front suspension features a short- and long-arm design with coil-over shocks, tuned for damping harsh impacts while providing body control over larger irregularities and when cornering. The rear suspension uses an independent design, the same trailing blade design found on the 2006 Explorer. The Sport Tracís rear coil-over springs, monotube shocks, and stabilizer bar have slightly stiffer rates than those found on the Explorer to accommodate the longer wheelbase. The result is a ride that should be light years ahead of its predecessor in terms of comfort as well as handling.

Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, as is an anti-lock braking system. The Sport Trac also offers the AdvanceTrac Safety System with Roll Stability Control, as found on the 2006 Explorer. Other safety enhancements include side-curtain airbags for all passengers, and side-impact airbags for front occupants.

Ford will build the new Sport Trac at the Louisville Assembly Plant starting in spring 2006, offering it as a 2007 model. Many enthusiasts are excited about the new Sport Trac, and with good reason. The new model is better is almost every aspect, and comes much closer to an ideal cross between a comfortable SUV and a practical truck. If there is any room left in the grey area between truck and SUV, this vehicle will surely occupy it. The question is, is there enough room?

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