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Ford Explorer Sport-Trac 4WD (2001)

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,270
     Price As Tested                                    $ 28,205
     Engine Type              SOHC 12-valve 4.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 245 cid/4011 cc
     Horsepower                                   205 @ 5250 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               240 @ 3750 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  125.9"/71.8"/205.9"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4437 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  20.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                 P235/75R15 A/T
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            15/19/18         

     0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                        1180 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         5000 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

The public is getting used to truck/SUV hybrids but when they first appeared we drew lots of attention when we drove one. That doesn't happen much anymore, until we tested the Ford Explorer Sport Trac.

Sport Trac is a "lifestyle vehicle," part pickup, part SUV. with room for five and a bit of cargo capacity for small, messy loads.

OUTSIDE - Sport Trac gets plenty of attention on the road, much of it due to its truncated 50-inch long cargo bed. Made from a durable, lightweight sheet molding composite, there is no need for a bed liner. Also, an optional stainless steel cargo cage flips from the bed onto the open tailgate, increasing the bed's length to just under 73 inches. That same tailgate is made of steel, and has been borrowed from the Ford F-150 Flareside pickup. A weatherproof 12-volt outlet is located inside the bed, and a tonneau cover is optional for it. This 70-pound plastic cover is lockable and hinged in the center for easy access, but it's removal requires two people. And save for the sweeping curve of the rear doors, the rest of the vehicle is pure Explorer, which means that for 2001 there are new headlights, a "power bulge" hood, a new grille and integrated fender flares. While 15-inch styled steel wheels are standard, a set of brightly-polished five-spoke alloys is optional.

INSIDE - Sport Trac's interior reflects its rugged, outdoorsy theme, but things are quiet due to special urethane bushings between the body and frame, along with noise-deadening laminated steel in the floor, Our tester came with a smooth cloth upholstery that can easily be wiped clean, while a textured rubber mat covers the floor and can be rinsed clean after a jaunt through the muddy outdoors. The dashboard now features white-faced gauges that look sporty and fresh, and the faux aluminum trim on the door-pulls and various interior pieces extends Sport Trac's overall active lifestyle theme. The front bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive, while the three-across rear seat is best suited for two. It folds flat, though, and opens a sizable amount of storage. Just under the front armrests, where the center console should reside, is a removable canvas soft bag that easily holds lunch for two. Standard Sport Trac features include power windows, door locks and mirrors, air conditioning, speed-sensitive intermittent wipers, a powerful stereo, tilt steering and a power rear window.

ON THE ROAD - A single powertrain is offered under Sport Trac's hood but it's a good one. A 4.0 liter single overhead-cam V6 engine puts out 205 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque. Initially we wished for a V8, but the acceleration of the V6 softened that viewpoint. A smooth five-speed automatic transmission seems the perfect choice, though a five- speed manual is also offered. Both the payload and towing capacities are impressive. Ours test vehicle was a 4X4 model, and instead of Control-Trac, the company's excellent automatic four-wheel drive system, ours came with a part-time system. It can be shifted between 2WD and 4WD High on-the-fly by twisting a knob on the dash.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Sport Trac's foundation rests on a full-frame chassis that is rugged and stiff. Its chassis is more robust than the Explorer frame on which it's based due to the addition of thicker side rails, tubular frame cross-members and extra gusseting. This extra strength makes it 40 percent more resistant to twisting, and it's noticeable on the road. Two-stage progressive leaf springs aren't new to the truck industry, but Sport Trac has them and they contribute to a softer ride and an increased load capacity. Also, the shock absorbers were revalved, and the front and rear anti-roll bars were revised. The standard all-disc braking system has been upgraded with larger front rotors, beefier calipers and tougher brake pad material. A four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, side-impact door beams and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - Convenience Package, (speed control, leather steering wheel, remote keyless entry) $750; Cloth Comfort Group, (special cloth upholstery, overhead console, six-way power driver's seat) $935; cargo cage, $195; skid plates, $125.