Chevrolet created the best of the new breed in the Avalanche, a modified Suburban with a short pickup bed that could be extended into the cabin when five-passenger seating capacity was not needed. Ford responded with the smaller, less expensive Explorer-based Sport Trac, which countered Chevy's innovative design with a rugged, plastic-composite cargo box, a tailgate extender, and a rear cab window that could be lowered completely into the rear bulkhead. For 2007, the Explorer Sport Trac and the Avalanche are completely redesigned, each sticking to their original formulas but adding refinement and power to the mix. This proves an unfortunate strategy for Ford. Added refinement means added cost, the addition of a V8 engine is poorly timed with record oil prices, and not only has Ford decided against copying the Chevy's slick “midgate” design to extend the cargo bed into the cabin, it has ditched the trick roll-down rear window of the previous model. The end result is, like the El Caminos and Rancheros that came before it, a vehicle that is too much of a compromise to be worth investigation except by a small, and likely unprofitable, segment of the populace. But that doesn't mean the 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac doesn't have its redeeming features.
If you're still reading, you must be interested. The Explorer Sport Trac is a comfortable, refined five-passenger SUV melded with a tough, rugged cargo box that's designed to get dirty. The sheet molded composite cargo box is 4.5-feet long and is separate from the passenger cabin, unlike the integrated cargo box for the Avalanche. Lined for extra durability, the Sport Trac's bed boasts two-tier storage ability, an optional hard tonneau cover, three integrated bins with drain plugs, and is dent proof. It also resists scratches, and has meaty tie-down hooks on the outside to secure a load. The optional tubular aluminum cargo cage is used as a divider inside the bed or a bed extender with the tailgate lowered.
Because the Sport Trac has moved to the current Explorer SUV frame for 2007, it is a whopping 444-percent stiffer than the old model, and gets an independent rear suspension as well as softer shock tuning for improved ride and handling characteristics. The standard engine is a German-made 4.0-liter V6 that makes 210 horsepower and emits fewer smog-forming pollutants than a Honda Accord Hybrid, according to Ford. The optional 4.6-liter V8 is a dual-overhead cam unit shared with the Mustang GT, making 292 horsepower and connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. Choose a Sport Trac with 4WD and you'll get Ford's automatic Control Trac system with a torque-multiplying 4WD Low gear set. Hauling capacity includes a tow rating of 5,310 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,450 pounds for the V6 while the V8 manages a 6,800-pound trailer and 1,390 pounds of people of cargo. Rack-and-pinion steering, a four-wheel-disc antilock braking system with electronic brake-force distribution, and Advance Trac stability control with Roll Stability Control are also onboard.
Identical to the Explorer SUV from the B-pillars forward, the Sport Trac is 16.8 inches longer and has a similar interior. As in the previous model, rubber covers the floor underneath Berber carpeted mats, but now there's a new console-mounted gear selector designed to resemble that in the Sport Trac's big brother, the F-150. Safety equipment includes dual-stage front airbags with occupant sensing, front side-impact airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, and an optional Safety Canopy system of side-curtain airbags.
Ford offers the 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac in two trim levels: XLT and Limited. The XLT model includes standard features such as air conditioning; a stereo with CD/MP3 playing capability; power windows, door locks, and mirrors; remote keyless entry, cruise control; and 16-inch aluminum wheels. Adding the V8 engine to the XLT also brings dark tinted glass, a Class II trailer towing hitch, tie-down hooks for the cargo bed, and bed storage compartments. Step up to the Explorer Sport Trac Limited and you get 18-inch machined-finish wheels, automatic headlights, fog lights, monochrome exterior trim, upgraded interior décor, and a power-adjustable driver's seat.
A variety of options is available on the Sport Trac. Those, ahem, limited to the Limited model include two-tone leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and climate systems. Either model can be equipped with an Audiophile sound system with a six-disc CD changer, Sirius satellite radio, a moonroof, power adjustable foot pedals, a towing package, a bed extender, a hard tonneau cover, and a heated windshield.
We test drove a well-equipped 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Limited with 4WD and the 4.6-liter V8 engine. Our pickup packed a Convenience Package, an Electronics Package, and other highlights like the Safety Canopy side-curtain airbags, the Audiophile sound system, the hard tonneau cover for the bed, the leather upholstery, and the heated windshield. The sticker on our truck was $33,630 including the $695 destination charge.