Missing a Midgate
Ford claims to have invented the sport-utility truck market when the 2001 Explorer Sport Trac debuted. Based upon the first-generation Explorer SUV platform, the Sport Trac combined a small covered bed with a five-passenger cabin and a rear window that powered all the way down between the cab and the bed. A bed extender allowed the Sport Trac owner to haul larger items, and the concept of the vehicle was good. Unfortunately, the original Explorer Sport Trac rode on ancient underpinnings, with a frame, suspensions, and interior that dated back to the early 1990s. This concept vehicle, a thinly veiled version of the 2006 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that arrives later this year, is based upon the next-generation Explorer SUV platform, instantly modernizing what Ford calls "the first SUT."
Powering the Ford Explorer Sport Trac Concept is a 4.6-liter V8 engine matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. Production versions are expected to offer the same 4.0-liter V6 and 4.6-liter V8 engines as the current Explorer. Also, the Sport Trac Concept gets the Explorer SUV's independent rear suspension, which improves the ride but might not prove as sturdy as the solid rear axle on other crew-cab competitors when it comes to towing and hauling. Roll Stability Control and side-curtain airbags are also going to be available on the new 2006 Explorer Sport Trac. Wider, longer, and with a 30-percent larger bed than before, Ford jazzed the Explorer Sport Trac Concept up with a custom street truck appearance, including a lowered suspension, 21-inch wheels painted gunmetal gray, red brake calipers, a mesh milled-aluminum front grille, and a number of decorative scoops and vents. The rear bumper and all door handles are shaved off the body, and the rocker panels receive integrated running boards that double to provide the appearance of ground effects. The concept's bed includes saddlebag storage wells and recesses to create a tiered load floor for large, flat cargo. Like the original, an extender is included to increase cargo-toting capacity.
Inside, an all-new interior debuts, featuring four bucket seats on the Explorer Sport Trac Concept. The console-mounted gearshift looks similar to that in the Ford F-150, and white-faced gauges peer out of an oval-shaped binnacle ringed in chrome. The tall center stack is designed to accommodate a navigation system, and large cupholders appear capable of handling even the biggest buckets of java. What the Ford Explorer Sport Trac Concept lacks is a feature that could ultimately doom the production truck. This vehicle should come to market with a pass-through to the cabin, like the Chevrolet Avalanche. But with the passenger cab a distinctly separate component from the cargo bed, a design that mimics GM's brilliant Midgate is not in the cards for the Sport Trac. Nevertheless, the 2006 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is sure to be a major improvement over the current model, and this alleged concept truck gives you an extremely clear look at what's coming soon to a Ford dealership near you. Photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company