In light of the news that the Explorer is one of the most traded-in “clunkers” in the Government’s C.A.R.S. programs, Ford may want to consider dropping it as an attachment to the Sport Trac’s model designation. But despite its unenviable association with that aging dinosaur, the 2010 Explorer Sport Trac makes a reasonable case for being your next SUV replacement.
And by replacement we don’t mean with a fuel efficient, compact car. None of those characteristics are present with this vehicle. Also, as with most “Jack-Of-All-Trades,” the Explorer Sport Trac flirts with the dreaded “Master-Of None” label. Still, as is obvious by its truck-bed posterior, the Sport Trac offers more versatility for all of those things SUVs often only pretend to be good at.
Although it shares the basic structure of the Explorer SUV, the four-door Sport Trac is nearly 17 inches longer as a result of the four-foot-plus cargo bed. Two trims are offered: the base XLT and the Limited, and both with a choice of two and four-wheel drive.
An additional “Adrenaline” trimmed Sport Trac features a set of entirely aesthetic add-ons including unique grille and running boards. Ford also provides a choice between a 4.0 L V6 engine with five-speed automatic that produces 210 horsepower and 254 lb-feet of torque, or a 292 horsepower 4.6L V8 matched to a six-speed automatic with 300 lbs of torque. While we have had the tendency to err on the side of economy as of late, Ford eliminates the guilt in opting for the V8 with the nonsensical fuel economy of the V6. (see below) Sticking with the V8, drivers are rewarded with acceleration to 60 mph in a sprightly 7.5 seconds. Most critics also note how quiet the engine is under normal loads, even going so far as to compare it to luxury-car standards. The transmission is equally refined with mostly praise for the six-speed which delivers imperceptible shifting.
Being that it adopts many of the Explorer attributes, drivers expecting a harsh truck-like ride will be surprised by the Sport Trac’s best-in class handling. 4×4 Auto mode delivers power only to the rear wheels until they slip, at which point power is delivered automatically to the front wheels. The 4×4 High mode provides a 50/50 power split to the front and rear wheels, making it ideal for off-road or severe winter conditions. The 4×4 Low mode locks the transfer case and is for the steeper grades or pulling a boat out of the water. That being said, those looking for a serious off-road machine should shop elsewhere. A bright spot for the 2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac are favorable crash test scores that are boosted by a plentiful list of safety features including Ford’s AdvanceTrac with Advance Roll Control that monitors and avoids vehicle rollover conditions.
To say that fuel economy is a disappointment for the V6 is an understatement. While EPA estimates for the V8 with 2WD are only 15 mpg in city and and 21 mpg on the highway, the V6 actually LOSES fuel economy to produce a measly 14 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway.
The Sport Trac doesn’t exactly fit into the crew cab truck crowd. This is intentional of course, for many of the upsides mentioned in ride quality above. It does, however, fail to deliver a decidedly masculine knock-out punch in style as a consequence. Instead it looks exactly like its description: truck meets SUV. This isn’t a criticism as much as it may sound. Just like the Explorer, the Sport Trac has the same style grille and scalloped headlights. The smaller 4 1/2 foot sized bed in back is constructed from a sheet-molded composite that according to Ford is 20 percent lighter than a traditional steel box and won’t rust or dent. This area utilizes three storage compartments, has a 12-volt power outlet, and can be optioned with a folding cargo-bed extender and hard, watertight, lockable tonneau cover. A must-have option for those that frequently haul four people and luggage.
It may not be luxurious, but the interior confines of the cabin are comfortable and workmanlike. The base XLT trim comes well-equipped with standard features, including power mirrors and windows, key-less entry, cruise control, air-conditioning and CD player. The Limited trim raises the bar slightly, though both trims still have a preponderance of plasticky, hard surfaces.
Upgrading to the Limited adds a power driver’s seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. The Limited trim also comes with larger 18-inch wheels, color-keyed bumpers and mirrors and external hardware, such as fog lights and side-step bars. Options include a sunroof, dual-zone climate control and a navigation system. Ford’s SYNC infotainment system is available, and constitutes the only significant change for 2010.
In comparison to crew cab trucks, the accommodations are favorably improved in the Sport Trac with generous amounts of head and leg room for rear seated passengers. With all the seats in use, luggage room in the cabin is zero, so plan on putting bags in the rear area.
In XLT trim, the Sport Trac starts at $27,810 and increases to $32,665 for the Limited. With the Adrenaline exterior package (which we could take or leave) the price rises to essentially 36-grand.
Despite its shortcomings, especially gas-related, potential buyers who are debating whether to invest in another SUV may want to take a serious look at their current lifestyle and see if they may benefit from owning the 2010 Explorer Sport Trac.