Explorer Sport Trac

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The Good

Better-than-expected handling, an almost sporty V8, and cult appeal all mean we’ll probably see some version of the Explorer Sport Trac for years to come.

The Bad

Cult appeal isn’t always a good thing, and some people just plain hate the Explorer Sport Trac, but even those who love it are less than pleased with the controls and levers, which seem to have been designed with frustration in mind.

The CarGurus View

Yes, the controls and levers leave a bit to be desired, but that’s hardly why you’re buying a Sport Trac, right? Get the V8, and enjoy what is essentially a pickup truck that’s actually fun and comfortable to drive - a rare thing to say the least.

At a Glance

The Explorer Sport Trac has enjoyed varied success since its arrival in 2000 as a 2001 model. Whether due to its styling, use, or fit within the Ford lineup, some hate it and some love it enough to have warranted a three-month waiting list upon its introduction.

2007 brought with it a V8 engine option, and since then the Sport Trac has remained virtually unchanged. Based on the Explorer chassis, the Sport Trac comes with a 4-by-5-foot cargo bed with three in-floor covered bins equipped with drain plugs.

XLT and Limited trims are available with two engines across three drive options. Rear- and four-wheel drive are available in either trim, while the Limited has an optional Adrenaline Package that offers all-wheel drive, polished alloy wheels, foglights, running boards, and unique trim.


The Explorer Sport Trac gets power from a 210-hp, 4.0-liter V6 mated to a five-speed automatic or a 292-hp, 4.6-liter V8 that comes with a six-speed automatic. The V8’s 7,160-pound towing capacity improves on the V6’s already competent 5,250-pound limit. Available in RWD, full-time 4WD, or AWD, the Sport Trac has a low gear that can be engaged for off-road adventures.

The transmissions are quite smooth no matter the driving conditions, although some have noticed a bit of delay in full-throttle downshifting with the six-speed.

Because of the addition of the extra gear for the V8, both engines are rated at 13/19 mpg, regardless of rear, all, or four-wheel-drive, although reviewers have reported an average of 12.4-13.5 mpg, depending on configuration and use.

Ride & Handling

The Sport Trac handles very nicely, helped considerably by an independent rear suspension as well as stability and traction control, not to mention its lighter weight than the Explorer, which only improve the already fine handling of the vehicle.

Put up against nearly all competitors, pickups included, the Sport Trac comes out on top, with none of the shakiness or hopping usually encountered with vehicles equipped with cargo beds. Additionally, its overall structural integrity is well above average for the class and especially noticeable over uneven surfaces.

Road noise is evident from the tires, mostly over rough terrain, but still much better than average. The one weak point would be its steering, which has been reported as a bit numb, but no worse than any other entry in the class.

Cabin & Comfort

The interior is undeniably the weak point of the Sport Trac, just like the Explorer, from which its controls and levers are adopted. Many complaints have come in regarding both ergonomics and the controls of the vehicle, including a shift lever that impedes reaching climate controls, an awkward turn lever, and out-of-reach audio controls. Otherwise, the interior is well-constructed with mostly pleasant materials and quite comfortable, although it has a few more hard surfaces than the Explorer and some rough edges.

While a bit of a step to enter, especially considering the nearly useless running boards, once inside the Sport Trac offers plenty of room for both heads and legs, although a bit less than the Explorer does, despite assurances from Ford that space in the second row is identical in both vehicles. That may be, but it still feels smaller, and that counts for a lot. Also, the second-row bench seat isn’t the most comfortable, with cushions that are far too low and flat.

The Sport Trac is a tall vehicle, and this makes entering and exiting a bit of a chore, even considering a longer rear door due to the Sport Trac’s elongated wheelbase. The same problem is encountered in the rear, whose lip is high enough to make loading cargo more difficult than it should be.


A myriad of safety features including ABS, traction and stability control, anti-skid, and front, side, and curtain airbags grace the Sport Trac. Additionally, all trims are equipped with rollover sensors, low tire pressure sensors, and post crash alert. As such, NHTSA ratings have come in at five-stars across the board, with the exception of rollover resistance, which garnered a three-star rating, and actual rollover, which received four stars.

What Owners Think

Overall ride and handling have always been a high-point for the Explorer, and it only gets better with the Sport Trac, which honestly could almost be described as a cult vehicle. Complaints have come from much the same places as for the Explorer, with non-intuitive ergonomics being at the top of the list.


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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Explorer Sport Trac

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