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2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

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San Francisco:Suppose youíre got a five-person family and you want them to ride in a comfy SUV. However, what if you could add a pickup bed behind your SUV? Well, with the Ford Sport Trac, you can. The Sport Trac has been around for years, but now itís all new for 2007.

The Ford folks started with the entire front of the new-for-2006 Explorer, and grafted on a 4-1/2-foot-long truck bed for generous quantities of outside hauliní. Aft of the second side doors, the Sport Trac is completely different from the regular Explorer, carefully shaped to accommodate the separate pickup bed. This new model is more than five inches longer and nearly two inches wider than the original, and looks much more substantial and well integrated. The entirely new frame is much stiffer than the old one, a remarkable 444% improvement, which means that the truck feels solid and inflexible over uneven and bumpy roads. 

Made of sheet-molded compound instead of the usual metal, the cargo box is strong and will never rust. The dent-proof inner liner is scratch resistant to keep it looking nice longer. The bed sports three integrated storage bins and slots to allow you to carry two layers of your favorite stuff. The storage bins have drain plugs, so you can fill one full of cheap beer on ice for your next beach party. Just be sure to name a designated driver to pilot the Sport Trac home afterwards.

My Orange Frost Sport Trac Limited test truck arrived with the optional hard tonneau cover over the cargo box, which locks for security. Funny, though, there are bins on each side, but only one side contains the lock. The other wears a dummy lock unit, for symmetry. The cargo box was enhanced with the optional tubular bed extender, which separates the content of the bed (big items, not sand) or folds out onto the tailgate, increasing carrying capacity. 

My tester had the available Control Trac ģ four-wheel-drive system. The system automatically senses the need and transfers traction from the rear to the front wheels. You also can select the low 4WD gear for careful maneuvering in snow or mud when you need it.

You have a choice of two engines. The standard engine is a German-built 4.0-liter V6, which delivers 210 horsepower. Ford claims fuel mileage of about 15 City, 20 Highway, varying very slightly by engine size and number of driven wheels. You can tow 5,310 pounds with the two-wheel-drive model, 5,140 with four-wheel drive.

If you really want to move along and tow an additional 1,500 pounds, you can opt for the Michigan-made 4.6-liter V8, which bumps horsepower to 292, tops in its field. With an even 300 lb.-ft. of torque, you can roar along with ease. My tester earned just 12.5 mpg in mixed driving, and thatís pretty low for an average. At least itís regular gas for either engine.

The interior of the new 2007 Sport Trac benefits from the all-new design of the 2006 Explorer. Despite a heaping serving of inexpensive-looking hard, textured plastic, the overall design is fresh and even clever. The inside door handles are shaped like an arc that lifts up from where you comfortably rest your hand on the armrest. It takes a little while to get used to. The lines are clean and appropriately macho. It is a truck, after all, even with automatic climate control, power locks and windows, and auxiliary audio input jacks. Pseudo carbon fiber trim adds a pseudo sporty touch, while the cylindrical shift lever, well, itís pretty manly. But I was surprised to find only one level for the otherwise highly effective seat heaters.

Like all American trucks, my test unit enjoyed a wealth of other extra-cost options. My tester added just over $8,000 worth, including a touch-screen navigation system (for finding the way to grandmaís house), a DVD family entertainment center (to amuse the family members in the back seat), safety canopy airbags (for keeping everyone safe), and a reverse sensing system (to avoid backing into other family members, including the four-legged ones). My tester added a towing upgrade, two-tone leather seats ($995), power adjustable pedals, the joys of Sirius satellite radio, and a few other nice things to have.

Starting at $29,540, the window sticker swelled up to $38,240 after all the options and delivery charges were included. The 4x2, V6-equipped Sport Trac XLT starts at $24,980.

In the EPA's 2007 Green Vehicle Guide, this model earns a fairly good air pollution score of 7, with 10 being the best and 1 the worst; it scores a 3 out of 10 in the greenhouse gases column, which is not as exemplary. The Ford Escape Hybrid is the fourth-highest-scoring model on the entire 82-page list, with scores of 9.5 and 8 respectively. For more information, see http://www.epa.gov/emissweb/index.htm.

There is a trend in America now towards smaller, more efficient vehicles, and it has hurt large SUV sales. But if you need to haul lots of people and things around you may find that owning this hybrid blend of an SUV and pickup truck is worth the sacrifices you make at the fuel pump.  By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  The Sport Trac is a hybrid blend of an SUV & pickup truck
Topic: The 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Word Count:  949
Photo Caption:  The 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Photo Credits:  Ford Explorer Sport Trac Internet Media
Series #:  2007 - 09
 

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