Ford Sport Trac Limited 4X4 Review
Last Wednesday, Standard and Poor’s downgraded the Ford Motor Company’s credit rating. “We expect the company's financial profile to weaken further during 2006,” S&P declared. “A period when the US economy and U.S. light-vehicle sales are robust." So, good market, bad products. After spending a week driving an Explorer Sport Trac, I’m inclined to agree. Any automaker misguided enough to try to sell this vehicle in the world’s most competitive light truck market is heading for a fall.
At least the previous generation Sport Trac (as well as the Explorer it was based upon) looked sporty. The new Sport Trac looks like an F-Series that tried to fit between two semis– and didn’t. While the Sport Trac’s front end boasts more chrome than a ’53 Buick, the rear is dull and rubbery, dominated by its bed cover. The combination of a full-size four door cab and a relatively tiny bed makes the Sport Trac look like a backyard El Caminofication, or a domestic version of Subaru’s dorktastic Baja. Either way its dissonant design proclaims the truck a cheap afterthought fashioned from an existing platform.
You know that monster conventional bomb the military is hot to test in Nevada? They ought to drop that bad boy on Ford’s parts bin. Some of the worst pap from last week’s Focus found its way into a vehicle that costs twice as much. The roof bins (for sunglasses and remote) are especially depressing; they’re flimsier than a Uwe Boll plotline. Once fondled, the ignobility haunts the rest of the cabin. The Sport Trac’s radio and its pointless faux-carbon fiber trim are also lifted from the Focus—to no appreciable effect. And the door handles are both confusing and dangerous; passenger’s hands naturally rest upon the handle.
Further evidence of ergonomic oversight abounds. The button that switches the Sport Trac into 4-Low is positioned immediately above the passenger’s temperature control switch. A chilly female friend nearly caused a busted axle at a stoplight. The decision to include an info readout right between the tach and the speedo is equally questionable. During my eight days with the Sport Trac, the trip computer continually reminded me that I was traveling just 12.7 miles for every gallon of fossil fuel. That’s just sad.
The Sport Trac’s gas-guzzling 4.6-liter V8 generates 300 ft.-lbs. of torque at 3950rpm. That’s enough twist to trump the Honda Ridgeline in a tow-off. [Same goes for the only marginally less thirsty Sport Trac V6.] Although none of these abbreviated pickups is what you’d call a proper workhorse, the only thing worse than the Honda’s feeble payload is the Sport Trac’s. Well, that and the Chevrolet Colorado’s; but you’d have real trouble finding a truck bed suffering from a worse case of dwarfism (49”). When I hauled some 10-foot PVC pipes, I had to throw someone in the back to secure cargo that extended more than four feet from the Sport Trac’s truncated tail. Why Ford does not simply rip-off Chevy’s “midgate” is a question best left to Standard and Poor’s.
The tonneau cover adds insult to injury. Woe betides anyone who has to subject their knees to rock shards when they crawl underneath it to release the final latch, or carry the heavy thing in the rain. Of course, there are plenty of superb Ford F150’s out there ready, willing and able to cater to serious schleppers. Surely, offering “lifestyle” haulers something that combines sporty handling with a modicum of utility is the vehicle’s raison d’etre, non?
Guess again. With the detuned ‘Stang GT mill’s 292 horses under hood, the Sport Trac’s tip-in is suitably aggressive. And then there’s a lot of sound and fury signifying… nothing much, with a constantly upshifting six-speed working against accelerative aggression. At speed, all’s right with the world: smooth V8, rear drive, bags of torque. As soon as you have to turn or brake, bad things happen. The Sport Trac’s steering is as disconnected as a cell phone. Dive, squat and roll intimidate, and then punish the vigorous driver. Mashing the stoppers summons a symphony of “conks” and more random movements than a terrier chasing a butterfly.
The Ford Sport Trac doesn’t humiliate itself compared to its two main rivals, but it embarrasses anyone daft enough to buy one. Not only does the Ford Sport Trac fail to qualify as a “real” pickup, not only does it threaten to commit haptic homicide on its occupants, but it’s clumsy, thirsty and ugly. Sometimes there’s a good reason why genres remain separate: a “hybrid” ends up being the worst of both worlds, rather than the best. It’s equally true that sometimes multinational car companies lose the plot. Unless Billy’s FoMoCo figures out what it does well and sticks to it like glue, the whole show is in real danger of cancellation.
[Ford provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance, taxes and a tank of gas.]
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
- Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
- ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
- Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs
- Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.