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Ford Sport Trac gets V-8 power for 2007

June 30, 2006|by TIM SPELL / Motor Matters

Ford's Sport Trac, which pioneered the sporty new breed combining the pluses of a sport-utility and pickup, rolls into the 2007 model year with a fresh look, improved engineering and greater size.

Importantly, the one thing that isn't stretched is the price tag of this Explorer SUV-based vehicle. Starting at $24,940, the more substantial '07 model costs the same as the 2005.

This second-generation four-door Sport Trac is 4.25 inches longer than its predecessor and rides on a 4.5-inch longer wheelbase. Front- and rear-wheel tracks also are stretched, 2.4 and 3.5 inches, respectively.

The longer wheelbase and tracks allow the creation of a more spacious interior and combine with a new fully boxed frame with a whopping 427 percent increase in torsional rigidity for much improved ride and handling. Less noise, vibration and harshness transmitted into the five-passenger cabin is another gain from the stiffer chassis.

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High on the list of the Sport Trac's new-for-2007 highlights is the first-time offering of a V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The 4.6-liter V-8 propels the Sport Trac with 292 horsepower and 300 lbs.-ft. of torque.

While providing capable acceleration, the engine doesn't deliver a neck-popping kick at launch or at highway speeds. It's the healthy torque that offers the most benefit. The 300 lbs.-ft. helped the 4x4 tester easily power up a steep dirt hill. The V-8 Sport Trac provides a maximum 6,800 pounds of towing capacity and accommodates payloads up to 1,430 pounds. Ford reports the V-8, which burns 87-octane gas, delivers highway fuel efficiency of more than 20 miles per gallon.

The standard 4.0-liter V-6, which is mated with a five-speed automatic transmission, generates a respectable 210 horses and 254 lbs.-ft. of torque. It produces 12 more lbs.-ft. of torque than the previous V-6 version and a significant 74 percent reduction in emissions.

On the Sport Trac's other business end there are considerable improvements in the 4.5-foot cargo box, which a Ford exec tags the "world's largest lockable trunk."

The deeper and wider composite cargo box is 26.7 percent larger and has a 37.5-cubic-foot capacity, trumping its predecessor by 7.5 cubic feet.

Notches in the box provide places to rest a pair of 2-by-4-inch boards to achieve two-tier storage capability. Tools and gear can be stowed out of sight in one of three recessed storage bins. The largest bin, located at the front of the box, spans the floor's width and has a vertical length of roughly a foot. The other two bins, located at each side, are "six-pack" sized.

For toting longer cargo, the composite-lined tailgate can be dropped and an optional tubular aluminum extender cage flipped back on the tailgate and locked into place. A lockable hard tonneau cover, which shields cargo from the weather and would-be thieves, is another option.

While the appearance of the new Sport Trac is considerably changed, its basic look resembles the first-generation enough that it would take a Sport Trac fan to appreciate the redesign. The exteriors of the two models - XLT and Limited - are cleaner and more modern.

The more fluid-shaped, pronounced wheel arches team with larger wheels (16-, 17-, or 18-inch) and the wider tracks for a more powerful-looking stance. Also enhancing muscularity is a power-bulge hood.

Sides are smoother, cladding is redone for a more refined look, and the Sport Trac's face is more sophisticated. Chrome clads the new three-bar grille and nostrils flanking it. This design gives the Sport Trac stronger family ties to its larger F-Series pickup cousins. A design link reflecting its Explorer SUV kinship comes with glitzy dual-beam headlamps with oval turn-signals scooping the lower fascia.

Like the exterior, designers created an interior that combines refinement with ruggedness. There's durable hose-it-out, wipe-it-off Tuflor floor covering for convenient cleaning after weekend romps. On the civilized side, there's an upscale-looking, chiseled dashboard featuring a jutting center stack and seats upholstered in rich-looking cloth or two-tone leather.

Buyers can move further upscale with options such as a moonroof and heated windshield. Limited models are available with heated front seats with 10-way power adjustability.

Along with doubling as a pickup and SUV, the multiple-personality '07 Sport Trac attracts its weekend-warrior target buyers with a blending of uptown flair with down-home ruggedness.

Tim Spell is automotive writer for the Houston Chronicle Cars & Trucks section.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2006

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