2004 Explorer Sport Trac New Car Test Drive
Still unusual, if no longer unique, the 2004 Ford Explorer Sport Trac combines the interior room and comfort of a mid-size SUV with the open-air, haul-anything capability of a mid-size pickup truck. You might think of it as three-quarters of a Chevy Avalanche for about two-thirds the price.
Sport Trac is an SUV with a pickup bed. It has an outdoorsman's interior designed for easy cleaning and a bed made of a nearly impervious composite material. Yet it can carry a family of five in the comfort of a well-equipped Ford Explorer.
As its name implies, the Explorer Sport Trac is based on the Ford Explorer, the best selling sport-utility in America. That would be a very good thing, except that the Sport Trac is based on the previous-generation Explorer, not the 2003-04 model, so it does not have the current Explorer's all-new chassis with independent rear suspension. The previous-generation Explorer represented the state of SUV design in 2001, but the new Explorer, as well as competing mid-size SUVs, have since passed it by in ride, handling, and overall refinement. Time marches on and vehicles get better and better.
That said, Ford updated the Sport Trac for 2003 with four-wheel-disc brakes and ABS, plus height-adjustable seat belts with pre-tensioners. Ford's latest Safety Canopy side-curtain air bag system with rollover sensors is now available as an option. Interior trim, instrumentation, and the top-level Adrenalin sound system have been upgraded for 2004.
The 2004 Explorer Sport Trac is offered in XLS and XLT trim, and in rear-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) configurations. All are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission.
XLS 2WD ($23,195) and 4WD ($25,695) come with a reasonable level of standard equipment, including second-generation air bags, air conditioning, four-speaker CD stereo, bucket seats and center console, privacy glass, tachometer, Securilock anti-theft system, intermittent wipers, a four-pin trailer-tow harness, and P235/70R16 white-outline tires on 16-inch aluminum wheels.
XLT 2WD ($24,710) and 4WD ($27,540) add a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt, remote keyless entry with keypad, cruise control, power mirrors with security approach lamps, and woven floor mats.
Very few options are available for the XLS, while XLT offers a number of option packages and groups. Some of these packages are priced slightly higher with 4WD. The Comfort Group ($1230) includes a six-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, an upgraded floor console, an overhead console with displays for compass and outside temperature, automatic headlamps, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The Premium Sport Group ($700-730) includes 255/70R16 all-terrain tires on bright aluminum wheels, fog lamps, side-step bars, a 4.10 axle ratio and, on 4WD models, front tow hooks.
The XLT Premium Preferred Equipment Package ($2130-2190) combines the Premium and Comfort groups described above with a monochromatic exterior treatment. The Adrenaline Package ($1810) combines a 510-watt Pioneer stereo with chrome wheels, chrome step bars, and body-color bumpers and fascias. The Pioneer stereo is also available as a stand-alone option ($510), but only on the XLT. So is a power glass sunroof ($800). Leather seating ($795) is available only with the XLT Premium Preferred and/or Adrenaline packages.
Available on both XLS and XLT are a cargo cage ($195), and a hard tonneau cover ($590), and a limited-slip rear differential ($355) for the standard 3.73 or heavy-towing 4.10:1 axle.