Ford's original "utility sport truck," introduced four years ago, hasn't gone away--it was just lost in the shuffle. It entered one of the fastest growing segments in the industry, according to its maker, but the six-cylinder-only Sport Trac was quickly left behind in an avalanche of compact and midsize four-door pickups. Without much fanfare or advertising, the Ford Sport Trac has sold well, stabilizing at 50,000 units, providing more of a placeholder for better times to come than anything else. While those better times haven't quite materialized for Ford, the company still wanted to do something about the old-school engineering of the current Explorer Sport Trac.
The Sport Trac was based on the crude, aging Ranger platform, itself a truck that has suffered delay after delay in getting a replacement. Ford's solution, as hinted with this Detroit auto-show concept, is the obvious answer--base the next Sport Trac on the current Explorer. Although it doesn't quite have a miniature pickup bed like the Hummer H2 SUT, the 2007 Sport Trac should be more memorable as a truck smartly derived from Ford's top-selling SUV. The concept is in custom street-rod form with shaved door handles, lowered suspension, and 21-inch wheels. And it uses the Explorer's high-performance 4.6-liter V-8 engine. Exterior panels are clean and simple, with neat wraparound taillamps.
The truck's independent rear suspension (a rarity in this class) is also from the Explorer, which gets its own major reworking for 2006 on the current Explorer/Mountaineer platform. So the Sport Trac concept also hints at some of the sheetmetal and interior changes we should see for the Explorer in late 2005, including an F-150-like grille and interior. The Sport Trac is nearly five inches longer, two inches wider, and two inches lower than the current Sport Trac, although production models will most likely sit as high as a current-generation Explorer. Inside, it has two rows of captain's chairs with a front and rear center console. It doesn't take much imagination to see how a King Ranch or Harley-Davidson-edition Sport Trac could become a reality.
This concept has Roll Stability Control, a Volvo safety technology with a gyroscopic sensor that determines body roll angle and roll rate, which Ford promises to sell in more than 500,000 SUVs by the end of 2005. Expect the original Sport Trac's color-coordinated cargo box and tubular bed extender to make it into the 2007 model as well as the 4.0-liter V-6 as the standard engine. Sources tell us Ford's goal for the base price of the new Sport Trac is the mid- to high $20,000 range. With nearly everything else in the truck upgraded, the pioneer of this growing segment should be making a bigger splash than ever before.