2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

Need a little adrenaline?

When we wandered out to the parking lot to pick up our Ford Explorer Sport Trac, we knew we were in for a treat. Our test sport-utility truck was an all-wheel-drive Limited model configured with the Adrenalin Package and covered front to back in a retina-searing "Torch Red" paint. Included in the top-of-the-line package is a healthy list of standard equipment: 20-inch polished-aluminum wheels with P255/50R20 all-season black sidewall tires, blacked-out grille, special front and rear fascias complete with model specific fog and head lamps, fender vents, body colored running boards (more or less a functional rocker skirt), rear-exit exhaust with a dual tip, Adrenalin badging, charcoal black instrument panel, seats, door inserts and console lid trimmed with a light tone headliner, charcoal black leather-trimmed heated front seats with perforated leather inserts and Adrenalin-branded floor mats.

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Concept to Production

This is most definitely a cool truck and, from a styling perspective, it closely mimics the Adrenalin concept "car" Ford paraded on the show circuit several years ago. Aside from some practical changes (for example, real door handles on the production truck) and a real world ride height, there's no question the show truck and our test truck were cut from the same cloth. From our perspective, that's good news because we think the Sport Track Adrenalin is one good looking vehicle.

One place where the two really differ is the engine compartment. The concept truck was powered by a 4.6-liter, 32-valve DOHC V-8 engine complete with a Roots-type supercharger and water-to-air intercooler. The concept truck also hammered out a whopping 390 horsepower along with an even more impressive 390 pound-feet of torque. Our production line test truck, while no slouch, came equipped with a 292-horsepower, 315 lb.-ft. of torque, 4.6-liter, 24-valve V-8. As you can imagine, the production truck could never match the concept truck in an outright acceleration contest, but in the real world, Ford's three-valve per cylinder, normally aspirated V-8 provides brisk and quiet performance.

Where both the concept and the production line truck are similar is the transmission: Both are equipped with Ford's excellent six-speed automatic. The combination of the V-8 and six-speed makes for a capable trailer tower too: With a class III/IV hitch arrangement, the Sport Trac can tow 6990 pounds (AWD/4x4). With 2WD, the rating goes up to 7160 pounds). Like its Explorer counterpart, the Sport Trac includes Ford's new "Trailer Sway Control" on all models (including those with the standard 210-hp, 4.0-liter V-6). It functions in conjunction with the AdvanceTrac (with RSC) system. Combined, the two electronic packages monitor the yaw motion of the vehicle to determine if the trailer is swaying. If it is, the control takes charge: It can reduce engine torque or precisely apply the brakes to bring the Sport Trac and the trailer under control.

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Cargo Versatility

While the Sport Trac shares the fundamental structure of the Explorer SUV, it is almost 17 inches longer. The added length comes from its longer wheelbase and allows room for more than 4 feet of cargo bed as well as plenty of rear legroom. No one buys a Sport Trac for monster cargo bed capabilities. It's small (no secret) at 37.5 cubic feet of cargo volume. If you need to haul a big load, buy a mid- or full-size pickup. Where the little box excels is in its versatility.

The Sport Trac's bed is constructed from sheet-molded composite (commonly referred to as "SMC"). Ford points out that the composite material makes for a bed that is 20 percent lighter than a traditional steel box. It won't rust or dent. There are three integral storage compartments arranged within the bed (there's even a 12-volt power outlet included in the bed area), and the Sport Trac can be configured with a folding cargo-bed extender and a hard tonneau cover. Basically, the setup is perfect for someone looking for a truck that serves as a light hauler-something where you can toss in (and safely stow) your sports gear, carry smaller loads or make a quick trip to the local lumber yard.

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Since it's loosely based on the Explorer, the Explorer Sport Trac also shares many, if not all, of the Explorer's considerable creature comforts. The base (XLT) trim includes power mirrors and windows, fog lamps, side step bars, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning and CD player. The upscale Limited trim adds larger 18-inch wheels, color-keyed bumpers and mirrors, and other equipment. As pointed out initially, the Adrenalin package takes over from there.

And since it shares much with the Explorer, the Sport Trac is also equally happy rolling down the freeway or mixing it up off road. While Adrenalin models are available in 2WD or all-wheel drive configurations, you can specify Ford's Control Trac 4WD for base XLT and Limited models.

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Driving Impression

What's the 2010 Ford Sport Trac like to drive? Slide behind the wheel of a fully equipped Limited model with the Adrenalin Package, adjust the 10-way power heated leather trimmed driver seat, set the optional adjustable pedals, click the optional dual zone air conditioner to the desired temperature, engage the voice-activated SYNC Communications and Entertainment System and you're ready to roll. And roll it does. Although earlier V-6 Sport Tracs (and Explorers) were sometimes criticized for being a bit "busy," there was nothing of the sort with our 24-valve V-8 example. Ford has done a good job of tying the six-speed automatic transmission to the engine and, as a result, performance is exceptionally seamless. The Adrenalin package includes large 20-inch wheel and tires too. Those combine with a fully sorted, fully independent suspension to provide what amounts to sports car-like handling in a light duty truck. Coupled with the all-wheel-drive system, this is a truck that begs to be driven. As a big bonus, we found it especially confident in the all-too regular rain of the Pacific Northwest.

Something else that works for us at least is the full-size, useable back seat. Nothing like the occasional seating found on some small extended cab trucks, the rear seating layout on the Sport Trac is actually inviting. Our Adrenalin model included a leather-trimmed fold-flat 60/40 split bench seat along with 2-way head restraints. Head-, leg- and hip room in the back seat proves good for even big boys like ourselves. This is a truck both you and your buddies (and family) can enjoy.

So what's the bottom line? We were pretty much smitten with the Sport Trac, especially in Adrenalin guise. It's one of those vehicles where you just have to sneak out into the garage to have a second look. The truth is, it's one cool truck that definitely gets our adrenalin pumping.

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