KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
The 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is the second generation of a vehicle that started a sub-trend: A truck, with sport-utility characteristics, four doors, a rather short cargo bed and an assortment of ingenious features to enhance the anticipated active lifestyles of its intended buyers. It's not quite a sport utility vehicle and it's not quite a truck. On the large size in this group are the Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT, while more directly competitive in size is the Honda Ridgeline. The original Sport Trac was based on the Ford Explorer, as is the newest version. But the Explorer has grown up, both in size and sophistication, and so has the Sport Trac.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you want to be able to go just about anywhere, you require some truck-type cargo capacity but not necessarily a lot, you tow a trailer but not necessarily a great big one and you want the advantages of a separate body-on-frame construction and an available V8 engine, the 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac deserves your attention.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you need a real sport utility vehicle with enclosed cargo space or a third-row seat, or you need a real truck with a full-size cargo bed, the Sport Trac is not for you.
What's New for 2009
New for 2009 is the addition of Trailer Sway Control to the AdvanceTrac stability control. New options for the Sport Trac include heated leather seats, heated side mirrors and next-generation navigation with SIRIUS Travel Link.
The 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac's driving experience, both on pavement and off, is exceptionally good. No small amount of credit for this excellent behavior is due the fully-boxed frame, which is so remarkably stiff that visible movement between the passenger cab and cargo box is essentially undetectable, even under very rough conditions. Also playing a significant role is the independent rear suspension, a benefit borrowed from the Explorer, so that on the road the ride is smooth, even and comfortable, and off-road the wheels stay in contact with the surface and keep things going. For most folks the Sport Trac will be the best-handling, best riding truck they've ever driven.
Frame and Suspension
The fully-boxed frame and fully-independent suspension deliver a combination of ride smoothness, handling precision and off-road capability that is particularly noteworthy.
Versatile Cargo Box
The cargo box is made of composite material, so it won't rust and, with its three storage compartments, offers a lot of versatility for odds and ends of an active weekend.
Inside the Sport Trac everything fits well and is thoughtfully arranged. The seating is quite roomy and comfortable, in both the front and rear, and a long day behind the wheel should prove pleasant. One gripe: The odd door-pull handles are not at all intuitive even as to where they are, let alone how they work. On the good side, there's an optional heated windshield and rubber floor coverings make it easier to clean out the mud. The composite-material cargo box contains three storage bins with drain plugs. The largest is up forward under the cargo floor, requiring crawling into the cargo box to store your stuff, while the equivalent feature in the Honda Ridgeline is conveniently near the rear.
The 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac's exterior does a good job of striking that delicate balance between street style and off-road character, and the Ford designers have managed to make it look not exactly like a work truck, but not exactly like a soccer-mom sport utility vehicle, either. The roof rack, external cargo-box tie-downs, fairly large tires and prominent wheel arches give it a properly rugged image, while the big chrome grille and front-end treatment lend style.
Notable Standard Equipment
Major standard equipment on the XLT includes power assists for windows, door locks and exterior mirrors, AM/FM stereo with single-disc CD player, power rear window, fog lamps, power outlets for front and rear seats and the cargo box, manual air conditioning, cruise control, outside temperature display, compass, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, 16-inch tires and AdvanceTrac, which includes the functions of traction and stability control and also features Roll Stability Control with Trailer Sway Control, which helps to inhibit potential rollovers. On the safety side the standard equipment includes front, front-side and side-curtain airbags. The standard engine is a 4.0-liter 210-horsepower V6 with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Notable Optional Equipment
Major options include the Limited trim level, which adds 18-inch alloy wheels, step bars, six-way power driver's seat and some other trim items. Other options include upgrades to the sound system, leather seating, heated front seats, power-adjustable pedals, power moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, SYNC, navigation system, trailer towing package, a heated windshield and numerous other convenience and trim features. The optional four-wheel-drive system is operated by a button and includes a low range. The optional engine is the 4.6-liter V8 with six-speed automatic transmission.
Under the Hood
Most drivers will probably find the 4.0-liter V6 more than adequate for most of their driving, with 254 pound-feet of torque and plenty of acceleration to keep up with any likely traffic situation. But if your trips include filling the cargo box with dirt bikes and the inside with two or three buddies, then pulling a loaded trailer up hills, you'll probably want the V8. The biggest penalty with the larger engine would likely be real-world fuel economy, although you won't see a huge difference between the V6 and V8 in either city or highway EPA numbers.
210 horsepower @ 5100 rpm
254 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20(2WD), 13/19 (4WD)
292 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
315 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21 (2WD), 14/19 (4WD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the Sport Trac XLT with the V6 and two-wheel drive starts at just under $27,000. At the other end of the scale, the Limited with V8 and all-wheel drive starts around $36,500 and, fully loaded, tops out near $41,000. The history on the Sport Trac is that it sells for just slightly under invoice, but, to be sure, check with the Fair Purchase Prices that represent what consumers are actually paying in your area, as a vehicle such as this can have significantly different prices in different parts of the country. We expect that the Sport Trac will have a lower residual value than other vehicles in its general category, falling short of the Chevrolet Avalanche, Cadillac Escalade EXT and Honda Ridgeline.