The Andrenalin name first surfaced in 1996 as a SUV/pickup concept vehicle.
It took the 4-door crew cab compact pickup a step further by introducing
distinct SUV styling cues and features. While the concept had an integrated
cab-bed design, the Sport Trac works with a separate bed configuration.
Although the bed is the smallest of any pickup at 50- inches long, it
is perhaps the Sport Trac’s best-engineered component. Made from
lightweight, rust-free composite material, the 20-inch deep bed features
10 tie-downs, a weatherproof 12-volt power point and a locking tailgate.
Mated with the optional lockable tonneau, the cargo area can be fully
enclosed and secured. The bed material is rugged enough to handle dirty
cargo such as quarry gravel without marring.
While the funky bed has utilitarian value, the Sport Trac’s front
end is overdone with the cartoonish nostrils. The fender flares look like
bad silicone implants. It’s truly a shame Ford didn’t carry
over the rugged yet composed front sheet metal and the confident yet subtle
wheel arches found on the Andrenalin concept vehicle. The monochromatic
paint of the current Andrenalin trim absorbs some of the front end threats
and the flares are softened with darker colors, but the base models threaten
the bounds of conventional taste.
designers were on target with the Sport Trac’s cabin. It’s
an inviting mix of utility, convenience and style. Add the leather seating
and there’s a healthy dose of luxury. Add the 510-watt Pioneer stereo
system that’s standard on the Andrenalin, and there’s a raucous
dose of excitement. The seats are larger and softer than expected, which
help relieve some of the suspension harshness. The 60/40 rear bench seat
can be folded for flat storage space. The power-operated rear glass can
lowered slightly for fresh air or all the down for an open-air feeling
or to facilitate a surf board. The dash is spiced with white-face gauges
and titanium-accent trim. Overall, it’s an inviting atmosphere that’s
flexible for work or play.
Since the Sport Trac is based on the previous generation Explorer, it
comes with a 210-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 engine. The Sport Trac tips the
scales at 4400 pounds in 4x4 trim but the 5-speed automatic keeps the
engine in the fat part of the torque curve. Ford does rate the Sport Trac
at 5300 pounds, but don’t try it with a full load of passengers
The suspension is basic work-oriented truck: front torsion bars and rear
leaf springs. No matter how precise the tuning, the Sport Trac rides like
a really long small pickup. Ford stretched the Explorer’s wheelbase
14 inches to build the Sport Trac. That’s just four inches shy of
a Chevy Suburban. The ride is somewhat supple but impact harshness is
high and rear end hops over rough surfaces.
The Sport Trac appeals to anyone with an active, recreational lifestyle.
It’s for guys who enjoy a pickup’s working-class values but
have to consider the demands of a growing family. It’s for women
who love the creature comforts of an SUV but don’t want to dirty
up the inside with a gardening hobby or other messy endeavor. It’s
an effective middle-of-road solution to many needs, but it doesn’t
have the capability to solve large problems. The Sport Trac has universal
appeal, especially to motorists who aren’t slaves to fashion. It
can do a lot of things; it just doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally
well. The interior treats passengers with respect but the priority of
the truck-like suspension is supporting heavy loads, not a comfortable
ride and nimble handling.
Mays says Ford will quickly address the styling issue, hopefully that
means an all-new Sport Trac will be built and based on the current Explorer
platform. We’d like to see a V8, wide track and independent rear
suspension to go with an SUV cab/pickup bed configuration. We know that
Honda and Mitsubishi will soon have personal pickups that will go after
the Sport Trac’s buyer. The idea is to make the choice between an
SUV and pickup a little easier. The Sport Trac broke new ground in this
arena. Let’s hope Ford fixes the glaring problems and the next model
is all good news.