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NAIAS 2005: Ford Explorer Sport Trac Concept
By: Mike Magda Posted: 01-09-05 01:43 PT
© 2005 PickupTruck.com

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A replacement for the Ford Explorer Sport Trac is long overdue, and Ford finally gave a hint of its plans for the popular but much maligned SUT. The Explorer Sport Trac Concept hit the stage at the North American International Auto Show looking like a street rod with shaved door handles, slammed stance, gunmetal wheels and a healthy dose of front-end chrome. It drew a few “ooohs” and “aaahhs,” but does it really have the innovation to keep up with current SUTs and 4-door midsize pickups?

At first glance, it doesn’t seem as if more utility was built into the Concept, especially when judged against the Chevy Avalanche and Honda Ridgeline with their versatile beds. But chief designer Chelsia Lau stressed that the cab and bed are bigger, and the cargo box has three additional, hidden storage compartments.

“There is very sizeable storage, and there is a height increase in the bed,” said Lau, noting a 30 percent increase in storage volume.

Overall, the Sport Trac Concept is five inches longer and two inches wider than the current model. The exterior is highlighted by a dominating milled front bumper/grille surround that retains twin nostrils backed by an imposing diamond mesh grille. The alloy look up front continues with dual high-intensity projector fog lamps encased in aluminum bezels. Going for overkill, Ford designers located four exhaust outlets on the front end: a pair on the hood and side outlets accented with a chrome strip.

Integrated running boards, exhaust pipe extensions, 21-inch wheels and subtle tailgate spoiler round out the exterior highlights. The interior features four bucket seats while the dash and center console with floor shifter are patterned somewhat after the current F-150.

The bed is wider, longer and deeper than the current model. Additional storage is offered with three hidden compartments: one on each side near the tailgate post that can hold a 6-pack and a larger one near the cab. The bed is also fitted with 2-tier loading capability, but we didn’t notice any other special features such as bed lights or remote power outlets.

Ford addressed safety issues with the current model by building the Concept with independent rear suspension, Roll Stability Control and anti-lock brakes.

Ford officials gave no indication of when the Concept would become reality, but the current Sport Trac is still based on the previous generation Explorer. While the Sport Trac may have been the innovator in offering four doors and a bed in the compact market, this segment has grown tremendously in just the past few years. Nissan, Toyota, Chevy, GMC, Dodge and now Honda all have midsize crew cab pickups with SUV comforts, plenty of towing ability, powerful engines and useful utility features. If Ford is going to “raise the bar” in this segment, it better rethink this concept.

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