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NAIAS 2005 Preview: Ford Explorer Sport Trac Concept
By: Mike Magda Posted: 12-19-04 16:35 PT
© 2004

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The one truck desperately in need of makeover is the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. The sport-utility pickup has a loyal, consistent audience and accounts for about 60,000 to 70,000 sales each year. But the Sport Trac also has the worst rating (2WD model) in the federal government’s new rollover safety test, shows its age with quirky but dated styling and is based on the old Explorer platform that dates back 10 years.

Ford has just released illustrations of a new Sport Trac concept vehicle the company will show at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. The timing couldn’t be better as Nissan, Toyota and Dodge released new midsized pickups this summer—all of which can be ordered in a four-door/short bed configuration similar to the Sport Trac. Also expected to debut at the Detroit show will be production version of Honda’s new four-door pickup expected to appeal to families and adventurous shoppers.

The concept gives a sneak peek at an updated Sport Trac that will address the safety issues with a wider track, lower stance, independent rear suspension and Roll Stability Control. The truck also has a larger cargo bed and more room in the interior.

“We wanted the Explorer Sport Trac concept to turn heads and to give it ‘street cred.’ This concept is as at home in an urban environment as it is hauling surf boards to the beach,” says J. Mays, group vice president of Global Design at Ford.

The Sport Trac concept is nearly five inches longer and 2 inches wider than the current model. The Roll Stability Control technology features roll-rate sensing and correcting capability to help drivers maintain control during extreme maneuvers. If the system’s gyroscopic sensors detect the possibility of a rollover, a computer will automatically engage counter measures such as applying brakes at specific wheels to reduce that risk.

The new Sport Trac has lost much of its distinctive but often criticized exterior design lines. The styling is simpler with better proportions and cleaner body panels. Gone are the curvy cab/bed transition and aggressive nostrils on the nose. Inside the cab, the Sport Trac concept has a street rod look and feel with four captain’s chairs, front/rear center consoles and two-tone color theme. Power comes from a 4.6-liter V8.

“With the addition of a number of new competitive offerings, the sport utility truck segment is red hot, and it’s time for the original to raise the bar again for everyone else to try to follow,” sums up Chris Feull, the SUV group market manager.

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