2002 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D 4WD

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2002 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Sam Moses

Ford Explorer Sport Track offers the comfort of an Explorer sport-utility with the hauling capability of a short-bed pickup truck.

The Sport Trac is basically an SUV with a pickup truck bed grafted to its tail. The Ford Explorer has been the best selling of all sport-utility vehicles. The Sport Trac is based on the previous-generation Explorer, so it does not benefit from the new Explorer's independent rear suspension and other advancements. But it's a nice design with an outdoorsman's interior, and offers the utility of a thoughtfully designed pickup bed for large, and dirty, cargo. Model Lineup
Ford Explorer Sport Trac comes in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models. Three equipment packages are available: Value, Choice, and Premium.

The 2WD Value ($22,040) and 4WD Value ($24,810) versions come with a long list of standard equipment. Value packages actually give the buyer a credit over the base models by deleting the five-speed automatic transmission, leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and a tilt steering column.

Make Choice your choice and you get cruise control, power door locks, a more powerful version of the 4.0-liter V6 engine, remote keyless entry, a tilting steering column and an automatic transmission. Choice 2WD ($23,880) and Choice 4WD ($26,650) versions are considered the base models.

Pick the Premium package ($1560) and you get a 4.10 axle, floor and overhead consoles, fog lights, captains chairs with six-way power for the driver's seat, step bars to ease entry and exit from the cabin and upgraded tires.

For 2002, all Explorer Sport Tracs get 16-inch alloy wheels (instead of the old 15-inch versions). There's also a new 23-gallon fuel tank that replaces the 20.5-capacity tank in the 2001 model. Walkaround
Visually, the 2002 Ford Sport Trac is not very smooth. It has a rugged, utilitarian look with chunky gray cladding along the sides, and bulges along the body. Sport Trac looks like a box, twice over. First, there's the five-seat cabin and then there's the bed, whose walls are nearly 20 inches high. Overall, it's high and bulky looking.

The cargo bed is just over four feet long and the entire bed is made of a seemingly indestructible composite material, so it does not need a liner and won't rust. Ford engineers say they dragged cinder blocks over it and threw in steel pipes and heavy angle iron without any appreciable damage. Any marring of the bed blends in with the black grained finish. Ten winged cargo hooks are sturdily mounted on the rails of the bed, six black ones on the outside and four on the inside; there's also a waterproof 12-volt power source in the cargo area, useful for power tools and even refrigerators.

An optional bed extender is available, a hinged stainless-steel tube-frame that flips back to the edge of the dropped tailgate, increasing the bed length to 72 inches. When it's in position inside the bed, it creates a compartment 25 by 45 inches and can securely contain bags of groceries and keep other small cargo from sliding around. It's removable, but it takes too much fiddling to get it out and back in. There's also an optional lockable hard tonneau cover, which is two-piece, foldable and lightweight, and there is an optional plastic bed divider available.

The standard roof rack consists of just two longitudinal bars, with the crossbars sold as an option, but they are necessary if you want to carry anything up there. The lack of crossbars severely limits the things you could otherwise easily strap on. Without the crossbars, we carried a nine-foot-long duffel bag full of sailing gear, and had to flop it right down on the roof.

The Sport Trac is built on a lengthened Explorer frame and has increased lateral stiffness, a tubular crossmember and thicker side rails. Urethane body mounts are used to smooth the ride. Interior
Sport Trac's cabin is durable. The flooring is made of a textured composite rubber easily swept with a Wisk broom or cleaned with water. Door panels are resilient plastic. Cloth is only found on the seats and headliner. The rest is ready for mud. The rubber flooring under the removable Berber carpet floor mats offers enhanced sound insulation.

Optional leather seating ($655) includes leather low-back seats with adjustable head restraints, six-way power driver's seat, and manual lumbar adjustment for the front seats.

The front seats are nicely contoured and quite comfortable. We weren't crazy about the looks of the dark brown gabardine seats at first, but they kind of grew on us. We prefer the lighter shade. The seat material appears to be easy to clean.

The rear seats are roomy. Rear legroom is ample at 37.8 inches, a full seven inches more than the Nissan Frontier. The back seat also contains three child seat tether anchors, standard. The rear seats split and fold down without having to remove the headrests, which quickly provides cargo space inside the cabin.

Big fixed cup holders in front, forward of the armrest, add convenience, along with a little slot good for coins and tickets. Forward of that is another tray with two more slots, one of them fairly big.

The removable nylon pack under the center armrest was curious. It enables you to carry your console contents with you. It even has a shoulder strap. But it gives up function that would exist if it were fixed. It was awkward when in place, and as a result we never used the compartment because we didn't want to deal with first raising the armrest, then lifting a limp material top secured by Velcro.

A power rear window slides up and down, either slightly for flow-through ventilation or all the way down, which the kids in the back seat will love. Back-seat passengers can reach through to grab things out of the bed, such as drinks from a cooler.

A digital compass with outside temperature gauge over the rearview mirror is a highly useful and appreciated tool that more carmakers should fit in their vehicles, especially any vehicle that may head into the backcountry. We noticed it was a long reach to the emergency brake release.

Ford is trying hard with big-ticket engineering details, an area where the company excels. A lot of effort went into reducing the noise level in the cabin, successfully. Driving Impressions
Sport Tracs come with Ford's 205-horsepower 4.0-liter V6. It's a sophisticated engine, with overhead-cams, and an aluminum head and pistons. It likes to rev, and it's smooth, responsive and great fun at speed. The 237 foot-pounds of torque come way up there at 4000 rpm, and 203 horsepower is produced at 5250 rpm, with redline at 6250. But that fun you're having at speed will have to come in the lower gears; at 75 mph the engine cruises at a mere 2650 rpm. That's with the standard 3.73 final drive rear axle ratio. The optional 4.10 rear-axle ratio with a limited-slip differential ($355) would allow the engine to better do its thing, although at the expense of gas mileage. The higher-numerical 4.10 rear end also improves performance for towing.

With five speeds in the transmission, we were surprised by how far the tach needle jumped when the transmission kicked down, as more gears mean closer ratios. Once, we were hauling uphill on the freeway at 70, working around a semi-rig, and when the tranny kicked down, evidently from fourth to third, the rpm lunged to more than 5000, then back to 3500 when it upshifted again. But overall, the transmission matched the engine for smoothness and sophistication. You do get quality Ford engineering, here.

The four-wheel-drive system can be shifted on the fly between two- and four-wheel drive. A low-range mode is ready for heavy snow, deep mud or soft sand.

To make the Sport Trac, Ford lengthened the Explorer's frame more than 14 inches to 206 inches on a 126-inch wheelbase. An Explorer's suspension and drive train isn't Ford Tough like the big Super Duty pickups, but Ford reinforced the frame for greater rigidity and tuned the suspension to improve its off-road performance. Payload is up to 1,500 pounds with a 5,040-pound towing capacity.

The Sport Trac is quite tall, so it doesn't handle like a car. There is some weave and pitch, sway and jounce. It's not heavy, but the rougher the road and the higher the speed, the stronger it gets. The bushings, spring rates, shock valving and stabilizer bars have been modified, according to Ford, for improved ride, handling, and noise/vibration/harshness over the Explorer. The power rack-and-pinion steering did not provide as much assist as we would have liked for parallel parking in tight places.

The Sport Trac comes with bigger brake rotors than the previous-generation Explorer, using ventilated discs in front and drums in the rear. The brakes slowed and stopped the Sport Trac okay. Summary
Ford Explorer Sport Trac is an innovative design packed with small innovations that make life in town and in the backcountry more convenient. The solid strengths of the 2002 Ford Sport Trac, the engine, frame, chassis and body, for example, make for an impressive sport-utility truck.

Model as tested
Sport Trac Choice 4x4 ($26,650)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Louisville, Kentucky
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Cloth Comfort Group ($935) includes cloth front bucket seats with six-way power driver seat, high-series floor console with rear climate and audio controls, overhead console with outside temperature display and compass; Convenience Group ($750) includes autolock, remote keyless entry, cruise control, tilt steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel; cargo cage ($195)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
4x2 ($23,880); 4x4 ($26,650)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, ABS
Safety equipment (optional)
4.0 liter SOHC V6
5-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
air conditioning, automatic transmission, power door locks, dome, map and cargo lights, black molded composite material floor covering with color-keyed Berber floor mats, dual covered visor vanity mirrors, color keyed lower body moldings, two power outlets, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo with four speakers, front captains chairs, 60/40 fold/flat rear bench, skid plate (4WD), front and rear stabilizer bars, power steering, tachometer, electric shift-on-the-fly transfer case (4WD), steel wheels, power windows with driver-side express down, power rear window, speed-sensitive intermittent wipers, trailer wiring harness

Engine & Transmission
4.0 liter SOHC V6
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
203 @ 5250
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/drum with ABS
Suspension, front
Independent with gas shocks, torsion bar springs and stabilizer bar
P235/70R16 all terrain
Suspension, rear
live axle with gas shocks, variable-rate leaf springs, stabilizer bar

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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