2008 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Performance
Competitive power, precise steering and nearly car-like handling solidify the 2008 Ford Explorer Sport Trac as one of the top-performing sport utility trucks.
Acceleration and Power
Under the hood, the 2008 Sport Trac features a 4.0-liter V6 engine rated at 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. Optional on either model is four-wheel drive, as well as an all-new 4.6-liter V8 rated at 292 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Reviewers find the fuel economy for both engines low, but still "very competitive," according to the Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel economy for the base V6 engine at 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway. For the V8 engine, it's estimated at 13 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway for the 2WD model, and 13 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway for the 4WD model. Both engines take regular fuel.Some, however, find fuel economy to be a disappointment. The
Most reviewers find the V6 more than adequate, but note that the V8 is much more versatile. "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," Kelley Blue Book writes. Of the larger engine, Car and Driver says, "With optional V-8, the Sport Trac can accelerate to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, which is quite good for a pickup. In normal driving, though, the V-8 feels a tad sleepy." Similarly, AutoWeek says, "Even 292 hp doesn't seem to motivate this 4793-lb vehicle to do very much besides suck down fuel." But Automobile.com notes, "I fell for its deliciously smooth V8 hustle. Unless taxed with demanding acceleration or hill climbing, the engine is near silent within normal operating parameters, with only a luxury-car burble to be heard."
The V6 is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, while the V8 gets a six-speed automatic. Cars.com says that "shifts are fast and barely perceptible" and "a class act most of the time." A few express disappointment that the Sport Trac is not equipped with a manual-mode feature.says the six-speed "paused a bit before downshifting, though the shifts themselves were quite smooth. And the engine-transmission link appeared to be on a coffee break, sometimes going from less throttle to more throttle."
Handling and Braking
Thanks to a new rear suspension that is 444 percent stiffer than the previous generation's, the feel of the 2008 Sport Trac's ride pleases almost every reviewer. According to Edmunds, admirable road isolation and responsive steering make the Sport Trac "light-years ahead of its predecessor. Handling is surefooted and the ride is almost luxury-car plush." Of the suspension, which is independent as opposed to solid axle, About.com says, "The difference in a sudden swerve is night and day."
Reviewers find the 17.5-foot-long Sport Trac navigates roads easily and "remains parking-lot friendly -- a key criteria to its owners -- thanks to its long wheelbase, relatively short overhangs and well-tuned power steering," according to the AutoWeek complains, "Steering is far too light and numb at highway speeds for a vehicle that has 'sport' in its name. Trying to drive this thing in a sporty manner is an exercise in futility." Similarly, Edmunds says steering "lacks any sort of feedback that would encourage spirited driving."While many reviewers praise the power hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering for its good feedback, some find it lacking.
But regardless of complaints, the majority feel handling is one of the Sport Trac's greatest strengths. Kelley Blue Book says on the road the Sport Trac 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."
The Sport Trac comes standard in two-wheel drive, but four-wheel drive is an option on all models. The Control Trac 4WD system has three modes, as explained by Edmunds: "Intended for everyday driving, 4x4 Auto mode routes power only to the rear wheels until they slip, at which point power is delivered automatically to the front wheels. The 4x4 High mode provides a 50/50 power split to the front and rear wheels, making it ideal for off-road or severe winter conditions. The 4x4 Low mode locks the transfer case and is for the really deep stuff, steep grades and pulling a boat out of the water."
Automobile.com notes that the Sport Trac's low-range gearing makes it "a very capable climber. While powering its way up a steep ascent, an associate journalist compared the vehicle's tenacious grip to a cat on carpeting." Similarly, Autoweb says "a four-wheel-drive Sport Trac is capable of scaling steep, rutted routes without engaging 4-Hi or 4-Lo. Instead, the 4-Auto setting gets the most out of the rear tires and then shifts a bit of power to the front when the terrain gets really gnarly."
However, buyers take note that the Sport Trac "probably shouldn't be your first choice as a serious off-road machine, but out of the box it is a competent machine for light to medium trail duty," according to 4x4REVIEW.com.
Reviewers have mixed opinions on the Sport Trac's 4.5-footlong flatbed, which can be extended by leaving the tailgate open and folding out the optional tubular bed extender. AutoMedia.com says, "With the help of the bed extender, we successfully loaded two mountain bikes standing upright, wheels on, and a mound of gear with cargo room to spare."
The V6 can haul up to 1,390 pounds of people and cargo on the 2WD version, while the 2WD V8 manages 1,380 pounds. NewCars.com notes that there is "no clear winner between the average compact crew cab truck and the Ford Explorer Sport Trac with respect to hauling capacity." However, many reviewers say the short truck bed is a disadvantage. Cars.com says, "You simply can't carry as much as you can in a full-size truck's bed."
The cargo bed has higher sides than the previous model to allow more cargo space, but many reviewers see this change as more of a drawback. "The higher sides on the cargo box make it hard to lean over far enough to reach the latch for the front storage box," says New Car Test Drive similarly notes, "While this increases the space enclosed by the bed, it definitely makes hefting boxes and bags up and over into the more of a strain, a painful trait." The cargo box is made out of rust-free composite and offers three storage compartments. It is also notched to carry boards of various sizes..
Another option to aid in hauling is a two-piece hard cover for the cargo box, which many reviewers found heavy and difficult to move. According to Ford, there is 37.5 cubic feet of storage space beneath the cover. Autoweb praises the hauling functionality of the Sport Trac, noting it's a "useful vehicle equipped with giant tie-down cleats, a swiveling bed extender, small integrated bed storage compartments, and a cargo box that is easy to clean."
The 2WD V6 can tow up to 5,250 pounds, while the 2WD V8 can tow up to 7,160 pounds. NewCars.com notes, "The Ford Explorer Sport Trac outpulls the typical compact crew cab truck by a massive margin." Both the XLT and Limited models come standard with a Class II Trailer Tow with trailer tow wiring. Optional is a Class II/IV Trailer Tow with a receiver and seven-pin wiring connector.