I'd like to start off by saying this review is based on actually owning this vehicle, not just a test drive. The Explorer is the best-selling SUV 12 years in a row so I'm sure that we will continue to be pleased. So far we've had good luck which should be expected the first year but we have a good long warranty just in case because this is after all, a vehicle.
So that you know what I'm basing my opinion from, we have previously driven compact cars, large cars, sports cars, a mini van, and an old pick-up truck. This is however our first experience with a SUV. This particular ride has made the most sense for our family of 5 because all of the things that we have complained about in the past have been resolved with this Sport Trac....except for the gas guzzling. I must say it's a little more challenging finding the ride you like at a comfortable price tag with 5 seats.
I was very disappointed that I would have to be the one stuck with the family vehicle because they're really not very stylish or fun. I was getting rid of the Caravan which I was always embarrassed to be seen in and is not fun at all to drive. Since my husband was in trouble for bringing home a 2004 Mustang GT which I won't drive he told me that I could have whatever vehicle that I wanted. I had no trouble outdoing him with the loaded Sport Trac XLT premium. The upgrades are what really sealed the deal for me. Leather seats were a priority ($795 upgrade), and the moon roof (an extra $800) was the icing on the cake.
Ford has taken the popular Explorer and modified the rear into a truck bed. The 2004 Sport Trac comes in the choices of XLS, XLT, XLT Premium and Adrenalin. The XLT adds in addition to the standard equipment includes power mirrors, remote keyless entry, tilt steering wheel, speed control, Berber floor mats. The XLT Premium adds a new monochromatic look that includes color-keyed bumpers, fascia, moldings and step bars. The Adrenalin has the upgraded stereo that I regretfully didn't get.
I have leather-trimmed two-toned bucket seats. The front seats are adjustable in many different directions, heated, and have a lumbar adjustment feature. They are very comfortable and easy to clean. The back seats both lean forward so you can stow a little something but I'd hardly call it storage. What I do like is that it is easier to clean the French fries out from behind the seats when the seats are folded forward.
The Berber carpet looks really nice until they get dirty and then they are hard to clean. In hind site I would have protected the floor mats better when we went on vacation. Muddy feet from the snow, grrr.
Optionally equipped on XLT and standard on XLT Premium, includes bright cast aluminum wheels with conventional spare, fog lamps, 4.10 rear axle, front tow hooks on the 4x4 models, all-terrain tires, and side step bars. I am not sure how people without the side step bar gets by!
STEERING AND HANDLING
We no sooner broke the Sport Trac in when we took off in it on a 2-week 3,700 mile road trip. We were very pleased, it did fantastic both mechanically and space wise while remaining extremely comfortable. Vacation was the first and last time our vehicle will ever see snow. We left Massachusetts during a blizzard and all things considered, it handled very well. It is a rear wheel vehicle which is not compatible with the snow. It only slid once and the anti lock breaks kept it from skidding. Our bed was completely loaded which may have had a positive effect also.
The Sport Trac took high speeds very well maintaining at 70-80 miles an hour without shaking. At 90 MPH though it felt like it would be easy to lose control.
We went through a couple mountain ranges and were impressed with the smooth transition with the steep inclines.
Steering is the only thing that I can really complain about with just cause! After researching the vehicle before purchasing I learned that it had a high rate of flip overs from sharp turns. The Ford Explorer Sport Trac was the poorest rated vehicle in the federal fishhook driving test. The danger occurs when you yank the wheel to the side like to get out of the way of a car.
My husband has justified the high flip over rate because more people have SUVs. In fact, many SUVs have high flip over rates because they are top heavy.
Whenever I drive I always keep in mind is that this vehicle rolls easily. It is an uneasy feeling that I will have to live with for at least the years that I own an SUV. I thought they were over exaggerating but it truly does not take corners very well even under normal situations. I bark my tires nearly every day while taking sharp turns.
BED OF THE TRUCK
Our truck came with a tundra top from the factory ($590). I am very pleased with the top and have nothing but good things to say about it. There is a plastic covering over the lock on the top which comes in handy in cold climates because the water can't freeze the lock with that barrier. When you close the lid it automatically locks so that's one less thing to fuss with. Finding things in the back is simple because you can flip up the section that you need without unloading the whole bed. The tailgate is a little heavy and comes down with some force so took awhile for the wrist to get use to. There is an emergency latch on the inside which may be handy for someone some day.
GET UP IN THERE
The step bar is essential for getting in. It helps hoist you in and helps get the muck off the shoes before stepping on your beautiful Berber carpet. The height of the vehicle makes it a lot easier for me to get the baby into her car seat without leaning over and straining my back which may not seem like a big deal but after doing it several times a day every single day actually becomes a deciding factor.
The windows are one of my favorite features of this vehicle. We have a moon roof, 4 passenger windows, and the back window can be positioned at either cracked or all the way down. All windows were factory tinted. Since we live in Florida we really get excited about putting all the windows down. It's like having a convertible except that all the kids fit in it! The moon roof goes up to vent or slides back to fully opened position. There is also a separate sliding door that slides over it matching the interior of the vehicle while insulating from heat and cold.
The dashboard is set up fabulous for viewing. Everything lights up at night and large enough to see. You do not have to bop your head around to see the speedometer over the steering wheel. It comes with automatic headlamps which are absolutely fabulous and you have the ability to override this feature on the dashboard if needed. The overhead console has lamps and temperature which come in really handy at times. The vents are set up properly for cooling and heating. The back seat has their own vent that can be turned on or off.
Gas is estimated at 16 MPG (miles per gallon) for city and 21 MPG for highway. The tank holds about 22 gallons.
SUVs just do not get good gas mileage, this one is no exception. I use 87 octane and have not had any problems.
There is a gas saving feature on the wheel called an overdrive button. It defaults to the on position and allows the engine to run at lower RPMS to save gas. If you want to go faster to pass someone or go up something steep you can override by pressing the button. This has come in handy at times.
ODDS AND ENDS
This has a keyless entry pad on the driver side door. This would be handy if you were warming your vehicle up on a cold day or if you locked the keys inside.
I don't have much to say about the safety features except that I'm going to try not to use them. There are air bags in the back seats which is a new feature for us.
Ford sends you a complementary bottle of touch up paint
It has 5300 pound towing capacity
This SUV comes in 2WD or 4WD.
The complaints section is going to be short because I have pretty much everything I need in this ride.
The power window locks are my peeve. The driver has the ability to lock all of the windows which was intended to keep the kids in check. The lock however extends to the front passenger window as well which really urks me to no end. I like to say when my window goes down and by how much when I am a passenger!
Steering is a complaint which I have mentioned in the steering section.
The only place to put your groceries is in the bed of the truck. Once you put them in the bed it's a free for all and things roll all over the place and you can't reach them from the outside so have to climb up in there. Also things get unsealed and mushed and leak. The only way to transport groceries home is putting them in a bag or box. I will be looking into a net or some other gadget to assist with this.
Ford's complimentary warranty has a lot of fine print that you'll want to read and live by.
The warranty is 3 years 36,000 miles. Regular scheduled maintenance using Ford's scheduled maintenance guide and using approved products is crucial for warranty coverage in case it is needed. Be sure to keep all documentation because Ford dealerships do not share maintenance information with each other. Warranty work can be done at any Ford dealership. Ford Extended Service Plan is also offered at an additional price.
After driving this for a couple of years I still give this 5 stars. It's been very comfortable for our family of 5 and the back has been useful for transporting many things.
We upraded the tires which made a HUGE difference in how it handles in rain and while turning.
We're also still receiving compliments on it by other drivers and riders.
Amount Paid (US$):
2004Model and Options: