SAN DIEGO – To thrive in modern society, one must understand and embrace the art of multi-tasking. The days of Dad going off to work while Mom stays home with the kids are largely gone, as are focused job descriptions and check books. Instead, dual-income households are home to Dad pinch-hitting for daycare drop-off duty as Mom conducts a conference call on her way to the airport, all while their colleagues are at the office simultaneously paying bills online and checking the day’s email. People are becoming akin to Swiss Army knives, and their vehicles are being forced to keep pace. Many car shoppers now demand that a truck do more than haul cargo, an SUV tote an upright refrigerator, and a sedan serve as more than a commuter car. Such buyers
are afforded few choices, with three notable exceptions: the Chevrolet Avalanche, the Honda Ridgeline and the Ford Explorer Sport Trac.
Redesigned for 2007, the Sport Trac rides on the 2006 Explorer’s platform, shares much of the design forward of the C-pillar, and draws power from the familiar 4.0-liter V6 or a 292-horsepower 4.6-liter V8. The interior has also been borrowed from the Explorer, and an independent rear suspension system makes room for a deeper and wider cargo box, one with storage holds similar to those found on the Ridgeline.
Which brings back the issue of this vehicle’s primary competitor, that Honda with its multi-jointed tailgate, deep cargo well, and that contentious rear pillar design. Despite being the brand’s first foray into this segment, the Ridgeline is a terrific vehicle, supported by its car-like ride, roomy cabin, durable materials, all-wheel-drive capability, and spacious bed. But the 2007 Ford Sport Trac comes ready and willing to compete, offering an optional V8 engine, its own car-like ride, another 1,800 pounds of towing capacity, and an available four-wheel-drive system that arguably makes it a better off-roader. Interior materials could be better, and that curvy line between the cab and bed still looks odd, yet both could be dismissed if the Ford was less expensive than the Honda. And, indeed, the Sport Trac’s base price is less, until options are added for an apples-to-apples comparison and the stickers end up on equal ground. However, neither matches the larger Avalanche in terms of utility, including the Chevy’s more powerful engines, great towing capacity, and exclusive fold-down midgate.
That full-size Chevrolet has its merits, but buyers seeking a mid-size crew cab truck that rides like a car will be comfortable in the Ford or the Honda. The only hard question is whether to go with Honda’s reputation for longevity or Ford’s higher horsepower and towing ratings and off-road capability. Best bet is to give the Sport Trac a go before inking the deal on either one.