The Ford Ranger returned to the blue oval’s showrooms for the 2019 model year with considerable hoopla. The 270-horsepower Ranger has been praised for its road manners, relatively modern interior and towing capacity as high as 7,500 pounds with the right options selected.
It’s also eye-poppingly expensive.
A Ranger XLT crew-cab with 4-wheel drive (4WD) and the towing package lists for nearly $37,000. Add a few features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, heated seats and a remote starter, and it tops $40,000.
Or, you could spend less than $15,000 on a 2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that’s nearly as powerful, can tow up to 7,160 pounds, has a more convenient 4WD system, a spacious, SUV-like interior and a plush ride thanks to its fully independent suspension.
How far we’ve come? Maybe, maybe not.
For much of its life, the Sport Trac lived in the shadow of the Explorer. The original model arrived in 2001 and set the tone as an extended-length Explorer with a pickup bed before the plusher, more powerful redesign bowed for 2007. The second-generation version finally offered proper pickup motivation in the form of a 292-hp 4.6-liter V8, a close cousin to the 8-cylinder that powered the Ford Mustang GT. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) was standard while a 4WD system that could be left engaged on dry pavement was a $2,500 option when new. The blocky interior was largely shared with the contemporary Explorer, and its look has aged well inside and out.
The Explorer Sport Trac has a more spacious cab for both front- and rear-seat passengers compared to the Ranger, a virtue of its SUV base. At 210.2 inches between the bumpers, the Sport Trac stretches just half an inch shorter than the Ranger. It’s nearly the same width, too. The Ranger Super Crew’s bed is nearly a foot longer than the Sport Trac’s, although a fold-out bed extender available for the latter can increase its capability to hold larger items such as plywood.
The outlier is the Explorer Sport Trac Adrenalin, a sporty appearance package that has retained its value shockingly well. Low-mile ones currently command upward of $20,000 on Autotrader, which seems like a hefty premium for what amounts to 20-in wheels, special bumpers and lighted running boards.
The Sport Trac was discontinued in 2010 when high fuel prices and the recession saw demand drop off considerably. Had Ford continued to develop the Explorer Sport Trac, it probably wouldn’t have needed to revive the Ranger. Stick with a 2007 through 2010 Explorer Sport Trac XLT or Limited and, for $15,000 or less, you’ll have Ranger-rivaling capability with a lot of money still in your pocket.
The Sport Trac XLT came with the basics including cloth seats, power windows and locks, cruise control, side-curtain airbags on later years, alloy wheels and stability control. The Limited adds a power driver’s seat, running boards and 18-in alloy wheels. Ford’s Sync voice-activated Bluetooth system was added to the roster in 2008, and all models had an auxiliary input. Find a Ford Explorer Sport Trac for sale
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