The first-generation Ford Explorer Sport Trac was a curious cross between the bread-and-butter Explorer midsize SUV, and a truncated crew cab Ranger. Though somewhat similar to the GMC Envoy XUV in concept, it lacked the GMC's unique midgate. But unlike the XUV, the Sport Trac lived on into a second-generation, whereas GMC's oddball truck got the axe after only a few years.

Fast forward to 2006, and Honda introduces their first-ever "truck," the Ridgeline. Styled suspiciously like a 7/8-scale Avalanche, and close in concept to the original Sport Trac, this unusual ute garnered a great deal of critical praise, if not the blockbusting sales figures Honda was hoping for. But it created enough of a stir that Ford was perhaps vindicated in its belief that the ugly duckling Sport Trac might have a promising future ahead.

Not content to settle for "good enough," Ford knew they had to one-up the competition in several key areas. So unlike the Ridgeline, which is available only with one engine and drivetrain configuration, the new Sport Trac is available in 2 or 4-wheel drive, with a V-6 or V-8 engine.

Because it's built on more of a "traditional" truck body-on-frame chassis, the Sport Trac has an advantage over the Ridgeline in towing capacity, especially in the V-8 configuration. Like the Ridgeline, the Sport Trac features an independent rear suspension. Surprisingly, the Ridgeline's maximum payload capacity is almost 200 pounds greater than the Ford's.

While the Sport Trac lacks Honda's innovative in-bed trunk, its composite bed features three concealed storage bins. One large bin runs the width of the headboard, while two smaller bins are tucked just behind each of the wheel wells, each large enough to hold eight 12-ounce beverage cans. The rear bins feature protective skids and recessed knobs to help protect the latch mechanisms.

Ford makes no secret that it's targeting the Ridgeline in the marketing materials. Most notably, Ford points out that it offers greater front and rear legroom, as well as being up to five decibels quieter than the Ridgeline, claiming an advantage over a rival traditionally known for refinement.

Expect to see the Sport Trac in showrooms around late Summer '06 to Fall '06.

Honda Ridgeline
Ford Sport Trac
3.5L 24-valve SOHC V-6
4.0L 12-valve SOHC V-6(std.)
4.6L 24-valve SOHC V-8 (opt.)
247 @ 5,750 rpm
245 lb./ft. @ 4,500 rpm
210 @ 5,100 rpm (V-6)
292 @ 5,750 rpm (V-8)
254 lb./ft. @ 3,700 rpm (V-6)
300 lb./ft. @ 3,950 rpm (V-8)
5-speed automatic
5-speed automatic (V-6)
6-speed automatic (V-8)

Length:  206.8 inches
210.2 inches
Width:  77.8 inches
73.7 inches
Wheelbase: 122.0 inches
130.5 inches
Towing Capacity: 5,000lbs.
5,310 (V-6, 2WD); 5,140(V-6, 4WD)
6,800 (V-8, 2WD); 6,640 (V-8, 4WD)
Payload:  1,558 lbs.
1,390 (V-6, 2WD); 1,370(V-6, 4WD)
1,380 (V-8, 2WD); 1,350 (V-8, 4WD)
Curb Weight
4,503 lbs.
4,516 (V-6, 2WD); 4,687(V-6, 4WD)
4,618 (V-8, 2WD); 4,793 (V-8, 4WD)