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Available Contour Sedan Models
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All-speed traction control is a new option on V6 models equipped with ABS. Tropic Green and Medium Steel Blue replace Dark Green Satin, Light Denim Blue and Pacific Green on the color chart. The integrated child seat is dropped from the optional equipment list, as are the 15-inch wheel covers. The instrument panel receives a mild revision and the 10-way power seats become 6-way power seats thanks to the deletion of the power lumbar and recline adjustments. Ford increases rear seat room in the Contour for the third year in a row, desperately trying to shed this sedan's cramped car image.
Ford spent $6 billion developing this new "world car", designed to be the best compact in every market in which it is sold. The program tested Ford's ability to utilize all of its worldwide resources to create a car that would streamline production, thereby slicing overhead and building bigger profits.
The result of this ambitious project is the Ford Contour, and for less than the average amount of a typical car purchase in the United States today, you can get one loaded up with equipment, with performance and road feel you never would have expected from a sedan made in America. Actually, the road manners of the new Contour are no mystery; given that Ford of Europe did the development work on this car.
The Contour comes in two flavors, the entry-level LX and the performance-biased SE. Both come standard with Ford's free-revving Zetec four-cylinder engine and both can be had with the more powerful Duratec V6. We are big fans of this SOHC Duratec engine, which makes 170 horsepower. Its plentiful mid- and high-range power is just the thing for a spirited drive through the mountains.
Since its introduction, the Contour has won plenty of awards and has received great press from automotive critics, but still hasn't caught on with the public at large. In 1998, Ford gave the Contour an exterior freshening that was supposed to make the car more distinctive in the crowded family sedan marketplace. For 1999, Ford holds the line on the Contour's pricing, fiddles with the color chart, and offers all-speed traction control on V6 models. For some reason, they also drop the integrated child seat and 15-inch wheel covers from their options list. Ah, the price of decontenting.
Since the Taurus SHO lost its stick in 1996, the Contour has served as Ford's sporty sedan. The good news for enthusiasts is that Ford has sent the already-competent Contour to its Special Vehicle Team for some high performance tuning. The result is the Contour SVT, and it has the ability to embarrass more than a few sport coupe owners in the stoplight drags or during a run through the twisties.
While the Contour may not be the best looking car on the road, we still like it a great deal. The body structure is stiff, and the interior is a nice place to spend time. Both engines love to rev, and can deliver exciting performance when mated to a manual transmission. We are not crazy about the stereo controls or rear seat comfort, but think that these are minor flaws for an otherwise outstanding sport sedan.
People less concerned about driving and more concerned about spaciousness may want to investigate the Dodge Stratus and Chevrolet Malibu. They aren't as exciting as the Contour, but they can hold people more comfortably.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.