What's New for 1996
New styling and powertrain improvements highlight the 1996 Cougar. Some formerly standard equipment is now optional. New options include a revamped cruise control system and a Total Anti-Theft System. Four new colors debut.
Mercury sells half as many Cougars as Ford does the mechanically identical Thunderbird. Not bad, considering Mercury's more limited dealer network and the Cougar's more conservative styling. In concept, the Cougar is a traditional luxo-coupe boulevardier, but when infused with Ford's potent modular 4.6-liter V8, the Cougar's purr becomes a snarl.
Amazingly, the hefty Cougar V8 turns in some pretty impressive performance figures. It feels much quicker and lighter than it actually is. The exterior features traditional cues such as a chrome grille and formal roofline. Unfortunately, these looks make the Cougar a prime candidate for aftermarket or dealer-installed luxury packages' that include such gimcrackery as tacky opera lamps, fake convertible roof applications, and yucky gold trim add-ons. Not even the factory can resist cluttering Cougar's lines; a non-functional luggage rack is available on the options list. Inside, the Cougar offers first-class accommodations for five, with a sweeping dashboard that provides a cocooned cockpit feel to front passengers.
Revised front and rear styling debuts on Cougar for 1996. A chrome insert appears in the bodyside cladding. Both V6 and V8 engines get improvements, including 100,000-mile tune-up intervals. Also new is a Total Anti-theft System option, a cruise control system that increases or decreases speed one mph per tap of the controls, and chrome alloy wheels. Power lumbar support is gone from the Cougar this year, and three formerly standard conveniences (illuminated entry, power driver's seat and leather-wrapped steering) go to the options list. Watch for a special midyear feature car with special interior and exterior fittings.
This iteration of the Cougar has been on the market since 1989, albeit with dramatic improvements over the years. If a healthy dose of luxury and traditional styling is your cup of tea, the Cougar is likely one car you'll want to consider.