What's New for 1999
Mercury reintroduces the Cougar this year after a one-year hiatus that saw the departure of most of Ford Motor Co.'s personal coupes. The new model is built on the Mondeo global platform that is also the basis for the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique. This new coupe is powered by the same engine choices as the Contour/Mystique, which means that buyers can choose between a zippy Zetec four-cylinder and a high-revving Duratec V6.
We have seen examples of Ford's New Edge design philosophy at several auto shows over the last few years. Some, like the Lincoln Sentinel, were spooky. Others, like the Mercury MC2, were cool. We weren't sure, however, how we were going to like the first U.S. production model featuring all of these odd slants and angles.
Well, New Edge is finally here in the form of the Mercury Cougar, and we are pretty sure that it's going to be a hit. More like the MC2 than the Sentinel, the Cougar is a nice blend of creases, edges and curves. The overall appearance of the body looks like a piece of material that has been pulled taught over an angular steel frame, kind of like an old biplane. The ultimate effect, however, is much more Buck Rogers than Red Baron.
Underneath this eye-catching skin are components that are much more familiar to us. The Cougar is built on the same platform as the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique. It also shares roughly 70 percent of its parts with these two entry-level sedans. This is important to Ford Motor Co., because it keeps the cost of the Cougar down. It is important to you, because it virtually guarantees that the Cougar will be one of the best driving coupes on the market.
Frequent readers recognize Edmund's affection for the Contour/Mystique cars. The well-balanced steering, excellent suspension, exciting drivetrains and powerful brakes have led us to comment countless times on these cars' preeminence in the compact sedan segment. The fact that the Cougar will be sharing these components allows us to hazard the assumption that it too will be a hoot to drive.
The Cougar is an important car for Mercury. It will be the only model in the Mercury lineup that is unique to the marque, everything else sold at Mercury lots is a Ford or Nissan clone. It also signifies that Mercury will serve as the testing ground for Ford Motor Co.'s groundbreaking design plans. Traditionally, Mercury would be the last of Ford's three major divisions to incorporate new styles. Now it leads the pack.
Prices for the four-cylinder Cougar start at $16,500; a V6 model loaded with equipment can be had for less than $22,000. Expect lines to stretch around the dealership when this car hits showrooms. Preliminary interest on our end shows that you are not likely to find a dealer willing to sell you one for $500 over cost.