What's New for 2000
All Cougars receive an emergency trunk release as standard equipment, as well as a redesigned floor console. Citrus Gold, Light Blue and Light Sapphire are the three new clearcoat metallic paints available.
One of the most distinctly styled vehicles on the road today, the Mercury Cougar enters its second year of production in 2000. Don't expect Cougar customers to be cross-shopping for the 2000 Grand Marquis; this kitty cat is aimed at a much younger crowd.
The Cougar is the first production vehicle to receive a full New Edge facelift. It combines sleek, rounded main forms with creased straight-edge detail. The most interesting parts of the Cougar's appearance are the cat-eye headlamps with smoked lenses, large triangular taillights, sculpted doors and hood, and the character line that runs along the lower portion of the greenhouse.
Underneath this eye-catching skin are components that are much more familiar. 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, because it keeps the cost of the Cougar down.
The Cougar is blessed with an excellent suspension, neutral handling characteristics, and powerful brakes. This translates to plenty of fun on curvy roads. The only thing slowing the Cougar down is an overly heavy steering feel and a set of engines that don't quite measure up to the car's exciting looks. Ford offers either a 125-horsepower, four-cylinder engine or a 2.5-liter V6 that produces 170 horsepower. These are the same engines found in the Contour/Mystique and, while they might be fine for a sedan, they don't generate as much thrust as the offerings in the Mitsubishi Eclipse or the Volkswagen GTI.
Good thing there's the limited-production 2000 Cougar S. A high-performance version of the Cougar, it comes standard with a 200-horsepower version of the 2.5-liter V6 engine. The car's suspension is also performance-tuned to handle the extra power. Sports styling details complete the package, including a blue background to the instruments. More supportive leather-covered seats are standard with an embroidered "Cougar S" logo. The driver's seat features six-way power adjustment.
For all Cougar interiors, you'll find a conventional control layout but a decidedly unconventional appearance. Still, form followed function for the most part, and while we might complain about minor ergonomic problems found within the Cougar, the car is reasonably satisfying. Accessing the back seat is a breeze, thanks to a front passenger seat that slides forward when the backrest is folded and then returns to its preset position once riders are secured in back. The rear seats are firm and place the rider high in the car and taller adults will find that their heads are squashed into the headliner.
The Cougar S should be a welcome sight to performance enthusiasts. And despite the relative lack of power, the regular Cougar still has a lot to offer. It's affordable, functional, fun to drive, and neat to look at.