What's New for 2001
Exterior and interior changes are extensive for the Cougar. At first glance outside, you'll notice new front and rear fascias, new headlights with a projector and reflector system, a new grille, a new spoiler, new foglights and 16-inch painted or 17-inch machined aluminum wheels. New clearcoat metallic colors include Dark Shadow Grey, Tropic Green, French Blue and Sunburst Gold. Later in the year, two special editions -- the Cougar Zn and C2 -- will be offered.
The Cougar stands out as one of the more distinctly styled vehicles on the road today. And don't expect Cougar customers to be cross shopping for the 2001 Grand Marquis; this kitty cat is aimed at a much younger crowd.
The Cougar's New Edge look 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 European-engineered platform as the old 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 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. Compared to the engines found in the Mitsubishi Eclipse or the Volkswagen GTI, the Cougar is a bit shy on power.
Mercury was originally planning to offer a high performance version called the Cougar S this year, but that car has been shelved. Instead, two special editions -- the Zn and C2 -- will be offered. The Zn is sheathed in Zinc (Zn on the periodic table) Yellow paint and rides on 17-inch machined aluminum wheels finished with black painted ports. The C2 gets unique French Blue paint, with French Blue instrumentation and a French Blue spoiler. The machined aluminum wheels have French blue center caps. Why didn't they call it the Cougar Fb? Because you can also get it painted in white, silver or black. Both the Zn and C2 have diamond-patterned cloth upholstery
For all Cougar interiors, you'll find a conventional control layout with a decidedly unconventional appearance. Accessing the backseat 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; taller adults will find that their heads are squashed into the headliner.
For 2001, the interior has been notably updated with a CD player now standard. Visually, the door inserts have a perforated black material and there's a new steering wheel with revised cruise-control switches and a Cougar head emblem. There's also a new instrument cluster with a satin aluminum face and graphics, new gauge surround rings and pointers, and a new cluster shroud with a technical grain. Many components are also refinished with a new appearance and others will be painted with satin aluminum paint.
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.