Mercury Cougar Eighth generation
|1999 to 2002|
|Manufacturer||Ford Motor Company|
|Assembly||United States: Flat Rock, Michigan (AAI)|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||Two-door coupe|
|Platform||Ford CDW27 platform|
|Related||Ford Contour Ford Cougar Ford Mondeo Mercury Mystique|
|Engine||2.0-L Zetec I4 2.5-L Duratec V6|
|Transmission||Five-speed MTX-75 manual Four-speed CD4E automatic|
|Wheelbase||106.4 in (2700 mm)|
|Length||185.0 in (4700 mm)|
|Width||69.6 in (1770 mm)|
|Height||52.2 in (1330 mm)|
|Curb weight||2892 lb (1312 kg)|
This generation of Cougar had a far more contemporary package, with modern DOHC 24-valve six-cylinder Duratec engines, a fully independent multilink suspension, and front-wheel drive. This was also the first hatchback Cougar, and the first to have its own body, unshared by any Ford (except its European twin Ford Cougar). The body design used a philosophy Ford dubbed "New Edge" design: a combination of organic upper body lines with sharp, concave creases in the lower areas. The Cougar's body, and the New Edge idea in general, was introduced as a concept called the Mercury MC2 in 1997, and was considered a bigger version of the European Ford Puma.
The 1999–2002 Cougars were available with two engine options, the 2.0-L Zetec 4-cylinder engine with 125 hp (93 kW; 127 PS), and the 2.5-L Duratec V6 with 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS). Also, two transaxle options were available: the manual Ford MTX-75 transmission or the automatic Ford CD4E transmission (available in the US with either engine, although the I4/automatic combination was extremely rare; supposedly only 500 Cougars were built with the I4/auto).
"Sport Package" models of the V6 featured four-wheel vented disc brakes (from the Contour SVT), 16-inch alloy wheels, and the speed governor removed. With the electronic speed limiter removed, the top speed of the car was limited by drag and engine power in top gear at redline, around 135 mph (217 km/h). While this was considered attainable given enough road, the automatic transmission version could not reach this speed without significant engine modification. Without the sport package, the speed governor was set at 115 mph (185 km/h) due to the H-rated tires with which the car was equipped.
Ford also prepared two high-performance concept-only versions; one dubbed the "Eliminator", which was a supercharged version built with aftermarket available parts, and the other the "Cougar S", which featured new body work, all-wheel drive and a 3.0-L Duratec engine.
Ford also sold this generation of Cougar in Europe and Australia as the Ford Cougar, and it was such a popular sales success.
This new generation was aimed at younger buyers, but was sold alongside Sables and Grand Marquis, which were marketed toward middle-aged buyers. Also, Mercury salesmen did not know how to properly market the car, as they were used to interacting with older customers.
A high-performance Cougar S (not to be confused with the concept) was discussed in the press, which was essentially a Cougar with a Contour SVT engine; however, this version never made it into production. The Cougar S was so close to production, though, many of its parts are still available to order from the dealership and it is listed in many parts catalogs and insurance databases. It was also to be sold in Europe as the Ford Cougar ST200.
To help create excitement for the Cougar, Mercury created several paint and trim packages:
- Special Edition (2000 model year) available in Zinc Yellow, leather interior with yellow stitching on the seats
- C2 (2001–2002 model years) available in either French Blue, Silver Frost, or Vibrant White, along with special blue interior accents
- Zn (2001 model year) available with special Zinc Yellow, special Visteon hood scoop and spoiler
- XR (2002 model year) available in either Black or XR Racing Red, with special black and red seats and interior trim, also came with 17-inch silver wheels with black accents on the inner spokes
- 35th Anniversary (2002 model year) versions were available in Laser Red, French Blue, Satin Silver, and Black; most came with leather interiors with silver center sections on the seats. They also came with 17-inch machined wheels, the same as the XRs without the black paint on the center spokes.
- Roush Edition (1999–2000 model year) Available mostly in white and silver color choices, this car was built under the Roush name with body work done to the front bumper, back, side skirts and more. It is considered the rarest of all Cougars, since only 112 were ever made during its two-year production.
For the 2001 model year, the Cougar was "updated" as the Cougar2 with new headlights, front and rear fascias, and updated interior trim.
Ford announced a restructuring plan in 2002, and the Cougar was cancelled for good (along with the Ford Escort, Lincoln Continental and Mercury Villager and its British cousin the Ford Cougar as the MkIII Mondeo was ready to take the production lines but not in Australia as it was still sold with Ford badges until 2004 because its cousin the MkII Mondeo was removed from the Australian line up in 2000). The discontinuation of the Cougar left no four-cylinder vehicles in the Mercury lineup until the 2005 Mariner SUV arrived.
The last one rolled off the assembly line on August 9, 2002