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Designed in Europe and built in America, the Mondeo-based Ford Cougar coupe presents yet another example of Ford's "New Edge" styling theme.
While the New Edge styling hasn't gone down too well with Falcon sedan buyers, it is arguably one of the Cougar's best features. The Cougar looks distinctive and modern, and it commands attention, which is something that many buyers in this segment enjoy.
Unfortunately, the Cougar doesn't back up its attention-grabbing looks with a memorable driving experience. Performance supplied by the 2.5 litre V6 engine is good but nothing special, and chassis dynamics are in the same category.
It's also hard to get enthusiastic about driving a car in which you can't get comfortable and several other drivers beside myself rated the seats as uncomfortable and failing to provide proper lateral support. The manual version's pedals are offset to the left and set close together, and with no worthwhile left footrest either, the driving position is far from ideal.
At $39,650 for the manual version and $41,650 for the automatic, the Cougar is priced up against some pretty good Japanese coupes such as the Honda Prelude and the Toyota Celica.
Both these vehicles feature more user-friendly cockpits and are also better finished. The Cougar displays a lack of attention to detail finish, particularly in regard to trim. Examples on the test car included door scuff plates lifting, poor window trim joins, a wobbly centre console and poor trimming in the load area.
Equipment levels are quite good in the Cougar, with dual front airbags, front side airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes, semi-automatic climate control airconditioning, an alarm system, alloy wheels, remote central locking, power windows, trip computer and a stereo system with six-stack CD changer all standard.
The test car's radio gave poor reception on the AM band and the volume control has coarse adjustment steps that make it difficult to obtain an ideal volume setting at times.
Accommodation in the Cougar is very much a '2+2' situation. Front occupants have satisfactory leg and head room, but the rear compartment offers very limited space for two. The rear seat cushions have an exaggerated dip in the centre that make them very uncomfortable. Even then, the tailgate carries a warning sticker about the possibility of striking rear occupants on the head when shutting it!
Carrying luggage will not be a problem in the Cougar as its load area is long and deep, plus the rear seat folds in a 50/50 split for those longer items. However, the loading lip is fairly high.
The Cougar's 2.5 litre quad cam V6 engine is not a high performance unit in terms of maximum power output or outright acceleration, but in manual form at least, it goes well enough to satisfy the expectations for this type of vehicle.
The manual Cougar pulls well in the higher gears and responds reasonably well to throttle input when extra acceleration is required. Some additional driving in the automatic version showed it to be a more leisurely performer, although the engine and transmission combination was pleasantly smooth.
Handling is another aspect where the Cougar is quite competent, but not overly sporty.
The combination of good quality tyres and traction control ensures plenty of grip in all conditions, but the Cougar is nowhere near as precise in its feel on the road as say, the Honda Integra Type R.
The Cougar's steering doesn't help much, being imprecise in its feel and lacking good feedback as to what the front wheels are doing.
The Cougar certainly rides more comfortably than the Integra Type R does, which is just as well, given the Cougar's uncomfortable seats.
Though the brake pedal has a rather spongy feel that doesn't inspire confidence, the Cougar's four-disc anti-lock system proved effective in emergency stopping tests, with the car pulling straight in short distances. Pedal effort increased noticeably during fade tests, but the brakes didn't become excessively hot.
The new Ford Cougar coupe certainly looks the part and it comes with a fairly comprehensive array of safety, security and luxury equipment, yet at the same time, it fails to provide a truly memorable or exhilarating driving experience.
The engine is smooth but only average in terms of performance, the chassis is fairly unresponsive in its feel and the car is further let down by poor seat comfort, flawed cabin ergonomics and a lack of attention to detail finish.
Overall, the Cougar rates as an interesting newcomer to the ranks of 2+2 coupes that are priced around $40,000, but one that's unlikely to hold strong appeal for the discerning driver.
|Price of vehicle tested||$41,650|
Uncomfortable, unsupportive seating
|Country of manufacture||USA|
$39,650 - manual
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||2.5 L|
|Induction||Multi-point fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||125 kW @ 6250 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||220 Nm @ 4250 rpm|
|Wheel size||16 "|
|Type||Power assisted rack and pinion|
|Turns to lock||2.75 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||11.7 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1780 mm|
|Fuel capacity||60 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||Not recommended by Ford kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||80|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||5.5 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||6.9 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||6.7 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||10.3 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||9.3 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||12.6 L/100km|
|Average on test||10.4 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||29.0 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||69 dB(A)|