Mercury's Cougar may well be the best-named car in today's litter. A sleek predator on a winding road, it bounds and pounces cat-quick, with cat-like reflexes. There's something feline about its New Edge look, too, and just like a real cat, not everyone will like it. Bold and decisive, yet playfully quirky, Cougar's styling is stubbornly out of step with current fashion. And that's a good thing.
Speaking of fashion, Mercury added two sporty new models in February: the Cougar Zn and Cougar C2. Available in bright zinc yellow, French blue and other vibrant colors, they sport special styling cues and refreshed interiors.
For 2001, Cougar is offered in base ($16,700) and S trim. Base-level Cougars offer a choice of two engines.
The standard engine is a 2.0-liter double overhead-cam 16-valve inline four-cylinder rated 125 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. Ford calls this engine the Zetec. The optional Duratec dohc V6 displaces 2.5 liters, and rates 170 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. The V6 comes with a heavy-duty alternator, upgraded suspension and brushed exhaust tips. Technically, the base V6 lists as a separate model, priced at $17,200.
Either way, the price of admission includes air conditioning, 15-inch aluminum wheels, power windows, power door locks, a power height-adjustable driver's seat and AM/FM/CD stereo.
Cougar S ($22,050) is powered by a 196-horsepower, 168-pound-feet version of the Duratec V6; it rides on an even stiffer suspension, and adds traction control and four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, plus a higher level of luxury and interior appointments. Externally, the Cougar S can be distinguished by its fog lights, 17-inch wheels, and free-standing decklid spoiler (re-styled for 2001). (However, the spoiler is available on the base car as a $235 option; so are 16-inch wheels, for $250.
In fact, Cougar buyers can use a variety of equipment packages and options groups upgrade a base V6 to something closer to S specification. Most notable among these is the $865 Sport Group, which adds four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch wheels, P215/50R16 all-season tires, and a long list of interior luxuries.
In February 2001, Mercury added two new models, the 2001 Cougar Zn and Cougar C2. Both the Cougar Zn and C2 have a refreshed interior and sports styling. Cougar Zn will start at $20,595; the Cougar C2 starts at $19,715 (including $475 in destination and delivery charges). Both include the Sport and Convenience options and come equipped with cloth seats; leather seats are also available.