New & Used Ford Probe: In Depth
1997 Ford ProbeEnlarge Photo
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The Ford Probe was a sports coupe that, at the time it first went on the market, had one of the most advanced designs (and among the most dramatic, modern styling) of its era. Developed and made by a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and Mazda (called AutoAlliance International), the Probe shared its platform and most of its mechanical underpinnings with the Mazda MX-6 coupe (and 626 sedan) but had unique sheetmetal and interior appointments. The Probe was sold from the 1989 through 1997 model years, and while it replaced the Ford EXP, it wasn't directly replaced after its discontinuation.
Two generations of the Probe were offered over its nine model years, and it landed in the thick of the late-1980s and early-1990s front-wheel-drive sports-coupe rivalry that included the Dodge Daytona Turbo, Toyota Celica, and Honda Prelude, among many others. And while both generations were surely standouts from a design standpoint, it was the second-generation cars from 1993-1997 that looked smoother (and more sophisticated to most eyes), while 1989-1992 Probes are sharper and more angular in front and in back.
First-generation Probe models were powered by either a 110-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine or a 140-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. Separately, the GT model stepped in with a 145-hp, turbocharged version of the 2.2-liter four. GT versions were the choice for enthusiasts, as they included four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes, as well as a performance suspension with three-mode damping, plus variable-assist power steering. Probe GT models from this period were much-wanted, 'attainable performance' cars when new—even though their straight-line performance was eclipsed by ordinary V-6 sedans of the 1990s.
The second-generation Probe dropped the turbocharged model entirely, instead moving to a 118-hp, 2.0-liter base model or a new 164-hp, 2.5-liter V-6 in the GT. Again, you could choose from a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The overhead-cam V-6 here is a sweet engine, although it needed to be revved to get to most of its power. These were lighter and wider than the previous versions, and far and away more sophisticated in how they drove and rode—making them impressive grand-touring coupes for long trips while also being light enough to feel like nimble small cars at other times.
In 1995 and 1996, you could get more of the GT's appearance with the four-cylinder, in an SE (Special Edition) model. Separately, a GTS appearance package brought the entire look of the GT in 1997.
Interesting footnote: The Probe was once part of a strategy in which Ford would effectively use it to replace the rear-wheel-drive Ford Mustang. Due largely to the protestations of pony-car lovers, Ford found a somewhat more upmarket spot for the Probe than originally intended.