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Details count. The 1999 Mercury Cougar is proof of this. After spending some time with a Cougar, it is obvious that Ford did its homework when it designed this car. It also got the details right. The company did an excellent job of designing this car in such a way that it appeals to youthful buyers. Young folks, this writer included, love the Cougar. The car pushes just the right buttons in all the right ways.
For instance, take the Cougar’s radio antenna. It is perched proudly on the roof, directly above the windshield. That, to us, is very cool and very European; we like European things. We also love the way the moonroof deploys above the roof. For some reason, that looks cool too. Oh, and Ford got another small detail right. When the door locks are activated remotely, the horn does not honk — instead, the lights flash. Those of us who are in Generation X (or Y, in this writer’s case) want people to dig us for our sweet ride, not our obnoxious car alarm. The details count.
But Mercury got the fundamentals right too. This whole package is sweet. The Cougar comes complete with expressive sheet metal and exemplary driving dynamics. Batteries are included.
Our test car was equipped with the 125-horsepower 2.0-liter Zetec four-cylinder engine that also does time in the Escort ZX2 and Mondeo/Contour/Mystique triplets. Instead of the four-pot, we recommend the sweet 170-horsepower V-6 for a few hundred bucks more. The four-cylinder may be more miserly with fuel, but its excessive vibration and lack of power make us wonder why Mercury even sells a four-cylinder Cougar.
It is obvious that insiders feel the same way we do. Just before the introduction of the car, Mercury decided not to sell Cougars equipped with a four-cylinder and an automatic transmission. Why? The rumor is some higher-ups at Ford drove a car with that powertrain combination and were less than pleased with its excessive noise, vibration and harshness. The car we sampled was equipped with a four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. We had a similar reaction. Buy the V-6.