"I have owned two Cougars since 2000. I bought the first, a 1990 V6 LS, in 2000 with 75,000 miles in New York and I drove it in NY, as well as Newfoundland, Canada, for another 100,000 miles. The car had a head gasket replaced before I bought it - common problem with the V6 engine, apparently - and, for the seven years I owned it, I replaced one leaky water pump, both front shocks as they were too soft and caused car's nose to bounce a little too much, brake pads twice and front rotors once. Other than this, NOTHING - all in all, about $1000 in repairs while driving about five times the length of Equator. I wish Ford would have never given up making these cars, they were design wonders. The rust finally got my 90 Cougar in Newfoundland - they use a lot of salt around here to keep the roads usable - but the engine and tranny were still running fine. The interior was a little on the cheap side. The V6 got me about 27-28 mpg highway, while rush hour NYC pushed it down to 12-13 mpg - I find this amazing for a 3.8 liter V6. The car drives amazingly well, you get to appreciate the 2.5 tons of iron when cruising, especially if you compare it to a smaller car. Cornering is also amazing for such a big car, ojt to mention that the RWD allows the front wheel to steer better than most FWD cars - these Cougars turn tighter than a Mazda 6. One downside I need to mention though, especially if you're a DYI kind of guy, is the relative poorly layout of the engine - I never managed to avoid scratching my hands when replacing the spark plugs, the space is simply too tight.
And this brings me to my second Cougar, a 1994 XR7 with a 4.6 VB engine on it. I bought it from its first owner in Florida earlier this year. The car has 33,500 miles on it and no traces of rust, and everything is in mint condition. There is a world of difference between the two model years. For starters, the interior has been finally designed as it should (the "wrap-around" dash), the controls have been greatly optimized, and the whole interior has been brought to the same top level with the outside and the powerplant. The modular V8 is a gem: you could teach car mechanics to anyone with this engine, it is amazingly well arranged. Ford did away with the old, belt-driven fan, so now the engine warms up faster in colder climates. I only regret the sound of that old engine, imho the V6 sounded better than the V8. When spun up, the V6 was like an airplane taking off, while the V8 screams raw power - it sounds like a classic muscle car's engine. One other good thing Ford did on the 1994 was to redo the tranny - the '90 was shifting errhatically from 3rd to 4th, sometimes with a big hiccup. None of that left on the 94 - instead you get a tranny that lets you shift down from 4th to 3rd with a press of a button on the shifter (overdrive on/off), and also select 2nd and 1st if you so desire.
My 90 Cougar performed beautifully on snow without ABS, if you know how to use engine braking, you'll be fine on snowy roads. I'm not saying you'll go off-road with the Cougar, but city/highway driving in snow is safe and quite fun. Also, being so wide and not too tall makes these cars stick to the road in turns like they're glued in - it'll take a lot of abuse to make them skid sideways. And for those SUV fans out there, Ford put a smarter alternative to expensive electronic stability control systems 15 years ago into these cars - it's called a lower gravity center through design. I'm yet to hear about an overturned Cougar. Mazda did the same with RX7 and Subaru with their boxer engine.
All in all, an extremely well built car, surprisingly economical given the power plant hiding under the hood, high quality parts (and decently-priced spare parts readiiy available), very safe and extremely comfortable, especially for long trips. Suspension is smooth - independent rear suspension in an era when the rear axle was commonplace - and the handling is great. If you can get your hands on one of these Big Cats, don't hesitate. And for those who'll say that you'll pay a lot on gas with these cars, I'll share my own experience: as long as you play nice with the gas pedal, your mileage compares with modern V6 cars. really."
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