The 1991 Cougar
Page Revised: 1 July 2019
In Ford's continuing quest to keep the car fresh, the Mercury Cougar received minor restyling and a much-needed image boost for 1991, beginning another two-year styling cycle. Of particular note was the addition of a high output 5.0L V8 engine to both the LS and XR7, something that both critics and Ford engineers readily admit was long overdue. Minor tweaks to the interior further refined the car.
Mechanically the 3.8L V6 in the LS model was the same as the previous year. The LS now had a standard non-speed sensitive steering feature; the electronic speed assist was still available on the LS with the V8 option. Also with the V8 option came a beefier electrical system. In fact, there were quite a few new options for the LS, both aesthetic and mechanical, that had not been previously available.
And that brought about an interesting situation: with the V8 and most of the mechanical XR7 goodies available on an LS...why buy an XR7? The price tag was a bit lower; the insurance was cheaper; and the sacrifices (16" wheels, monochromatic paint) could be remedied in the aftermarket. One could literally have the best of both worlds. The reality is that the XR7 was always the image leader, the flagship of Mercury division, and with the supercharged V6 from 1989-90 the car was truly unique in the Lincoln-Mercury fold. But the V8 was always the Cougar's image, and the loss of an available V8 for those two model years really hampered the sales momentum spurred on by the outgoing 1988 XR7 V8 model. Therefore the V8 was not only an image booster, it was a necessary part of the survival of the Cougar itself.
The Cougar now had a more solid look, thanks to the new trapezoidal waterfall grille and "cat's-eye" single-bulb headlamps. The front bumper was given two pierced "nostrils" per side to let air in, and they were aligned with the new grille to continue the trapezoidal theme. The hood was now separated from the grille, and the sculpted hood lines were given a more aggressive flare-off toward the windshield.
New taillights continued the Mercury bar theme, with a "bubble" protruding from the horizontal center of each taillight, and the car's nomenclature attached there. Only the nomenclature now differentiated the LS taillights from the XR7 model; the brushed aluminum trim from the previous years was gone.
With the addition of the V8 to the XR7 model, the previous supercharged 3.8L V6 was canceled (but did continue in the Cougar's cousin, the Ford Thunderbird SC as well as several more model years in Mexican-built Cougars). Ironically, the V8 made less horsepower and torque than the supercharged V6 it replaced; Ford said that the V8 was more the Cougar's image, despite the lower numbers, and it was definitely smoother. The 5-speed manual transmission was also dropped in favor of the AOD 4-speed automatic with overdrive. However, all the other features of the previous XR7 were retained—adjustable sport suspension, variable speed-sensitive power steering, 16" performance tires, etc.—so the XR7 was still billed as a performance model. Visually the XR7 was still monochromatic, with Black and Oxford White continued from the previous year. Bright Red was no longer available; in its place was Electric Red Metallic. The letters "XR7 5.0L HO" appeared on the new tapered molding directly behind each door.
The XR7 again featured body-colored grille, mirrors and side trim as well as blacked-out greenhouse trim. A new addition to the XR7 for 1991 was the inclusion of standard fog lamps tucked into the revised front bumper cover.
After over 2 years of work, Ford engineers were finally able to fit the High Output 5.0L V8 into the new Cougar platform. Surprisingly, the only major revision was the upper intake manifold, with shorter runners to clear the hood, along with new accessory brackets that mounted the pumps and pulleys closer to the block for decreased noise/vibration/harshness (NVH). Horsepower was an even 200 hp @ 4000 rpm, and torque was 275 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm. The V8 engine was standard on the XR7 (replacing the previous supercharged V6) and was an option on the LS.
Cougar LS Interior
For the interior, the secondary glove box on the top of the dash was deleted on both models. The LS had a new analog cluster standard, with the previous full electronic cluster still an option, and the XR7 style cluster was available when an LS was ordered with the 5.0L V8 (shown above). The LS lost the bright trim surrounding the dash panel but retained the wood look. The XR7 received a revised analog instrument cluster (due to the disappearance of the supercharged V6) and continued with its bright silver interior trim. Criticized for the "tacky" look of its chrome dash buttons in the 1989-90 cars, Ford made all switches black instead in 1991.
With the Cougar slowly getting heavier each model year, even the addition of a V8 didn't bring about any needed speed to the big Cat. In fact it was noticeably slower: published reports gave the Cougar a 0-60 time of 9.4 seconds—a full second slower than the 1990 XR7 with the supercharged V6. Quarter mile time for the V8 version was 17.1 @ 82.2 mph.
To say that the 1991 Cougar was a shot in the arm to the new MN12 line would be very accurate. With new V8 power, more aggressive styling, and a cleaner look all around, 1991 was a watermark year for the Cougar. Just three years into the new chassis it was already showing signs of maturity—even though the sales were continuing to slip.
|LS - 3.8L (232 cid) V6; 140 hp @ 3800 rpm; 215 lb-ft torque @ 2400 rpm
(optional) - 5.0L (302 cid) V8; 200 hp @ 4000 rpm; 275 lb-ft torque @ 3000 rpm
XR7 - 5.0L (302 cid) V8; 200 hp @ 4000 rpm; 275 lb-ft torque @ 3000 rpm
|LS & XR7 - AOD 4-speed automatic with overdrive|
|LS - Front 10.9" disc, rear 9.8" drum
Optional - Front 10.9" disc, rear 10.0" disc with antilock brakes
XR7 - Front 10.9" disc, rear 10.0" disc with antilock brakes
|Wheelbase - 113"
Overall Length - 199.9"
Overall Width - 72.7"
Overall Height - 52.7"
Cargo Capacity - 14.7 cubic feet
Fuel Capacity - 19.0 gallons
|LS - 3587 lb.
LS w/V8 (w/5 speed) - 3753 lb lb.
XR7 (w/auto) - 3800 lb.
NOTE: 15.9% of 1991 Cougars (10,146 cars) had the 5.0 V8 option.