The 1994 Cougar

General Info  |  Options  |  Colors

Page Revised: 1 July 2019


Article by
Eric Dess

The changes to the Cougar that were promised for years had finally come to fruition in 1994. While not exactly an all-new car, there were significant changes almost everywhere one looked: exterior, interior, and under the hood. So many changes, in fact, that one could nearly consider the 1994 Cougar XR7 a "version 2.0", as well as the first year of another two-year styling cycle.

Drivetrain & Chassis

Perhaps the biggest news was the discontinued use of the 5.0L pushrod V8. Ford began to see overhead valve V8s as relics of the past; their future was hedged on the modular OHC series of engines that debuted earlier in the decade. Therefore the all-new 4.6 SOHC V8 was the engine of choice for the Cougar now. This new V8 brought an air of technical sophistication to the Cougar program, as no other rear drive coupe made in America at that time (besides the Thunderbird and the new Mark VIII) had a standard OHC V8. The Cougar gained a few ponies from the previous year, up from 200hp to 205hp, but lost 10 lb-ft of torque, now down to 265 lb-ft. Yet the 4.6L V8 was still potent enough to haul the big Cat when necessary. Also debuting with the motor was Ford's new EEC-V electronics system, which vastly eclipsed the EEC-IV of the past. It was Ford's baby step towards full OBD-II compliance in 1996 and therefore was considered more of a hybrid of technologies.

4.6L V8 Engine

The standard 3.8L V6 still retained the EEC-IV system, and was again rated at 140 hp with no changes made.

3.8L V6 Engine

Mated to both engines was a new electronic overdrive transmission, the 4R70W, with lockup converter and push-button lockout on the floor shifter. This transmission is rated for 700 ft.-lb. capacity. Also, a brand new Traction Control system became an option; this system used the ABS system for less wheel spin on slippery surfaces.

While the MN12 chassis was still essentially unchanged, several key chassis reinforcement structures were redesigned for less noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). These included the transmission crossmember mounting point, trunk reinforcements, and the rear axle mounts. All suspension components became self-sealed, never needing lubrication for life. Much of the Cougar's sheetmetal was now two-sided galvanized steel for additional corrosion resistance. Beefy side impact beams were added to the doors.


Cougar XR7's all-new interior was world-class and a striking statement in the industry.

Ford had begun using "themes" for their interiors in the early 1990s, so it was fitting that Ford again experimented with themes with the 1994 Cougar's revolutionary interior. The look can be called "wraparound", and it is truly one of Ford's best interiors ever. Ergonomically designed for easy reach of everything, all switches were repositioned with high-use switches (power windows, power door locks) illuminated at night. The instrument panel gracefully swoops down to form the center stack, which then flows to the new console, creating a semi-wraparound cockpit for the driver. Rear seat heat ducts became standard, as well as CFC-free air conditioning. All fasteners for interior panels were now hidden, adding to further refinement. All surfaces had new softer materials, and hard plastic surfaces were coated with "soft touch" paint that gives a velvety tactile sensation. The digital instrument cluster was now a thing of the past; all Cougars from 1994-on had analog gauges. Optional stereos included an in-dash CD player and a trunk-mounted 10-disc CD changer.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the interior was the introduction of dual airbags. Ford had been slipping driver-side airbags into some of their more popular or higher-volume cars (Crown Victoria, Mustang, Taurus), and a lucky few (Town Car, Continental, Mark VII) got dual airbags before the federally-mandated 1994 model year deadline. The Cougar, however, was stuck with motorized seat belts until then. Fortunately those were now relegated to the past.

1994 Cougar XR7 Interior

Cougar XR7's all-new interior was world-class and a striking statement in the industry.

1994 Cougar XR7 Instrument Cluster

A new full analog instrument cluster relegated the full electronic cluster a thing of the past. Easy to read gauges and logical warning lights gave drivers a better sense of the car's facilities.

1994 Cougar XR7 Clock

A new standalone digital clock at the top of the center stack.

1994 Cougar XR7 Airbags

For the first time, the Cougar received front and passenger side airbags as standard equipment.


On the outside the overall shape of the Cougar remained, although there are some details that got reshaped and refined to further differentiate it from previous models. Wheel choices remained the same. A host of enticing new colors, including some groundbreaking color-shifting metallics, debuted in 1994, and virtually no colors were carried over from the previous year.

1994 Cougar XR7 Grille

After several years of the waterfall grille, an all-new grille debuted in 1994, a play on the trapezoidal front area with a modern, canted waterfall in the slats.

1994 Cougar XR7 Front View

Front bumper kept the previous year's overall shape but lost the chrome insert. Three additional cooling slots were added to the bottom side.

1994 Cougar XR7 Back View

New taillights further pushed the Mercury "laser stripe" theme into the reflectors. Tasteful chrome accents at the bottom, reminiscent of the Grand Marquis, housed the rear nomenclature. The rear bumper gained a concave lower section and lost the previous chrome insert.

1994 Cougar XR7 Side Profile

The side profile was nearly unchanged, save for the addition of new "floating" side molding, which really gave the Cougar a very modern flair and a much cleaner look.

1994 Cougar XR7 Cargo Net

Thoughtful touches like the rear cargo net were available.

Feature Car

A mid-year offering, the Feature Car was a special edition of the Cougar which featured one of several exciting new exterior colors: Opal Frost, Performance White Tri-Coat, and Deep Iris (shown at left). Other colors may also be possible. Inside, the seats came in a new White leather with Opal Grey cloth inserts and piping, and the Cougar logo embroidered in Opal Grey in both the seats and the floor mats. Production of the Feature Car began in early February 1994.

1994 Cougar XR7 Feature Car
1994 Cougar XR7 Feature Car Interior
1994 Cougar XR7 Feature Car Interior
1994 Cougar XR7 Feature Car Interior


The 1994 model year marked a pivotal change in direction for the Cougar. It said goodbye to many traditional things of the past and fully embraced a modern future. Sales for the new model maintained their pace nicely as customers flocked to the new V8 and smoother styling. The 1994-95 Cougars will probably go down in history as the epitome of the 1989-97 MN12 design.


(standard) - 3.8L (232 cid) V6; 140 hp @ 3800 rpm; 215 lb-ft torque @ 2400 rpm
(optional) - 4.6 (281 cid) SOHC V8; 205 hp @ 4500 rpm; 265 lb-ft torque @ 3200 rpm
4R70W full electronic 4-speed automatic with overdrive
Front 10.8" disc, rear 9.8" drum
Optional with ABS - Front 10.8" disc, rear 10.0" disc with antilock brakes
Wheelbase - 113"
Overall Length - 199.9"
Overall Width - 72.7"
Overall Height - 52.5"
Cargo Capacity - 15.1 cubic feet
Fuel Capacity - 18.0 gallons
w/V6 - 3564 lb.
w/V8 - 3726 lb.


  • 71,026