The 1997 Cougar

1997 Cougar XR7

The 1997 Cougar XR7 was once again in the second year of a typical two-year cycle. No major exterior changes were made. Mechanically, all Cougars received 4-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment. Power output from the engines remained the same as the previous model year. This would be the last model year for the traditional rear-drive Cougar.



Several small, one-year-only changes were made in the 1997 Cougar’s interior.

The dash and console did get a few minor tweaks between 1996 (left) and 1997 (right). A new, smaller analog instrument cluster debuted; essentially this new cluster streamlined the gauges and was similar to that used in a Taurus/Sable. The new cluster necessitated a new surrounding dashboard bezel. A new console plate with integrated coin slots was also added.

1996 Cougar XR7 Dash 1997 Cougar XR7 Dash

At long last, a new dual cupholder was integrated into the console.


Cougar Sport Model


The Cougar Sport package continued into 1997 with some major changes from the previous year. This time the 7-spoke 16″ rims that were previously used on the 1989-91 XR7 were standard on the Sport. A new body-colored spoiler was also standard; the integrated third brake light necessitated a new package tray carpeting for the rear window brake light delete.  Mechanically, it gained larger front brake rotors and a sport-tuned suspension similar to the 1991-92 XR7s, and surprisingly it was available with both the V6 and the V8. The Sport was now much more sporty looking and was easily one of the most recognizable Cougar models of this generation.


Luxury Appearance Model

The newly-named Luxury Appearance Model was identical to the previous year’s Sport model. It had the 15″ geometric spoke wheels and the non-functional luggage rack (the new factory spoiler could be substituted for the luggage rack). Again, both V6 and V8 engines were available.


30th Anniversary Cougar

For its 30th anniversary, Ford once again issued a Cougar Anniversary Model. More information on this model is available here.

30th Anniversary Cougar



In the end the rumors were true: the 1997 model year was to be the last hurrah for the traditional rear-drive Cougar as we knew it. With no major body changes for 9 model years, the Cougar was definitely looking dated despite multiple freshenings. And it must be said that excessive weight and steadily declining sales undoubtedly contributed to its downfall. But strong sales of high-profit vehicles (trucks and sport utilities) from all automakers sealed the fate of the midsize sport coupe market in general, with the Cougar being one of its last victims.

In March of 1997, it was confirmed by Ford Motor Company that 1997 indeed was the final year for rear-drive Cougar production, and that the Cougar, Thunderbird, and Probe would be discontinued at the end of the model year (at the end of the 1998 model year, a fourth car—the Lincoln Mark VIII—was to become another victim). Ford did hint at a possible future for the Cougar, but as a front drive model, which turned out to be true for the 1999 model year.

Late in August 1997, the last rear-drive Cougar was produced and Ford’s Lorain, OH Assembly Plant (where the Cougar and Thunderbird had been built for nearly two decades) would become idled shortly thereafter, with some Econoline van production still taking place for a little while longer.

Looking back all these years later, it’s easy to see where the MN12 Cougar had its issues, but it’s also important to remember the context of the vehicle: it was world class at its time, with virtually no competition in its segment, and the pricing was fairly competitive. In fact the pricing didn’t really go much higher than the last of the previous-generation Fox-chassis cars. With the streamlining of the Cougar line in 1993, pricing was much more under control and likely at that point the chassis was debugged enough to start turning profits, but it was still too little, too late. For all the profits and sales of the mid-1980s there was always bound to be a decline sooner or later. The sink-or-swim world of automotive sales, much like the natural world, ensures that the weak get eliminated, and that is precisely what happened here.

The MN12 Cougar was (and is) a really good car. It did what it was asked to do and delivered with style. Yes, it was complex by design but then so was the way of things in the 1990s. The fact that it was able to integrate mandated changes (ABS, airbags, OBD-II, etc.) so effortlessly was a testament to Ford and its MN12 team. And the multiple refreshes kept the car relevant for way longer than expected. For a personal luxury coupe it doesn’t get much better than that.



(standard) – 3.8L (232 cid) V6; 145 hp @ 4000 rpm; 215 lb-ft torque @ 2750 rpm
(optional) – 4.6L (281 cid) SOHC V8; 205 hp @ 4250 rpm; 280 lb-ft torque @ 3000 rpm
4R70W full electronic 4-speed automatic with overdrive
Front 10.8″ disc, rear 10.0″ disc
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 – 3528 lb.
w/V8 – 3666 lb.


Total: 35,267

Note: We will publish V6/V8 and model breakdowns when we get them.

1997 Cougar XR7

1997 Cougar XR7 Wheels


Left to right: Luxury bolt-on wheel cover; 15″ cast aluminum wheel, 15″ cast aluminum geometric spoke wheel (Luxury Appearance Group only), 16″ 7-spoke aluminum wheels (Sport Edition only), 16″ lacy spoke aluminum wheels (30th Anniversary model only).



NOTE: S=standard, O=optional; A=dealer installed accessory

Dual air bags (Supplemental Restraint System) S
3-point lap/shoulder safety belt for front outboard passenger S
3-point lap/shoulder safety belts for rear outboard passengers S
Rear seat center lap safety belt S
100,000 mile scheduled tune-up intervals ** S
Brake/shift interlock S
Solar tint glass S
130 amp-hr alternator S
Traction-Lok rear axle (not available with Traction Assist) O
Electronic Traction Assist (requires ABS) O
Speed-sensitive, variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering O *
Engine block heater O
72 amp-hr heavy duty battery (with optional V8 only) O
Rear window defroster O
* Electronic speed-sensitive, variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering included and only available with optional 4.6L V8 engine.
** 100,000 mile scheduled tune-up under normal driving conditions with routine fluid/filter changes.
5-mph impact bumpers front/rear S
Dual color-keyed power mirrors S
Low profile complex reflector lens halogen headlamps S
Extensive corrosion protection S
Remote keyless entry system with 2 remote hand-held key fobs O
Illuminated entry O
Multi-sport roof rack (ski, bicycle, water sports) A
Front end cover A
Rear deck lid spoiler O or A
CFC-free air conditioning S
Center full-length floor console with dual cup holders, armrest, storage bin and coin holders S
Rear seat center fold-down armrest S
Front footwell courtesy lights S
Power windows with illuminated switches S
Intermittent wipers with fluidic washer system S
Carpeted luggage compartment with light S
Rear seat heat ducts S
Tilt steering wheel S
Reclining front bucket seats with 2-way adjustable head restraints S
Luxury cloth and leather seat trim S
Leather seating surfaces O
6-way power driver’s seat O
6-way power passenger seat (requires power driver’s seat) O
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift handle O
CFC-free semi-automatic temperature control O
Fingertip speed control with tap up/tap down feature O
Carpeted front floor mats O
Power lock group O
Anti-theft alarm system (requires remote keyless entry system) O
Dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors O
Autolamp on/off delay lighting system O
Electronic AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and 4 speakers S
High-level audio system with premium AM stereo/FM stereo radio and cassette, 4 premium speakers in 4 locations, 80 total watts RMS O
High-level audio system with AM stereo/FM stereo compact disc radio, 80 total watts RMS (does not include cassette) O
Power antenna O
Backlit analog performance cluster with speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, coolant temperature gauge; also indicators for low fuel, low windshield washer fluid, door ajar, low coolant, speed control on, Traction Assist off (if equipped) S
Reminder chimes for headlamps-on, key-in-ignition, and safety belt S
WHEELS + TIRES (BSW = black sidewall) XR7
Mini spare T-125/90R15 BSW S
15″ bolt-on luxury wheel covers with P205/70R15 BSW all-season steel belted radial tires S
15″ 21-spoke luxury cast aluminum wheels with P215/70R15 BSW all-season tires O
15″ geometric spoke cast aluminum wheels with P215/70R15 BSW all-season tires (included only with Luxury Appearance Group) O
16″ 7-spoke cast aluminum wheels with P225/60R16 Goodyear Eagle GT+4 touring tires (included only with Sport Edition) O
16″ lacy spoke cast aluminum wheels with P225/60R16 Goodyear Eagle GT+4 touring tires (included only with 30th Anniversary Edition) O
Includes power door locks, remote deck lid release
Allows doors and deck lid to be unlocked/locked with one of two remote hand-held key fobs (includes illuminated entry)
Features pop-up air deflector, sliding sunshade, rear tilt-up one-touch open and includes dual reading lamps (requires illuminated visor vanity mirrors)
Geometric spoke wheels and non-functional luggage rack.
– Body color decklid spoiler with integrated stop lamp
– 16″ 7-spoke aluminum wheels
– P225/60R16 Goodyear Eagle GT+4 touring tires
– Larger front disc brake rotors
– Sport-tuned suspension
– Unique exterior color – Dark Toreador Red Clearcoat Metallic
– Seat trim embroidered with 30th Anniversary logo
– Unique front bucket seats with power lumbar support and power side bolsters
– Front floor mats embroidered with 30th Anniversary logo
– Electrochromic (auto-dimming) inside rearview mirror
– Unique 16″ lacy spoke aluminum wheels
– P225/60R16 Goodyear Eagle GT+4 touring tires
– Larger front disc brake rotors
– Sport-tuned suspension


Preferred Equipment Packages (PEP)

COUGAR XR7 260A 262A
Fingertip speed control
Rear window defroster
Power lock group
21-spoke luxury cast aluminum wheels with P215/70R15 BSW tires
Carpeted front floor mats
Illuminated entry
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift handle
6-way power driver’s seat
4.6L SOHC V8 engine
1997 Cougar XR7

Your interior and exterior colors can be found on the vehicle certification label, located inside the driver’s door jamb.

Exterior Colors & Codes




Vibrant (Performance) White Clearcoat **


Silver Frost Metallic Clearcoat


Light Prairie Tan Metallic Clearcoat **


Pacific Green Metallic Clearcoat


White Opalescent Tri-Coat Metallic Clearcoat **


Crystal White Tricoat Metallic Clearcoat


Alpine Green Metallic Clearcoat


Moonlight Blue Opalescent Metallic


Laser Red Tinted Metallic Clearcoat (Tricoat)


Light Denim Blue Metallic Clearcoat


Arctic Green Metallic Clearcoat (late availability)


Black (Ebony) Clearcoat


Dark Toreador Red Metallic Clearcoat *

* First-run 30th Anniversary Cougar only.
** Also used on second-run 30th Anniversary Cougars.


Interior Colors & Codes

The interior color is the second part of a two-character code on the vehicle certification label (the first character is the material and seat type).

(first digit)




Individual Buckets



Individual Sport Buckets



Individual Sport Buckets

Cloth (30th)


Individual Sport Buckets

Leather (30th)

(second digit)



Medium Graphite


Willow Green


Light Prairie Tan


Portofino Blue