The 1997 Cougar

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Page Revised: 1 July 2019


Article by
Eric Dess

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 changes were made in the 1997 Cougar's interior.

1996 Cougar XR7 Dash
1997 Cougar XR7 Dash

The dash and console did get a few minor tweaks between 1996 (top) and 1997 (bottom). 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.

1997 Cougar XR7 Cupholder

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

Cougar Sport Model

1997 Cougar Sport

The Cougar Sport package continued into 1997 with some major upgrades. This time 7-spoke 16" rims, previously used on the 1989-91 XR7, were once again available. A new body-colored spoiler was standard. The Sport was now much more sporty looking. Mechanically it gained larger front brake rotors and a sport-tuned suspension similar to the 1989-92 XR7s. The Sport model was available with both the V6 and the V8.

1997 Cougar Sport

The new rear spoiler had an integrated third brake light, which necessitated a new package tray carpeting for the rear window brake light delete.

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.

1997 Luxury Appearance Cougar

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


Unfortunately this 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. These factors, along with excessive weight, steadily declining sales and the rapid growth of the SUV market, contributed to its downfall. In March of 1997, it was announced to the world that this 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. The strong sales of high-profit vehicles (trucks and sport utilities) literally sealed the fate of the midsize sport coupe market.

Late in August 1997, the last rear-drive Cougar was produced. Employees of Ford's Lorain, OH Assembly Plant (where the Cougar and Thunderbird had been built for nearly two decades) learned that the plant would become idled. Some transferred to other plants; some continued on with the Econoline van section of the plant; some were forced into early retirement; some were simply let go. But all, rest assured, fondly remember the final great days of the rear drive Mercury Cougar.


(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.


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