1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7

The 1988 model year proved to be a great one for the Cougar.

For its final year on the Fox chassis, Ford dialed in a few tweaks for the 1988 Mercury Cougar. While there were no major changes anywhere on the vehicle, enough updates were made to qualify this as more than a carryover year. Ford confirmed that 1989 would bring about an all-new Cougar on a brand new chassis, so dealers expected higher volume in the showrooms—and they were correct. The 1988 model year proved to be a great one for the Cougar as sales soared.

Cougar XR-7

The 1988 Cougar XR-7 was perhaps the most recognizable of all aero Cougar models.

The 1988 Cougar XR-7 now featured a striking new monochromatic paint scheme, available only in Oxford White, Medium Scarlet or Black. The car featured body-colored side moldings, grille and outside mirrors; blacked-out window trim; black door handles and key surrounds; and body-colored 15″ aluminum wheels that came from the new 1987 Mustang GT (argent wheels were optional on the XR-7). Interestingly, there were no special “XR-7″ C-pillar emblems, but the standard LS emblems instead. And there was special pinstriping for the XR-7, a decal that rode above the upper shoulder line and terminated at the grille. The 1988 Cougar XR-7 was perhaps the most recognizable of all Cougar models from 1983 to 1988 and continues to be desirable even today.

Mechanically the XR-7 received an 8.8″ rear differential and standard 10″ drum brakes. It is believed to be the only factory Cougar from 1983-88 to have the larger 8.8″ rear axle, as all had been 7.5” up to this point. No other significant suspension changes were made. The standard 5.0L V8 engine also had no internal power increase but the addition of a split dual exhaust bumped up the car’s total horsepower output by 5 ponies, for a total of 155hp. Once again the only transmission was the 4-speed AOD overdrive transmission.

 

The XR-7’s front end featured the aforementioned striping and body-colored grille.

 

While the standard body-colored wheels certainly made a statement, the optional argent wheels really made the car’s color pop.

 

The big news for the XR-7’s interior was the return of the standard analog gauge cluster, absent since 1986. A V8-spec tachometer was the only change from the last version. Also, the sport steering wheel, shown here, became standard. The full electronic instrument cluster was still an option for the XR-7 as well as the LS.

 

The 1988 Cougar XR-7 interior in Smoke Grey cloth.

 

Cloth XR-7 interiors got a soft cloth insert on the door panels.


Cougar LS

While the Cougar LS model was physically identical to the previous model year, save for color choices, there were changes to the engines. The base 3.8L V6 got an internal balance shaft and a new multiport fuel injection system for smoother operation and greatly improved throttle response. Power was now rated at 140hp and now the V6 definitely felt more powerful and responsive than its CFI predecessor. Fuel economy was bumped up slightly as a result. As with the XR-7 model, the 5.0L V8 received a new quasi-dual exhaust for a total of 155hp.

Smart Cougar buyers could order a fully-loaded LS model with the V8 and have a virtual XR-7 clone.

Because auto insurance in America was such an expensive and tricky prospect in the 1980s, the idea of shelling out almost U.S. $20,000 (or more) for an XR-7 model and then insuring it at full value was, as you may guess, not cheap. The trouble was that, even though the XR-7 had a standard-output V8 and not the performance-oriented HO 5.0 from the Mustang, it was still considered a “sports” or “performance” model, thereby bumping up insurance premiums. However, smart Cougar buyers could order a fully-loaded LS model with the V8 and have a virtual XR-7 clone, save for the paint scheme and wheels, and enjoy lower insurance rates. This proved to be a popular move for many buyers as the used market for 1988 Cougars routinely shows a plethora of V8 cars.

 

The LS interior was virtually unchanged from the previous year.

The 1988 3.8L V6 featured an all-new intake plenum, multiport fuel injection, lower intake, cylinder heads, valve covers, accessories and brackets, and air intake for a total of 140hp. The V6 started to strongly resemble the 5.0L V8 in layout and looks, and a few parts were even shared between the engine bays.

The 5.0L V8 (standard in XR-7, optional for LS) did not receive internal upgrades but the standard dual split-Y exhaust gained the car an overall output of 155hp.

Rear seat passengers had their own center-mounted armrest for comfort.

Illustration of the 3.8L V6 internal balance shaft which provided a counterbalance for additional smoothness and less NVH. However, it was removed in 1989 and never returned to the engine.


Conclusion

Sales picked up nicely for the Cougar in 1988, and as the chapter on the sixth-generation Cougar closed, the car proved to be durable, reliable and dependable, and a great value for the money. Lincoln-Mercury dealers knew that the Cougar was a solid bet and they looked forward to the debut of the MN12-chassis car to further their sales goals.

The era of the Fox-chassis 1983-88 Mercury Cougar proved to be a very popular one. Not only did sales soar upwards throughout this six-model-year period, but the age of the “aero” car was now in full swing, as other automakers scrambled to copy Ford’s look on their automobiles. Where competing GM gave up the rear-drive segment to go front drive (Grand Prix, Cutlass, Regal, Lumina), and aero-look clones appeared (Chrysler LeBaron), Ford had a virtual lock in the midsize rear-drive luxury coupe market. The aero Mercury Cougar was, quite simply, the right car at the right time.

FEATURES UNIQUE TO 1985 COUGARS:
  • MPFI 3.8L V6 engine with internal balance shaft
  • Monochromatic XR-7 model (only year for this body style)
  • Cinnabar interior color (only year in this body style)
  • Rose Quartz/Cinnabar two-tone exterior color (one year only)
  • Medium Regatta Blue Metallic exterior color (light blues were unique to each model year)

Tech Specs

 

 

CATEGORY
DETAILS
ENGINES
LS: 140 hp MPFI 3.8L (232 cid) V6; optional 155 hp SEFI 5.0L (302 cid) V8
XR-7: 155 hp SEFI 5.0L (302 cid) V8
TRANSMISSIONS
4-speed overdrive automatic (AOD) – all models
BRAKES
Front: 10.0″ vented disc
Rear: 9.0″ drum
(Rear 10.0″ drums with optional towing package and/or XR-7)
SPECIFICATIONS
Wheelbase: 104.2″
Overall Length: 200.8″
Overall Width: 70.1″
Overall Height: 53.8″
Cargo Capacity: 14.6 cubic feet
Fuel Capacity: 22.1 gallons
Passenger Rating: 5 (4 with full console option)
BASE CURB WEIGHT
LS: 3,237 lbs.
XR-7: 3,485 lbs.
HOW TO SPOT ONE
XR-7’s are monochromatic with 15″ Mustang GT-style wheels. No discernible differences between the 1987 and 1988 LS models.
RECALLS
V6-232 3.8L Safety Recalls
1. 95S28 NOV 95 Safety Recall 95S28 – Ignition Switch Replacement
V6-232 3.8L Emissions Recalls
1. 91E14 MAY 92 Recall 91E14 Catalyst Inspection/Replacement – 49 States
2. 91E03 JAN 92 Catalyst Inspection/Replacement Emissions Recall 91E03
Cougar/XR-7 V8-302 5.0L Safety Recalls
1. 95S28 NOV 95 Safety Recall 95S28 – Ignition Switch Replacement
Cougar/XR-7 V8-302 5.0L General Recalls
1. 93B31 DEC 93 Throttle Body Lever Grommet – Recall 93B31

Production Breakdown

TOTAL: 113,801

Note: We will post any other figures when we get them.

1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7

1987 Cougar Wheels

WHEELS

Left to right: 14″ luxury wheel cover; 14″ locking wire wheel cover; 14″ polycast road wheel; optional argent XR-7 wheel; standard monochromatic XR-7 wheel (available in Black, Medium Scarlet or Oxford White to match body color).


 

OPTIONS

NOTE: S=standard, O=optional

 

Feature
LS
XR7
3.8L V6 engine with MFI injection S
Electronic fuel-injected 5.0 liter V8 SEFI engine O S
4-speed automatic overdrive transmission with locking torque converter S S
Power rack-and-pinion steering with 20:1 ratio S
Power rack-and-pinion steering with 15:1 constant ratio S
Traction-Lok rear axle O S
Dual hydraulic power brakes (front disc with audible wear sensors, rear drum) S S
Four-bar link coil spring rear suspension with Nitra-cushion front struts and rear shocks S S
Hybrid MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar S S
Quadra-shock rear suspension S
22.1-gallon fuel tank S S
45 amp-hr maintenance-free battery S
58 amp-hr maintenance-free battery O S
60 amp-hr alternator S S
Engine block heater O O
Front air dam S
5-mph impact bumpers, front and rear S S
Aero halogen headlamps S S
Wide vinyl bodyside molding S S
Tinted glass S S
Bodyside paint stripes S S
Hood paint stripes O
FEATURES – INTERIOR
Air conditioning S S
Automatic temperature control O O
Power moonroof O O
60/40 cloth front twin comfort seats with consolette S
Articulated sport seats with console S
Individual bucket seats with console O
Cloth upholstery S S
Leather seating surfaces O O
6-way power driver’s seat O O
Dual 6-way power seats O O
Rear seat with integral headrests and center fold-down armrest S S
Courtesy lights S S
Door map pockets S S
Power windows O O
Dual power mirrors S S
Side window demisters S S
Electric rear window defroster O O
Interval windshield wipers O O
Tilt steering wheel O O
Sport steering wheel S
Leather-wrapped steering wheel O O
Fingertip speed control O O
Automatic parking brake release O
Luggage compartment light S S
Electronic digital clock S S
Illuminated entry system O O
Carpeted floor mats O O
INSTRUMENTATION
Electronic LCD digital display with speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, speed warning and service interval reminder feature S
Electronic instrument cluster with digital speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, fuel, coolant, oil and voltage displays, diagnostic alert lamps and trip computer O O
Analog performance cluster with speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip odometer, ammeter, fuel level, water temperature and oil pressure gauge S
RADIAL WHEELS / TIRES
BSW = black sidewall; WSW = white sidewall
P215/70R14 BSW all-season steel belted radial tires S
P215/70R14 WSW all-season steel belted radial tires O
P225/60VR15 BSW performance steel belted radial tires S
Body-color cast 15″ aluminum wheels S
Argent cast 15″ aluminum wheels O
Polycast 14″ road wheels O
Wire locking wheel covers O
Luxury wheel covers S
Conventional spare tire O
SOUND SYSTEMS
Electronic AM/FM stereo with 4 speakers (could be deleted for credit) S S
Electronic AM/FM stereo with cassette and 4 speakers O O
Premium Sound – power amplifier, two additional door-mounted speakers and premium rear speakers – 80w total O O
Graphic equalizer O O
Power antenna O O
OPTIONAL PACKAGES
LUXURY LAMP GROUP
Includes auto-lamp on/off/delay system, automatic headlamp dimmer, cornering lamps (standard on XR7)
O O
LUXURY LIGHT GROUP
Includes engine compartment light, dual-beam dome/map light, instrument panel courtesy light, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, illuminated entry system
O O
POWER LOCK GROUP
Includes power door locks, power decklid release and power fuel filler door release
O O
KEYLESS ENTRY SYSTEM
Allows driver’s door to be unlocked by depressing numbers above door handle in proper sequence. Passenger side door and decklid can also be opened with additional numbers.
O O

 

Preferred Equipment Packages (PEP) – Cougar LS

 

Option
261A
262A
263A
Interval windshield wipers
P215/70R14 WSW tires
Tilt steering wheel
Fingertip speed control
Electric rear window defroster
Electronic AM/FM stereo cassette radio
Power windows
Power lock group
Front carpet floor mats
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
6-way power driver’s seat
Luxury light group
Luxury lamp group
Polycast wheels (or locking wire wheel covers)
Premium Sound system
Dual 6-way power seats
5.0L EFI V-8 engine
Electronic instrument cluster
Conventional spare tire

 

Preferred Equipment Packages (PEP) – Cougar XR-7

 

Option
265A
266A
Interval windshield wipers
Tilt steering wheel
Fingertip speed control
Electric rear window defroster
Electronic AM/FM stereo cassette radio
Power windows
Power lock group
Front carpet floor mats
6-way power driver’s seat
Premium Sound system
Light group
1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7

Exterior Colors

All information about your interior and exterior colors can be found on the vehicle certification label, located inside the driver’s door jamb. For the exterior colors listed below, the paint code is also listed next to each color.

NOTE: Colors are an approximate representation. Due to differences in screen types and settings, true accurate color representation is not possible.


 

 

Standard Exterior Colors
PAINT CODE / NAME
SAMPLE
1C / Black*
1K / Smoke
2D / Medium Scarlet
8R / Light Sandalwood
9L / Oxford White

* There have been verified instances of code 1R, which is Black Clearcoat normally reserved for Lincolns. There is currently no published evidence that 1R was officially offered for the Cougar during this model year, even though real-world examples do exist.

Clearcoat Exterior Colors
PAINT CODE / NAME
SAMPLE
26 / Bright Red Metallic, version 1**
26 / Bright Red Metallic, version 2**
31 / Medium Regatta Blue Metallic
5C / Cinnabar Metallic
62 / Medium Sandalwood Metallic
63 / Light Sandalwood Metallic
7F / Twilight Blue Metallic
8N / Rose Quartz Metallic
9Z / Silver Metallic
91 / Smoke Metallic
**A slightly different code 26 seems to have appeared sometime during the 1988 model year as a running change.
Tu-Tone Exterior Colors
PAINT CODE / NAME
SAMPLE
1C Black / 91 Smoke Metallic
9Z Silver / 91 Smoke Metallic
8N Rose Quartz Metallic / 5C Cinnabar Metallic
XR-7 Monochromatic Exterior Colors
PAINT CODE / NAME
SAMPLE
1C Black
2D Medium Scarlet
9L Oxford White

 


Interior Seating and Door Panels

Cougar LS
Standard Twin Comfort Lounge Seats in Cinnabar Cloth

Cougar LS
Optional Individual Seats in Scarlet Cloth

Cougar XR-7
Standard Functional Sports Seats in Shadow Blue Cloth


Interior Color and Trim Availability

This is a two-character code on the vehicle certification label. The first character is the material and seat type; the second character is the color.