Model Year Info

The 1987 Mercury Cougar

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Page Revised: 10 May 2019


The 1987 Cougar XR-7

Building upon the previous Cougar's aero look, Ford gave the big Cat a major overhaul for 1987. The same basic shape and chassis remained but with much more refinement. Most noticeable was the graceful new aerodynamic front end, with flush headlights and turn signal/side markers better filling out the front. The waterfall-type grille was resurrected, and for the first time in quite a while, a Cougar had no hood ornament—the cat head crest now resided in the center of the grille. The front bumper gently rounded down to a much-lower air dam, with a chin cut-out for the grille. All-around flush glass helped cut down on wind noise and give a finished look. The roofline was made slightly longer, and with the highest point just behind the windshield, to help with aerodynamics. The Cougar's drag coefficient dropped from .40 to .36 as a result.

The 1987 Mercury Cougar was now down to only 2 models: the luxury-oriented LS and the sporty XR-7.

The Cougar's formal—and controversial—backlight remained, but with a new twist: the back glass now had a double curve, which was very difficult to produce without major optical distortion. The side quarter glass now swept back even more, to inversely match the angle of the door windows. The trunk and rear areas had totally different shapes now, with a higher shoulder and more defined trunk edge. With its more squared-off stance, the Cougar now had a very proportioned shape, visually smoothing out the slight rear awkwardness of the previous car. The new taillights wrapped around further into the rear quarters; integrated reflectors gave a vertical bar look at night. The cat head once again was the backup light, similar to 1983-84 models. C-pillar emblems were slightly smaller now, and the body side molding was now wide between the wheel wells. New rubber splitters surrounded the outside mirrors to help cut down on wind intrusion, and additional weatherstripping inside the doors also helped keep the Cat quiet.

1986 Cougar XR-7 1987 Cougar XR-7

Above: Comparison between the 1986 Cougar XR-7 (top) and the new 1987 XR-7 (bottom).

Structurally, the trunk pan was slightly modified to allow the mini-spare tire to sit in a small well on the driver's side of the trunk. Otherwise, minor bracing was added underneath. The suspension was revised slightly, adding front A-arms borrowed from the rear-drive Lincoln Continental that allowed for a bit more suspension travel. This resulted in a .3" stretch in the wheelbase (now officially at 104.2"). Spring rates and shocks/struts were also revised for crisper handling. The interior was virtually carried over with the same seating, dash and instrumentation, but new sail panels, molded headliner, door panels and package tray carpeting were ordered. And finally, after several years of promises, Ford finally delivered: the hood received new counterbalanced hinges, meaning the prop rod was gone for good.

For the first time since 1983, the Cougar was now down to only 2 models: the luxury-oriented LS and the sporty XR-7. Marketing again showed that the base GS model was maybe too low-end for the demographics of Cougar buyers, so it was dropped altogether for 1987. Ford continued to market Cougars this way for the next 5 model years.

The only down side to this freshening was a little added weight. Ford graciously addressed some of the NVH issues from the previous body style, and also beefed up the suspension in needed areas, but at the expense of extra heft. A basic LS model with the V6 was still under 3200 lbs. but the V8-powered base XR-7 pushed to nearly 3400 lbs., and either model could easily top 3700 lbs. with all options ordered. The good news is that Ford kept an eye on the weight and made sure that this version of the Cat would not become as portly as some models of the decade before.

The 1987 Cougar XR-7

1987 Cougar XR-7

The big news for the 1987 Cougar XR-7 was that Ford dropped the previously-offered turbocharged 4-cylinder in favor of the standard output 150hp SEFI 5.0L V8 (which was optional on the LS model as well). Marketing reports suggested that the turbo-4 was not really in keeping with the Cougar's image or heritage, and the slightly underwhelming torque and performance from that motor in the previous XR-7 was a testimony to the reports. The added torque of the V8 was a welcome addition to the rather portly XR-7 model, even though total horsepower was about the same as the 4-cylinder engine.

The added torque of the V8 was a welcome addition to the XR-7 model.

Also gone was the 5-speed manual transmission, as once again Ford felt that an automatic transmission better fit the image that buyers expected. The standard and only transmission was the 4-speed AOD overdrive transmission.

Out back, the 7.5" rear axle with Traction-Lok and quad shocks remained standard on the Cougar XR-7. The suspension was essentially a heavy-duty rated version found under the LS, but with higher spring rates.

Visually the XR-7 was set apart from the LS by blacked-out window trim, black door handles, and XR-7 badging on the C-pillars. The XR-7 also had grey lower accents with tri-band striping, similar to previous XR-7 models. A surprising number of exterior colors were available on the XR-7 for this model year.

1987 Cougar XR-7 Interior - Leather

The 1987 Cougar XR-7's interior was very similar to the previous years. Unlike previous XR-7s, though, the door panels were not of the "high series" variety but identical to those found in the LS. It's unknown why this happened; perhaps it was to save money or complexity or weight. Shown here is an XR-7 with Smoke and Raven leather seats.

1987 Cougar XR-7 Interior - Cloth

The 1987 Cougar XR-7 interior in Smoke cloth. In addition to Smoke, the XR-7 was available in Scarlet, Shadow Blue and Sand Beige interior colors.

1987 Cougar XR-7 Interior - Tan

A look at the 1987 Cougar XR-7 interior in Sand Beige leather.

1987 Cougar XR-7 Electronic Instrument Cluster

The 1987 Cougar XR-7 had a full electronic instrument cluster as standard equipment, with no option for the previously-offered analog cluster. Apparently Ford felt that full digital gauges meant that a car was fully loaded, which is typically what an XR-7 buyer wanted, so the analog cluster took a one-year hiatus. The full electronic cluster was still an option on the LS.

1987 Cougar XR-7 Back View

The rear three-quarter view of the Cougar was now better proportioned, with a slightly more squared-off look and slim, wraparound taillamps that evoked Cougars of old.

1987 Cougar LS

1987 Cougar LS

The Cougar LS was plenty of car for the money and was a great value at any level.

The Cougar LS was essentially now the base Cougar model, with a prime focus upon luxury. Truth be told, it wasn't as luxurious as the previous LS models in a lot of respects. In moving to the new body in 1987 there was plenty of cost-cutting involved at Ford. Thinner carpeting, lack of a "high series" door panel, and a less expensive (but also less reliable) way of attaching the door glass to the lift mechanism are just a few areas where that cost-cutting were seen. Still, compared to its domestic and foreign competition, the LS was plenty of car for the money and was a great value at any level.

The drivetrain on the Cougar LS was pretty much carried over from the previous model year. Engine choices were the 120hp 3.8L V6, or the 150hp 5.0L V8. The only transmission was now the AOD 4-speed automatic with overdrive. The suspension received springs with higher spring rates to help eliminate the rear sag problem that plagued previous Fox Cougars.

1987 Cougar LS

The taillights featured an alternating "laser bar" integrated reflector behind the red lens. Also of note is the return of the Cougar head emblem as the backup light surround.

1987 Cougar LS Interior - Cloth

The updated LS interior featured the standard consolette, as it did the previous two model years, although the full console was still an option. New for 1987 was the optional floor shifter which required the full console. This LS interior is shown in Scarlet cloth.

1987 Cougar LS Floor Shifter

This LS is equipped with the full console and floor shifter option. Note that in order to get this combination, the individual sport seats had to be ordered—the floor shifter and console were not regular production options, but rather a seating choice, which is definitely odd in this day and age.

1987 Cougar LS Door Panel

A closer look at the all-new door standard door panel in Smoke Grey. Cloth interior cars got the matching soft cloth door inserts shown here, while leather-equipped cars had an all-vinyl door panel.

1987 Cougar LS Base Instrument Cluster

The base instrument cluster soldiered on in the new 1987 interior. The new 2-spoke (non-sport) steering wheel replaced the A-frame wheel of previous years. A little-known fact is that this steering wheel was taken directly from the 1985 Mercury Capri, center horn button and all.

1987 Cougar LS 3.8L V6

The standard 3.8L V6 carried on with no changes from the previous few model years. Horsepower remained at 120.

1987 Cougar Safety Features

An illustration of Cougar's advanced safety features. Note that even without the emerging features like anti-lock brakes and air bags, the Cougar still has a very respectable list of safety enhancements. Remember that the Cougar was one of the first cars in the 1980s to be designed with the aid of computers, therefore some rudimentary safety testing could be simulated inside the computer. This led to a safety design that was advanced for its day—and still is.

1987 20th Anniversary Cougar

20th Anniversary Cougar

Since 1987 marked the 20th anniversary of the Cougar's introduction, Ford produced a special Cougar model to commemorate the occasion. Midway through the model year a special 20th Anniversary Cougar model was added, featuring a Cabernet Red exterior with gold badging and gold 15" wheels. For more information about this model, please see the dedicated 20th Anniversary section.


The new, refined look for the aero Cougar proved that Ford could successfully build upon a great car and produce another winner. Its profile now suggested a more mature Cat, with its muscular stance and squared-off flank. Meanwhile, rumors kept circulating about an all new Cougar, possibly front-drive, but with an independent rear suspension. This turned out to be only half-true: the IRS was a go but the chassis would continue to be rear-drive. Still, that reality was more than a model year away, and dealers were selling Cougars as fast as they were delivered. It was a great time to be a Cougar dealer—and a Cougar buyer.

Features Unique to 1987 Cougars:
  • Two-toned XR-7 model (only year for this body style)
  • XR-7 C-pillar emblems (only year for the smaller size)
  • Sand Beige XR7 interior (only year for this body style)
  • Taupe interior color (only year in this body style)
  • Light Regatta Blue/Medium Shadow Blue two-tone exterior color (one year only)
  • Light Taupe/Medium Taupe two-tone exterior color (one year only)
  • Light Regatta Blue Metallic exterior color (light blues were unique to each model year)

Tech Specs

ENGINES LS: 120 hp CFI 3.8L (232 cid) V6; optional 150 hp SEFI 5.0L (302 cid) V8
XR-7: 150 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)
CURB WEIGHT LS: 3,133 lbs.
XR7: 3,379 lbs.
HOW TO SPOT ONE Newer body styling; XR7's have grey lower accents.
RECALLS 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
3. 90E89 OCT 90 Recall 90E89, 49 States Exhaust Emissions Unacceptable

V8-302 5.0L Safety Recalls
1. 87S36 SEP 87 Recall 87S36 Fuel Line Retainer Clips

V8-302 5.0L General Recalls
1. 93B31 DEC 93 Throttle Body Lever Grommet - Recall 93B31


Production Breakdown

  • 105,847
  • 85,888
  • 14,957
  • 5,002

LS Production

XR7 Production

20th Anniversary