Mercury Cougar Zn, 2001
The generation of Cougar had a far more contemporary package, with modern DOHC 4-valve engines, a fully independent multilink suspension, and front-wheel drive. This was also the first hatchback Cougar, and the first to have its own body, unshared by any Ford. The body design used a philosophy Ford dubbed "New Edge" design: a combination of organic upper body lines with sharp, concave creases in the lower areas. The Cougar's body, and the New Edge idea in general, was introduced as a concept called the Mercury MC2 in 1997.
The 1999–2002 Cougars were available with two engine options, the 2.0 L Zetec 4-cylinder engine with 130 horsepower, and the 2.5 L Duratec V6 with 170 horsepower. Also, two transaxle options were available: the manual Ford MTX-75 transmission (the only available option with the 4-cylinder Zetec engine), or the automatic Ford CD4E transmission (available in the U.S. with either engine, although the I4/Automatic combo was extremely rare; supposedly only 500 Cougars were built with the I4/Auto combination). "Sport Package" models with the V6 featured 4-wheel vented disc brakes (from the Contour SVT), and had no speed governor installed.
Ford also prepared two high performance concept-only versions dubbed the "Eliminator", which was a supercharged version built with aftermarket available parts, and the "Cougar S", which featured new body work, all-wheel drive and a 3.0 L Duratec engine.
Interestingly, Ford also sold the generation of Cougar in Europe and Australia as the Ford Cougar, but was not a sales success—surprising given that the Mondeo sold well in many countries outside North America.
This generation never sold well. Admittedly, demand for all coupes continued to dwindle, but the sedan versions also languished in North America, suggesting that the Mondeo platform was simply not well suited there—though there is a theory that Ford did not market the Contour and its Mercury Mystique twin properly while the market for the similarly sized BMW 3 Series grew. A high-performance Cougar S (not to be confused with the concept) was discussed in the press, which was essentially a Contour SVT with a Cougar body; however, this version never made it into production. In order to help create excitement for the Cougar,
In 2002, the car offered an anniversary edition commemorating 35 years of the Cougar, the same time GM's pony cars (Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and Pontiac Trans Am) ended. However, Ford's restructuring plan in 2002 decided to cancel the Cougar (along with the Ford Escort, Lincoln Continental and Mercury Villager).