Introduced in 1999 as the redesigned Cougar, the current version could get the ax at the end of this model year. Ford didn't share with me its reasons for eliminating the Cougar, but it probably has something to do with money, either they can't sell enough of them or the profit margin is low and they can't sell enough. That's too bad because it's a car I'd actually consider buying in a couple of years. Maybe I'll find one, a C2 version specifically, in a used-car lot.

The car first got my attention with its looks, then kept it with its attention to detail. The C2 theme revolves around the color blue, French Blue to be precise, and the Cougar emblem. They show up everywhere -- on the wheel covers, rear window, insides of the doors, as well as the steering wheel, instrument panel, and entertainment cluster.

Ford's Duratec V6, a 2.5-liter, DOHC 24-valve, puts out 170 hp at 6,250 rpm and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4,250. It's standard on the Sports Package and has more than enough power for the 3,200-lb (curb weight) car. If I had my druthers, I'd prefer a supercharged version, but then I sometimes tend toward excess. The test car had a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, a $995 option, but it comes standard with a five-speed manual. The car is also available with a two-liter, inline four-cylinder engine with 125 hp.

MacPherson struts up front, along with coil springs, lower A-arms, and a stabilizer bar, do a good job of damping out most bumps and vibrations. In back there's an independent quadralink setup with coil springs and a stabilizer bar. The suspension and power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering keeps the car nimble and able to sneak through spots SUVs and larger sedans would get stuck in.

Inside, the front seats proved large enough, and adjustable enough, to seat two 6-ft-tall men comfortably. The rear bucket seats seem best suited to carrying bowling balls. But the rear seating area does serve a useful purpose: it provides space for the rear seats to fold down and extend the already cavernous trunk by about 65%. The literature says the Cougar's trunk has 14.5 ft3 of cargo capacity, 24 ft3 with the seats down. Still, it seems the Cougar's large trunk has more space than that. Must be an optical illusion.

The car is comfortable and fun to drive, even on long trips. Traction control, a six-CD in-dash player, front and side-impact air bags, and an antitheft system are all standard equipment. The car also has racing-style pedals for the brake and accelerator -- metal with rubber inserts. They might look all right, but when it's rainy or snowy out, they become a bit too slippery, almost unsafe.

The price won't cause palpitations and, to me, that's one of the car's best features. The Sport version lists for $19,920. Add an automatic transmission, C2 package ($265), and destination and delivery charges ($475), and it tops out at $21,655.