Now we have the Cougar - Ford's third middleweight coupe since the late Sixties. Just as the rear-drive Capri was a dressed-up Cortina, so the Cougar, mid-Atlantic in style and flavour, is a Mondeo in drag. And there's nothing wrong with that, given the Mondeo's qualities.
Ford's bold "new edge" design, first seen in the Ka, later adopted for the Puma (Cougar's kid brother) and the mainstream Focus, well suited the adventurous Cougar. A coupe without style is a coupe without point. However, "new edge" - think of it as definition by intersecting arcs - does tend to polarise opinions, so the Cougar is not to everyone's liking. Aggressively faced and curiously scalloped, it has head-turning presence, but not the breathtaking elegance of Peugeot's 406 coupe - one of several rivals that are not going to make it easy for the Cougar.
Dynamically, the range-topping 2.5 V6 (there is also a 2.0 "four"), struggles to make the grade against more powerful opposition. The 140mph V6 is no sluggard, but it sounds more exciting than it feels when accelerating. Not that there is anything mild-mannered about the smooth, wailing engine's delivery - best exploited by indulgent use of a slick gearchange. What the hefty Cougar needs (and will probably get) is the Mondeo ST200's more powerful 200bhp engine. But even with the present 168bhp screamer, economy is indifferent if you exploit the performance.
After the Focus that I drove the same day, the Cougar's handling and steering felt a bit remote and life-less. Competent yes, uplifting no. Generous tyres push up cornering powers and safety margins - reinforced by sophisticated anti-lock brakes and traction control which protect against wheelspin and skids. Standard equipment includes two airbags, leather upholstery, air-conditioning (or sunroof) alloy wheels and cruise control.
The 2.5 V6 wants for little in the way of kit. By coupe standards, it is also roomy, more a full four-seater than a two-plus-two. A brickbat for powered front seats that don't support as well as they should, bouquets for a fully adjustable steering wheel and stylish dash.
While the Cougar may lack that spark of genius which distinguishes the cheaper Focus, Ford's new middleweight coupe is, if not a memorable driving experience, at least an enjoyable means of transport. And boy, do the neighbours notice.
FORD COUGAR 2.5 V6
Price: pounds 21,000
Engine: 2544cc, six cylinders, 24 valves, 168bhp at 6250rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 140mph, 0-60 in 8.3sec, 29.4mpg combined cycle
Alfa Romeo GTV 3.0 V6: pounds 27,795. Striking looks, great engine, faster than Ford. A gem.
Fiat Coupe 2.0 20V Turbo: pounds 22,825. Testosterone on a budget. Stonking performance, great to drive, striking looks.