Buy/Drive/Burn: American Two-doors for a New Century

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn american two doors for a new century

Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn is the first of two consecutive entries where we’ll be evaluating two-door offerings from the dawn of the new millennium. First up is the American car trio… though one of them is thoroughly European.

Mercury Cougar

Mercury brought back its Cougar nameplate in a very different way for 1999. Using the European-market Ford Cougar and badging it as a Mercury, Ford replaced two of its prior product offerings: the sporty front-drive Probe and the personal luxury rear-drive Cougar. Built on the same platform as the Ford Mondeo, the Cougar was available with inline-four and six-cylinder engines. Like the Probe, the Cougar was front-engined and front-wheel drive. Contrary to standard Ford operations, the Cougar was exclusive to the Mercury brand; there was no Ford twin in North America. Today’s selection will be the more powerful V6 version, with a 2.5-liter Duratec engine. Power is distributed via the four-speed automatic from the Ford Probe. Cougar lived on through 2002 before it was eliminated without replacement.

Chrysler Sebring

The Chrysler Sebring lineup was new for the 1995 model year, when a new coupe went into production at the Normal, Illinois plant alongside the Dodge Avenger, Eagle Talon, and Mitsubishi Eclipse. For the 2001 model year, Sebring expanded its range when a sedan joined the convertible and coupe. The coupe’s new design was more upscale looking than the seldom-recalled outgoing generation. Coupe customers could select from an inline-four 2.4-liter or a 3.0-liter V6. Both engines were provided by Mitsubishi. Today’s Sebring Coupe is a fully loaded LXi with the V6 and four-speed automatic. The Sebring Coupe was dropped after 2005. In 2007, new sedan and convertible versions continued on the evolved Chrysler-Mitsubishi JS platform.

Oldsmobile Alero

In 1999, Oldsmobile replaced its Achieva and Cutlass models with the singular and all-new Alero. Sharing the N-body platform with the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac Grand Am, the Alero was available in two-door coupe and four-door sedan body styles. Engines ranged from 2.2 to 3.4 liters of displacement, with either four or six cylinders. Today’s Alero is a GLS trim with the 3.4L V6 from the Oldsmobile Silhouette. Power is delivered to the front wheels via a four-speed automatic. The Alero lived on through 2004, as Oldsmobile ceased to exist at the end of that year. It was succeeded by the Pontiac G6.

Three American cars, each serving the middle market with two doors and V6 power. Which one is worth the Buy in 2001?

[Images: Ford, Chrysler, Oldsmobile]

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  • Spookiness Spookiness on Dec 05, 2019

    Buy the Alero. Like other GMs of the period, they run a long time, sometimes poorly. I actually liked the relatively clean styling and interior nice-ness of the farewell Oldsmobile lineup. Drive the Cougar. I admire the styling, but mechanically not too sure. I think it's a very good early 90's design. Read an article that said the design started with the designer sketching his cat. Burn the Sebring. It its probably a comfortable cruiser, but Mopars of this era dont' do much for me.

  • Holden Miecranc Holden Miecranc on Dec 06, 2019

    Bought an '01 Alero GLS Coupe in '04 with 15k on it. Almost 16 years later, I still have it as my winter car. Absolutely the most trouble free car I have ever owned. Excluding replacing the OEM plastic head gaskets, which I knew going into it, I've had nothing but general maintenance required to the car. Modded the daylights out of it for fun and now, with 170k on it, it still runs pretty well.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.