Ford Cars and Trucks For 1998
By Carey Russ
Ford got the 1998 model year off to an early start with the introduction of the Escort ZX2 sports coupe and heavily-revised versions of the Contour sedan and Windstar minivan early in the 1997 calendar year. That doesn't mean that there is nothing new in Ford showrooms. An updated Taurus and new Crown Victoria set the stage for 1998.
Also new for 1998 is "Ford Choice", a major simplification of the buying process. It includes greater standard equipment levels, only two series for each car line, and simplified option packages with easy- to-remember names.
The Taurus is Ford's core model, and is designed to appeal to a broad range of buyers from families through business travelers to performance enthusiasts. Even though the model lineup has been pared, an increased level of standard equipment, more free-standing options, and a rationalization of option packages is designed to keep all potential Taurus buyers satisfied.
For the first time since its introduction in 1996, the Taurus has had a styling change. The redesigned front end gives all models a look similar to that of the performance-leader SHO.
Two basic trim levels of sedan, LX and SE, are offered for 1998. The Taurus wagon will only be available in SE trim. Because of the Ford Choice option realignment , the standard engine in both trim levels is the 145-horsepower 3.0-liter pushrod "Vulcan" V6. The 200- horse twincam 3.0-liter "Duratec" V6 is now a free-standing option, for greater availability.
The Taurus SHO continues to be offered, powered as before by a unique 3.4-liter, 235-horsepower V8.
The venerable Crown Vic is one of the last of the full-sized, rear-drive sedans. It appeals to those at the opposite end of the age spectrum from ZX2 buyers, and is also a mainstay of police and taxi fleets throughout the land. It has been restyled for 1998, and redesigned for improved ride comfort and performance.
Ford's newest model is its sportiest new car since the Mustang. The Escort-based ZX2 is aimed at young buyers who want a car with style, personality, and responsive engine power that is affordable to own and drive.
Designed from the start as a coupe, not just a 2-door sedan, the ZX2 features the 130-horsepower "Zetec" 4-cylinder engine, unique styling, useful interior space, and a high level of standard equipment. A trunk-mounted 6-disc CD changer is available, a most unusual option in its price range.
Although the Escort was completely redesigned for the 1997 model year, it has some further refinements for 1998. In keeping with the "Ford Choice" option philosophy, standard equipment levels have been increased and the lineup has been streamlined. Two trim levels of sedan and one wagon are offered. Inside, the center console has been modified to provide expanded storage space in place of the ashtray, with a smoker's package optional. There are new interior and exterior color choices. All Escorts are powered by a 2.0-liter, 110-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transaxle.
The 1998 Contour was an early release model, and has over 100 customer-requested changes from 1997 models. Most apparent is the more assertive styling, with a chrome-highlighted grille, large "jewel" headlamps, and new rear panel styling. There are a host of interior upgrades for comfort and convenience, and more space. Structural improvements make the 1998 Contour quieter than its predecessors.
The standard powerplant is the 125-horsepower 2.0-liter, 4- cylinder "Zetec", which has been enhanced with variable valve timing for improved torque characteristics. The 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter "Duratec" V6, formerly available only as part of an expensive option package, is now offered as a free-standing option. Five-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions are available with each engine.
The Mustang has a number of changes for 1998. A higher standard equipment level, with such items as a premium sound system, air conditioning, and power accessories, adds to value as the base price has not increased. There are minor interior enhancements. As before, coupes and convertibles are available in three performance levels - the 150-horsepower 3.8-liter V6, the 225-horse overhead cam 4.6-liter V8 GT (10 more than last year), and the 305-raging mustangs twincam 4.6-liter V8 Cobra.