In 1974 the Mercury Cougar and the Oldsmobile Cutlass were two strong contenders in the midsized luxury class. As this vintage Car and Track comparison shows, what these two cars lacked in performance they made up for with nice interiors and semi-acceptable handling.
Although directed at the Cougar, Car and Track's host Bud Lindemann's question of "What ever happened to the posh, jazzy little pony car?" was applicable to many midsize cars in 1974. While Lindemann amusingly explains the Cougar "obviously fell into the Ford calorie tank and fattened up like so many entries from the Ford stable", it wasn't alone. Many models that were once performers had turned into slow luxury cars by 1974.
This Car and Track test is a stark reminder of the early emissions era when car interiors were as "superb" as performance was dismal. Even with a 460 V8 up front, the Cougar was slow and the 350 cubic incher equipped Cutlass was even slower. The cars produced 18.2 second and 19 second ¼ mile times respectively, both of which were described by Lindemann as disappointing. The host is quick to remind us throughout the reviews of both cars the EPA's new emissions requirements were to blame for the lackluster performance of both cars.
Bud Lindemann points out as he watched the "soft and wallowy" Cougar round the track he "found it hard to believe that somewhere back around 1967 Dan Gurney drove a Cougar in the Trans Am series." The Pony cars of a few years before were, unfortunately for Lindemann and everyone else in the mid 70s, replaced by vehicles like this Cougar and Cutlass that didn't have much to offer beyond interiors "like Cleopatra's chambers". Even if these two cars didn't have the performance, Lindemann's signature narration makes this mid-sized luxury comparison just as amusing as some of the earlier high performance super cars road tests.