We test-drove the 1993 Mercury Cougar XR7 ($14,855 base, $22,523 as tested)that's now on sale. However, we've also driven the 1994 Mercury Cougar with its new, 4.6-liter V-8, which soon will go on sale.

Regardless of whether the '93 Cougar XR7's 5-liter V-8 was prone to power surges/hesitation or the four-speed automatic transmission was simply subject to an abnormal amount of upshifting and downshifting, it made us appreciate the '94 even more.

The '94 Cougar's V-8 was finely tuned and supersmooth in the preproduction model we tested in Dearborn, Mich. That '94 has so many other goodies that rather than focus on the '93, we'll save our Cougar comments for the '94 in a few weeks. The 4.6 is so nice, in fact, we'd probably contact a dealer and geton the waiting list for the '94, which will have standard driver- and passenger-side air bags.