Euro DNA Sleeper Sedan: The Ford Contour SVT was the Taurus SHO's Little Brother
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Ford knows that the European arm of the company is much different than the American one. From the cult favorite Escorts of the ‘70s to the radical RS200, most of these exciting European Fords never made it to the North American market, but there have been a few exceptions to this rule over the decades.
In the 1980s there was the Merkur XR4Ti and more recently Ford gave us radical German-built Focus RS. But in the late 1990s there was another European-inspired high performance Ford that’s been forgotten by many: the Contour SVT.
The Ford Contour sedan debuted for the 1995 model year, occupying the space in between the smaller Escort and the midsize Taurus, and it shared its basic platform with the European market Ford Mondeo.
Along with being a popular sedan in Europe, the Mondeo was also well known for its achievements in touring car racing, where it was an iconic machine during the heyday of the 1990s British Touring Car Championship.
And while the American market Contour had different styling and other changes from the Mondeo, the Contour was still praised for its uniquely European underpinnings and sharp handling.
The car’s true potential was realized for the 1998 model year when Ford let its Special Vehicles Team have some fun with the Contour.
The Contour SVT got a thorough rework, beginning under the hood where SVT hot-rodded the optional 2.5L Duratec V6 to make 195hp and 165 pound feet of torque while mated to a five-speed manual transmission.
They also retuned the suspension, fitted larger brakes from the Euro market Mondeo along with wider wheels and tires. The SVT model also got unique exterior styling.
Inside the interior also got a makeover which included a pair of handsome, well-bolstered leather seats that gave the Contour SVT a particularly European sport sedan vibe.
The result was a unique sport sedan that wasn't quite a BMW 3-Series but was far more engaging than the typical American sedan of the time.
While the Contour SVT wasn’t as quick as the Taurus SHO of the early ‘90s, it nonetheless won many drivers over with its sweet-sounding engine, Euro-grade handling and relatively affordable $25,000 price.
Ultimately the Contour itself never achieved success in America, mainly because buyers saw the car as being too small for its price, and few wanted to pay extra for its European DNA. It lasted for just one generation.
Interestingly though, the Mondeo once again made its way to American shores in the from of the 2013-2020 Fusion which was built using Ford’s global platform and is nearly identical to its European counterpart.
These days any Contour is a rare sight on the roads, and the SVT model is especially hard to find. However, they haven't yet hit major collector car status so it shouldn't be too expensive if you want to own a rare piece of SVT history.
The Contour SVT will be always be known as one of Ford’s most unusual performance cars of the 1990s, built from a unique mix of American and European DNA and never quite getting the mainstream appreciation it may have deserved.
More From Driving Line
- You can't mention the Contour SVT without also mentioning one of the greatest sleeper cars of all time, the Taurus SHO.