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'94 vs. '97 4.6L Tbird/Cougar

The 1996-97s have lower 3.27 gears and better intake good for 15 ft lbs of torque. Of course there's a difference off the line. 96-97 beats 94-95 to 90 mph by 3-4 length difference every single time. The 94-95, after a few things, ran a [email protected] 90.5, the 96-97 will run that, probably a little better.

The intake manifold design changed from aluminum to composite. The best thing about 96-7 is the optional sport package. Got SC springs, better anti roll than stock (but same as 94-5 V8) bigger brakes and 16" wheels.

The hood on the '96-97 has a cool bulge to handle the different intake. From a roll, the cars are a little closer, like 50-100 maybe 2 lengths in the 97.
LX vs. Sport
What is so special about the sport?

Sport Option (requires Package 157A):

P225/60R16 BSW Touring Tires on 16" aluminum wheels
larger rear stabilizer bar (1 1/16 vs 15/16's in the LX)
revised spring rates and front lower arm bushings
revised shock absorber valving
larger front disc brake rotors
rear decklid spoiler with integral high-mount stop lamp

Is it faster than an LX or Base or SC???

No, no faster than an LX 5.0, from my experience stock vs stock not as fast as a 4.6 (but close) a base 5.0 will probably be stripped of options, be lighter and ever so slightly faster. and definitely not faster than a SC. Close to stock autos from 89-90, but well behind everything else.
4.6L Specs vs 5.0L Specs

The '94-'95 T-Birds and Cougars usually run low to mid 16's in stock form.

The 4.6L engine has it's weakness in many forms, here are few; pistons, piston ring lands, connecting rods, oil system (fixed on the Windsor 4.6L), and cost.

1/4 Times:
'91 Cougar XR-7 17.1 @ 82.2 mph / 0-60 mph: 9.4 seconds
'95 T-Bird LX 16.7 @ 85 mph / 0-60 mph: 8.7 seconds
'97 T-Bird LX 15.8 @ 88.4 mph / 0-60 mph: 7.9 seconds

Source Data came from misc. auto magazines: Motor Trend and Car & Driver
Pushrod vs. Modular Engine

A Super Coupe is a push-rod engine. The 1996 and up V8 mustangs, as well as the 4.6L engines in 1994-1997 T-Birds, are modular. All V6 and pre-96 mustangs are still pushrod. In most cases, push-rods have a lot of power on the bottom to mid sections of the powerband, and begin to drop off quickly after it's peak, and have lower power levels at high RPM's. Modular engines often have anemic power levels on the bottom, but have good strong power levels usually starting in the mid-RPM powerband and usually continue to grow or stay close to peak all the way through the high RPM powerband, some stay strong nearly to the redline. This is not always true, but is generally correct for this situation.

An example is the Cobra & Z-28. They have equivalent power ratings, but the modular engine doesn't put out the real power until it's already almost too late when racing a bottom-end strong push-rod such as the Z-28. Also, the powerband of the Z-28 is fairly good across the board, whereas the Cobra doesn't do any real power until it's up a few thousand RPM. Same is generally true for the SC, thanks to it's supercharger, it has an incredible bottom-end, and not really that bad at the top since it is being force-fed.
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