The Ford Probe: A car that was a Probe-lem

The Probe didn't precisely set hearts racing for both car enthusiasts and regular folks. It had stiff competition from the sleek, powerful, and reliable Japanese coupes that everyone adored. The Probe caught quite a bit of flak for being too close to Mazda's lineup, and it didn't exactly win any efficiency, handling, or longevity awards.

Table of Contents

Legacy, Evolution, and Characteristics of the Ford Probe

The Ford Probe

Ford Probe

Let’s talk about the Ford Probe. It’s like a car that got a name from a doctor’s appointment, looks like it might secretly be a Mazda in disguise, and has a history full of twists and turns. Get this, folks: Ford wanted it to be the next big thing after the Mustang. Can you believe it?

1988, they rolled out this snazzy liftback coupe, thinking it could be the Mustang’s successor. But the die-hard Mustang fans, well, they weren’t having any of that. They made a fuss, and Ford had to do a U-turn on their plans and cook something else.

Ford Probe in white

Ford and their old pals from Japan, Mazda, joined forces to create the Probe. They borrowed DNA from the Mazda G platform, which was also doing its thing for the Mazda Capella. The Probe came with options, too – you could go for a V6 or one of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines. It even had some fancy stuff swiped from the Mazda RX-7, like those cool pop-up headlights and a digital instrument setup.

Let’s be clear: the Ford Probe is no superstar in the car world. It’s not a jaw-dropper in terms of engineering or style, but it’s a real head-scratcher when you think about how it went from being the next big thing to a dud. That’s why it’s a story worth digging into. So, come ride shotgun with us as we dive deep into the tale of the Ford Probe, the car that almost kicked the Mustang to the curb!

Before we begin, look at our other piece, “The World of Luxury Cars,” if you are a luxury car enthusiast.

Legacy of the Ford Probe

Ford Probe in maroon

Even though the Ford Probe failed on the market, Ford did not wholly waste its time and resources. The Mercury Cougar, Ford Contour, and Ford Taurus are just a few of the Ford cars that were impacted by the design and development phases of the Probe. The Probe strengthened the Ford-Mazda relationship, enabling the two companies to create more popular vehicles, including the Ford Ranger, Ford Escape, and Mazda MX-5.

While the Ford Probe is becoming less common on the road, its attributes continue to win over a devoted following. Sure, auto lovers see the Probe as a collector’s item because of its futuristic design and significance in Ford’s past.

Although the Ford Probe did not turn out to be the “Mustang killer” that Ford had hoped for, it was a car that attempted something unique and left a legacy that will live on.

Journey Through Time: History and Trims of the Ford Probe

Ford Probe concept

The Ford Probe was based on Ford and Ghia’s late 1970s and early 1980s futuristic conceptual automobiles. Pop-up headlamps and covered back wheels gave Probe I a red spaceship appearance. The Probe IV and V were more radical, with minimal drag and streamlined aerodynamic designs.

Ford Probe with popped up headlights

When Ford chose to build the Probe, it changed course. Instead of a cutting-edge sports car, it worked with Mazda to design a front-wheel-drive coupe on the Mazda G platform. The Mustang suffered from declining sales because of the 1979 oil issue and Japanese imports. So, the Probe was intended to take its place.

But boy, the Mustang enthusiasts, they were fuming! They couldn’t stand the idea of a front-wheel-drive, Mazda-inspired, four-cylinder or V6-powered Mustang. No, sir! They yearned for that good ol’ rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered pony car proudly brought to you by Ford. Well, guess what? Ford heard their uproar and had a change of heart. The Probe? It got its spotlight, and the Mustang? Well, it got a makeover.

Now, the Ford Probe had its time in the limelight for two generations, each lasting four years. The first batch offered three flavors: the humble GL, the mid-level LX, and the spunky GT. But when the second generation rolled in, it simplified things to just two options: base and GT. Mazda were the engine wizards behind it all, ranging from a peppy 2.2-liter inline-four to a gutsy 2.5-liter V6 powerhouse.

But let’s be honest, the Probe wasn’t the belle of the ball. It had to duke it out with the likes of the Toyota Celica, Honda Prelude, and Nissan 240SX. And to make matters worse, it had its fair share of quality hiccups and marketing mishaps, and folks weren’t exactly singing its praises. After pushing out 830,000 Probes worldwide, it waved goodbye in 1997.

How Does the Ford Probe Perform?

Ford Probe on road

The Ford Probe had this snazzy, front-wheel-drive setup with your choice of two mighty engines under the hood. You see, the boss of the bunch was a turbocharged 2.2-liter powerhouse packing a whopping 145 horses and 257 Nm of torque. It could hustle, taking the Probe from 0 to 60 mph in just 8.7 seconds and letting it hit an astonishing 130 mph. But here’s the twist – this feisty engine was exclusive to the first version of the Probe, and it rode off into the sunset in 1992.

Ford Probe in black

Now, on to the second generation of the Probe. It flexed a 2.5-liter V6 engine, delivering 164 horsepower and 221 Nm of torque. This baby could kiss the wind at 137 mph and sprint from 0 to 60 mph in a swift 7-second flat. But what set it apart was how hush-hush it was – smoother and quieter than the four-cylinder turbocharged number.

And let’s not forget the Probe’s moves – it handled like a dream, with quick and spot-on steering. The sporty suspension gave you a velvet ride with grip and skill to boot. Plus, the Probe was packing some serious tech for the time, including fancy features like traction control and anti-lock brakes. It was ahead of the game, no doubt!

This table summarizes the performance specifications of the Ford Probe:

If you want more info on the performance specs, click here.

Interior and Exterior of The Ford Probe

The Ford Probe has these cool headlights that pop up, a super aerodynamic shape, and you can even pick between a four-cylinder or V6 engine. The cabin is spacious and comfy, with a digital instrument cluster, a slanted steering wheel, and a center console that swings right over to the driver’s side.

Ford Probe interior

And here’s the fun part – you can deck out your Probe with all kinds of extras like a sunroof, plush leather seats, and a top-notch sound system.

Ford Probe interior 2

But here’s the twist – even though it aimed to be a budget-friendly and sporty alternative to those snazzy Japanese coupes, the Ford Probe didn’t quite win over the crowd. Nope, it took some heat for being a bit low on power, handling like a clunker, and having a knack for letting you down when you least expect it. People even said it’s a dead ringer for some Mazda models. Tough break, right?

Journalist Verdict

Ford Probe side look

Despite all the hype and high hopes, the Ford Probe turned out to be one dull ride. It was supposed to be the Mustang’s superb replacement, but instead, it ended up as a sad, uninspiring copycat of those Mazda models. Sure, it had a slick, futuristic look on the outside, but under the hood? Forget about it! This thing lacked the power, moves, and reliability a sports car should have.

Now, they gave it a spacious and comfy interior, but it felt cheap because of all those plastic bits and bobs. And yeah, it had a few fancy gimmicks, but trust me, they weren’t worth the big bucks you’d drop on this ride, let alone the maintenance costs.

So, the Ford Probe tried to be a jack of all trades but ended up being a master of none. It was just a real head-scratcher, and not in a good way. This car wasn’t worth your hard-earned cash, time, or even a second look. It lived up to its strange name, alright. Yep, the Ford Probe, it’s safe to say, didn’t quite hit the mark.

Conclusion

Ford Probe with its rivals

The Probe didn’t precisely set hearts racing for both car enthusiasts and regular folks. It had stiff competition from the sleek, powerful, and reliable Japanese coupes that everyone adored. The Probe caught quite a bit of flak for being too close to Mazda’s lineup, and it didn’t exactly win any efficiency, handling, or longevity awards.

Fast forward through two generations and a decade of dismal sales, and you’ve got the Probe making a rather discreet exit from the production stage. It was an attempt to capture the spirit of the Mustang, but as they say, it couldn’t quite hit the mark.

Learn about the little powerhouse “Fiat Fiorino” that continues to endure despite the passing of time, thanks to its enduring appeal and capacity.

Pros & Cons:

The Probe was a vehicle that tried to be both a family vehicle and a sports car, but it was eventually neither.

Price:

The Ford Probe’s value range differs according to your chosen model version. Priced from $2,860 to $4,620 for the most recent year, the car was produced.

FAQs

Why did the Ford Probe face challenges and ultimately fail in the market?

The Ford Probe encountered difficulties primarily due to its ambitious attempt to replace the iconic Mustang. The initial intention to shift from the traditional rear-wheel-drive V8-powered Mustang to a front-wheel-drive, Mazda-inspired, four-cylinder or V6-powered configuration sparked discontent among loyal Mustang enthusiasts. This drastic shift in design and performance preferences led to a lack of acceptance and contributed to the Ford Probe’s struggle for market success.

How did the Ford Probe compare to its competitors in the sports car market?

The Ford Probe faced stiff competition from sleek, powerful, and reliable Japanese coupes, including models like the Toyota Celica, Honda Prelude, and Nissan 240SX. Despite its futuristic design and attempts to be a budget-friendly alternative, the Probe received criticism for being perceived as too similar to Mazda’s lineup. Issues related to power, handling, and longevity further impacted its standing against well-established and popular competitors in the sports car segment.

Why did Ford decide to create the Ford Probe, and what was its intended purpose in the market?

Ford introduced the Ford Probe as an attempt to reinvent its image and capture the spirit of the Mustang. Facing declining sales of the traditional rear-wheel-drive Mustang due to the 1979 oil crisis and the rise of Japanese imports, Ford sought to embrace a new direction. Teaming up with Mazda, the Ford Probe emerged as a front-wheel-drive coupe, featuring elements borrowed from Mazda’s G platform. The intended purpose was to offer a more fuel-efficient, modern, and versatile sports car. However, the shift in design and the subsequent negative response from Mustang enthusiasts altered Ford’s original plans for the Probe.

Written by: TAZ

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