The 1987 model year brought along a few safety-related firsts for the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz. The Tempo / Topaz became the first Ford vehicle to offer a Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) featuring a driver?s side airbag for public sale. The other first was the availability of a part-time All Wheel Drive system on select Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz models. The Tempo / Topaz hold the distinction of being the only AWD cars to be sold by Ford in North America.
The SRS was available to government agencies in 1986, and now the SRS was available to the public. This system had two sensors located in the front bumper of the car. When the sensors measured a frontal impact force approximately equal to striking a similar weight parked car at 25 mph, they would trigger the air bag to deploy. The airbag module was located in the center of a specially designed steering wheel. Full deployment of the airbag took 55 milliseconds (by comparison, it takes 100 milliseconds to blink your eye). The airbag was designed to work in conjunction with the 3-point manual seat belt to help reduce injuries caused by frontal impacts. The special steering wheel design forced the horn switch to be located on the turn-signal stalk, which was the original location on the Tempo / Topaz prototypes back in 1983.
During the 1987 model year, the Ford Tempo (not including Mercury Topaz sales) sales figured dropped it to #9 on the best selling list in the US. Other notable Ford products on the list were the Ford Escort at #1 and the Ford Taurus at #2.
Exterior and interior styling of the Tempo and Topaz remained virtually unchanged from the 1986 model year. One notable exception is the optional trunk-mounted luggage rack. This became standard on the Tempo LX , Topaz Sport GS and the Topaz LS.
Due to oil embargos becoming a more distant memory, demand for the diesel engine dropped so much that the engine option was dropped from the option sheet in 1987.
Remaining engine choices were the 2.3L HSC and the 2.3L HSO gas powered engines. The 2.3L EFI HSC (carbureted in Canada) was the standard engine in all but the Tempo Sport GL and Topaz Sport GS. Those two models got the 2.3L EFI HSO as the standard engine.
1987 saw a shuffle in final drive ratios for the FLC Automatic. When ordering the FLC with the base 2.3L HSC engine, the final drive ratio was reduced to 3.07:1 for even lower highway cruising engine speeds. On the 2.3L HSO (and the HSC sold in designated high altitude areas), the final drive ratio was 3.26:1 and was used to give quicker off-the-line response with the automatic trans.
The big news in the Powertrain department was the new-for-1987 All Wheel Drive (AWD) system. This system was an ?On Demand? AWD system, designed to keep you on the road in bad weather. This system was not designed as an off-road system, like those available in pickup trucks. One big difference between the AWD system on the Tempo / Topaz and on those found in off-road machines was the lack of a center differential. When the switch (located just to the right of the steering column) was engaged (can be engaged at any speed), power is taken off of the final drive gear in the automatic transaxle and routed to the rear wheels via a driveshaft. The driveshaft then hit a limited-slip rear differential and directed power to each of the rear wheels. This limited-slip differential helped to keep all 4 wheels turning at ?virtually? the same speed when AWD was engaged.
Ride & Handling
New for the 1987 model year on all suspension set ups are the nitrogen gas-filled struts. The struts provided a slightly smoother and more controlled ride than the struts from previous years.
There were also new suspension components designed specifically for the new AWD system. The components were all for the rear suspension, designed to accept the half-shafts of the rear axle. These new suspension components reduced the rear suspension travel ever so slightly, down to 8.46 inches of total suspension travel.
The base suspension was available on the Tempo GL and Topaz GS, while the touring suspension was standard on the Tempo Sport GL, Tempo LX, Topaz Sport GS, Topaz LS and all AWD models.