Ford Sierra XR4i – An English Merkur XR4Ti

Several years ago while attending the Lime Rock Historic Festival I saw a Ford Sierra XR4i.  These are quite rare cars in the USA.  I was rather glad to have the opportunity to take a closer look at this car.

Ford Sierra XR4i

The Sierra XR4i was powered by a 2.8 liter V6 engine with mechanical fuel injection (Bosch K Jetronic) with rear-wheel drive.  This engine produced 150 horsepower which made the car a lively performer.

The Bi-Wing Rear Spoiler Was Very Noticeable

I find the color of this Sierra XR4i to be quite attractive.  I have heard people say that the two-level rear wing was a little too much.  While watching a recent episode of “Wheeler Dealers” on television, it was stated that the original designers wanted to have a three-level rear wing.  During the “Wheeler Dealers” show they then added a third wing on the back and I thought that it looked just fine.

The Sierra Badging Does Not Stand Out Particularly Well

During the life of the car, two different styles of 3-door body were used with the Sierra; one with two pillars rear of the door that was used on the XR4i and a one-pillar design used for the very high-performance RS Cosworth model.  The RS Cosworth body style is shown below.

Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

At the time of the car’s launch, both styles were already envisaged, and a demonstration model with one style on either side was displayed at a Sierra design exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. However, the one-pillar design was not launched until later.

My Former 1988 Merkur XR4Ti

In the USA, we had the Merkur XR4Ti which was a slightly rebodied version of the English Sierra XR4i. To meet North American regulations, instead of the 2.8L V6 from the XR4i, the Merkur was supplied with an overhead camshaft 2.3 L Ford Pinto four-cylinder engine equipped with a Garrett T3 turbocharger and fuel injection that was also used in the Thunderbird Turbo coupe, the Mustang SVO, and the Mercury Cougar XR7.  This engine produced 175 horsepower which was 25 horsepower more than the English XR4i.

Due to the XR4Ti not using a standard Sierra body and power train, final assembly was completed by specialty manufacturer Karmann in Rheine, West Germany. The Merkur was introduced for the 1985 model year.  In early 1989, sadly, the XR4Ti was discontinued.  I had a 1988 Merkur XR4Ti.  I liked it.  Maybe someday I’ll buy one again.  The performance of that car was impressive especially when the turbocharger spooled up.  As with a lot of 1980s turbocharged cars, it did have a significant turbo delay – you plant the gas pedal and wait for that turbo to rev up, then the car would take off like a scalded cat.

The Ford Sierra XR4i V6 Engine

The curious thing about this Ford Sierra XR4i is that it doesn’t have a Ford XR4i engine.  I don’t know what engine it has, but the engine shown below sure isn’t a V6 engine that came with the standard Ford Sierra XR4i.

This Does Not Look Like A Common XR4i Engine

The engine looks like it is a 2.0 to 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine with a cross flow head, dual overhead camshaft and fuel injected.  It looks like this engine has significant power.  If someone knows what engine this is, then I would like to know.  Would it be similar to the RS Cosworth engine?

The Air Intake Trumpets Are Impressive

Note that in the title I referred the Ford Sierra XR4i as the English Merkur XR4Ti, but the English might say that the Merkur XR4Ti was the English XR4i.

If you have any comments, questions or can identify the engine in this car then please leave a comment below or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net

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12 Responses to Ford Sierra XR4i – An English Merkur XR4Ti

  1. Charlville says:

    It looks perhaps Japanese in origin, it’s injected not carburated 🙂 The Police over here used both XR4i and Cosworth Sierras as both marked and unmarked vehicles in my time working at a Ford dealer. I know this as we used to do the warranty work 🙂 Interesting story regarding the Bristol Police who apparently fitted a Cosworth spoiler to an XR4i causing it to roll at speed?

  2. Charlville says:

    Sorry, put my comment in the wrong place initially!

    It looks perhaps Japanese in origin, it’s injected not carburated 🙂 The Police over here used both XR4i and Cosworth Sierras as both marked and unmarked vehicles in my time working at a Ford dealer. I know this as we used to do the warranty work 🙂 Interesting story regarding the Bristol Police who apparently fitted a Cosworth spoiler to an XR4i causing it to roll at speed?

    • On closer look, I agree that you are right and the car is fuel injected and I have made the appropriate change to my original post. If the engine is Japanese, then I wonder if the whole car is questionable. I am now wondering if the car is a Merkur made over to look like a XR4i. I am giving serious consideration to deleting the whole post.
      Steve McKelvie

      • Charlville says:

        Hi Steve, please don’t delete! It’s an excellent and very interesting post and got me for one looking and thinking 🙂 Regards Kevin

      • bob james says:

        Hi there it’s a Zeta /Zetec by the look of the rocker cover and either something like a weber alpha injection system with independent throttle bodies OR they’ve used a set of motorbike carbs off say a Suzuki/Honda/Kawsaki 750,900 or 1000 superbike and adapted them for use as throttle bodies for a custom fuel injection system which had become a very effective and popular set up this side of the Atlantic but definitely it appears to. be a Zetec but exactly what configuration isn’t possible to say for sure but. generally they came as 1.8 16v and 2.0.16v but don’t get too excited as the standard Zetecs were ok nothing special.
        It absolutely is not the YBB Cosworth engine which believe it or not considering the complete deeserved reputation these engines have was based on the 2.0 Pinto engine block though much lighter stonger. with an alloy block, forged cank. With turbo, fuelling, ignition mods and racier cams the Cossie lumps were putting out 500 bhp on the street. The RS500 was a homogation special to legalise the upgraded engine block for the works racing cars and was called the RS500 not because it had 500 bhp but came from the factory with block and internals designed to handle well in excess of 500bhp.

        Back to the XR4i, it is a bit unfortunate in its timing to be honest. I think the Germans took to far readier than we did in the UK. I. don’t think the car buying public had forgiven Ford for killing off the iconic Cortina which had been one of the best selling cars since its introduction in 1963.I have no idea if people in the US even know what a Cortina looks like but over here everyone knew someone with a Cortina and 2 generations of us knew nothing better than these everymans car, the good old Dagenham Dustbin. The Sierra was a step too far into the future and seemed like a massive miscalculation of Edsel-esque proportions but after a few years people began to really warm to the old jellymould motor and with the introduction of a 4 door saloon the Sierra Sapphire it wss by then a beloved favourite but the attitude was very different that prevailed when the rather odd looking quirky XR4i hit the showroom.

        There was the at that time the Sierras overall futuristic design with grey plastic wheelarch extentions, halfway up the door,part of the wing and in front of rear arches was clad in grey plastic,big biplane rear spoiler and those thick pillars creating two rear side windows made the car look odd but far and away it’s number one biggest problem wasn’t the car itself but the 2.8 V6 cologne engined Capri 2.8 injection.

        Why would you buy a fast Sierra when the evergreen Capri was still available. In a lot of ways the Sierra didn’t offer anything better than the Capri as it used the same cast iron block,siamesed exhaust port heads and bosch K Jetronic mechanical fuel injection as the Capri but in a car that looked far more modern. In fact it had fully independent rear suspension,with driveshafts rather than the heavy Salisbury live axle and leaf springs of the Capri but the overall reluctance to prefer the XR4i over the Capri means today you will see 100s of 2.8 Capris to every XR4i. Exactly the same as with the Cortina the Capri was part of the British psyche it was that significant love it or loathe it you just couldn’t ignore it so after the demise of the car of the people to make way for the Ford Sierra it seemed those looking for the fastest of the fast Fords in 1984 to 86 went for the Capri rather than the Sierra.

        Doomed because of the iconic nature of the Capri it was meant replace then superceded by a car that hit the lover of fast Fords as deeply as any Capri ever could the Sierra RS Cosworth, RS500 and Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworths just completely over shadowed the XR4i which had been replaced already by the more conventional 5 door XR4x4 but once the RS hit the streets there was only the RS performance Sierras, XR4i s where consigned to history and no one mourned them it seems.

        Btw, with the standard 2.0 16V Zetec producing, off the top of my head say 120-150 bhp depending on state of tune, alloy block and far greater throttle response and ability to rev I totally understand why the owner junked the V6.
        I owned a 2.8 Capri, an. XR4x4, a. Sapphire Cosworth and even a 1.8LX Sapphire so I. know these cars well. In truth the 2.8 was not a great engine, it had 2 exhaust ports each bank for 3 cylinders so wasn’t able to clear the gases quick enough to make power much over 5000rpm and it wasn’t that quick in revving up anyway. It was the engines. brute torque that made the Capri a quick car and fun if lively to drive but put it through the 4WD in the Sierra it felt dull and unresponsive

  3. Charlville says:

    The other alternative is that it may be an adapted Ford Zetec , this looks a bit too big though 🙂

  4. Charlville says:

    Last attempt, it looks a lot like the Ford Duratec, however the distributor is throwing me off, see what you think? The intake branding Omex, is well known over here and they also offer full engine packages

  5. Gary Spicer says:

    Mazda/Duratech 2.5, perhaps? It’s becoming an attractive “upgrade” for third-generation Miata/MX-5s, so perhaps an errant one found a new home in this Sierra.

    We owned a 1990 Sierra 2.0 sedan while posted in Germany. I drove the hell out of it until we returned to Canada in 1994, then sold it to my brother-in-law who did the same thing until he switched to Audi. I don’t know what happened to it, but it was a great car and still one of my favourites.

  6. Steve,
    Thank you for the write up. This is actually my vehicle. It is a 2.0 Duratec out of a 2007 Ford Focus with an OMEX/Jenvey ITB kit. Was approx. 200 crank hp. Started life as a 1986 Merkur. The car came off the road soon after this and has since been reworked with a fuel injected 5.0 liter. Look for it at Lime Rock again this year!

    • Hi Ted,
      Thank you for clearing this up for me. I am surprised to read that you replaced the engine. A 200 horsepower engine would more that car very quickly. If I get down to Lime Rock this year, then I’ll look for it.
      Steve McKelvie

  7. William Lehman says:

    Back in the early 90’s I bought a Ford Sierra XR4i off a friend in Dearborn who’s dad worked in Fords engineering dept. The only XR4i at the time in the US! Problem was every two or three months I would get a call from the insurance company that I was with asking to bring the car in for them to look at it and they would promptly tell me that it was not coming up on their computer and as of midnight I was not going to be insured by them anymore so I would drive to another company to get legal again. Unfortunately this happened about three or four times and finally I gave up and sold it to somebody else. Super fun car.

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