The popularity of the Ford Sierra XR4i in Europe eventually led to it being sold in North American from 1985 to 1989. The Sierra had a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout that incorporated several styling and design elements of the Probe III Design Study to improve aerodynamics and increase fuel economy over its predecessor, The Cortina/Taunus. The design was handled by the vice president for design Uwe Bahnsen and chief stylist Patrick le Quément while Bob Lutz was chairman of European operations. It was introduced to the European market in September of 1982 and was followed a year later by the performance-oriented XR4i, positioned above the Fiesta-based XR2 and Escort-based XR3.
The North American version dropped the 'Sierra' name, kept the i
in reference to fuel injection, and added a T
for turbocharged. At the time, General Motors was using the 'Sierra' name for its GMC C/K Sierra pickup truck and 'Ciera' for the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.
The XR4Ti was largely hand-built by Wilhelm Karmann GmbH in Rheine, Germany using body panels from Ford's factory in Genk. The European version was powered by a 2.8-liter version of the Ford Cologne V6 engine. The XR4Ti came equipped with a turbocharged Lima inline-four featuring a cast-iron block, cast iron cylinder head, a single overhead cam driven by a timing belt, and 2 valves per cylinder. It received a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger, fuel injection, Ford's EEC-IV engine control unit, and a displacement size of 140.4 cubic-inches. Engines backed by automatic transmission had maximum boost set to 8 to 10 psi (0.55 to 0.69 bar) and produced 145 hp while manual transmission had maximum boost set to 2 to 14 psi (0.83 to 0.97 bar) and the ECU programming was modified to allow the engine to produce 175 hp.
The engine was placed within a unibody chassis of the European Ford Sierra and modified to comply with U.S. safety requirements. Side intrusion beams were added to the two doors, bumpers became larger, and the floorpan was changed to accommodate catalytic converters. Approximately 850 unique parts were developed for the U.S. and Canadian destined cars, including a taller hood to enclose the engine, adding around 280 pounds to the weight.
The suspension was independent with MacPherson struts in the front with concentric coil springs and lower lateral links triangulated by an anti-roll bar. In the back were semi-trailing arms with coil springs ahead of the axle half-shafts and shock absorbers behind. Anti-roll bars were placed at all four corners. The power-assisted rack and pinion steering had 3.6 turns lock-to-lock, with braking handled by front disc and rear drum brakes.
The European XR4i styling was retained for the XR4Ti, a 3-door semi-notchback hatchback with triple side-window profile and unique bi-plane rear spoiler. The lower body was built from polycarbonate `anti-abrasion' panels that were matte grey in the early cars. Pricing began at just over $16,500 and was sold under the 'Merkur' brand name which means 'Mercury' in German. Initially, 800 Lincoln-Mercury dealers enrolled to also become Merkur dealers. Sales were projected to be in the 16,000 to 20,000 units per year range, however, this goal was never met. The combined sales from the first two years reached over 25,000 units. These were its best two years, as sales dipped in 1987 by nearly half to 7,352 units. The following year, 6,283 cars were sold followed by 2,870 in its final year. The Merkur struggled to establish its own identity in the North American market and the dollar/Deutschmark exchange rate was increasingly unfavorable, driving the price even further. As safety regulations in the U.S. continued to change, the XR4Ti was faced with a redesign to remain compliant. With decreasing sales, 1989 was the final year for the XR4Ti.By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2020