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Ford Sierra

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Ford Sierra
ManufacturerFord Europe
Also calledMerkur XR4Ti (North America, 1985–1989)
Ford Sapphire (South Africa, 1990–1993)
DesignerUwe Bahnsen
Bob Lutz
Patrick le Quément
Body and chassis
ClassMid-size car/Large family car (D)
Body style3/5-door liftback
4-door saloon
5-door estate
5-door car derived van
LayoutFront-engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
RelatedFord Scorpio
Ford P100
Merkur XR4Ti
Transmission3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
4-speed manual
5-speed manual
Wheelbase2,609 mm (102.7 in)
Length4,531 mm (178.4 in)
Width1,727 mm (68.0 in)
Height1,367 mm (53.8 in)
PredecessorFord Cortina Mark V
Ford Taunus TC3
SuccessorFord Mondeo

The Ford Sierra is a mid-size car or large family car manufactured and marketed by Ford Europe from 1982–1993, designed by Uwe Bahnsen, Robert Lutz and Patrick le Quément — and noted for its aerodynamic styling producing a drag coefficient of 0.34, a significant improvement over its predecessors.

The Sierra debuted at the 1982 British International Motor Show in Birmingham,[3] shortly followed by the 1982 Paris Salon de l'Automobile.[4] Sales began on 15 October 1982,[5] replacing the Ford Taunus TC3 (UK: Ford Cortina Mark V). Its aerodynamic styling and the absence of a saloon/sedan configuration was such that many conservative buyers (including company car drivers) did not prefer its design.[3] A saloon/sedan model debuted in 1987 with the introduction of the facelifted Sierra.

Designated internally under the "Project Toni" code name, [3] the nameplate Sierra derived from the Spanish word for mountain range. The car was primarily manufactured in Belgium, and the United Kingdom, although Sierras were also assembled in Cork, Ireland,[6] Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa and New Zealand.

Initial development and reception[edit]

The distinctive unpainted nose of the Sierra′s base model
The dashboard of an early 1983 base model
The dashboard of an early 1983 GL-model

By 1978, Ford Europe was working on a new mid-range model to replace the Cortina/Taunus during the early 1980s, working under the codename "Project Toni".[7] Although still popular with buyers, the outgoing Cortina/Taunus was essentially a 12-year old design by the time of the Sierra's launch; despite the TC2 shape launching in 1976, and the mildly reworked TC3/Mk5 three years later, both were merely a reskinned version of the 1970 TC/Mk3 with few major mechanical changes in that time. Ford's future model policy and styling direction had already been shown with the Escort III two years earlier, in that its conventionally styled saloons of the 1970s would be replaced by hatchbacks with advanced aerodynamic styling.

Ford had confirmed during 1981, a year before the Sierra's official launch, that its new mid-range car would carry the Sierra name, signalling the end of the Taunus and Cortina nameplates after 43 years and nine generations respectively 20 years and five generations. In September that year, it had unveiled the Probe III concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show,[7] hinting at what the new car would look like when the final product was unveiled 12 months later.

After the sharp-edged, straight-line three-box styling of its predecessors, the Sierra was nicknamed "the jellymould".[8] The shape served a purpose though, producing a drag coefficient of 0.34, a significant improvement over the boxy outgoing Taunus's/Cortina's 0.45.[9] This aerodynamic design was key for reducing fuel consumption according to Ford, and was even used as compensation for the V6-engines. The interior was more conventional, taking a page from BMW by its dashboard, angled to the driver.[10]

Sales were slow in the first months – aggravated by heavy discounting by Ford dealers of surplus Cortina stock from the autumn of 1982 on, with more than 11,000 new Cortinas being registered in 1983. However in 1983, its first full year of sales, the Sierra managed nearly 160,000 sales in Britain, outsold only by the smaller Escort. Ford had also launched the more conservatively designed Escort-based Orion saloon that year, which found favour with buyers who would otherwise have been the Sierra's target customers.[11]

In West Germany, it proved popular from an early stage; within months of its launch, it was reportedly achieving treble the number of sales that the Taunus had been attaining – though in West Germany, the Taunus had not been quite as popular or iconic as its Cortina equivalent had been in Britain.[12]

It was later in the Sierra's life that the styling began to pay off; ten years after its introduction, the Sierra's styling was not nearly as outdated as its contemporaries, even though all major competitors were newer designs, though the Sierra had been tweaked on several occasions and many new engines had been added. The most notable changes came at the autumn of 1987, with a major facelift and the addition of a 4-door saloon (UK: Sapphire). As other manufacturers adopted similar aerodynamic styling, the Sierra looked more normal. At its peak, it was Britain's second best selling car in 1983, 1988 and 1989, and was still Britain's fifth best selling car in 1992. Its best year was 1989, when more than 175,000 were sold. However, it was outsold by the Vauxhall Cavalier in MK2 form during 1984 and 1985, and then from 1990 until its demise by the MK3 Cavalier. Nevertheless, it comfortably outsold its second key rival, the Austin Montego, which was launched in April 1984. Between 1985 and 1988, the Sierra faced fresh competition in Europe from the likes of the Renault 21 and Peugeot 405, while Japanese carmaker Nissan was producing its Bluebird model in Britain from 1986.

An early 1983 Sierra L-model, without the "strakes" to adjust crosswind stability

Early versions suffered from crosswind stability problems, which were addressed in 1985 with the addition of aerodynamic nolders (small spoilers) on the rear edge of the rubber seals of the rear-most side windows. These shortcomings saw a lot of press attention, and contributed to early slow sales, when it was outsold by its key rival the Vauxhall Cavalier in 1984 and 1985. Other rumours that the car's design could hide major crash damage (in part true, as the new bumper design sprung back after minor impact and couldn't be "read" to interpret major damage) also harmed the car's reputation. This reached near-hysterical heights in its early months on sale, with UK press making a report that Ford would reintroduce the previous Cortina model out of desperation. These reports were swiftly denied by Ford. However, sales began to rise during 1983, and it finished as Britain's second best selling car behind the Escort. After being outsold by the Cavalier for the next two years, it regained its lead of the market sector in Britain during 1986, and a refreshed range (with more engine options as well as the introduction of a saloon) enjoyed a surge in sales from 1987, though the MK3 Cavalier finally outsold it in 1990. Even in 1992, the Sierra was still Britain's fifth best selling car. It was nicknamed "the salesman's spaceship" on account of its status as a popular fleet car in Britain.[13]

In contrast to the Sierra's exterior design, its drivetrain was conservatively engineered, retaining rear-wheel drive and the same engines and transmissions as the Cortina/Taunus which were effectively 12 years old as they were first used on the TC1/MkIII generation in 1970. Much of this was done to appease the important fleet market which was wary of complexity. However, there was much modification; for example the engines were fitted with breakerless ignition, improved carburettors and the option of fuel injection, whilst 5-speed transmissions were now available. Most competitors were already switched to front-wheel drive around that time. Ford claimed however this set-up was required to offer V6-engines, which had to contribute to the Sierra's driving comfort. New for the Sierra was a diesel engine, although the engine itself was not new at all. Similar to the Ford Granada, Ford used an "Indenor"-engine which was designed by Peugeot in the 1950s. While the Granada was offered with 1.9, 2.1 and 2.5 diesels, the Sierra unit had a displacement of 2.3 liters. This rather outdated engine was replaced in 1989 by an all-new, 1.8-liter turbodiesel, developed by Ford itself. The Sierra had a four-speed manual gearbox as standard, with a five-speed as option but standard on the 2.3D and 2.3 V6. At a time when the rival Vauxhall Cavalier was offered with a five-speed, this led to some critics commenting that the Sierra was somewhat underpowered. In the mid-1980s, many smaller cars (some even two segments smaller) featured five-speed gearboxes as standard.

The chassis, however, was more sophisticated than the Cortina/Taunus, with fully independent suspension on both axles. The rear suspension was essentially carried over from the Granada, with trailing arms and coil springs mounted on a tubular sub-frame which also provided location for the final drive/differential housing driving the axle shafts. The front suspension dispensed with the Cortina/Taunus' double wishbones in favour of a scaled-up version of the Fiesta and Escort/Orion's layout with MacPherson struts, lower locating arms and anti-roll bars.

One striking feature of the Sierra was its closed front panel — where typically a grille was located, later found on the 1985 Ford Taurus. The air intake was situated below the front bumper, making the Sierra a so-called 'bottom breather'. The headlights were integrated in this front panel while the indicators were mounted in the bumper within a combined unit with the foglights. However, this set-up was only present on the top-of-the-line "Ghia"-trim as well on the later introduced XR4i sportmodel. The other Sierra models had a more traditional front end with a two-bar grille between the headlights, being unpainted on the base model. These models had the indicators in the bumper as well, although being slimmer but wider and without the foglights. Both the Ghia and XR4i had wide headlights with two lenses while the other models had smaller lights with a single lens. For the 1985 model year, all the lower-spec models, except the base model, adopted the Ghia and XR4i's front grille and headlight treatment. However, the second lens of the lower-spec models had no actual light within it. On the Ghia and XR4i this lens contained additional high beam lamps. The South-African XR8 model's front end was similar to the XR4i's but featured a small grille between the headlights. The rear lights of the Ghia, as well as the very early XR4i's, were the same shape and layout as other models, but featured tiny horizontal black strakes on the lenses to give the impression that they were smoked.

The car was replaced by the Mondeo in Europe in April 1993, though stocks lasted for about two years afterwards. The Sierra remained a popular second-hand buy and common sight on British roads until well beyond the year 2000.

Press evaluation[edit]

Three different Sierra MkI models. From left to right: 1983 base model, 1983 L-model and 1984 XR4i.

In Europe's largest auto-market, the magazine Auto, Motor und Sport published, in December 1982, a three-way road test comparison involving the Sierra and its obvious competitors, the recently upgraded Volkswagen Passat and Opel Ascona (Vauxhall Cavalier Mk II in the UK). The Sierra tested in 1982 outranked both the Passat and the Ascona.

The significance of this result was highlighted more than three decades later, in February 2015, when the magazine reported that no Ford model had beaten a Volkswagen under their road test criteria since the Sierra's "victory" in 1982.[14]

The Sierra missed out on the 1983 European Car of the Year award, ending second behind the Audi 100.[15]


Just before he became leader of the Labour Party in 1983, Neil Kinnock became the owner of one of the first Sierras produced for the British market, but his car was wrecked in a crash on the M4 motorway in Berkshire soon after he bought it. He escaped from the crash uninjured.[16]

In 1986 the founder of the Williams Formula One team, former racing car driver and mechanic, Sir Frank Williams crashed whilst driving a rental Ford Sierra in France, rendering him tetraplegic.

Willem-Alexander, then Prince of the Netherlands, crashed his Sierra XR4x4 in 1988 in the city of Leiden where he attended the university as a student.[17]

All-wheel drive[edit]

In 1985, at the Geneva Motor Show, the four-wheel drive Sierra XR4x4 was shown as a derivative of the XR4i. It had two viscous differentials with two thirds of the power directed towards the rear wheels. It was originally available only as a three-door hatchback; the bodywork had the large single-piece rear windows rather than the design with an additional pillar as used on the XR4.[18] The XR4x4 had a single rear spoiler instead of the distinctive biplane unit used on the XR4 but did receive unique alloy wheels.[19] A five-door version was added soon thereafter. A four-wheel-drive estate became available with this drivetrain at the 1986 Geneva Motor Show, but with Ghia rather than XR4x4 badging.[20] This version was better equipped and without the sporting edge of the hatchbacks, and was also available with an automatic transmission.[21][22] The four-wheel drive allowed for an extra margin of security on slick or snowy roads, while retaining the car's rear-wheel drive comportment.[19]

The original, rear-wheel drive XR4 was quickly taken out of production after the XR4x4 arrived. The XR4x4 originally came equipped with the 2.8 litre Cologne V6 engine using the same Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical injection system used since 1977 in the Granada, and since 1981 in the Capri, but it was replaced in 1989 by the new more efficient 2.9 litre Cologne V6 engine, with electronic fuel injection. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine also became available with the four-wheel drive system after the 1987 facelift.[23]

1987 facelift[edit]

In February 1987, a restyled Sierra was launched for the 1988 model year and a four-door saloon version was added to the range – this was marketed as the Sierra Sapphire on the UK market. The front end was completely revised, with the biggest difference seeing the indicators now positioned above the bumper and to the side of a new headlight design. While the grille again remained blanked-off, the UK, Irish, and South African versions of the newly introduced saloon version featured a unique shallow black grille between the headlights. That apart, all specifications of the Sierra now shared a common front end, unlike the original lineup. The side windows were made slightly larger with the corners made sharper to increase outward vision. The rear lights were replaced with slimmer but wider models containing separate stop lamps. The saloon got similar rear lights as the revised hatchbacks, though not interchangeable. The rear end of the estate did not change during the Sierra's lifespan. The interior was slightly modernized.

Also new to the range was a new 1.8 litre "lean burn" petrol engine, which proved to be one of the most popular choices in the Sierra range.

The XR4x4 was now based on the five-door hatchback bodystyle and featured different front and rear body-coloured bumper styling, along with wider side rubbing strips. The RS Cosworth, from January 1988, was now based on the newly introduced saloon bodystyle and featured another style of front bumper as well as the black grille which was only found on UK versions of the saloon bodystyle. The RS Cosworth received more power and four-wheel drive from January 1990. In addition, a roller cam engine was added in 1987 to prevent excessive wear to the cam.

From 1988 a pickup called the P100 was produced in Portugal using the Sierra-cab and engines, replacing the previous Cortina/Taunus-related model.

The Sierra was Ford's answer to the success of the General Motors "J-car" (Vauxhall Cavalier in the UK), which had been launched in 1981 with front-wheel drive and a hatchback bodystyle to complement the saloon. Unusually in its sector by that time, the Sierra was still rear-wheel drive.

It was also a strong competitor for other rivals of the early 1980s, including the Talbot Alpine, Peugeot 505 and Morris Ital and the Citroën BX, but by 1988, it was competing with a host of new rivals, including the third generation Vauxhall Cavalier (Opel Vectra), Rover Montego, Peugeot 405, Renault 21 and Nissan Bluebird.


The switch to the Sierra from the Cortina and Taunus was the second time that Ford had changed its saloon-based line-up into a hatchback-based one following the launch of the Escort Mark III in 1980, and before the introduction of the Scorpio (known as the Granada Mark III in the UK and Ireland) in 1985. However, like the Cortina and Taunus before it, the Sierra was available as an estate.

The company launched the Ford Orion in 1983 to fill the gap in the saloon range left by the Cortina. Ford found that customers were more attached to the idea of a saloon than they had expected, and this was further addressed in 1987 by the production of a saloon version of the Sierra. In the UK, this model was called the Ford Sierra Sapphire. This differed from the other Sierra models in having a traditional black grille, which only appeared in right hand drive markets.

During the life of the car, two different styles of 3-door body were used; one with two pillars rear of the door, looking very much like a modified 5-door frame, as used on the high-performance XR4i; and a one-pillar design used on standard-performance 3-door hatchbacks and also at the other end of the scale as the basis for the very high-performance 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, but the one-pillar design was not launched until 1984. The three-door Sierra was later dropped in the UK after just two years, only to be revived for the Cosworth version. Production of the 3-door Sierra continued in continental Europe, including after the Sierra range was given a facelift in 1987, but this was never offered in the UK. After 1987, the Cosworth used the four-door saloon bodystyle instead.

A 5-door van based on the estate, known as the Sierra Van, was introduced in 1984, which, unlike similar car-derived vans, retained its side windows.[24] The back seat was removed and the metal cargo floor was extended towards the front seats.[25] A diesel engine and a limited choice of petrol engines were available for the Van. This variant was never sold in the UK, although some were produced in right hand drive for the Irish market.[26]


Photograph Version Built from Built until
Ford Sierra (Mk I) 1982 1987
Ford Sierra (Mk II) 1987 1990
Ford Sierra (Mk II facelifted) 1990 1993

Sierra model range[edit]

Powertrain Options[edit]

During its lifetime, the Sierra was available with a wide range of petrol engines:

Two diesel engines were available:

1300, 1600 and 2000 engines all had a 4-speed manual gearbox; a 5-speed manual gearbox was optional with 1600 and 2000 engines, and standard with the 1600 Economy engine, the 2300 and 2300 Diesel. An optional 3-speed automatic transmission was available with 1600, 2000 and 2300 engines.

The 2.0 V6 and 2.3 V6 versions of the Sierra were dropped at the end of 1985 and the 1.3-litre was discontinued in 1986. A carburetted 1.8 and a fuel injected 2.0-litre petrol engine were added at Geneva 1985.[27] In 1990, the 2.3-litre diesel was replaced by a 1.8-litre turbodiesel. The turbocharged 2-litre RS Cosworth engine featured on all three Cosworth versions of the Sierra; the three-door rear-wheel drive hatchback, the rear-wheel drive saloon, and the four-wheel drive saloon.

The Sierra XR4i with its bi-plane rear spoiler
Ford Sierra XR4x4

The sporting model XR4i utilized the 2.8 engine with mechanical fuel injection (Bosch K Jetronic) coupled to rear-wheel drive (1983–1985) and to four-wheel-drive as XR4x4 (1985–1987). There were visual differences and alterations between the XR4i and XR4x4, such as coloured bumpers, the removal of the 'bi-plane' rear wing and alloy wheels as seen on the Ford Escort RS Turbo Series 1. There was also a 2.8-engined Ghia Estate in some markets, and from 1985 until 1987 Swiss customers could buy rear-wheel-drive, 2.8-litre powered GL and Ghia models with five-door hatchback or estate bodywork.[28] The Swiss (and Swedish) market engines produced marginally less power, as those countries had particularly stringent emissions standards. Output was 148 PS (109 kW) in 1985 and 145 PS (107 kW) in 1986.[20][28] In the Mark II Sierras the 2.8 Cologne engine was replaced by a 2.9-litre version. Both the 2.8/2.9-litre engines gave 150 PS in uncatalyzed trim.

The well known Cosworth model was powered by a turbocharged 16-valve 4-cylinder engine known as the 'YB' which was based on the Ford Pinto block. The Ford Sierra RS Cosworth was introduced in 1986 as a three-door hatchback, with a 2-litre DOHC turbo engine producing 204 PS (150 kW; 201 hp) and a top speed of 150 mph – a speed normally found only in sports cars from prestige brands like Ferrari and Porsche, at much higher prices as well as with less practicality. At the time Ford wanted to compete in Group A touring cars and therefore eligible to produce a limited run of 10% of the initial production, therefore this would be 500 cars. This was known as an 'evolution' model. Ford employed Tickford to help with the development. The Sierra RS500 as it was known sported a small additional rear spoiler, and larger front chin spoiler, extra cooling ducts for the engine, brakes and intercooler. The placement of the additional cooling ducts is where the foglights seen on the previous Sierra RS Cosworth had an option to remove and refit the aforementioned foglights. A larger turbocharger and intercooler was fitted along with an extra set of injectors, so instead of the standard four injectors it was built with eight, although in road trim these extra injectors did not function. These modifications produced 227 PS (167 kW; 224 hp) in road trim and around 550 hp (410 kW) in race trim. They were very successful in motorsport[citation needed] and are highly tunable road cars with a very large following.

In 1987, Ford introduced a four-door saloon (marketed in the UK as the Sierra Sapphire), which was sold alongside the hatchback and estate until the Sierra was replaced by the Mondeo in early 1993. The last Sierra rolled off the production line in December 1992.

The Sierra Cosworth line-up switched to a saloon bodystyle with a four-door arrangement in January 1988, aptly named the 'Sapphire', again with rear-wheel drive, before the four-wheel drive version replaced it two years later. The Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth was based on the second generation variant of the Sierra model, having a different front and rear fascia compared to the first generation Sierra. The same turbocharged 2-litre Cosworth YB engine found itself present in the Sapphire RS Cosworth as found with the three-door Sierra.

Sierras outside Europe[edit]

South Africa[edit]

In South Africa, the Sierra range featured both the five-door hatchback and station wagon bodies and production began at the Silverton (Pretoria) plant in January 1983.[29] The restyled Sierra range differed from its European equivalent by featuring the traditional grille of the Sierra Sapphire saloon on the hatchback[30] and wagon,[31] though later, the grille would feature on these models in Europe. The saloon, only introduced in South Africa in the second quarter of 1989,[32] was known simply as the "Ford Sapphire".[33]

Versions sold in South Africa were available with the 1.6 (Kent) and 2.0 (Pinto) four-cylinders, 2.3 V6 (Cologne) or 3.0-litre V6 (Essex) petrol engines. While the Cortina MkV in South Africa had retained the old 3.0 V6 Essex engine, the Sierra was initially given the new 2.3 V6 Cologne motor, this being fitted to the top of the line model only. However, owing to the low cost of petrol, and the popularity of the old Cortina XR6, a Sierra XR6 was later launched,[34] featuring the old Essex, initially producing 103 kW (138 hp).

Versions were LX, GL and GLX, the Ghia trim level was not available for the South African market except on the Ford Sapphire, the saloon version.

As the 2.8/2.9 Cologne was never launched in South Africa, the venerable and popular Essex V6 remained the best normal production engine fitted to the Sierra. At the top of the range, the 2.3 GLS quickly gave way to a 3.0 GLX flagship model (producing less power but more torque than the XR6) and that was the end of the Cologne in South Africa, even the station wagon receiving the 3.0 V6 Essex. By 1985, the Sierra had become the largest Ford model in this market, following the demise of the Granada.

Towards the end of its production life, the Essex was modified again – the standard carburetted version was tuned to produce 110 kW (150 PS; 148 hp) from 1991 to 1993, while a fuel-injected version was available from 1992 to 1993. Fitted to the Sierra as the 3.0i RS (replacing the XR6) and to the Sapphire saloon as the Sapphire Ghia (replacing the 3.0 GLX), the fuel-injected Essex put out around 117 kW (157 hp) and was the most powerful Sierra/Sapphire version sold in South Africa, excluding the small number of XR8s built for homologation purposes. At the end of production a limited edition of 150 vehicles designated as 3.0i RS which based on the saloon (Sapphire) body was produced with some slight engine tweaks which resulted in a power output of 125 kW (170 PS; 168 hp). This vehicle was also fitted with the ATE ABS system as was customary only on the Sapphire GHIA models at the time. These limited edition vehicles were only available to two colours, namely red and white.

Uniquely, the South African market also saw the introduction of a 5.0-litre XR8 between June 1984 and 1988. A limited number of 250 Sierras were made for the purposes of homologation,[35] as this model was the premier Ford used in Group A racing. The XR8 was fitted with the 302 ci engine from the US Ford Mustang, and the Borg Warner T5 heavy duty transmission. Front brakes were AP Racing four-piston calipers on 280 mm discs. Max power is 209 PS (154 kW) and a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph) was claimed.[36] The XR8 is easily recognized by having four cooling slats between the headlights, whereas lesser versions were sold with the original smooth front.

The 1.6 Kent continued almost unchanged during the 9 year life of the Sierra/Sapphire, while the 2.0 Cologne was revised several times, being fitted to the Sierra 2.0 GL and GLE and later to the stripped down Sierra 2.0 LX and Sapphire 2.0 GL and GLE models. It eventually even received fuel injection in the Sapphire 2.0GLi, boosting the power from 77 kW (103 hp) to 85 kW (114 hp).

The Sierra was eventually replaced in South Africa by the Telstar in 1993. Samcor, which assembled Ford models under license after Ford had divested from the country, was already assembling the smaller Laser and Meteor, alongside the Mazda 323, on which they were based, as well as a facelifted earlier version of the Mazda 626.[37] The Telstar was finally replaced by the Mondeo in 1998.

New Zealand[edit]

Whereas British buyers rued the absence of a saloon version of the Sierra, in New Zealand, it was the absence of an estate (station wagon) there that customers missed, when Ford New Zealand replaced the Cortina with the Ford Telstar range. In order to fill the gap in the market, Ford introduced the Sierra wagon in 1984, in spite of opposition at Ford Asia Pacific and from the Detroit headquarters.[38][39] This was assembled locally from imported CKD ("completely knocked down") kits. The wagon was offered in 1.6- (base) and 2.0-litre "L" and "Ghia" models initially, and proved to be a strong seller. The then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Muldoon, used a Sierra as his personal transport and would drive it to his office in the government building known as the Beehive.[40] New Zealand was the only market in the world where both the Telstar and the Sierra were offered next to each other.[38]

1984 Ford Sierra L Wagon (New Zealand), assembled locally

In one month in 1987, the facelifted Ford Sierra, by then a single station wagon model, was the country's top-selling car range.[41] A few fully built-up 2.3 V6 five-doors and XR4i three-doors were also imported from 1984.[38]

However, Ford cancelled the Sierra once Mazda, which developed the Telstar, could offer a station wagon. The Telstar wagon, while popular, never reached the Sierra's heights, especially its competition successes overseas. Further reasons could be customers' knowledge of the Telstar's Japanese roots, and that the equivalent Mazda 626 wagon offered a considerably longer warranty at a similar price.

1990 Ford Sierra Sapphire (New Zealand), imported CBU from Belgium

Relative rejection of the Telstar forced Ford to import completely built-up (CBU) premium models built in Genk, Belgium from 1990: the Sierra 2.0 GLX Wagon, the Sierra Sapphire 2.0 Ghia and the XR4×4 were part of this range. The advertising copy read, "Introducing the new car that needs no introduction." However, a relatively high price did not help – the Wagon began at over NZ$31,000 – and production errors in the launch brochure showed cars with no steering wheels. Furthermore, any marketing boosts Ford could have gained through Group A touring car racing were over with the Escort Cosworth becoming the company's standard-bearer in competition (and the Escort, meanwhile, was absent from the New Zealand market).

The Sierra was withdrawn from the New Zealand market in 1992, and it would be another five years before its European successor the Mondeo would arrive there. Sierra Cosworths remain sought-after performance cars.

By contrast, the Sierra was never sold in Australia, as there was less demand for a medium-sized wagon than in New Zealand, although the RS Cosworth/RS500 was used in the Australian Touring Car Championships from the late-1980s and early-1990s.


1987 Ford Sierra 1.6 GL (Argentina)

In Argentina, the Sierra was offered as a five-door hatchback beginning in the summer of 1984.[42] A station wagon body style was added in September 1985.[43] The sporting XR4, with three-door bodywork arrived a couple of months after the original introduction. The facelifted post-1987 model did not reach the Argentinian market, where the range continued with a Merkur XR4Ti-like grille until 1991 for XR4 and 1992 for five-door models, when it was replaced by the Volkswagen Santana-based Galaxy.[44] Argentinian Sierras can be distinguished by a more sculpted front bumper with an extra cooling inlet.

The 1.6L was offered in GL model only, while the LX, Ghia, Ghia S/SX and XR4 were available with a 2.3-litre inline-four with some differences in specs. Both engines, as for the preceding Taunus TC3, were from the "Pinto" family. The power ranged between 75 PS (55 kW) for the 1.6 and 120 PS (88 kW) for the XR4 and later Ghia S versions.[43] Some Ghia models also featured automatic transmission as an optional. The station wagon was called the Sierra Rural.[45] Ford had previously used the name "Rural" for station wagons in Argentina, such as the Taunus, in a similar way to "Turnier" in Germany.[46]

The GL model was the base model replaced by the LX with the same equipment. The XR4 was eventually complemented by the five-door Ghia S/SX.


In Venezuela the locally assembled Ford Sierra was launched in 1985, the 2.8L V6 engine being standard on versions sold there, including the 5 door hatchback (280 LS and 280ES) and 3 door hatchback (XR4i and 280GT)[47] as well as the 5 door station wagon (Ranchera).[48] In 1990, a face-lifted version of the Sierra, powered by the 2.9L V6 engine was offered as both a hatchback and a saloon, the latter being known as the Sierra 300 Sapphire, although unlike the Sapphire in other markets, it had a blanked-off grille.[49] Also launched in Venezuela was the XR6i.[50]

North America[edit]

1985 Merkur XR4Ti, showing front panel also used by pre-facelift Ghia models, and the three-door XR4's unusual combination of the long side doors from a three-door model and the five-door's rear quarterlight

In North America, the Ford Sierra was offered under the now defunct Merkur brand, imported from Germany as a three-door hatchback and marketed as the XR4Ti. The North American market had already seen the similar-sounding Oldsmobile Ciera, and the Sierra name was trademarked by General Motors Corporation from the 1970s as a trim level on its pickup trucks.

The XR4Ti was offered from the start of the Merkur brand in 1985 until 1989, equipped as a rear-wheel-drive 2.3-litre SOHC inline four-cylinder (commonly known as the "Lima" engine) equipped with a Garrett T3 turbocharger and fuel injection. The engine produced 175 hp (130 kW) and was largely the same engine as was available in the Mustang, where it produced 205 hp (153 kW) thanks to the fitment of an intercooler.

Negatively affecting the XR4Ti's popularity, North American safety and emissions regulations (including requiring air bags for all 1990 and newer vehicles, not required in foreign markets), forced costly homologation modifications, resulting in relatively high pricing. Exchange rates also fluctuated frequently. Moreover, since Merkurs were sold at LincolnMercury dealers, many customers were more attracted towards Mercury models, such as the Mercury Sable, which were similarly styled and had similar equipment for significantly lower prices.


Ford Sierra 1.3 OHC engine
Ford Sierra 2.8i V6 engine (XR4i)

Unlike many of its rivals, the Sierra retained rear-wheel drive, albeit with a modern, fully independent rear suspension, departing from the Cortina's live axle.

In the beginning the Sierra used engines and transmissions from the Taunus / Cortina. The engines were of two types, the SOHC Ford Pinto engine in 1.3, 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0-litre displacements, and the OHV Cologne V6 engine (in 2.0, 2.3, 2.8, and 2.9-litre capacities). Towards the end of the 1980s due to tightening emission standards, the Pinto engine began to be phased out-the 1.8-litre in 1988 replaced by a 1.8-litre CVH, the 2.0-litre in 1989, replaced with the Ford I4 DOHC engine and the 1.6 in 1992, replaced by the 1.6 CVH first seen in the Escort in 1980, described as a "CFi", a single point fuel injection system with a catalytic converter. The 2.9 L Cologne engine was available in the Sierra XR4x4 and the Sierra Ghia. Models with the 2.0 L and Cologne V6 engines had an option of a limited slip differential. Models built until 1989 used the type 9 gearbox that had been used in the Cortina, with the exception of 2WD Cosworth models that used the T5. The T5 had several variations, most were internal. This was basically the same transmission used in the Ford Mustang. The .80 overdrive gears were the weak link. It was later superseded by the MT75 unit (for DOHC, 4X4 and V6 models). All Sierras had rear drum brakes, except sporting models (2.0iS (some), 2.0 GLX & GLS, XR4x4, Sierra Cosworth, other special/sporting models inc 2.0i 4x4) and models with anti-lock brakes. American versions meanwhile were sold only with a 2.3 L four-cylinder turbocharged version of the Pinto engine.

The Sierra also had a diesel option on the engine, namely at launch the 2.3 L normally aspirated 67 PS (49 kW; 66 hp) Indenor diesel made by Peugeot. This engine was also used in contemporary Granadas and whilst reliable and economical it made an unrefined, noisy and very slow vehicle, but remained a popular option for Taxi firms. This was later superseded in 1990 by a 1.8 L turbocharged powerplant of Ford's own design which offered better response times and slightly more power. During the Sierra's production run the engine was known both as the Lynx and as the Endura-D, though was further rebranded as the 'Endura-DE' with the release of the second-generation Ford Mondeo.[51]

Special edition models[edit]

1986 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
1987 Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth

In 1983, the high-performance XR4i version was introduced. It utilised the same 2.8 L Cologne engine as used in the Ford Capri 2.8 Injection of that era and sported a restyled version of the 3-door Sierra bodyshell. The double rear spoiler and curious multi-pillared rear windows were considered over-styled by some prospective buyers, and the car never achieved the cult status of the smaller Fiesta XR2 and Escort XR3i. A version of the XR4i with a 2.3 L turbocharged engine was sold in the United States as the Merkur XR4Ti. The XR4Ti was raced in Europe, most notably by Andy Rouse who used one to win the 1985 BTCC.

The dashboard of a 1984 XR4i

In South Africa, there was a 3.0 L V6 version, called the XR6, also made in South Africa was a limited run of 250 V8 XR8s for saloon car racing homologation in 1984. These were based on the Ford Windsor 302 engine.

In 1985 the XR4i was replaced by the XR4x4, which was based on the five-door hatchback, had four-wheel drive and was powered by the same 2.8 L V6 engine but wasn't equipped with the bi-plane rear spoiler. Only a very limited number of three-door XR4x4's have been built. By the end of its production in 1990, 23,540 had been produced. From 1990 to 1993 the XR4x4 was available with both the revised 2.9 EFi and 2.0 DOHC EFi engines. The XR4i also made a reappearance (as a badging exercise) in 5-door form but with the DOHC 2.0 engine instead of the V6.

In 1989, Ford nodded towards its past and created the Sierra 2.0i 2000E, a model name used with limited success on the Mk3 Cortina. The Sierra 2000E had two-tone metallic paint, alloys, light grey leather interior, and a trip computer in addition the standard features on the 'Ghia' models. It was only available in saloon form and a limited number of models were sold between 1989 and 1991. Ford used this to showcase the new DOHC twin cam engine which was also released in 1989.

In Argentina the non-injected XR4 model was equipped with the Taunus 2.3 engine and was produced between 1986 and 1991. In this market the most direct rival was the Renault Fuego 2.2.

In July 1986, a special version called the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth was launched, using the 2.0 OHC bottom end with a 16V DOHC cylinder head specially developed by Cosworth. With the Cosworth Garret T3 turbocharger and intercooler setup the engine produced 204 PS (150 kW; 201 hp). It was designed by Ford's Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE) group and made in Ford's Genk factory in Belgium for use in group A. It was based on a three-door Sierra with the dashboard from the Merkur XR4Ti. The car was available in only white, black or Ford's 'Moonstone Blue' and only 5545 were made. The Sierra RS Cosworth was available in both right hand drive and left hand drive, the RS500 was only produced in Right Hand Drive. Racing conversion were done with the European Merkur dashboard.

In 1987, a 225 PS (165 kW; 222 hp) Sierra Cosworth, the RS500, was sold alongside the regular version. Only 500 were produced as the minimum number of road-going cars required to meet with newly introduced homologation racing rules, allowing it to compete in evolution form for group A racing. The car was modified by the Tickford Engineering Company in conjunction with Ford. Revisions included uprated brakes and larger brake cooling ducts and modified front and rear spoilers (a second smaller rear spoiler was added beneath the large "whale-tail"), a modified front bumper to allow extra cooling for a larger intercooler, as well as various engine upgrades including a larger turbocharger and a second fuel rail (which did not operate on road models). Race outputs were as high as 550 bhp (410 kW; 558 PS), in which the Sierra dominated group A series around the world.

Racing versions of the Cosworth were highly successful in European and World Touring Car racing throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the RS500 helped Ford to win the manufacturer's title in the 1987 World Touring Car Championship. Ford was forced to fall back on the Sierra for rallying from 1987, after the banning of the Group B formula. With only rear-drive, the Sierra struggled to compete on looser surfaces but was very quick on asphalt, Didier Auriol winning his first World Championship rally in a Sierra in Corsica, 1988. It was replaced by the 4x4 Sapphire version from 1990, which never managed to win a World Championship event but became a popular and successful car in national championships. The Sierra was replaced by the Escort Cosworth in 1993.

In 1988, a new Cosworth was produced which was based on the Sierra Sapphire saloon. 13,140 were produced until it was replaced in 1990 by a four-wheel-drive version, the Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth 4x4, of which 12,250 were built. Its replacement came in the form of the Escort RS Cosworth which appeared in 1992, which used a shortened and developed version of the Sierra platform and running gear but clothed with an Escort-esque bodyshell and the return of the whale-tail spoiler.

Turbocharged versions[edit]

Turbocharged versions of the Sierra were also available as post-production models from companies like Janspeed and, most notably, from Turbo Technics. The XR4x4 2.8 was available with a range of aftermarket kits pushing power from 150 PS (110 kW; 148 hp) to over 200 hp (149 kW). The 2.9 got a twin-turbo setup, available with variants up to 280 hp (209 kW). Even the DOHC version got a single turbo kit, of which only a small number were made. Turbo Technics even sold their own pre-prepared Sierra known as the Minker; only a handful were ever produced, as they cost significantly more than Ford's own RS Cosworth.

In Finland, tax laws made the 1.3 L and 1.6 L-engined Sierras attractive business cars in the mid 1980s. Beginning in 1982, a number of these smaller engines were turbocharged locally in order to gain 2.0 L engine power without moving into the higher tax bracket. The 2.0 L OHC engine was also available turbocharged. These are often called "Stockmann Turbo" Sierras, after the provider of the most popular conversion kits.[52] After stricter emissions standards were introduced for 1989, Stockmann focused on getting the more popular 1.6-litre kit approved and stopped offering the other ones. They were not intended as sporting cars, but were "tax specials" meant to save owners money without sacrificing power. The purchase price of a 1.6 Turbo was marginally higher than that of a factory 2.0, but the difference was quickly made up in tax savings.[52]

Changes during production life[edit]

1992 Ford Sierra MkII Azura (UK)
1990 Ford Sierra MkII CLX dashboard

After the major facelift of 1987, and the introduction of the DOHC engines in 1989, further changes to the Sierra were superficial. Some detail styling changes were made in 1990, when the dashboard styling was freshened up, the front was given clear-lensed indicators, the rear given smoked rear lamp lenses, the steering wheel redesigned and a new front grille was added, together with fuel injection as standard, 15-inch wheels and rear disc brakes. UK production of the Sierra ceased in 1990 with right hand drive production moving to Belgium.

For the 1991 model year, the 1.6-litre Pinto engine was finally dropped and replaced by a CVH unit of similar capacity, marking the end of the venerable Pinto unit after it had been introduced in the Cortina/Taunus some 21 years earlier. The 1992 model year cars saw the final revisions – most notably to the dashboard which gained a more rounded instrument binnacle similar in style to the 1990 Escort and Orion, along with specification, colour, and trim upgrades across the range.

By 1989, Ford had confirmed that the successor to the Sierra (due by 1993) would feature front-wheel drive, and a number of concept cars were shown in the motoring press, hinting at what the new car might look like. It had become clear that the Sierra had fallen out of step technologically against modern Japanese rivals which offered multi-valve engines and multi-link rear suspension. All of these features appeared on the Sierra's replacement, the front-wheel-drive Mondeo, which was unveiled in November 1992 and went on sale the following March.


The Sierra is the tenth-most popular car to have been sold in Britain, with 1,299,993 units having been sold.[53] The first Sierras were sold in October 1982, and stocks lasted for around two years after the end of production – with more than 200 models being sold in 1994 and at least one example being sold in 1995 (in February as an M-registered model).[citation needed]

The Sierra remained a common sight on the roads in the United Kingdom and several other European countries, and a popular second-hand buy, until well into the 21st century. However, just 2,425 Ford Sierras were reported to be taxed and still on UK roads in December 2019, with 11,562 currently SORN.[54][55]


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See also[edit]