The Ford Sierra XR4i is a funny old thing. Back when it was released in 1983, Ford excited us with press images that featured the car in front of the Space Shuttle. It promised that the XR4i, with its 2.8 fuel-injected engine, would be a veritable powerhouse, an assault on the senses, a true performance Ford. And then it arrived at dealers and, well, it wasn’t any of those things. The styling, with those curious rear quarter windows and the double-deck rear spoiler served to make it look a bit… a bit much. And yes, it had that V6, but it only produced 148bhp with a mere 159lb-ft. Basically, it was nowhere near as fast as it looked.
Ford spent considerable time and money on the XR4i, not least on that model-specific body shell. But even so, the XR4i was quietly shuffled out of the dealerships after just two years. Ford then replaced it with the XR4x4, before topping the range with the mighty RS Cosworth in 1986. We forgot all about the poor XR4i, and that’s a shame.
Original Press image from 1982 – Look, Space Shuttle!
The immediate years after the XR4i’s demise were not kind. Values dropped, the ‘80s trend for ‘XR’ cars becoming uninsurable meant nobody could actually afford to own one and those that were still on the road soon rusted away – that’s ‘80s Ford metal for you. As such, for a long time the XR4i was worthless. It didn’t capture our imaginations like the XR2 or XR3.
So why, given the XR4i’s sad history, are we suggesting you buy this one? Well, the years have – in our opinion – been kind to the design of the XR4i. Maybe it’s spectacles of a rosy tint, but to us it looks quite cool. Very ‘80s, but still cool. And it’s an underdog, a car that really shouldn’t have survived. But here it is, and it looks outstanding. This car seems to have avoided the rust, the terrible modifications and the abuse. It’s a perfect representation of the XR4i, and that’s special.
Popular or not, the XR4i was an important car, and one that the RS Cosworth owes a great deal of thanks. It’s not fast, it’s not powerful, but does that matter? It’s a bona fide classic, and it’s a Blue Oval to boot. And with numbers thin, you’re not going to find another in a hurry. And if you do, it’ll be more than the £5,995 advertised here. The Sierra XR4i wasn’t all that bad, it just took a few decades for us to realise that fact.