|Parent company||Ford Motor Company|
|Body style(s)||3-door hatchback|
|Engine(s)||2.3 L turbocharged Lima I4|
|Transmission(s)||5-speed T-9 manual|
3-speed C3 automatic
|Wheelbase||102.7 in (2609 mm)|
|Length||178.4 in (4531 mm)|
|Width||68 in (1727 mm)|
|Height||53.8 in (1367 mm)|
|Fuel capacity||15 US gal (57 L; 12 imp gal)|
The Merkur XR4Ti was a short-lived United States and Canada-market version of the European Ford Sierra XR4i. It was the brainchild of then Ford Vice President Bob Lutz. It was sold in the US from 1985 to 1989. It was the first vehicle of Ford's Merkur range, followed in 1988 by the Merkur Scorpio. Ford had hopes of importing its top European models under this brand, including the Sierra Sapphire but the venture was ultimately unsuccessful due to branding issues, increasing Deutsche Mark exchange rates, general poor marketing tactics and the introduction in 1990 of new safety requirements such as airbags that would have increased retooling and production costs.
The XR4Ti was distinguished mechanically by its turbocharged Ford Lima 2.3 L 4-cylinder SOHC engine and independent rear suspension, and stylistically by its large bi-plane spoiler (replaced in later years with a single rear spoiler). It came with either the C3 3-speed automatic transmission or the Ford Type 9, 5-speed manual transmission. Many felt it resembled the Ford Escort RS at the time, although the two were built on different platforms. Mechanically, it differed from the European Ford Sierra XR4i, which had a 2.9l Ford Cologne V6.
It has been suggested that Ford had planned to import South American-made Sierras to supplement its range before the cancellation of the Merkur brand in 1989, but this was not realized, nor the proposed plan actually confirmed. Many attribute airbag legislation for the 1990 model years and weak sales as the cause for the Merkur range to be discontinued.
The XR4Ti sold for approx. US$18,750.00 and the Scorpio for just a little over US$21,250.00
The XR4Ti has been made famous by Jim Rome who claims that "it was the biggest piece of crap ever." The car had such an impact on Mr. Rome that he and his radio cohorts refer to themselves as the XR4Ti crew.
In 2009 Car and Driver declared it one of the worst cars it had ever named "Best" owning to its peculiarity and low consumer appeal.
The XR4Ti came with one engine, the 2.3 liter turbocharged, in-line, fuel injected 'Lima' four cylinder using an EEC-IV computer. The 4-cylinder engine was generally rated at 145 hp (108 kW) when mated with an automatic transmission (8 to 10 lbf/in² [55 to 70 kPa] boost), and 175 hp (130 kW) when matched with the 5-speed manual transmission (12 to 14 lb (6 kg). boost). This engine weighs a surprising 450 lb (204 kg) in full (turbo) trim. This is basically the same motor-setup as the SVO Mustang and the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe of the time. The SVO Mustang differed by having an intercooler.
The XR4Ti options included heated seats, leather seats, power windows, power door locks and a moonroof (retractable, tinted glass), with heated power mirrors coming equipped as a standard item. Some were sold with crank windows (VERY VERY few, in actuality) and a solid roof but most came with everything but the leather seats.
The top speed of the manual transmission XR4Ti 1985-87 were 130 mph (210 km/h). The bi-plane rear spoiler was changed to a single spoiler for the 1988-1989 cars; it actually increased the drag coefficient compared to the bi-plane spoiler of the earlier cars.
Car & Driver tests for the XR4Ti reported 0-60 mph times from 7 seconds flat and as high 7.9 seconds and 1/4 mile times at around 15.7 seconds. Later tests by Car & Driver showed 7.8 seconds for the 0-60mph times and they mentioned the press car might have been a ringer which was common at the time. In their test data, they initially stated the car came with a limited slip differential which was a misprint, at the time there were no LSD's available in either the American Merkur XR4Ti or its sister car the Europe-only XR4i. It wasn't until the introduction of the European only XR4x4 and Cosworth Sierra that a LSD was offered from the factory.
Despite the XR4Ti never being sold outside the United States and Canada, in 1985, Andy Rouse used one to compete in the British Saloon Car Championship. He took the overall title for that year and the class title for the following year with 14 race victories altogether. Eggenberger Motorsport was among the few to use an XR4Ti to compete in the ETCC and the DTM (German Touring Car Championship) with positive results. Ford would use the car's technical feedback from the teams to develop the super car version of the Sierra in 1986, the Sierra Cosworth, shortly superseded by the RS500. Some of the body panels used to stiffen the Sierra chassis and create the Merkur shell were subsequently branded 909 Motorsport parts for later adaptation to a Sierra shell. Many see the successes and failures of the XR4Ti as being the blueprint for success of the dominant Sierra Cosworth.
Ash, the central protagonist of the webcomic Misfile owns and races an XR4Ti.