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Sierra XR4i Meets 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth – Get Along Perfect

Ford Sierra XR4i vs Mercedes-Benz 2.3-16

Every single one of us dreams of a lottery win. Even those with plenty of car-buying funds wish for more – and every weekend before my numbers fail to come up and the jumbo cash giveaway slips through my fingers, I dream of a checklist of classic ’80s performance cars I would gather under the same roof at the first opportunity.

That list now starts with the two cars I photographed today.

The Ford Sierra made all the headlines when it arrived on the market in 1982. The fast and bulbous aerodynamic shape was nothing Taunus/Cortina buyers in Europe expected, but as soon as the dust settled the Sierra became a sales success. The mechanicals underneath that provocative body were more conventional, but being rear-drive it definitely benefited from the power surge dealt with more capable engines gradually dropped under the bonnet.

This 1984 XR4i came with the 2.8-litre Cologne V6. Combined with an instantly recognizable rear side window setup and a frankly huge bi-plane rear wing, it’s a rightful ’80s design classic.

These days these cars are seriously rare, at least in un-bastardised condition such as this one, currently being advertised for sale in my town. It’s an original Finnish car, brought for sale from the coastal town of Jakobstad. It’s been in storage since 2004, but has had a recent engine overhaul. The pepperpot alloys on the car are the correct ones, but a serving of BBS cross-spoke wouldn’t hurt, either.

The only question marks with this car are that it doesn’t come with a service book and the 5-digit odometer reading doesn’t tell you much – it says 90k, and 190 000 km is a good guess based on the car’s condition, especially inside. The seats are still clean and supportive, with the driver’s seat showing only a little nick under the tilt handle. The headlining could also do with a clean, as it’s developed unsightly stains. Outside, it’s straight and true except for a few paint imperfections around the rear lights. But mainly, the car looks showroom fresh like a couple-year-old car would, instead of a car built the year I was born.

Stateside, the XR4i was part of the infamous Merkur captive import program that consisted of the car being offered with a 2.3-litre turbo four snatched from the Foxbody Mustang – and a made-up-on-the-spot diamond badge slapped on the front, in place of the regular Ford oval. The program was not a roaring success, and the XR4ti (as it was called) was quickly swept under the rug along with the bigger Merkur Scorpio.

Meanwhile in Europe, the Sierra collected Touring Car victories and eventually developed into the revered Sierra Cosworth – a badge also applied to the black Mercedes here, an another Touring Car classic.

When you have a classic performance saloon, what would make it even better? How about preparing it for historic rallying? This 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth is hitting the gravel stages next year. In some of the photos it’s hoisted up as it was being prepared for inspection by the dealer.

The 16-valve 190E was the fastest iteration of the W201 bodystyle, and the 2.3-litre 185-horse version was only superseded by the 2.5-litre and Evo versions, the latter a real Batmobile of a Mercedes with excessively flared arches and a bookshelf rear wing. The gearbox in Cosworth Benzes is a Getrag dogleg, a motorsport-focused choice.

Shape-wise it’s perfect, all black wedge with a completely stock appearance except for the stance and a couple of quick-locks on the hood and trunklid; inside it has cages and bucket seats. I’ve not seen an 190E doing rallying too often, even if in DTM it was a fine-tuned track weapon.

I just love those Kanaldeckel alloys.

So, next time I’m clutching a lottery ticket, these two are the ones I’d pick up first. The Sierra’s freshly inspected and waiting for a buyer – so it’s a great way to start an ’80s Classics Collection.

In the background of these pics, almost out of shot, you might see an interesting orange little car. Stay tuned.


Thanks to O. Lindell for the photo opportunity.


  • What diversity in cars in your town, Antii. What is its population size?

    • julkinen

      Around 46k. It's the Swedish-Finnish influence of trade and commerce that results in interesting car-buying choices.

  • TurboBrick

    Wow, that is one seriously clean Sierra. The last XR4i I saw was fake as a tranny's fanny as the Brits say. I asked the owner about the performance and he admitted that it was nothing more than a "breakerless Taunus" underneath – they had swapped the body over a terminally rusty base model. This of course was in the bad old days of eye-wateringly high import taxes on used cars.

    Is that orange car a Hillman Imp?

    • Screech

      looks like an imp to me and by the looks of it caged with poly windows.

  • Fej

    That "interesting orange little car" wouldn't happen to be a caged HIllman Imp would it?

    • Fej

      Didn't realize there was a better picture of it behind the Sierra, it is without a doubt an Imp. I wants to know more.

    • Well, that WAS our Mystery Car for next week. Thanks a lot dude… you ruined it for everyone.


      • Fej


      • TurboBrick

        If you have to wait for the picture to be posted, you're already too slow around here.

    • scroggzilla

      Not necessarily. It could be a Singer Stiletto.
      <img src=";

      • Vavon

        That would be a Sunbeam Stiletto then… As the picture tells you…

        The Singer-version was called Singer Chamois! 😉

        <img src=";

  • I wanted both of these as a kid, badly.
    I had an opportunity to buy a similar 2.3-16 several years ago, but really… it's not that great of a car.

  • Vavon

    In 1992 my dad bought a new Ford Sierra 2.0i Ghia in Moondust Silver.
    It was the top of the range and was very luxurious and oh so comfortable.
    We made lots of great trips to France with it, whilst it slowly rusted away.
    Strangly enough I miss it… Maybe my dad driving it is what I really miss…

    <img src=";
    RWD or not, I can tell you, the roadholding of bread and butter Sierra's was far from perfect!

  • hwyengr

    This pairing has given me a moment of inspiration. I want to make an XR4Ti into a Sierra RS but the Ford-Cosworth engine is hard to come by in the US. And in California, such an engine swap would never pass smog anyway, since it doesn't have the EPA certs. If you dropped in a Mercedes-Cosworth engine from the 190, you'd at least be able to say that you had a Cossie under the hood, right?

    What's the tuning market like for the 190-2.3?

    • m4ff3w

      How about a Volvo 16v head on the Lima block? It's been done many times now.

  • Where can I get a rally sticker made that has my name, country, and blood type?

    • dukeisduke

      Seriously? You can probably find someone locally (or on eBay) that would make a die cut decal for you. Years ago I found a guy on eBay that made a huge WRC logo decal for me (reversed, no less, for application on the inside of the glass), based on a jpeg I sent him (copyright, what copyright?).


    Kudos to the Fin who's taking a car that some people consider a classic rallying!

    I can think of better ways to spend 6500 euros than on that Sierra though…

  • Someone's selling this for 11500 now…



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