Good eggs, Rotten apples

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Good eggs, rotten apples too many cars have gained undeserved reputations. Some are over-hyped, others underrated. In the first of a series that explodes these myths, Andrew Frankel looks at a great pretender

FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH

It is remarkable how rare it is today that a car receives a reputation it actually deserves. Because so many factors cloud the process which have little to do with the product — prejudice, precedent and a depressing predilection among too many writers to be kinder than they should, to name but three — rather indifferent motors now bear implausibly grand names on their decidedly skinny shoulders. Of course, it works the other way around too and, as the odd gem does get buried, we will be taking a look at a few of these too over the months to come.

Now though, it is Ford’s Escort RS Cosworth that stands accused of being a less than brilliant road car.

The Escort Cosworth was born, back in 1992, with two crucial factors in its favour: First, it looked right; there is no doubting that those mad, pumped up hatch-from-hell lines struck the right note for its target audience. Second, and as importantly, people wanted it to be right. They willed it with every fibre to be as great a car as that it purported to replace, the largely wonderful Sierra Cosworth. “New Cosworth in not-quite-as-good-as-the-old-one shock” was not a headline anyone wanted to read.

In fairness, the Escort was not a bad car, merely a disappointing one. After the lessons of six years of Sierra Cosworth production, the expectations of the new car were sky high and, in just about every important area, it failed to meet them.

Part of the problem was the fact that, underneath that fancy body, it wasn’t sufficiently different to the Sierra. Indeed, the simple truth is that it was a Sierra, running on a modified platform. If you don’t believe me, peer under the bonnet. When did a ’90s Escort ever have a longitudinal engine? On its own, this reflects merely Ford’s desire to keep the Cosworth line alive long after it could no longer sell the Sierra. The Escort case only starts to look ricketty when direct comparisons are made to its parent.

First, there is the engine, the 2-litre 16-valve turbo four that was common to both. Back in 1986 it was noted more for its ability to extract 100bhp from each of its litres than the ill-tempered manner in which it was achieved. Modifications to bring that output up to the 227bhp boasted by the Escort did little to improve its distinctly crabby disposition.

Even this might have mattered little if the Escort had gone quicker than the Sierra but, as Autocar’s tests showed, this was not a claim it could make. Despite the good offices of four-wheel drive, it could only match the 6.2sec 0-60mph sprint achieved by the original Sierra and not touch its 145mph top speed, its bluff shape halting progress at 138mph.

Some might say such on-paper posturing counts for little in the real world but even they would admit the coarse rattling’s of the Cortina-blocked engine gave little cause to commend itself when compared to the silken song of the Lancia Delta Integrate Evolution’s similarly configured powerplant.

It doesn’t end there. The Escort could have been forgiven if its chassis had proven to be some sublime vehicle for the talents of its drivers. As it was, it could not hold candle-light to that of the car it replaced.

It had a lot of grip, I grant you,and I don’t doubt it could drive around the outside of a Sierra in any corner you care to name. This is not the point. Grip should only be one small slice of chassis ability but, in the Escort, it was near enough the entire pie. Fine, the Sierra Cosworth was not the finest riding carriage around either but, in two vital respects, it was the old dog that knew the best tricks.

First, any Sierra Cosworth, from a two-wheel drive hatch to the four-wheel drive saloon, is better balanced than the Escort. Early ones were tricky, thanks to suspension that carried almost no rubber and Dunlop D40 tyres that lacked grip in the wet but, as the model evolved, they became beautfully controlled. The best was the rear-drive saloon which was not just devilishly quick point-to-point with butter-wouldn’t-melt looks but would also boot its tail as far out offing as you wished. And even when this game was ended by four-wheel drive, the Sierra Cosworth remained delightfully neutral, able to be manoeuvred on the throttle to your unending delight.

The Escort Cosworth is not like this. Unless you know some advanced rally driving techniques that should not be used on public roads whatever your surname, all it will do is grip and then understeer. And understeer some more. I remember passing a day with one at Goodwood and wondering what had gone wrong. Lap times might have said it was quick but pulse times definitely said it was dull.

Dismiss this as irrelevant to real life on the public road if you like. What is less easy to forgive, however, is the steering which is peculiar to say the least. It not only lacks the feel of the Sierra system, it has aggressive off-centre response, removing linearity. This is not a problem which spoils your fun at only race track speed; it’s there all the time.

In essence, the Escort Cosworth’s body wrote a cheque the car was unable to cash. In later life, a smaller turbo helped engine response but it never seemed likely to eclipse the car it replaced. All that could be categorically stated in the Escort’s favour over the Sierra was that extra security meant fewer were stolen. Perhaps the thieves took test drives too.

VERDICT: Rotten apple.

You may also like

Related products