I gave my impressions of driving the new FWD Ford Escort 1.6 GL in the December 1980 issue and I have since tried the faster XR-3 Escort, with the Weber-fed overhead-camshaft 1,596 cc CVH engine that gives 96 (DIN) bhp at 6,000 rpm. As the car is similar to the 1.6 GL in most respects, there is little need to enlarge on the previous report, except to say that the increased performance of the “hot” Escort Erika with its alloy wheels, three-door body, front spoiler, rear “wing”, “competition” front seats, and larger tyres reminded me of the fun I had ten years ago with an Escort Mexico.
That Ford have made very worthwhile strides since then is reflected in the lower fuel consumption of the XR-3 over the told Mexico, inspite of improved performance. The new aerodynamics and the efficiency of the CVH engine have worked, remembering the 31 m.p.g. I got from that 1971 Mexico against the 34.1 m.p.g. the XR-3 gave, driven hard. That performance has also improved is seen by comparing the XR-3’s acceleration figures with those for the rorty twin-cam, 16-valve Cosworth-Mexico of 1970, and the RS2000 that the new FWD XR-3 replaces, as shown below.
Apart from this excellent pick-up, the XR-3 is a great car to drive, with its outstanding road grip, smooth gear change, and responsive steering with a small thick-rimmed wheel. The tachometer has the red warning starting at 6,300 r.p.m. and the engine likes high speeds. Ford have been criticised for the harsh rear suspension of the New Escorts. The situation has improved only slightly, if at all, with the XR-3 but the lively ride over the rougher surfaces is less troublesome in a sporting saloon anyway. Normally the XR-3 uses Pirelli P6 185/60 tyres but Ford are not adverse to experiments with other rubber and the test-car had grippy Goodyear low profile tubeless NCT HR60 low-profile tyres.
With a top speed of 114 m.p.h. and 84 m.p.h. in third gear the economy of this latest fast model of the Escort range is a great bonus and the price of £5,213 is notably competitive. Inexpensive servicing, too, is aided by the hydraulic tappets and breaker-less ignition. So the XR-3 will obviously enhance sales of the new Ford models. It is available with door and boot central locking, sun roof, electric window lifts, headlamp washers, fuel-filler lock and a stereo/radio cassette player and the price of this luxurious sporting Escort is then only £5,926. I would derive much pleasure from owning such a thrifty, willing, and nice-to-handle Sporting Ford. It is good to find Ford, in whom I have much faith, coming up with this Golf/Alfasud beater! — W.B.