CONVENTIONAL running-gear is (lathed different body-shell.

A COMMON complaint today is that most mass-produced European cars tend to look the same. Ford, however, cannot be criticised for producing a “Eurobox” in the Sierra. The replacement to the ubiquitous Cortina i Taunus — more than 10 million built since its introduction in 1962 — is very different in terms of styling. For a major manufacturer such as Ford it represents a bold step, the rounded body styling being more appropriate to a small quantity, specialist builder. Certainly, the Sierra outline is an acquired taste. Having seen examples in the metal I can say it is more attractive than photographs would have one believe, but there again, like many of my Standard House colleagues, I feel the styling from the front is reminiscent of the Panhard-Levassor. From the rear the may boot is very much a family link with the current Escort.

The Sierra shape has its roots in the Probe III design exercise, a “concept” first seen at the 1981 Frankfurt Show. The outline has changed since then, but the resemblance is still there. Whether the fleet buyers — the major factor in the success or failure of the Sierra — take to the shape remains to be seen. For my money they will, but such a bold design is bound to meet with a certain amount of resistance from private and fleet buyer alike, although projected low maintenance costs will undoubtedly sway the latter.

Underneath the skin are a number of developments and innovations aimed at more economical motoring without sacrificing performance. With some justification Ford make play of the fact that its engineers have gone to great lengths to ensure that more efficiency is attained not only by an obviously aerodynamic shape, but by subtle improvements to vvell-proven components as well

as a major effort to keep overall weight as low as practicable. Ford claim the Sierra has a 0.34 drag co-efficient, a 22 per cent improvement on other European family cars; the top of the range sporting XR4 with its 2.8-litre fuel injected V6 has a 0.32 co-efficient thanks to its additional aerodynamic devices, including a rather weird bi-plane rear spoiler. Add to this a minimum kerb weight of 2,136 lbs., less than a Vauxhall Cavalier but more than VW Passat, and one appreciates why Ford is crowing about efficiency on the Sierra. Incidentally, the XR4, with a claimed 125 m.p.h. top speed, will not be available until spring of 1983. The low weight has been achieved by a reduction in steel gauge in certain areas, plus the use of high strength, low alloy metal for body panels, including the rear floor crossmember. There has been a significant reduction in the number of steel body panels, the Sierra having a one piece outer side panel compared with the eight of the old Cortina. There has also been a 26.5 lbs weight saving in the rear suspension alone when compared with the Granada, the Sierra using basically the same independent send-trailing arm system. The difference comes from the use of what Ford prosaically describes as an “upswept over aide” tubular crossmember which not only carries the suspension system, but also the aluminium alloy final-drive housing. There are seven engine options on the Sierra, starting with the 1,294 c.c. four cylinder o.h.c. engine and ending with the 2,792 c.c. fuel injected V6. Apart from the petrol-driven 1.3-litre and 1.6-litre o.h.c. engines, there is also an economy version of the latter, plus a 2-litre o.h.c. four, a 2.3-litre V6 and a Peugeot-built four-cylinder diesel from the Granada, now enlarged to 2.3-litres from 2.1. This wide

diversity was a major influence in Ford’s decision that the Sierra should be front-engined, rear-wheel drive, as it was felt the limitations on engine options imposed by front-wheel drive would lessen overall appeal.

Although all these engines are familiar, worthwhile improvements have been incorporated, particularly on the under 2-litre assemblies. Again efficiency is the theme, and both 1.3 and 1.6-litre engines have recontoured pistons, a smaller piston-bore contact area resulting in less friction. The two top compression rings are also narrower, but surprisingly, it was discovered that the oil ring had no significant effect on friction, and it was therefore left unchanged. A bonus to these modifications is a lighter, shorter piston which helps reduce engine vibrations. All the o.h.c. engines have dual oudet exhaust manifolds, these tuned systems contributing to a two per cent power increase and three per cent improvement in torque.

Apart from the 1.6 Economy, all Sierra engines have breakerless transistorised ignition, first used by Ford in 1969 on the Cortina V6. As far as the economy engine is concerned, it has a computerised ignition system which uses a microprocesser to replace the vacuum mechanical distributor spark and retard. This monitors engine performance continuously, and is claimed to be more accurate and efficient.

With its higher fmal drive ratio (3.14:1 compared with 3.62:1 for the ordinary 1.6 Sierra) the Economy model is said to return 47.8 m.p.g. at a constant 56 m.p.h. (44.8 m.p.g. for the normal 1.6) in four-speed gearbox form. It should be added that both 1.6-litre engines produce 75 blip. (DIN) at 5,300 r.p.m. There is a five-speed gearbox option for all models except the 1.3-litre whilst both the XR4

and diesel have it as standard. It is derived from the much praised Ford four-speed ‘box, the overdrive fifth gear installed in the tailshaft housing on an extended gear cluster. Ford C3 automatic transmission is available on 1.6, 2.0 and 2.3-live models, whilst power steering is optional on the 2.0 o.h.c. and V6 Sierras, and standard on diesel versions.

Internally the Sierra not only feels bigger than the Cortina, but acnially is. Front and rear leg room has been increased whilst the basic luggage compartment is six per cent larger at 14.4 cu. ft. Thanks to a rear seat that can be split and folded forward, the carrying capacity can be increased up to a maximum of 42.2 cu. ft. on the saloons. The Sierra is also available as 1.6, 2.0, 2.3 V6 and Diesel Estates.

A pleasing and well thought out interior features newly designed seating, the front reclining seats on the upper models having built-in head restraints. On some models the drivers’ seat can be adjusted for height as well as lumbar support.

As usual with Ford there are a wide range of trim levels starting with die straight Sierra and running through L, GL, Ghia why do they still insist on those mock weed door strips and awful cheap badges? to the top of the range XR4. The amount of instrumentation and gadgetry also depends on what model you purchase, the basic curved instrument panel in my opinion being rather cluttered and confused on the 2.3 Ghia.

Certainly the Sierra looks and feels much more than a Cortina, the overall impression being of a Ford which is now much closer to a Granada in terms of trim, ride, and spaciousness. These facts alone will make the Sierra appeal to many many people. M.R.G.