The XR moniker was first released in Europe with the 1980 XR3, but it was already part of the Ford terminology having been used on the Mercury Cougar as the XR7 in the late ’60s. The XR badge has never been officially explained, with eXperimental Racing being the best explanation, with Australian domestic Ford’s also supporting that notion. The European marketing department was looking to re-establish Ford sporting credentials after the phenomenal marketing successes of the RS models and while the ‘80s models didn’t create the same impact on the race tracks and rally stages, it certainly worked in the showrooms.
The XR2 was reserved for the Fiesta, XR3 for the Escort and the XR4 for the Sierra. However while Ford was busying itself with the FWD Escort, Ford’s South African division were developing the Cortina XR6, specifically for their local markets. Fitted with a carb-fed 3.0-litre Essex V6 engine, it proved how well-liked the Cortina still was. There was no attempt to market the car in Europe, as Ford were already deep in development for the Sierra.
Always receptive to their customers, Ford did install the V6 to the Sierra for European cars, but Ford SA went one further with the Mustang’s 5.0-litre V8 to create the Sierra XR8. The XR badge was last seen on the MK5 Escort in 1993 and has not been seen on a European Ford since. A trick missed by the brand, as there’s no doubt that the XR stock still means something to many.