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The Ford Escort XR3i was launched in 1986 to replaced the XR3.
The suspension was overhauled by the mainstream engineers, tending to work in exactly the opposite path to their SVE counterparts as they inserted harder inner TCA (Track Control Arm) joints, specified Fichtel & Sachs twin tube gas dumping, elongated the front roll bar length, and raised the effective steering rack height to combat bump steer and the front spring rates. In fact the whole 1986 Escort was raised 10mm and the result was a more comfortable XR, but one now hopelessly uncompetitive on handling and performance per pound spent when compared with later 'hot hatch' entrants such as Peugeot 1.6/1.9 from the 205/309 GTi lines.
There were some important running changes. In September 1987 the five-speed transaxle received external changes to the operating mechanism (shared with fiesta) in an unsuccessful attempt to return shift quality to the four-speed levels. In fact, it took the MTX-75 gearboxes of the Zeneca-era Nineties to significantly update Escort gear change quality. Another important mechanical move was the adoption of a variable ratio steering rack. Unusually for this class, Ford did not immediately join the power steering set, and the second edition of front-driven Escorts ran out without power steering between 1986-90, although SVE had engineered an LHD application for special-order export markets.
There had long been rumours that CVH engine power would be increased, but these translated as a healthy 'lean burn' uprate for the mundane carbureted 1.6 litre (from 79 to 90bhp for the 1986-90 span) rather than a boost for the XR3i. In fact the planned overhaul of engine ignition and injection requirements under the familiar Ford EEC-IV branding ran for at least three years in-house before it was released for public consumption, by which time it shared most with the XR2i, although that installation was rated at 110bhp.
The later Injection CVH is easily identified by 'EFI' on top the cast-alloy inlet manifolding. It also featured an overhauled cylinder head, plastic sections to the air intake induction that straddled the rocker cover, and "revised manifold and gas flowed intake ports, with new camshaft timing," admitted Ford. They added: "It is fitted with a completely new Ford developed electronic injection system controlled by the EEC-IV microprocessor operating Weber solenoid-type sequential injectors. With a compression ratio of 9.75:1 it has been developed to accept unleaded 95 octane fuel." Catalytic converters were the next obvious step, but they were never fitted to the Mk4.
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