I have owned this XR4 for about five or six years now, so I thought I would do a long-term owner’s review. You can read my original review here.
I originally bought the car as I wanted something a bit more economical and modern than my 5.0-litre Commodore. I needed to do a lot of long commutes but still wanted a fun car. The XR4 had always caught my eye since I first saw one bearing its stripes in 2007. A lot of them don’t have the stripes anymore, but I still have the genuine stripes on mine and a spare set waiting. I used to walk past a Falcon Cobra coupe on the way to school, and it’s just always nice to see a white Ford with blue stripes.
Instead of retreading the same ground as my original review, I’ll just explain why I still own the car, and what its reliability has been like.
I have owned quite a few interesting cars in the past, and always regret selling them. I thought I would regret selling the XR4, as it has always been a fun car to own, so a couple of years ago I decided to keep it for as long as I can. I drove the car in standard form for three or so years, then decided to modify it.
Coming from a long list of sport and muscle cars, the biggest downfall for me was the XR4 just didn’t have quite enough power. It’s no slouch, but time has moved on and now a lot of non-sport cars and even SUVs will outperform an XR4 in a straight line. So I put on some Mountune and Milltek parts and had the car tuned. Now it’s at about 170hp instead of the factory 150hp, making peak power at 5850rpm and happily revs up to 7400rpm, instead of dying off after 6000rpm when it was standard.
I also added a poly gearbox mount to address an ongoing problem with hot Fiestas. They all use the same mount from a base-model WP, even on the current Fiesta ST180. The car vibrates and shakes a bit more, but if you have ever driven a V8 or older car, it feels more like a car should.
The car is more economical now than when it was standard, and can now claim 6L/100km on the highway (it was around 6.8L/100km standard). Performance-wise, the car would now perform similarly to a Mk7 Fiesta ST180.
A few years back, the fuel pump got very loud to the point pedestrians would stare quizzically at the car. While it never ceased to function, I did replace the fuel pump (which involves removing the tank). This year the car is 10 years old, and the coolant block housing was fairly corroded, so that was changed out to a redesigned unit costing a few hundred dollars.
Ford used to mean bulletproof drivelines – Toploader gearboxes and 9-inch diffs are rock solid. We have all heard about the Powershift woes in Fiestas and the Focus, but sadly the XR4 suffers a similar fate and is its biggest flaw. For whatever reasons, Ford fitted the strengthened close-ratio IB5+ gearbox that is unique to the XR4 with plastic polymer-cased diff bearings. Either the bearing fails or the diff itself lets go and the poor XR4 ends up with a giant hole in the bellhousing and its gears on the road.
Being a gearbox unique to the car, they have always demanded thousands. Even now, an XR4 gearbox will cost $1500 plus the labour to have it replaced, which makes fixing the car a questionable choice, and most that suffer this fate end up at the wrecker’s.
Earlier this year, I noticed my gearbox was leaking oil, and given the problems it seemed a risk not to fix it. The gearbox had to come out. So I decided at this point I was going to keep the car and fix this issue. The gearbox was taken out and had high-quality Timken and Koyo diff bearings put in and a forged Mfactory limited-slip diff capable of handling a ridiculous 1000hp, the oil leak was fixed, and a new thrust bearing installed for good measure.
I would never buy a FWD again that did not have a limited slip. It really does a lot to fix the dangerous stability control in the XR4 (the engine power gets cut often when pulling into traffic with the open diff). Now, the car’s performance in the wet is outstanding and it always feels sure-footed – driving in the rain is like how most cars handle in dry weather.
The Ford hot-hatch community is fantastic, fellow enthusiasts are helpful, and there’s always something to do or some event to go to. This year my XR4 won its first trophy at a large show, and I take a lot of pride in how the car looks day to day. I look forward to continuing to enjoy the car, which is now at 99,750km.
I would recommended the XR4 to anyone at the current price point, which is $5000–$6000 for a decent one. Most cars seem to have a problem, so don’t be too put off by its gearbox, as quite a few are well over 200,000km now without an issue.
It’s quite a rare car, and only going to get rarer with around 1000 in Australia and a good chunk of those written off or at the wrecker’s. They can’t really get any cheaper than they are now. It would make a great track or motorsport toy.