Forgotten future

A high water-mark of automotive design ambition, a stark punctuation in a lineage of the studied averageness of four Cortinas and four Mondeos.  

The Sierra was a product of the uniquely ambitious and intelligent design group at Ford Europe forty years ago, principally Uwe Bahnsen, then Design VP, and Patrick Le Quement, then head of Advanced Exterior Design. A leading proponent of “Aero design” — the design proudly boasted of its 0.34 coefficient of drag (0.32 in spoiler’d XR4 guise) with its distinct “jelly mould” aerodynamic exterior form — and it also pioneered with a markedly ergonomic interior that underpinned its launch strap-line of “man and machine in perfect harmony”. Yet it’s clever, modernist design approach was too a step too far for the Ford brand: last-of-the-line Cortinas briefly sold for a price premium; its subsequent facelift brought grille, spoked wheel designs and a sedan option; it was replaced by the normative Mondeo.

Today, as most mass market cars of the eighties, the Sierra is now rarely seen, and the idea of a car design focusing on aerodynamics and ergonomics to be better-through-design (not different through styling) also seems a forgotten idea. It’s a shame though, to see the car more often would be a reminder of a time when the best mainstream car design looked only forwards and when car designs was about more then semantics — a forgotten future.