Rare Rides: The 1988 Merkur Scorpio, a Luxury Liftback for Nobody

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1988 merkur scorpio a luxury liftback for nobody

Rare Rides broached the subject of Merkur in the past with a very clean XR4Ti. Today we have a look at Merkur’s only other offering — the luxurious liftback called Scorpio.

As mentioned previously, Merkur was the brainchild of Bob Lutz when he was in charge of Ford Europe. Lutz oversaw development of the European-market Sierra, then convinced executives at Dearborn that a new brand should shift Ford’s European offerings onto U.S. shores. Re-engineered and clothed as XR4Ti, the sporty hatchback went on sale in 1985. XR4Ti was sold at select Lincoln-Mercury dealers, and was in fact the only Merkur until 1988. At that point, its big brother the Scorpio arrived.

Designated as the flagship of the Merkur brand, the Scorpio was intended as competitor to the Mercedes-Benz 190E, Audi 5000, and the Saab 9000. Perhaps the most similar competitor for Scorpio was the Sterling 825/827, which was foisted upon the U.S. by Rover at the same time.

Scorpio was built on the same rear-drive DE-1 platform as the XR4Ti, but at a different factory: All examples rolled out of Cologne in West Germany. While European-market Scorpios were sold as sedans, liftbacks, and wagons with a variety of engines, all North American Merkur Scorpios were of liftback variety. Establishing its flagship status, the Scorpio came equipped with the model’s largest engine, a 2.9-liter Cologne V6. The potent 144-horsepower mill was paired to a five-speed manual, or (more commonly) a four-speed automatic.

Ford intended the Scorpio to impose a more upscale and European image than its domestic counterparts. This was especially true for the Mercury Sable, with which the Scorpio shared a showroom. Though differing in door count, the Sable and Scorpio were similar in appearance.

While Scorpio was slightly smaller in all dimensions, it cost more because of its “premium” European heritage. And the more money part should be emphasized here; the Scorpio asked $23,390 in 1988, or just over $52,000 today. Said price was without options like the automatic transmission, electric moonroof, and the Touring Package, which raised the ask to an adjusted $58,232. The Sable GS asked $14,145 ($31,462 adjusted) in 1988. Obviously, Lincoln-Mercury dealers had a hard time justifying the price for Scorpio.

It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the Scorpio lasted just two model years: 1988 and 1989. In October of ’89, Ford announced there’d be no more Scorpios imported, as the liftback joined the already cancelled XR4Ti in the Merkur funeral pyre. Some 22,010 Scorpios were sold in total, most of which vanished from the roads long ago.

Today’s Rare Ride is listed on one of those odd sites which hangs onto old eBay listings. Located in Oregon, the loaded Scorpio had 70,827 miles at the time of sale.

[Images: seller]

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  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Nov 21, 2019

    The exterior styling is a bit bland to modern eyes, but I like the interior. Reminds me a lot of the Olds Touring Sedan of similar vintage.

  • Tbones77 Tbones77 on Feb 27, 2021

    I had an '89 Scorpio and I absolutely LOVED IT! It was a well-built, European-style car with very good handling, a distinctive style, and versatility. Oh, and THAT HATCH... HUGE! It created a greenhouse inside not helped by lightly tinted windows. I actually had to have them tinted (and I live in Pennsylvania!)since I had black leather seats. I would have kept it but for the fact that they pulled the brand after only three years and L-M had an insane guarantee against depreciation up to three years of ownership. It was guaranteed to hold its value at least as well as a Mercedes 190E or C-Class within that three-year window. Needless to say, it got CREAMED in resale value by that time because they pulled the line so I didn't have much of a choice except to trade it in. I had to trade it for another Ford product but I really didn't want a Ford but I found a Jeep dealer willing to "play along" with me. I traded the Scorpio for a brand new Explorer, drove it less than five miles to the Jeep dealership then traded the Explorer for a brand new Jeep Cherokee. Craziest car deal that I've ever done! Anyway, don't 'dis' the Scorpio. If not for terrible management at Ford, they may have been able to save it with some slick marketing (which was almost non-existent) for the brand.

  • Tassos No car "needs" a manual today.No Driver "needs" a manual today.Let's use the english language precisely.Only some Drivers WANT a manual.And most people who make a lot of noise about how good manuals are, then go out and buy another AUTOMATIC.Auto Journalists are always very fond of manuals.Actual CAR BUYERS in the US BUY 99% automatics, regardless of what they CLAIM.30 years ago, automatics were lousy and inefficient and had too few gears and manuals had better MPG and cost $1-2k less to buy a manual vs an auto car.Today all these advantages have gone up in smoke.
  • Tassos I have driven exclusively manuals in my own cars for the first 30-40 years of my driving history. They were usually very affordable, fuel efficient simple vehicles with front wheel drive. Their manuals sucked (in the case of a 1983 GM vehicle I bought new) or were perfect (in my two 5-sp manual Hondas).After 2005, I started driving excellent 5 and 7 speed automatics in my own cars, which were NOT available in the US market with manuals.With today's outstanding automatics, which are also MORE, not LESS, fuel efficient than any manual, your question becomes MEANINGLESS.Because NO CAR "needs" a manual.Only some DRIVERS "WANT", NOT "NEED", a manual.Let us use language PRECISELY.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic And this too shall pass.....Ford went thru this when the model T was introduced. It took the moving assembly line to make real money. As time progressed, it got refined, eventually moving to the Model A. Same kind of hiccups with fuel injection, 4 speed automatic, Firestone tires, dashboards with no radio knobs, etc, etc, etc. Same thing with EVs. Yep, a fire or two in the parking lot, espresso time at the charging stations, other issues yet to be encountered, just give it time. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Art Vandelay 2025 Camaro and Challenger
  • Mike Beranek Any car whose engine makes less than 300 ft-lbs of torque.