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The Model 21 appeared in 1986 to replace the R 18 at the end of its career. The mid-1980s was a dark period for Renault. The deficit reaches fabulous sums; The range is getting old and the quality is missing.

The R 21 is directly inspired by the Orca concept car released by Italdesign in 1982. The pulled lines give a Cd of 0.29, which is quite remarkable for the time.

Suddenly, in 1984, Superfive and R 21 appear, which, in the end, will sell more than two million copies. This, however, is not such a quiet story.

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There is a catastrophic lack of funds for the full development of a homogeneous assortment; it is clear that there is no way to design a transverse gearbox designed for torquey engines.

Therefore, it was necessary to develop an architecture for small engines (petrol 1.7 l and diesel 1.9 l) with a long wheelbase, as well as another architecture for “large” engines (petrol 2 l and diesel 2.1 l) with a shorter wheelbase. base.

Once it was released, it was a success after the R 18, which was just an improvement on the R 12.

Year for revolution

Renault realized very quickly what could be gained from a turbo, even if the technology was still in its infancy.

The R 18 turbo heralded an evolution; even if evil tongues said it only had “an axle to cry on,” remembering the rigid rear axle inherited from the R 12.

At the end of 1987, a turbo engine with a volume of 21.2 liters and its power of 175 hp was produced. Recognizable by the dual optics on the front, it has ABS as standard (as evidenced by the large badge on the back).

With a top speed of 227 km/h, it was almost equivalent to the BMW M3 and Mercedes 2.3 L 16 S.

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The first stage from 1987 to 1989.

The R21 Turbo Phase 1, sold from 1987 to 1989, is recognizable by its rear spoiler that wraps around the edges of the trunk, dashboard, small brake calipers, “Turbo” logo near the rear windows, and five paint colors: red, white, black, tungsten gray and light gray. Various body kits were available.

Despite the cheap interior layout, the velor bucket seats hold the body well and provide good comfort; but the finishes and showy aesthetics get in the way of an international career.

Phase 2 is easy to recognize by the spoiler completely torn off from the trunk.  The Turbo badge moved from the side fascia to the front fender.  The rims are made from 5-spoke alloy.

Phase 2 is easy to recognize by the spoiler completely torn off from the trunk. The Turbo badge moved from the side fascia to the front fender. The rims are made from 5-spoke alloy.

Turbo and all-wheel drive

In 1989, Renault released phase 2 to correct the bugs; restyled inside (removed the hard plastic meter cover and new heating controls) and externally (five-spoke rims, larger brake pads, spoiler separated from the trunk), the 21 turbo looks better than its direct competitors Peugeot 405 Mi 16 and BX GTI.

The R21 Quadra is the answer to the advent of all-wheel drive sports cars.  21 Quadra gives a big advantage, especially on poor surfaces;  four-wheel drive appeared in 1988 on the Nevada 4x4 station wagon.  Reno Photos

The R21 Quadra is the answer to the advent of all-wheel drive sports cars. 21 Quadra gives a big advantage, especially on poor surfaces; four-wheel drive appeared in 1988 on the Nevada 4×4 station wagon. Reno Photos

This is also the year of the introduction of the Quadra model with all-wheel drive and a composite driveshaft. It still develops only 175 hp, but…

Taken from competition

The Quadra was preceded by the Turbo 21 “Competition”.

In 1988, Jean Ragnotti, a faithful coachman of the brand, won the French supertourism championship driving a kind of 21 Turbo.

With 430 horsepower, the R 21 dominated the competition and easily won six of the program’s ten races. Powertrain is provided by a carbon fiber shaft, which should keep the weight down when the 4×4 system weighs 130kg.

The Superproduction R 21 turbo driven by Jean Ragnotti won the French championship in this discipline from the very first entry.

Quadra is behind the times and consumes more, but shows accelerations very close to all-wheel drive.

The police appreciated

Since 1992, the R 21 turbo has become a rapid response vehicle for gendarmes on motorways. Unfortunately, this is the time of adoption of the catalytic exhaust, which causes the loss of 13 horses. 21 Turbo returns to 162 hp

Despite some fragility of the transmission shaft, less precise handling than on the Peugeot 405 Mi 16, the R21 is still extremely efficient. After 13,781 units, 21 turbos were dropped in 1993.

In 1987 it cost 150,000 francs (€39,723 inflation-adjusted). The current average odds are €13,000.