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The Model 21 arrived in 1986 to replace an R 18 at the end of its career. The mid-1980s were a dark period for Renault. Clear reaches bottomless quantities; the range is getting old and the quality is lacking.

The R 21 is directly inspired by the Orca concept car produced by Italdesign in 1982. The taut lines condition a 0.29 CD as quite remarkable for the period.

Suddenly Superfive is in 1984 and the R 21 will eventually reach over two million copies. But it is a story that is not so quiet.

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Tools are grossly lacking to develop a completely homogeneous range; obviously there is no way to design a transverse gearbox designed for torque motors.

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

As soon as it was released, it met with success only after an R 18, an improved R 12.

One year for the revolution

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

The R 18 turbo was the harbinger of evolution; Evil tongues recall the stiff rear axle inherited from the R 12, even if they say it’s just the “axle to cry”.

At the end of 1987, a 21.2-liter turbo and 175 horsepower were introduced. Known for its dual optics at the front, this vehicle had ABS as standard (a large badge at the rear proves this).

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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A first phase between 1987 and 1989

Marketed from 1987 to 1989, the R21 turbo phase 1 is recognizable from the rear by the spoiler surrounding the sides of the trunk, the instrument cluster, small brake scoops, the “Turbo” logo near the rear side windows, and its five polished colors: red, white, black, tungsten gray and light grey. Various body kits were available.

Despite a cheap interior layout, velvet seats hold the trunk well and provide good comfort; but finish and a flamboyant aesthetic hinder an international career.

Phase 2 is easily recognizable by its spoiler completely separated from the trunk.  The turbo badging has been moved from the quarter panel to the front fender.  The wheels are 5-spoke alloy.

Phase 2 is easily recognizable by its spoiler completely separated from the trunk. The turbo badging has been moved from the quarter panel to the front fender. The wheels are 5-spoke alloy.

Turbo and all-wheel drive

In 1989 Renault released the 2nd phase to make up for the mistakes; The 21 turbo looks better than its direct rivals, the Peugeot 405 Mi 16 and BX GTI, reshaped internally (with the hard plastic cover removed and new heating controls) and externally (five-spoke wheels, enlarged brake scoops, spoiler separated from the trunk).

The R21 Quadra is the answer to the advent of all-wheel drive sports cars.  21 Quadra provides great advantages especially on bad surfaces;  All-wheel drive appeared on the Nevada 4x4 station wagon in 1988.  Photo Renault

The R21 Quadra is the answer to the advent of all-wheel drive sports cars. 21 Quadra provides great advantages especially on bad surfaces; All-wheel drive appeared on the Nevada 4×4 station wagon in 1988. Photo Renault

It is also the year of Quadra, all-wheel drive and the arrival of the composite driveshaft. It still only produces 175 hp, but…

Removed from the competition

The Quadra preceded the 21 “Competition” turbo.

In 1988, the brand’s loyal driver Jean Ragnotti won the French “Supertourism” championship behind the wheel of a special 21 turbo.

With 430 horsepower, the R 21 dominated the competition, easily winning six of the ten races on the program. The transmission is provided by a carbon fiber shaft that is expected to save weight while the 4×4 system weighs 130kg.

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

The Quadra is stretched in time and consumes more, but it signals accelerations very close to two-wheel drive.

Appreciated by the police

Since 1992, the R 21 turbo has become a fast response vehicle of the gendarmerie on highways. Unfortunately, it’s time to adopt the 13 horsepower catalytic exhaust. The 21 Turbo returns to 162 hp.

Despite a certain fragility of the transmission shaft and less precise handling than the Peugeot 405 Mi 16, the R21 is still extremely efficient. After 13,781 units, the 21 turbo gave up in 1993.

In 1987 it cost 150,000 francs (€39,723 adjusted for inflation). Current average rates are €13.000.