Renault 17TS

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Renault 17TS

1971 - 1980
4 cyl.
1565 cc
90 bhp @ 5500 rpm
4/5 spd. man
Top Speed:
Number Built:
1 star
Renault 17TS
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


The Renault R17 TS had all the right GT credentials: injected engine, five speed gearbox, four-wheel disc brakes, and distinctive styling. The car did an honest 110 mph, ignored cross-winds and smoothed out rough surfaces well. That augered well, but there was an achillies heel - the Renault 2+2's of the era were prone to understeer, but the R17 TS was the equivelant of a snow plough.

If you were to enter a bend 1 mph too fast, or hit the most minute wet patch, the Renault would go straight off the outside of that bend with inexorable precision. Even the 165SR13's were not up to the job of keeping the car in check - although changes were made to the suspension during the production run.

Both the Renault 15 and 17 were variations of the same coupé which was sold in many countries throughout the world between 1971 and 1980 (the R17 was sold as R177 in Italy, respecting a superstition). Both were effectively coupé versions of the Renault 12. The main differences between the two cars were their headlight configuration (the 15 had two rectangular headlights whereas the 17 had four round headlights), and their rear side windows - the 15 had full-length windows behind the doors while the R17 used small wind-down windows and louvres. Just to make it a little more confusing, some markets show the 17 with the rectangular lights for TL versions.

As mentioned above, both used the floor pan and suspension from Renault's sporty R12, along with two engines hotted up from their R12/R16. In effect - they re-cycled parts to achieved a whole new line. You could only have a 1300 engine in the Coach or an injected 1.6 in the Coupe, while both bodies came with the carburetted 1.6. And if you took injection you also had to take a five-speed gearbox which was so rubbery it was hard to tell what gear you were in.

While the four-cog box shifted easily (if not racily), the five-speed could be a pain, particularly when you wanted first from a standstiil or fifth which was right-forward alongside third. Reverse was left-rear by second. The basic idea of larger tyres with each larger engine, and better brakes as you went up the power range was fine. In the case of braking it all worked out beautifully too. As for the tyres, the largest 165 radials were unable to get enough grip under hard acceleration through corners - which really let the car down.

All three of the 1.6 litre machines used the same roll-bars front and rear. The rack-and-pinion steering was accurate and easy to use at higher speeds when the car would track beautifully through maximum-speed freeway bends in a cross wind. Hairpins or even second-gear bends were another matter entirely. Many test reviews of the first cars to roll off the production line commented on just how hard it was to keep the front wheels in contact when pressing hard through corners, and there was so much self-centre you needed wrestler's shoulders to handle the R17 out of a corner where the radius opens on exit.

The smaller models suffer less from this, partly because you were going more slowly and in part thanks to better engine balance with the R12 chassis. All three engines had a sporting exhaust tone, but none of them were shriekers at max revs. The R17 TS was especially willing to go over its 6000 red-line if not carefully watched. You had to go very close to peak for full power anyway, The hp peak was also the red line, the torque peak only 100 rpm below the 5600 orange. Yet during road tests, motoring scribes claimed the engine never seemed peaky and would in fact pull from 2500 in fourth (fifth is overdrive) without a murmur. Injection obviously was a big help.

The front seats were dished as well as any then available on the market, offering support under and alongside the thighs as well as up by the shoulder blades. They also had infinitely adjustable back-rests and excellent fore-aft range. Better still, a driver of average height with adults in the back would not need to slide the seat forward much, maybe only a notch or two. That made the R17 a true 2+2, one with more rear-seat space than many small sedans. The parcels shelf behind the rear seat lifted with the boot lid; but the seat back (on the early versions) didn't fold forward to make a wagon. The boot was a good rectangular shape with ample touring capacity for two or three; much more thar a Capri, for instance. It did have a high lip to lift cases over.

The fuel tank was located directly under the trunk and this made it vulnerable, but at least it had a reasonalbe 12.1 (Imp) gallon capacity. Small storage was left to a slide-out glove-box under the passenger's grab handle and a sunglasses-hole in the central console (more expensive cars), plus a shelf under the dash on the passenger side. This dash looks the biz, and it was well padded, but it didn't provide much dial readability. The four instrument holes (only three filled on cheaper models with no rev counter) were lined up in a hooded row above a flat shelf of tumbler switches you had to crane to identify. The hoods was obviously designed to cut glare, but you still couldn't read any of them due to conical plastic covers which refract any and all light in about a thousand directions.

All four models came with speedometer, resettable odometer and tenths-of-mile r eadout. All had gauges for water temperature and battery. The hotter ones came with a tacho. The rest was left to esoteric symbols alongside lights. In the R17 TS the wipers and washer were activated by a wand alongside the wheel (front washer button otherwise). This again was a great idea for quick wash-wipe. Unfortunately it was also close to the wands for horn and blinkers. One movement could see the driver activate two or even three systems.

As mentioned earlier, outwardly the R15 with long side windows differed from the R17 in headlights and wheels as well. The smaller line had oval lights; the R17 four round ones. Both used the full wrap-around front bumper in rubber and the massive almost full-oval rear bumper. The 15 and 17 were not light, scaling from 2127 Ib empty for the 1300 to 2326 Ib for the R17 TS, plus 45 Ib for an electric sliding roof. Electric door windows were optional. Both Renault's did not give quite the ultimate speed and acceleration of the Fiat 124 (it's most obvious competitor), but they offered more comfort on bad roads and front-wheel drive.

There was a minor facelift during the production run, perhaps most noticeable on the grille of the 15, where the chrome edge surround was replaced with a body-coloured one, and the headlights were enlarged and brought forward to lie approximately flush with this. The 17 also lost its chrome surround, although on both cars the partially chrome front bumper now curved up at the edges to roughly half-way up the height of the grille. The R15 and R17 remained in production until 1979 when they were both replaced by the Renault Fuego.

Quick Specifications:

  • R15 TL COACH - 1289 cc iron 4; 73/77 bore/stroke; 9.5:1; Weber 32 DIR dual-throat downdraft; 60 DIN/5500; 70.9 Ib-ft/3500; four speeds: 3.61, 2.26, 1.48, 1.03; 3.77 final drive; 145 SR 14 tyres; solid disc/drum; 93 mph top speed; 30.7 mpg Imp.
  • R15 TS COACH - 1565 cc alloy 4, hemispherical combustion chambers; 77/84 mm bore/stroke; 9.25:1; Weber 32 DIR dual-throat downdraft; 90 DIN/5500; 90.4 Ib-ft/3000; four speeds: 3.61, 2.26, 1.48, 1.03; 3.55 final drive; 155 SR 13 tyres; vented disc/drum; 106 mph top; 25.6 mpg Imp.
  • R17 TL COUPE - Electric sliding sun roof optional; 1565 cc alloy 4, hemispherical combustion chambers; 77/84 mm bore/stroke; 9.25 :1; Weber 32 DIR dual-throat downdraft; 90 DIN/5500; 90.4 Ib-ft/3000; four speeds: 3.61, 2.26, 1.48, 1.03; 3.55 final drive; 155 SR 13 tyres; vented disc/drum; 106 mph top; 25.6 mpg Imp.
  • R17 TS COUPE - Electric sliding sun roof optional; 1565 cc alloy 4, hemispherical combustion chambers; 77/84 mm bore/stroke; 10.25: 1; Bosch electronic fuel injection; 108 DIN/6000; 97.6 Ib/ft5500; 5 speeds: 3.62,2.34, 1.16, 1.22, 0.94; 3.77 final drive; 165 SR 13 tyres; vented disc/solid disc; 110 mph top; 22.0 mpg Imp. Coach or R15 bodywork marked by full-length windows behind the doors rather than louvres.
Renault 17TS

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Also See:

Louis Renault
The History of Renault
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