The Eagle Premier Was The Franco-American Car Ahead Of Its Time

The auto industry can be a funny game of musical chairs; case in point is the Eagle Premier, a name that has almost certainly caused your brow to furrow right now.

The name doesn’t sound too French, but the Eagle Premier was largely a creation of Renault, with some American engineering to change the 25 luxury sedan into an acceptable rival for vehicles like the Chevrolet Celebrity and the Ford Taurus.

But before it could go on sale, Renault decided to give up on its American Motors adventure – modest hits with the Alliance and LeCar were outweighed by dogs like the 18 and Fuego – and sold AMC to Chrysler in 1987. While Chrysler saw value in the Jeep lineup (the XJ Cherokee was hot, hot, hot back then), the Renault-derived cars were given the Eagle nameplate and subsequently forgotten by the marketing department.

The Premier was a French car, modified by engineers in Michigan, built in Canada and now sold by a company that didn’t really want it. I’m surprised Charles Dickens didn’t write this sad orphan story.

According to this clip from Motorweek in 1987, it was a car that could’ve been a hit if anyone knew about it. Which is a shame, because while the Premier didn’t look like much, it was full of interesting engineering ideas. A car no longer than a modern Honda Accord was capable of seating for six. The longitudinally mounted engines with front-wheel drive were something Audi-like in the ’80s. And then there’s the fact this basic engineering (with the AMC engineers) was developed into the Chrysler LH sedans of the ’90s.

Yet no one really cared about the Premier when it went on sale, that coupe they talked about never materialized and it died a quiet death in 1992. Eagle soldiered on just until 1998. And Renault never came back to the States. Which means if you want your modern French car fix in the U.S., either scour the Internet for a decent Premier or wait until you can buy one of the new DS cars here.

Video

  • Ken Lyns

    Lol 0-60 mph in 11.7 sec

    • emjayay

      Typical for cars at that time.

      • And a lot of economical cars do about that… like a Yaris.

  • Althea Later

    I rented the Dodge version of this car in 1990. The Dodge Monaco… basically the Premier with a Dodge grill. I drove from Seattle to San Diego and back. I don’t remember driving it, so it couldn’t have been that exciting. I do remember the controls around the steering wheel were very strange and different and I really didn’t appreciate that.

    • thunder bolt

      What??

    • Six Thousand Times

      Did you stop to cook anything on that grill?

  • Craig

    By the looks of it – Hyundai was aware of this car. It’s very ‘Sonata’ like.

  • Tumbi Mtika

    Renault would kill in the U.S. now!

    • emjayay

      Of course, 2016 Renault is not a lot like 1990 Renault.

      • Tumbi Mtika

        Well…YAH.

  • ChrisInIL
  • kachuks

    I vaguely remember Eagle commercials on TV for a very short time. They were quite swanky from my recollection. Think Lincoln commercials, without Matty, and some guy telling you fancy the future would be.

    • emjayay

      At the time I was a bit of the fan of the Premier, and I thought the TV commercials were completely wrong and a big part of its failure.

  • emjayay

    I drove across the country and back in the mid-nineties. For a car that never sold much I kept noticing that the roadside rest area parking areas often had one or two. Then a few years later they all disappeared. Probably mostly the PRV V6 costing more to fix than the car was worth.

    The video review does not make clear that the Premier had an obvious couple of inches more rear legroom than a Taurus, and that although looking squarish actually had a lower Cd.

    I drove a new one at a dealer once. All the writers going on at the time about the weird shift lever and weird pod controls and the turn signal that beeped instead of clicked were ridiculous. The controls like the review here said were a little different and had a few drawbacks among the pluses, but try to get in a new car today and figure out how the eff to do anything.

    A lot of GM cars around 1990 like the Corsica, minivans, and Corvette had various versions of pod controls as well.

  • emjayay

    Not only no rear shoulder belts, but the Premier was left out of the Chrysler move to all driver’s side airbags in 1990. Obviously they had given up on it already.

  • dumblikeyou2

    The whole Eagle brand in the 90s was a hodgepodge of brand engineering. There was nothing specifically made as a brand exclusive, but they did have some of the better looking designs throughout 90s. I had 93 Talon (a re-badged Mitsubishi Eclipse) and the re-badged Chrysler LH sedan called the Vision, was arguably the most understated design at the time. But alas, like so many car brands that became nothing more than marketing stepchildren, will only live in infamy alongside of Edsel, Saturn, and newly axed Scion.

  • pcurve

    Very few people bought this car over Taurus. Back in the days, I saw a lot more Volvo 240 and 740 than these on the road.

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