The Eagle Medallion (also known as the Renault Medallion) was a rebadged and re-engineered North American version of the French Renault 21 marketed by American Motors Corporation (AMC). The mid-size cars were imported from France and built on the same platform as the Renault 21. Concurrently with the North American introduction of the Medallion, Renault sold its American business to Chrysler.
The Medallion was developed by Renault and became a captive import for its corporate partner, American Motors (AMC), at the beginning of the 1987 model year. The Medallion replaced the slow-selling Renault 18i/Sportwagon and the venerable AMC Concord that was canceled after the 1983 model year. It was an Americanized version of the Renault 21, "a highly successful car in the European market. "The Medallion was the second of a three passenger car line marketing effort to help AMC/Jeep/Renault dealers expand the product mix beyond the four-wheel-drive Jeep utility vehicles and the its established subcompact Renault Alliance. The Medallion sedans and station wagons introduced in late-1986 were followed by the mid-1987 unveiling of the all-new full-sized Premier sedan.
Badged as the Renault Medallion at its launch in the fall of 1986, it remained that way until Chrysler bought out American Motors in August 1987. It then became a captive import for Chrysler and was sold as the "Eagle Medallion" through the newly formed Jeep-Eagle division.
The Medallion was built in Maubeuge using the platform of the European market Renault 21 and imported from France.It was re-engineered for the U.S. and Canadian markets and differed from the Renault 21 in numerous features, trims, frontal styling, stronger bumpers and safety features, as well as powertrain availability. Final assembly of options trim was at the U.S. port of entry.
The front-wheel drive Medallion used the 2.2 L I4 engine that also powered the European Renault 25. It was mounted in a longitudinal (front-back) configuration, driving the front wheels through either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 3-speed computer-controlled automatic. The longitudinal engine placement is unusual for a front-wheel drive car, as the transverse engine layout is typically more space-efficient. It was one of a few cars with this layout, which helps reduce torque steering. The gearbox is centrally mounted resulting in equal-length axle shafts. In Europe, Renault 21 versions with engine displacements below 2 L had transverse engines, just like smaller models such as the Renault 9. Higher-end R 21 versions with engines of 2 L or more, retained the longitudinal layout of the previous Renault 20 and 30 series. The longitudinally mounted versions had a shorter wheelbase than the European transverse versions. Product plans also called for a four-wheel drive Medallion to be imported in late-1988.
All Medallions came with an aluminum 132 cu in (2.2 L) overhead cam I4 engine with Bendix multi-point fuel injection. The engine was rated at 103 hp (77 kW; 104 PS) at 5000 rpm and 124 pound-feet (168 N·m) at 2500 rpm, achieving United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy ratings of:
- 42 mpg-US (5.6 L/100 km; 50 mpg-imp) highway, 27 mpg-US (8.7 L/100 km; 32 mpg-imp) city, 33 mpg-US (7.1 L/100 km; 40 mpg-imp) combined, with the manual transmission, and
- 33 mpg-US (7.1 L/100 km; 40 mpg-im) highway, 22 mpg-US (11 L/100 km; 26 mpg-imp) city, 26 mpg-US (9.0 L/100 km; 31 mpg-imp) combined, with the automatic.
The Medallion featured four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts in the front with negative offset for stability and inclined lower wishbones for anti-dive effect, while the rear suspension is controlled by a V-section cross-member with four transverse torsion bars and inclined shock absorbers.
When the original European Renault 21 models were shown for 1986, they featured a different design compared to the contemporary cars of the era with more rectilinear traditional designs. The new Renault 21 design most closely resembled the aerodynamic look of the Audi 100 models that were introduced in 1983. The Medallion was described "crisp look in contemporary wedge/aerodynamicstyling."The station wagon version was judged by one automobile journalist as "arguably the most stylish compact wagon on the market."
The interior of the Medallion was spacious compared to similar cars in the compact segment, which AMC compared it to. The total volume index of the sedan was rated at 115 cubic feet (3,256 l). This put the Medallion in the mid-size car class according to EPA market segments (those between 110 and 120 cu ft (3,115 and 3,398 l) of passenger and luggage space). The sedan was also notable for its rather commodious trunk.
The station wagon was unique in that it offered a longer wheelbase than the sedan. The wagon was rated at 100 cu ft (2,832 l) passenger area and 42 cu ft (1,189 l).The Medallion station wagon seats "five adults in true comfort - and will accept an additional two kids" with the optional bench seat for the cargo area. This was a front-facing third-row seat, such as in the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser and Ford Freestyle.
Base models came in DL trim, while customers could choose up-level LX models, with more standard features, in both body styles, for the duration of the Medallion's run. Standard equipment on the Medallions included a tachometer, digital clock, AM/FM stereo, tinted glass, tilt steering wheel, power steering and brakes, as well as a driver's seat-height adjuster for the reclining front seats. The station wagon also included a locking storage bin, as well as adjustable roof rack and a rear-window wiper.
The new Renault Medallion station wagon was reviewed by Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine as "surprisingly comfortable, with a load of standard features for its relatively modest $10,693 base price."The "powerful engine allows it to whiz through city traffic with ease" and the wagon's interior was "spartan," but "spacious and comfortable."
The 1988 model year saw little change to the cars. Starting in model year 1988, the Medallion began to be marketed under the then-new Eagle brand "by the mere substitution of a new (and rather handsome) badge." However, they sold no better in part because they were considered conventional automobiles for Renaults, but still too "quirky" for most U.S. customers.
A long term rest by Popular Mechanics found the Medallion "low on flash, high on comfort" especially on long-distance journeys and along the roughest roads in New York City, and the editors came to regard it as a "pretty nice car." Other automotive guides recommended the Medallion for comfortable ride and interior roominess, as well as summarizing that Chrysler does not "have a domestic model in this category that's quite as nice."