They 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.Some markets show the 17 with the rectangular lights for TL versions.
The Renault 15 and 17 were presented at the Paris Motor Show in October 1971.
The chassis and most of the running gear came from the Renault 12, while the 1565 cc 108 PS (79 kW; 107 hp) A-Type engine in the more powerful R17 TS and R17 Gordini models was derived from the engine in the Renault 16 TS. The R17 Gordini was to be the last model to bear the Amedee Gordini name. Though the mechanicals of the cars were derived from other Renaults, the body was completely new.
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.
Britain's Autocar magazine tested a 1,289 cc Renault 15 TL in November 1972, shortly after the model's UK debut. The top speed of 94 mph (151 km/h) and the 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 13.6 seconds put the car near the bottom of the list of competitor vehicles selected for comparison, but overall fuel consumption for the test was class leading at 31.8 mpg-imp (8.9 L/100 km; 26.5 mpg-US). The manufacturers' recommended retail price of £1,370 was slightly lower than the UK sticker price on a comparable Vauxhall Firenza Sport and Fiat 128 Coupe 1300: Ford's Capri 1300L at £1,123 massively undercut comparable cars in the UK at the time. The test concluded by pointing out that for buyers needing more power, more powerful Renault 15 and 17 variants were available, and that power apart, the 15 TL provided "a combination of attractive styling and careful development, excellent comfort and a high level of equipment and safety".
The range was gradually introduced in Australia from May 1973. The 15TS and 17TL were initially available with the 17TS being promised later in the year. These 1973 model year vehicles contained several unique features, the stick-on mirror and sun visors from the Renault 12 to comply with regulations ("ADR"). The sun visor retaining catch on these models was never used and available only in Australia. The instrument panel "verandah" was fitted to reduce glare and was only fitted to Australian, North American and Scandinavian versions. Sales of these early models was slow in Australia due to their relatively high price, and continued through to late 1974.
In August 1974 the 17TS (R1317 with 1605 cc) finally made it to Australia, along with the European 1974 model year 15TS and 17TL with the later type dashboard. In early 1975 the 17TS was replaced by the 17 Gordini. Available later were the 15TS and 17TL with Gordini front suspension, inertia reel seat belts, tinted windows, tombstone seats and evaporative emission control as required by ADR. This was identified by the carbon canister under the bonnet, and hinged fuel filler door in the LBR quarter panel. In 1976 a final shipment of 1975 model year 17s was made and stock piled prior to the introduction of ADR 27A emission controls, these vehicles, again due to their high price, sold slowly through until 1978. Renault 17 coupé
Renault abandoned plans to contest the World Rally Championship which it won in 1973. Instead, the factory developed a high-performance version of the 17 coupé at the Alpine Competition Factory which used many of the A110 bits to compete in "selected" European events. The Gordini-developed engine had two twin-choke Webers, a hot cam, an 11.5 compression ratio, big valves and tuned extractor exhaust system. The body was very light, featured fibreglass doors, boot and bonnet panels, plus plastic windows and a stripped interior. The factory said the car's weight was lowered by more than 25 percent.
Its most famous outing was the "Press on Regardless" WRC in the United States, in Michigan, 1974. The Rally was the USA section of the World Rally Championship. The car that won the rally was a Renault 17 Gordini driven by Jean Luc Therier and Christian Deiferrer, with a similar car coming third.