The Renault 18 was intended as a replacement for the Renault 12, which, having been in production since 1969, was beginning to show its age by the late 1970s, though the 12 was kept in production alongside the 18 until 1980. Unlike the earlier car, the 18 was designed rather quickly; the time between its initial conception and its actual launch date was only eighteen months, primarily due to the fact that the 18 was based upon the 12's underpinnings. Although Renault made numerous forays into international markets in countries such as Brazil with the 12, their first true “world car” was their 18, hence the slogan Meeting International Requirements, which (as well as in France) would later be produced in nine other countries and four continents around the world.
The initial range
The Renault 18 went into production at Renault's Flins factory in France in December 1977. It was presented at the Geneva Salon in March 1978, with marketing and sales starting the following month.
Initially, the R18 was only available as a four-door saloon, in TL, GTL, TS and GTS trim variations. The TL and GTL were powered by the 1397 cc Renault Cléon petrol engine (which was developed from the 1289 cc engine from the Renault 12), which produced 64 PS (47 kW; 63 hp). Both models had a 4-speed gearbox. The TS and GTS were powered by the 1647 cc A-Type engine (which was the same as used in the Renault 17 TS) but without the fuel injection, which lowered the output to 79 PS (58 kW; 78 hp). The TS had a 4-speed manual gearbox, while the GTS had a 5-speed gearbox (with optional 3-speed electronic automatic transmission available for both models. The automatic versions of the TS and GTS models were called the TS Automatic and GTS Automatic to distinguish them from their manual transmission counterparts.
The 18 was Renault's first car to use the 1.4 L Cléon engine in the medium-size car sector. The Renault 18 also used 3-stud wheels (similar to those of the Citroën 2CV), rather than the 4 or 5-stud wheels common on most of its contemporaries. In 1980 Turbo and Diesel R18 models came fitted with four-stud wheels (necessitated by using suspension parts and wheels from the larger R20 and Fuego), with all versions using four-stud wheels from the 1983 facelift and on.
The first estate models
By the late 1970s, European production of the Renault 12 was being gradually wound down, followed by the arrival of the estate versions of the Renault 18 on 1 March 1979. The R18 Estate ("Break" in French-speaking countries) was only available in TL and TS model variations, except in Australia where all Australian-assembled Renault 18s, sedan and station wagon, were GTS. They were mechanically identical to their saloon counterparts except the rear suspension used in the estates was more like that in the bigger Renault 20 and Renault 30. As for equipment specifications, the estates were identical to the saloons, except the TS estate additionally featured shock-absorbent bumpers, door mouldings, and front seat head restraints from the 18 GTL saloon. The estate proved almost as popular as the saloon.
The Renault 18 estate was also sold (as the "Sportwagon") through American Motors (AMC) in the North American market from 1981 to 1986, and the saloon in 1981–82 as the Renault 18i. For the 1987 model year it was replaced by the Renault 21's North American equivalent, the Eagle Medallion.
End of production and replacement
The 18 was replaced by the Renault 21 during 1986, being withdrawn from the British market in July of that year. It was finally withdrawn from Europe in 1989, but continued in production until 1993 in South America. In Argentina and Colombia, there were other versions too, namely the TX and GTX. The TX being the initial 1982 model, featuring the Douvrin 2.0 L four-cylinder powerplant, a first for a production 18 worldwide (there was a need for a powerful car to replace the Renault Torino luxury-sports range). There was also the GTX-II, featuring a basic on-board computer that displayed fuel consumption, etc. It was available with 1.6 L (TL), 2.0 L and 2.2 L engines. There was a special edition of the 18 with two-tone paint (black top and light grey bottom) called the American (later updated with central locking and other items, which was named the American 2).
The Renault 18 began production in April 1978. Two years thereafter, all production models were outfitted with a new alternator that included a built-in electronic regulator. In July 1980, the 18 Diesel model was added. This model was mechanically similar to the Renault 20 Diesel, and was equipped with a 2,068 cc engine (rated at 49 kW (66 PS)), negative offset front suspension, and larger four-stud wheels. The diesel-engined 18s came in two trim levels: TD and GTD. The basic TD (which was available as both a saloon and estate) had a four-speed gearbox and the equipment level of the TS, while the GTD (which was exclusively available as a saloon) had a five-speed gearbox and an equivalent equipment level as the GTS. Power-assisted steering was optional on the GTD, while a five-speed gearbox was optional on the TD.
The 18 Turbo model was introduced in 1981, borrowing from other Renault models. The 18 Turbo featured a 1,565 cc engine (rated at 110 PS (81 kW)), five-speed gearbox, negative offset front suspension, four-stud alloy wheels, rear spoiler, dashboard and interior fittings from the Renault Fuego. A little later yet, a Turbodiesel version arrived; this had a 88 PS (65 kW) version of the 2.1 litre inline-four fitted to the TD/GTD and at the time it was the fastest car in its class.
1982 saw the introduction of several changes to the entire lineup of 18 models: the negative offset front suspension, previously available only on the Turbo and Diesel models, was made standard. The front indicator lenses were changed from orange to clear, bumpers and door handles were switched from chrome to black polyester, and the seats were restyled. Model-specific changes included the available option of a five-speed gearbox on the TL; the GTL received an "economy-tune" 73 PS (54 kW) version of the 1,647 cc engine, as well as a five-speed gearbox, higher final drive ratio, electronic ignition and an econometer gauge.
In 1983 the "Type 2" arrived. This meant a grille change, all models gained a front air dam, while the saloons also received a standard rear spoiler. The three-stud wheel rims were replaced with the larger four-stud wheel rims (with the Base, TL and TD just having center caps, and the GTL, Automatic, GTS and GTD all having full wheel trims). The biggest difference, however, was that the dashboard was replaced by that of the Fuego. The GTX model was introduced in France in 1984. Subsequent years saw fewer changes to the 18 line, in preparation for the launch of the Renault 21 in 1986. In this year, the 18 model is withdrawn from sale in the UK. Furthering the discontinuation of the Renault 18, European production stopped in 1989. At this, 2,028,964 Renault 18s were built in France alone. Finally, in 1993 the last Renault 18 rolls off the production line in Argentina. 132,956 units were built in Argentina alone.