Rare Rides: The Eagle Premier Story, Part II

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the eagle premier story part ii

Part I of The Eagle Premier Story covered the inception of the collaborative AMC-Renault X-58 project in 1982, and its front-drive full-size flagship goal. It was to be an all-new car to lead AMC’s North American offerings. In today’s installment, we’ll take a look at the stylish sedan’s technical details more closely.

And a stylish four-door it was, though not groundbreaking. Legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro went with an expected three-box design that was angular at the ends, smooth along the sides, with minimal trim fripperies and very limited chrome. The headline image is the finalized work from Italdesign circa 1987. Unusual for a domestic car, the Premier proudly featured Italdesign Giugiaro badges along its door trim. The sleek shape earned it a drag coefficient of 0.31, which nearly matched the revolutionary Audi 100 (5000) coefficient of 0.29. Speaking of which the cars were similar looking in overall shape, and everyone noticed at the time.

When it went on sale, AMC included an extensive seven-year, 100,000-mile corrosion warranty on that Italian-penned body. The warranty wasn’t the only place where the Premier led its competition. It had brighter headlamps than most cars in its class, a new composite design. The lamps themselves were notable, as they were designed by a company called Valeo. Valeo invented a new complex surface reflector design. Only two cars used this new advanced tech, the Premier and the Citroën XM.

Premier was larger inside than any of its rivals, and AMC implemented the space-efficient design drawn by Dick Teague. Trunk passengers enjoyed a large 16.3 cubic feet of space, excellent for the class. The Premier’s interior was very forward-looking for the mid-Eighties and included plenty of electronic goodies. Standard-looking gauges were paired with lighting and climate controls on pods behind the steering wheel. The unusual setup gave full control to the driver and presented the passenger with access to only the glove box, stereo, and the digital stereo equalizer.

In trims without a console shifter, the shift lever was mounted to the pod on the right instead of the steering column, and sunk into the back of it when the car was placed in drive. Very advanced for the time (and probably annoying), turn signal indicators returned to the neutral position immediately when activated, and the driver heard a noise after completing a turn which indicated the signal was no longer active. Wipers had the expected intermittent function, as well as an automatic speed mode which adjusted itself based upon the quantity of water striking the windshield.

AMC chose not to use any Renault 25 engines in the Premier, as all of them were four-cylinder and from Renault. Instead, base models used a 2.5-liter mill from AMC. The engine was nothing new and was used in the AMC Eagle in 1983, after which it moved into Jeep Cherokee duty. The 2.5 used throttle-body injection and managed just 111 horses. Four-cylinder power was used exclusively in the base LX trim Premier.

Customers who felt spendy could option the larger 3.0-liter V6 on the LX, or step up to the top ES trim where it was standard. Said V6 was the PRV V6 of unfortunate acclaim, and variants of it infected many cars. Between 1974 and 1998 the engine was used in sedans, hatchbacks, and vans of various marques, as well as the DeLorean. The V6 at least had fuel injection and made a much more impressive 150 horsepower. Fuel economy was okay at 18 city and 22 highway, but certainly not standout. The V6 Premier took 10 seconds to reach 60, the inline-four took 11.5. All Premiers used a four-speed ZF automatic that was shared with cars like the Renault 25, Audi 100, Saab 9000, and the Porsche 968.

The Premier was technically ready to go at this point, and it was also technically running pretty late. In Part III we’ll discuss what happened when it finally went on sale.

[Images: Italdesign, AMC]

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3 of 15 comments
  • Jesse Jesse on Aug 18, 2021

    Ugh. What are your gripes with the PRV? Have you ever owned or driven a car with one? It's perfectly adequate in my '87 Peugeot 505STX. Hating on the PRV is such a tired auto-journalist trope.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Aug 22, 2021

      So adequate is what we aim for with engines? It had a bad reputation long before I wrote the words above, I didn't invent it.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Aug 18, 2021

    Speaking of DeLorean, this three-part series is worthwhile if you are at all interested in the process of bringing a new vehicle to market: https://www.netflix.com/title/80219915 TL;DR: It is not easy to successfully bring a new vehicle to market (and gets progressively more difficult with a new company, new workforce, new technology, et al.). [Little-known fact: Most companies operating in the Real World have various constraints imposed on them - constraints which are very real, but easily ignored by automotive journalists.]

  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
  • Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !
  • VoGhost It's very odd to me to see so many commenters reflexively attack an American company like this. Maybe they will be able to find a job with BYD or Vinfast.