Gearheads love the 1998 classic Ronin for its two unforgettable car chases, but there’s a lot more to this film. I’m not talking about the plot, screenplay, character development (there’s barely any of that, but it still works), action, camera work, or anything else that falls under the cinematic scope. I’m talking about all of the brilliant 1980s and 1990s cars that make an appearance!
The starring cars are obviously important to mention. The D2 Audi S8 driven by character Larry (played by Skip Sudduth; legend has it he did a lot of his own stunt driving) is the best car in the film. It’s a big, sleek sports sedan with quattro AWD and a 4.2-liter V8 under the hood – a fitting sled for the good guys. The E34 BMW 535i/M5 -people say both were used in the filming of, I’ll just call it the E34 – driven by the baddies later in the movie is also plenty badass.
But all the cars in between and on the periphery are also rad to point out. IMCDB.org has most of them outlined and screenshotted; bless the folks who’ve put that all together. There are so many cool cars, from big Citroens to… small Citroens, as well as VWs, Renaults, Mercedes, Volvos, and more. Most are French cars, as the film takes place in, well, France. As an American who’s only ever seen these cars in person while traveling throughout Europe, I’m definitely more excited about spotting them than anyone who sees these motors on the regular. I doubt most Europeans give any more than half a shit about the Citroen BX.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the cars that pop up in this action-packed classic, because why not!
The Citroen XM
The original bad guys’ car in this film (spoiler alert: they’re the original target in the plot), it’s pretty surprising that they’re able to stay away as much as they did from the Audi S8. Sure, its advanced Hydractive suspension system could’ve been in top-shape, but having only around 200 horsepower tops to pull this big wedge of cheese around is no match for the mighty S8.
The Nissan Silvia S13
That’s right, of Akina Speedstars fame! Though, this one has no role in the film whatsoever, other than being in the background as the Audi S8 powerslides through a corner. It would’ve been rad if an S13 starred in the film in some way. It’d probably elevate the film to an even-higher cult status.
The Renault Twingo
Also a car with no role in the film besides occupying space in the back. I personally love the Twingo as they look like so much fun to wheel around. Especially the generations that came later that contained the Renault Sport trim with the optional Cup chassis. I saw a bunch of these first-gen examples around in Germany when I studied there in 2008, though can’t say I ever saw any good-looking aftermarket-equipped examples. Think: the European version of owning a 2001 Chevy Cavalier, and going HAM in the Pep Boys accessory aisle.
The Nissan Patrol
Who doesn’t love an ’80s Japanese off-roader? This is more Andrew Collins’ department, but I think any enthusiast would get a kick out of driving around in a Patrol, Mitsubishi Montero/Pajero, Suzuki Samurai, etc. Especially if it has two doors and a manual transmission.
The Volkswagen Corrado
This one’s in the shot for just a blink of an eye, but it’s enough to point out and say “oh a Corrado!” The ‘Rado was around from 1988 to 1995, and came with either a supercharged 1.8-liter 8v four-cylinder, 2.0-liter 16v four-cylinder, or 2.8-2.9-liter VR6. Apparently it was available with a 2.0-liter 8v in Europe, too, but nobody cares. My personal favorite trim was the supercharged G60; it had a fun torque curve (I very, very briefly drove one years ago), some of the best-looking OEM wheels ever (VW Sebrings), and a supercharger whine that could be loudened. It was decently quick for its day, too, though not as fast as VR6-equipped models. I think the one in this photo is a G60.
The Volvo V70 R
It looks like there’s some debate whether this is an 850, V70, or V70 R – I’ll stick to V70 R because that’s probably the best candidate for the bad guys who drive it in the film. They’re the original, illegal-arms-slingin’ bad guys in the plot, they’ve got all the money in the world for an R. Like its elder the 850 R, the V70 R hauled the mail with its turbocharged inline five-cylinder. It didn’t garner as much acclaim as the 850 R and its BTCC racing glory, but it was a rad wagon nonetheless.
Since you’re reading a car blog, there’s a good chance you’re a fan of Ronin or at least have YouTube’d the legendary chase scenes. But I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of the automotive extras you might have missed if it’s been a while since you’ve seen the movie. If you’re like me, where you blurt out the make and model of every reasonably-cool car you spot while watching movies, to the degree of annoying your significant other, its worth a re-watch if you haven’t in a while.
This movie’s a great primer for learning more about ’80s and ’90s European cars, as well as perusing Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for ones that were sold here. Every time I think of this movie, I immediately start perusing Craigslist for V70 Rs and reasonably-clean D2 Audi S8s. Lord have mercy on my bank account.
You want to watch that sweet chase scene again now, don’t you? Luckily Car Bibles has a YouTube embed widget… go ahead and roll it, your boss won’t miss you for seven more minutes: