A brief history of the Citroen CX

Courtesy of Wikipedia

The CX was initially a huge sales success in Europe, producing a little over 132,000 units in 1978. It accrued new customers beyond the loyal Citroën DS customer base and brought the technology of the advanced, but somewhat impractical Citroën SM to the masses. Unlike its principal competitors, the CX did not have worldwide distribution — the cost of development and improvements had to be met from a geographically small sales base. Contemporary reports indicated that the cost of setting up a new production facility for the CX on the northern edge of the Paris conurbation, at Aulnay-sous-Bois, played a central part in undermining the company's finances to the point where it was obliged to surrender its independence to the more financially cautious Peugeot company.[3]

The CX's flowing lines and sharp Kamm tail were designed by auto stylist Robert Opron, drawing upon its precursor DS. Mechanically, the car was one of the most modern of its time, combining Citroën's unique hydro-pneumatic integral self-leveling suspension, speed-adjustable DIRAVI power steering (first introduced on the Citroen SM), and a unique interior design that did away with steering column stalks, allowing the driver to reach all controls with his or her hands on the steering wheel. The suspension was attached to sub frames which were mounted to the body employing flexible mountings, ostensibly to improve even more the ride quality and to reduce road noise - fluids are marvellous at transmitting noise and all hydropneumatic sprung cars suffer from road . The British magazine "Car" described the sensation of driving a CX as hovering over road irregularities, much like a ship traversing above the ocean floor. This suspension was used under licence by the Rolls-Royce on the Silver Shadow and its derivatives, and the Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 and Mercedes-Benz W124 since it was considered the best ever made.

The CX was a transverse engine design, in contrast to the longitudinal mid-engine layout of the Traction Avant and DS. This design saved space; the CX was 8 inches shorter than the DS. The short wheelbase CX fastback had insufficient rear legroom to function as a chauffeur driven limousine (a common use for the spacious DS model), so in 1976, Citroën introduced a 10 inch (25 centimetre) longer version, the "Prestige" variant, which used the wheelbase of the longer Safari/Familiale estate. The Prestige offered more rear leg-room than any other standard-sized sedan in the world. In 1977, it also gained a raised roofline to add more comfort.

The CX was very slowly developed and improved, with key elements the car needed to compete in its market segment taking many years to emerge. In spite of the DS featuring a fuel-injected 2.3 liter engine, at first the CX was only available with 2.0 and 2.2 carburetor engines. In 1977, the GTi was introduced to fix this with a modern L-jetronic injection system. Still, it wasn't any more powerful than the earlier DS 23 i.e. Decent factory rustproofing and an automatic transmission were added in 1980. The parent company PSA Peugeot Citroën was fielding three competitors in the executive car segment, the Peugeot 604, the Talbot Tagora, and the CX, each competing for PSA's scarce financial resources. The seeds of PSA's competitive retreat, from this traditionally important segment, were sown during this period of diffused efforts.

The CX eventually acquired a reputation for high running costs, which over time cut sales. Ironically, it was the components standard to any automobile (steel, door hinges, starter motors, electrical connections, etc.) that proved troublesome in service, while the advanced components were unobtrusive. The quality of construction improved too slowly to eliminate this perception.

Originally, the CX was developed as a rotary engined car — with several downstream consequences. First, the small Comotor three-rotor rotary engine was not economical and the entire rotary project was scrapped the same year the CX was introduced, Second, Citroën went bankrupt in 1974, because it had too many development projects going at the same time; bankruptcy distracted the company from the CX's launch. Finally, the resulting engine bay was too small for anything but a modest inline four-cylinder engine.

Nevertheless, the 1983 turbo-powered 2.5 L diesel motor did make the CX Turbo-D 2.5 the fastest diesel sedan in the world, able to reach speeds up to 195 km/h (121 mph). (Diesels account for more than half the market for executive cars in France.) Finally, in 1984, the GTi Turbo model was introduced that at last gave the CX the powerful engine that it deserved with a top speed of over 220 km/h. Unfortunately fuel economy was dreadful, which was only improved slightly by the 1986 Turbo 2 model.

Although the minor 1985 Series 2 changes did create initial interest from press and public alike, they did little to revive sales with around 35,000 units being produced in 1986 and the same again in 1987.

While the revolutionary and timeless DS achieved its greatest sales success at the same point in its 20 year lifecycle, the CX design was subject to more intense competitive pressures by other automakers, that succeeded in using the CX design as a template for improvement.