by Brian Byrne.
From my early years of automotive journalism, a flagship large family car produced by Citroën in 1990 remains firmly in my memory as of its time the most comfortable car I got to drive. The XM, a long large hatchback, was designed by Bertone and was also a humdinger in style for the era.
For a number of reasons, including the advent of a financial recession and a segment preference for saloon cars, it was never as successful as it deserved to be. It was replaced in 2000 by the Xantia, which in turn was followed by the C6 and then the C5. None of those later cars provided the same visual and comfort impact.
This week, what I feel is the spiritual successor of that XM was officially launched in Ireland, and my immediate impressions were of the best bits of that 1990s Citroën. Long, sleek, roomy and relaxed inside, but with the 2020s version of advanced technology. It has a ‘wow’ factor that surprised me, though I’m not sure why I should have been surprised. But it definitely prompts a first drive review in advance of a full version I’ll do early next year.
The style is one of complex curves and an athletic look. The overall effect has been nicely developed and there’s nothing aesthetically jarring to my eyes — remembering always that car style preferences are an enormously subjective thing. I do like particularly how a distinctive front has been achieved that includes the best incorporation of Citroën’s double-chevron motif I’ve seen for quite some time.
The car can be described as a crossover SUV, but I see a refined and elegant estate, or a liftback with the elegance of a coupe without that format’s restrictions on cabin space. I sense this car will look good for a fairly long time.
The inside is equally well styled, with the emphasis on comfort and clean usability of controls and instruments. The materials are high quality, and there are small details to remind that this is a Citroën, such as stitching in a chevron design. All is carried out without quirkiness, yet there’s a valid perception of special.
The Citroën selling proposition has been deliberately pushed towards a high degree of comfort over recent times, and the C5 X is very much about this. The seats are to the company’s own specification, using memory foam in the design both to support different shapes and weights of passengers and also to prevent long-term sagging. I’m planning a long trip when I get more time behind the wheel to see how that works out on a journey.
There are two versions and four trim grades available at launch, and my main experience so far is with the plug-in hybrid C5 X which comes with the latest version of Citroën’s own active suspension system. And this is one of the things that reminded me of the XM, with its true ‘magic carpet’ ride. The technicals of how it works I’ll leave to another time, but on some twisty and undulating roads last week it proved that it does indeed up the driving comfort game.
The three engine options are petrol, a 1.2 130hp, a 1.6 180hp, and the PHEV with a 1.65 petrol and an 80kW electric motor which offer a total of 255hp. All are automatic. There will not be a diesel. The PHEV offers an electric driving range of up to 55km, and can be recharged in as little as two hours with suitable home wallbox unit. There’s also a facility to recharge it from the engine while on a long motorway drive, so as to have full EV operation available at the end of the journey.
First impressions aren’t always to be relied on. But they were very strongly positive from the moment I sat into the C5 X. And it wasn’t just me, so it will be interesting to see how the longer term pans out. Meantime though, with the premium and companion DS brand trying to set itself above the herd in style and sumptuousness, it will be ironic if the main competitor to that marque’s upcoming D segment flagship will in fact be from within its own house.
PRICE: From €36,990. WHAT I LIKED: Recalling good memories and promising even better ones.