|WE KNEW the Citroen CX Safari Estate Car was unusually long, from seeing it at various Continental motor shows, but we did raise an eyebrow on seeing - in the information provided by Citroen on the new car - that it was 98 ins longer in the wheelbase than the equivalent saloon. Yes, it was a mistake, but the real figure of 10 ft 2 in. wheelbase is impressive enough. Overall length is 16 ft 2 in.
This new Citroen was introduced on the Continent towards the end of last year, and has recently become available in Britain at an inclusive price of £4,230.72. Standard equipment includes a rear window wiper and washer, electric operation for the front windows, and ventilated disc brakes front and rear.
Suspension and transmission are identical with those of the saloon, but the running-gear has been strengthened to cope with the additional loads the car is capable of carrying. Kerb weight is 3,080 lb, and total weight is 4,554 lb when laden to the maximum limit, meaning that the payload runs out at nearly 1,500 lb. Towing weight is 2,860 lb which should look after the heaviest of true touring caravans.
It has always been our intention to carry out a long term test of the Citroen CX series, to see how well this remarkable design, with front wheel drive from a transversely mounted engine, allied to the advanced Citroen wizardry of oleo-pneumatic suspension and power systems, stands up to hard use. For one reason and another, the long term test became delayed, until it was leamed that the Safari estate car was to come to Britain this year. ”We must have one of these," we said, and so it was arranged. Autocar took delivery of' our CX Safari at the beginning of the month, and our usual detailed report of running experiences and costs will be published in due course.
“How do you like it so far?" we are asked. Well, we’ve already made enemies of our car park attendant. You see, he doesn’t like the way it sticks out from the rest by about four feet, even when the back end is reversed up as far as it will go. But without doubt it is a car which tums heads, and earns a great deal of respect in London. Other drivers give it a wide berth, much as they do when you’re in a Rolls-Royce. When you overtake people you feel like saying “Hang on, there’s lots more to come, but there’s no need to worry, they're usually well tucked in anyway.
Our first experiences of using the load space have been impressive. You have a bed to move, put it in with the back seat folded forward, and find there’s still about a foot and a half to spare. Have children to bed down for the night while you drive on? Well, tuck then in, and there’s still ample space for luggage at the rear.
Inevitably we found the running-in rather laborious, because although the 4,000 rpm limit means you can do 75 mph, you really need all the revs available to be able to overtake anything. Performance, we fear, is not the shining feature of the Safari, though one can soon learn how to make the best of it once the constraints of running-in have passed. One would have thought that the 2200 engine would have been fitted as matter of course, but no - the CX Safari is available at present only as a 2000. Still, that engine is no sluggard - weighing in with a peak of 102 bhp (DIN) at 5,500 rpm, and offering maximum torque of 112 lb ft at 3,000 rpm.
The big advantage is that Citroen VariP0Wer steering is standard. This gives progressively reducing assistance as speed increased, resulting in very effortless control at low speed, and yet with precision when driving fast. We have found it is a steering system which takes a little getting used to - but that is true of the whole car.
Whatever else one can say, it is certainly a most interesting vehicle. We’ll be reporting in full detail after more experience of it.