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Citroen CX2200 Diesel

(18,000 miles)

Autocar week ended 4 February 1978

Quelle diesel!

ONE OF THE more remarkable vehicles to pass through our hands during 1977 was the CitroŽn CX Diesel which was chosen by us for Long Term test. We reported on it after 12,000 miles (Autocar, w/e 22 October 1977); after that it covered almost another 6,000 miles before the time came for its disposal. Those miles were accumulated almost willy-nilly, in the hands of several different staff members. The CitroŽn's "owner", Andrew Shanks, left us soon after publication of the main report to follow his bent as a competition driver and manager. Some of its earlier mileage had been accumulated while towing his racing car on its trailer. At least it was now spared that heavy duty.

Looking at the log, it is clear that the car may have started as something less than desirable in most people's eyes, but that in the end the CitroŽn was valued as one of the best ways to cover very long distances. It combined all the comfort one has come to expect of the CX, with the remarkable economy of the diesel. To bring the fuel record up to date, the final 5,500 miles were covered at an average of 31.6mpg, rather below the 33.5mpg of the main test report.

This is still a remarkable figure for a car of this size, weight and not inconsiderable performance. My own feeling is that the consumption was made worse because a number of people drove the car who were not used to diesels. It does not take long to come to terms with diesel behaviour, but for the first few hundred miles a newcomer tends to change down when it is not necessary. He does not appreciate the diesel’s sheer lugging ability, or the need to adopt the "stand off and charge" approach to overtaking instead of just slipping down to third and blasting past.

Perhaps because of its good, clean shape, the CitroŽn more than most diesels (sic) cars showed up the paradox of their performance. Its cruising performance was so good that its limited acceleration came as something of a shock. I am sad to report that we were unable to take any final performance figures on the CX, because there was general agreement that it had become quicker during its time with us. The Road Test figures, quoted again here, show a mean maximum of 89mph, or 95mph on the optimistic speedometer. Yet I and others have seen the indicated 100mph on the road, not merely as a flash reading but held for long cruising periods. In the speed-limited Britain of today, this means that there are few places where the CX Diesel will not cover distance as fast as almost anything; Indeed, it will do better, for its big fuel tank and frugal consumption mean it does not have to stop so often. It is an interesting feature of the log book that most of its refuelling stops fall between 300 and 400 miles apart, with some intervals of more than 400 miles. Had the thought occurred to us, no doubt somebody would have tried to make 600 miles on a tankful, a figure not beyond the realms of reality.

Derv debates

Actually buying diesel fuel is still something of a fraught business in Britain. French and German forecourt attendants are more used to diesel-powered saloons, but most of our staff eventually had at least one story about people refusing to put Derv into the CitroŽn. One soon learns, too, that not every garage stocks Derv, and at weekends they can be few and far between. It hurts that Britain's present price structure makes Derv more expensive than four-star petrol, and this was certainly a spur to use the CX for as many long Continental journeys as possible - diesel fuel in France and Italy especially is much, much cheaper than petrol.

As related in our earlier report, we were worried at first that the engine's oil consumption would go a long way towards offsetting the low fuel costs. For the first part of its life the CX did no better than 400 miles to the pint, and there are records of drivers putting in nearly three pints after a very long, hard drive. CitroŽn’s service department assured us things would improve, and they did. After the 12,000-mile mark the oil consumption appears to have settled at just about 1,000 miles to the pint, which is surely reasonable. Two points have to be borne in mind. First, diesels are fussy about oil cleanliness and need more frequent oil and filter changes than their petrol-driven equivalents. Second, the CX needed special oil: straight SAE30HD, which again was not always readily available in Britain, although most French garages seemed to carry a stock. A useful point in the CX was the provision of an internal oil-level gauge, in the form of a sight-tube which filled (or occasionally didn't) at the press of a button.

Apart from a few electrical foibles early on, the CX was mostly reliable. It let itself down just as the 12,000-mile report was in preparation, coming to a stop with water pump failure. There was no obvious explanation for this, but the wait for a replacement kept the car off the road for over a week. Our other constant grouse was that the car did not pump itself up quickly enough from its "dead" position. I was quick to notice this because it meant a choice between treating my neighbours to a half-minute of diesel rattle very early in the morning, or waking them up with a quick clang of undertray as l drove down the kerb ramp into the road. After some attention the pump-up time was improved a little, but it never matched that of other CXs we have driven.

Starting itself was entirely reliable. One's tendency is always to try the cold start rather sooner than the book says the glow-plugs need to warm through, and we soon came to the conclusion that the book was being conservative. A quick count to 10 after switching on was always enough, even on the coldest morning (it would have been interesting to see what happened on some of our more recent mornings, perhaps). In common with all modern diesel cars, the CX has single-key operation, rather than the separate fuel cut-out of the older Mercedes and Peugeots. Switching off is just that, whereas I remember searching a Peugeot 404 Diesel for a minute or more before finding the fuel control.

CitroŽn's diesel is extremely good where smoke is concerned - I do not recall anyone on the staff ever having noticed any - but it only merits a "fair" for noise. In general, the faster the car was going, the more restful it became. At town speeds one was much more aware of some clatter, and occasionally the half-knowledgeable passer-by would look in pity for the demise of the big-ends.

Even aside from the diesel, the CX remains a car of great interest. People in Britain still regard the hydropneumatic suspension as something terribly complicated - which is not really true - and therefore unreliable, which is certainly not so. The system gives a remarkable ride in almost any circumstances, except over single sharp humps where all big CitroŽns, DS and CX alike have always behaved very badly unless speed was reduced to their liking. The adjustable ride height may be a source of great amusement to first-time passengers but it has other, sterner uses. I can think of no more reassuring car in which to negotiate a deep flood than the CX Diesel, its ground clearance jacked up to nearly a foot and its engine chugging away with no ignition to soak. Even the smooth undertray at the nose seems to sweep water sideways rather than throwing it up.

The car has stood up well to a programme of hard work and minimal service, and the only significant engine problem has been a water pump failure
There are few changes in the diesel layout from that of the equivalent petrol model, but the rev counter is deleted - a shame, as it would be appreciated in a car where rev control is so critical; but with no ignition to drive a rev counter, Citroen have no choice. In its place is a warning tell- tale for the cold start glow plugs. The delightful comfort of the seats is one of the great features of the CX and the diesel has electrically operated front wind (sic) lifts as standard
With its good economy and long range, the Citroen CX diesel has been a prime choice for long Continental trips, especially to France where diesel fuel is so much cheaper than petrol.

Steering surprises

The Varipower steering remains a bone of contention among us. For those who are used to it, it takes a great deal of strain out of driving, since it almost removes the need to move the steering wheel, let alone devote any effort to it. Eventually one learns almost to "think" the car round a corner: but it is a trick that all take time to learn, and some seem never to. The CitroŽn does not help in that an over-large bite of steering brings with it a sharp lean of the body, almost before the car has started to turn. An over-correction will twitch the body the other way, and the result can be a wiggle which is not only undignified, but uncomfortable as well. The steering itself is not wholly to blame - in the Maserati Khamsin it is close to perfection - but rather the way it interacts with the car's roll stiffness and handling. By the time the CitroŽn left us, the cloth upholstery had picked up a few stains that could not easily be shampooed off. The cloth has a smoother and more solid texture than most, and while it gives a most agreeable sitting surface, it seems more prone to mark than most. For the rest, the car could hardly be faulted except that yet again, somebody had picked up a scratch just ahead of one rear wheel arch. The CitroŽn's enormous wheelbase seems always to catch people out like this (the Safari is worse still) and the bulbous sides make things even worse. It is well worth taking extra care swinging out between gateposts, though even the most experienced Citroen pilots manage to catch themselves out from time to time, at least where the tricky entry to the Dorset House car park is concerned.

The seats have picked up some stains but remain as comfortable as ever
Luggage capacity is rather limited by the abrupt tail cut-off but it is perhaps deeper and more capacious than the rather shallow opening suggests

Conclusion

Does the CX Diesel make sense? Of course it does, unless you are unable to adapt to the different driving style dictated by the engine. One misses the acceleration more in Britain than in most places, perhaps, but even here there are open roads and motorways where it is not needed, and towns where the acceleration is quite sufficient in any case. Don't forget that 90mph cruising speed if you are looking for a fast touring car; don't forget that over 30 mpg fuel economy if you are trying to save money. And don't forget the CX's almost spectacular roominess and comfort if you are in the market for a luxury saloon.

Specification

Engine: In-line, 4-cyl, 90 x 85.5 mm (3.54 x 3.37 in.), 2,175 c.c. (132.7 cu.in.); CR 22.25 to 1; Bosch Rotary or Roto diesel injection 66 bhp (DlN) at 4,500 rpm; max torque 92.6 lb.ft. (12.8 mkg) at 2,750 rpm.
Transmission: From engine, front drive. Manual, overall ratios: 3.82, 5.39, 8.73, 15.1, Top gear mph/ 1,000 rpm 19.3,
Suspension: ifs, upper and lower transverse arms, hydropneumatic units, anti-roll bar. Rear, independent, trailing arms, hydropneumatic units, anti-roll bar.
Steering: rack and pinion; VariPower (power assisted). Brakes: Dual circuit, hydraulic servo, 10.2 in. front discs, 8.6 in. rear discs
Dimensions: Wheelbase, 9ft 4in. (284cm); front track 4ft 10in. (147cm), rear track 4ft 5 1/2in. (136cm). Overall length, 15ft 1in. (46Ocm), width 5ft 8in. (173cm), height 4ft 5,5in. (136cm). Turning circle 35ft Gin. (10.8m). Unladen weight 3,140|b. (1,426kg); Max payload 1,034lb. (470kg).
Others: tyres 185-14 (front), 175-14. (rear) 5 1/2in. rims. Fuel 15 galls (68 litres); warranty 6 mths; unltd mlqe.

Maximum Speeds

Gear mph kph rpm
Top (mean) 89 143 4,600
Top (best) 90 145 4,650
3rd 66 106 4,850
2nd 42 68 5,000
1st 24 42 5,000

Acceleration

True mph Time (sec) Speedo mph
30 5.9 32
40 9.3 43
50 14.6 53
60 20.8 63
70 30.8 74
80 50.8 84
90 - 96
Standing 1/4 mile 21.9 sec 61 mph
Standing kilometre 40.7 sec 74 mph
mph
Top
3rd
2nd
10-30
-
9.4
5.6
20-40
14.2
9.2
6.2
30-50
14.7
9.6
-
40-60
22.4
11.1
-
50-70
29.3
-
-
60-80
30.1
-
-

Consumption

Overall mpg: 33.5 mpg (8.4 litres per 100km)


© 1977 Autocar/2011 CitroŽnŽt