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AUTOCAR w/e 16 August 1980
With thanks To Richard Needham

THERE IS no doubt that, even today, ownership of a big Citroen is something of an acquired taste. Way back in the 1930s, when the famous traction-avant models were introduced, Citroens were right out of the ordinary. They caused a huge sensation in 1955 with the launch of the futuristic DS19 car, and the current CX range progressively replaced them in 1974 and 1975. To the then existing (but reliable) complication of self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension was added that of a transverse engine front-wheel-drive installation.

Production of the well-loved DS range ran for 20 years, and all the signs are that the CX models will follow suit.

CXs have now been on sale in Britain for more than five years and have already been sold with several different engines, and in more than one body derivative.
Due to its price levels, its complexity, and its sheer size, the CX is not as numerous as many other cars; in Britain's rather restricted big-car market, the CX has had to compete for attention with cars as varied as the Audi 100, the Lancia Gamma, the Renault 20 and 30 and the BL Princess 2200 (all of which have front-drive), not to mention the Volvo 244S, Ford Granadas, Rover 2300/ 2600s, and the Peugeot 604. On that basis, presumably, the big Citroens have something rather special to offer.

Defining the pedigree


All CX Citroens are based on the same structure which rarely for a current model includes a separate chassis frame, but it is not a self supporting structure. The body
shell, on the other hand, is almost as strong as a conventional unit-construction item.
The frames, however, also incorporate front and rear subframes for the suspension components.
All cars have front and rear independent suspension, by high-pressure hydro-pneumatic units (with pressure supplied from an engine-driven pump), which incorporates self-levelling. Four-wheel disc brakes are also a feature, with high-pressure hydraulic circuits also powered by the same engine-driven pump.
All cars have transversely-mounted four-cylinder engines, but in five years a surprising variety and combination of units, and transmissions, has already been used. Depending on the model, it might have a petrol or a diesel engine, a four-speed, five-speed, or a semi-automatic gearbox.
Although the mechanical packages are all basically similar, they are hidden by two different lengths of four-door saloon, and a selection of even more bulky estate cars.

Engines


Although all the CX models have transversely-mounted four-cylinder engines, they are of several different pedigrees. Not only are there two distinctly different types of petrol engine, but there is a diesel engine family only loosely related to the others.
The most numerous engine family is that used in all CX petrol-powered models except the Reflex and Athena. It is an overhead valve unit with part-spherical cylinder head and opposed valves, first seen in the old Citroen DS models in 1965.
Not only is it (or was it — for the CX2200 was only an interim model in the scheme of things) available in 1,985 c.c., 2,175 c.c. and 2,347 c.c. sizes (CX2000, CX220O and CX24OO respectively), but at the top of the range the 2,347 c.c. engine is available as a 115 bhp unit with a Weber carburettor, or as a 128 bhp unit with Bosch injection. All these engines are based on the same cylinder block casting and are externally all the same size. It is worth noting that although they were always thought to be a touch rough when installed (length-ways) in the obsolete DS models, they are smooth and acceptable in the transverse layout of the CX.

Above a mixture of jersey and cord upholstery is used on the CX GTi and head restraints are detachable

The other petrol-powered engine, still rather rare on the secondhand market as it only became available in August 1979, is the 1,995 c.c. overhead-camshaft Renault-Peugeot unit, fitted to the Reflex and Athena models. This unit, incidentally, is also fitted by Peugeot in the 505,model and by Renault in the 2OTS model. It is slightly more powerful than the CX2000 which it replaced, but (on the evidence of our test car) noticeably more economical.
Finally, there are the diesels — the 2,175 c.c. unit available from 1976 to 1978, and the 2,500 c.c. unit which replaced it with no overlap. The 2,175 c.c. engine has the same bore, stroke, and general cylinder block dimensions as the CX2200 petrol engine, though the conversion to diesel power was not as simple and straightforward as all that. It was originally developed for the Citroen C35 diesel van. The 2,500 c.c. unit is merely a larger version, with increased bore and stroke. Naturally, neither diesel
is as powerful as the petrol engines — the CX 2500D having a mere 75 bhp.
There are three different transmissions - two manual and one semi-automatic unit.
The base transmission is a four-speed all-synchromesh transmission mainly found on the cheaper down-market models, and the estate cars. A five-speed all-synchromesh gearbox, which always gives higher overall gearing, to aid economy, is standard on Athena, CX2400 (except 1977 models), CX2400GTi, CX Prestige and CX2500D saloons, and is optional on all the various Safari estate car models.
Finally there is the C-Matic semi-automatic transmission, which has a three-speed synchromesh transmission linked to a torque converter, and where gear-changing is by a
conventional floor-mounted gear-lever. Movement of the lever triggers a micro-switch in the linkage, which disengages a conventional clutch in the drive line. This transmission is only standard on the CX Pallas Injection (really the plushy automatic alternative to the CX240OGTi), and optional on all other CX2400s. It is not available on Reflex/Athena /CX2000/CX2200 or diesel models.


Above Familiale versions of the Safari estate have an extra row of seats so that up to eight people can be accommodated. With the seats folded down load space is similar to the normal Safari

Body choice, model range, availability


There are two types of saloon — normal and long wheelbase — and an estate car based on the long-wheelbase version. These three different body shells, however, have to be permutated with the formidable number of engines and transmissions, and with several different trim levels.
The normal body shell is commodious enough, but in long-wheelbase form (only available in Prestige guise with the 128 bhp 2.4-litre injection engine) there is a considerable gain in rear seat lounging room.
The Safari estate is built on the longer-wheelbase under frame, and again is available in several mechanical guises, but although there is only one steel shell there are two types of accommodation. Normal Safaris have the useful estate car type seating, but the Familiale derivatives have an extra, third, row of folding seats behind the line of the rear wheels, which face forward, and can be completely folded away when not needed; Familiales therefore can carry up to eight people at the expense of very limited luggage space left over. Either Safari, however, with all rear seats folded, has a loading space no less than seven feet (84 in.) long.
There are several trim levels, starting with the base, or Confort level, then the Super, next the even more plushy Pallas, and finally (for the long wheelbase model only) the Prestige. All Safaris are trimmed to the equivalent Super standard of the saloons from which they and their engines are derived.

Above the CX2000 Safari Estate with long, 121.9in wheelbase
Below current 1,995 c.c. Douvrin-engined Athena
Below introduced at the same time as the Athena, in August 1979 was the cheaper Reflex model
Below left the CX2000 was the most basically equipped version but even so cloth seats were standard
Below right light alloy wheels are a distinguishing feature of the 128 bhp CX 2400 GTi
Above right see-through sun blinds to shield rear passengers are now a Citroen feature
Below interior of the CX2500 Diesel which has the Super trim with cord upholstery.  Note the single spoke steering wheel which is a Citroen feature, as are the finger-tip switches flanking the instruments
Below typical underbonnet layout of the CX range.  This is actually the 2-litre ohc Athena.  Note the transverse engine installation and the horizontally mounted spare wheel behind it

Suspension and steering


All cars have the self-levelling all-independent hydro-pneumatic suspension, with power provided by an engine driven pump. This explains why the CX
range (like the old DS range) gradually "sits down" after the engine has been switched off, and "stands up" when the engine is first started up because it is a function of the loss or re-gaining of pressure in the system.
There are two types of steering. The standard manual steering, found only on 1975 and 1976 CX2000s, was low geared. On all other models, the Varipower power-assisted system, very high geared, and requiring almost complete driver attention due to its powered self-centring habits, is standardized.


Above Familiale versions of the Safari estate have an extra row of seats so that up to eight people can be accommodated. With the seats folded down load space is similar to the normal Safari

Our charts make it clear as to which cars were on the British market at what times. The CX2200 models were only sold between 1975 and 1978, and the CX2400s only became available in the autumn of 1976. CX2000s were completely replaced by the Reflex/Athena models in the summer of 1979. The CX2500 Diesel was a direct replacement for the CX2200 Diesel in 1978.

Our Buyers’ Guide still lists eight different CX saloons, and four different Safari estates, and the range is still in full scale production. Getting on for 30,000 CXs of all types have now been sold in this country, and many secondhand examples may be found at Citroen dealerships, of which there are 260 in the UK.

© 1980 Autocar/2015 CitroŽnŽt