TEN YEARS have passed since the current 2-litre Citroen, featuring such
technical features as hydro-pneumatic, self-levelling suspension,
inboard front brakes, unstressed, detachable body panels, adjustable
ground clearance (the model which replaced the extraordinarily
long-lived ‘Traction Avant’ beloved of cops and robbers) was first
announced. It is, perhaps, amazing that the car is still unique in
almost all these respects, but such are the facts.
The latest form of this remarkable car is the DW saloon,
which we have recently tested over an extended mileage, and which left
a lasting impression upon us for so many different reasons. There is,
for example, the extraordinary sensation imparted by the suspension as
the self-levelling devices do their work: the phenomenal road-holding –
well ahead of that offered by too many sports cars: the effortless
cruising at comfortably over 90 m.p.h., together with a parsimonious
The new DW Citroen has the DS power unit, power
steering and power braking, but shares with the slightly less powerful
ID model the manual clutch and gearchange. A technical description of
all the car’s extremely scientific features would, in detail, fill a
book, to coin a phrase, but for the benefit of drivers who may be in
need of a refresher course, the basic points of interest are these. The
2-litre four-cylinder engine has a long stroke, and the cylinder
dimensions of 78 x 100 mm. gives an actual total capacity of 1,911 c.c.
A compression ratio of 8.5 : 1 is satisfied with ordinary premium grade
fuel, and the mixture is fed into the cylinders by means of a single
twin-choke Weber carburetter. An aluminium alloy cylinder head employs
push-rods to operate the overhead valves, and the crankshaft runs in
three main bearings. The engine is front-mounted in the efﬁcient and
unusual body/chassis unit, and drives the front wheels. It is not an
outstandingly smooth engine, while at quite moderate revolutions, its
rugged feeling and a noticeable level of mechanical noise give an
agricultural effect. Throughout the test period it proved to be an easy
starter from hot or cold, and idling was quiet and reliable. Maximum
power output is 83 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m., a fairly modest total for a
car capable of three-ﬁgure maximum speeds, and maximum torque is
produced at a crankshaft speed only 1,000 r.p.m. below this ﬁgure.
There is, in fact, very little power at the bottom end of the
rev.-range, and while the car gets off the mark briskly enough when
accelerating through the gears, its top gear performance is
unremarkable, and when driving through moderate trafﬁc one spends a
good deal of time in third gear. Fortunately, this ratio offers an
unusually high maximum speed, while fuel consumption does not seem to
The transmission employs a single dry-plate clutch
and the manual, four-speed and reverse gearbox ﬁtted to the ID saloon.
Synchromesh is ﬁtted to all four forward gears, and the ratios are
selected by means of a lever mounted on the “steering column” — or
where the column would be if there was one. The lever has a light
movement, but is rather dead in feel although it does not, in fact,
lack precision. The ratios are well-spaced, and both second and third
gears offer maximum speeds which, at 58 and 90 m.p.h., are notably
higher than are commonly available on many 2-litre saloons. Third gear,
in particular, is a most useful ratio: top is a high gear, although not
in fact an overdrive, and the ability to drop down to third almost
irrespective of the road speed when a little extra acceleration is
required is of great beneﬁt to a driver in a hurry.
|The suspension raised for rough going...
|...and lowered for normal motoring
It is in the suspension that the Citroen’s most unique
feature is to be found. This is of the hydro-pneumatic, self-levelling
type which has been featured since the introduction of the DS range
back in the middle ’ﬁfties. This system, which employs neither springs
nor shock absorbers as such, links each road wheel to a piston, which
works in a body-attached cylinder. The whee1’s vertical movements are
transmitted to the piston which, through the medium of an hydraulic
ﬂuid in the cylinder, acts on a diaphragm in a compressed gas
container. A damper valve between the cylinder and the container acts
as a shock absorber, while valves, operated by front and rear anti-roll
bars, control the flow of hydraulic ﬂuid to and from the cylinder,
maintaining the body at a constant height. It does not, of course stop
there: a hand control enables the ground clearance to be increased for
travelling over uneven ground, while the same control enables the car
to be jacked automatically for wheel-changing.
That is the theory. In practice, it means that the car
maintains the same ground clearance and remains level irrespective of
the load it is carrying. Such things as nose-diving under braking, and
dipping of the tail on acceleration, are all taken care of by the
suspension system, and while it is a little startling at ﬁrst to drive
a car which continually hisses as the automatic adjustments are made,
one rapidly appreciates the supremely comfortable ride and, above all,
the outstanding roadholding in which it results. Minor corrugations and
even quite large bumps are completely absorbed, while road noise is
almost totally absent.
The interior of the car is well-furnished: deep leather
individual front seats are fitted with reclining squabs, and offer
generous adjustment fore-and-aft. Although comfortable, the front seats
would be still further improved if greater lateral support, against
cornering forces, were to be provided: the Citroen is a car which can
be taken round bends very fast indeed, and passengers can be flung
about if they are taken unawares. Leg-room in the comfortable rear
seats is generous, even with the front seats at the rearward limit of
their adjustment, although headroom, for tall passengers, is limited.
The driving position is comfortable. The unusual safety
steering wheel, spokeless, and with no steering column in the accepted
sense of the word, is extremely practical as a safety feature in the
event of an accident. The column itself is sharply curved to meet the
wheel at its rim, so that there are no projections to cause chest
injuries to a driver thrown violently forward in a collision. The
instruments are placed immediately in front of the driver, concentrated
in two matching dials of which the left-hand one is the 110 m.p.h.
speedometer, incorporating trip and total mileage recorders, while that
on the right contains the ammeter, fuel tank contents and water
temperature gauges. Between the dials are warning lights for headlamp
main beams, main brake ﬂuid pressure, hydraulic fluid level and
ignition charge. Instrument lighting is separately controlled by a
rheostat switch. An electric clock, which kept good time during the
test, is also ﬁtted on the facia, while hand controls mounted on the
left of the instrument panel, and all easily accessible, include
switches for front and rear heater and demister fans, a cigar lighter,
interior lights, parking lights, choke and the windscreen wiper/washer
|Controls and instrument panel
|Crowded engine compartment, tools in spare wheel
An outstanding feature of the Citroen is its
comprehensive, and notably effective heating and demisting systems.
Outlet (sic) at each end of the facia admit fresh air; its direction
and volume can be controlled separately, while on each screen pillar is
a de-mister outlet for the side windows. Beneath the facia, a further
set of controls deals with the direction of ﬂow from the main heating
unit to windscreen or car interior, and with the volume of this air,
while a separate master switch controls the temperature. The rear
compartment has separate heater and ventilator systems to the floor and
its own fan-boosted demisting arrangements for the rear window. The
controls sound somewhat complex but are, in fact, extremely simple and
straightforward to operate, while the system as a whole is
Visibility all round the car is excellent. Windscreen
and door pillars are unusually slender, while the absence of
quarter-lights provides unobstructed vision through the wide windows.
In bad weather, visibility is maintained at the same high level by the
demisting system. The windscreen wipers are rather noisy in operation,
but clear a good area of the screen, and are, naturally, self-parking.
All controls are well-placed and are light to operate.
The steering is particularly light and precise, with a high ratio which
encourages full use to be made of the car’s manoeuvrability.
The brakes are extremely effective. Inboard-mounted disc
brakes at the front are supplemented by large-diameter drums, mounted
outboard, at the rear, and are operated, with strong power-assistance,
by a curious button on the floor. In use, this button differs little
from a conventional pedal, and retains full sensitivity and control.
The performance is high, and a mean maximum speed of
102.8 m.p.h., with a best one-way speed of more than 103 m.p.h., from
such a modest power output speaks highly for the aerodynamic efﬁciency
of the unusual but elegant body. The acceleration, too, is brisk for a
large 2-litre saloon which is no lighter than it should be. From a
standstill, 60 m.p.h. can be reached in 15 seconds, while acceleration
to higher speeds is helped by the 90 m.p.h. maximum available in third
gear, and to reach 70 m.p.h. from rest requires only 21.4 seconds,
while 80 m.p.h. is achieved in fractionally over half-a-minute.
Driven hard, the car recorded an overall average of 26
m.p.g. while it was in our hands, despite full use of the acceleration
and a good deal of third gear work, as indicated earlier, in
overhauling long lines of traffic. Allied to a tank which holds no
fewer than fourteen gallons, this admirable economy provides a cruising
range of more than 350 miles, a feature which, combined with the
effortless way in which the car will cruise in the nineties — with
notable freedom from wind and noise, and far less mechanical noise than
is apparent at lower speeds - make it an ideal car for motorway travel.
On ordinary roads, unusually high average speeds can be maintained by
virtue of the excellent roadholding. A combination of front wheel
drive, the Citroen fashion of “a wheel at each corner” — and each wheel
shod, as standard, with a Michelin “X” tyre - and the characteristics
of the hydro-pneumatic suspension, enable the car to be hurled into
corners at speeds which seem to invite disaster. Yet such bends can be
negotiated with no more fuss than a pronounced squeal from the front
tyres, although in our attempts to discover the limit of the DW’s
cornering power we did, on one occasion, lift the inside front wheel,
with resultant loss of traction.
The boot is larger than is expected from the external
appearance of the car. As a matter of interest, the lid is so arranged
that rearward vision from inside the car is completely unimpaired if
the lid is open to its fullest extent.
The longer one drives the Citroen the better one grows
to like it. Although the design incorporates many features which are in
themselves complex, the overall result is so completely logical that
one wonders why it wasn’t thought of before.
Four-cylinder, 78 mm. x 100 mm. (1,911 c.c.). Compression ratio 8.5 : 1
; pushrod-operated overhead valves; single Weber twin-choke carburetter
alloy cylinder head; 83 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m.
Front wheel drive; single dry-plate clutch; four-speed and reverse
gearbox with synchromesh on all four forward gears. Steering-column
Suspension: Hydro-pneumatic suspension system, with wishbones
and trailing arms at rear. Tyres: 165 x 400 (Michelin X standard).
Brakes: Front, 11 3/4 in. discs, mounted inboard; rear, 10 in. drums, mounted outboard. Servo assisted.
Overall length, 15 ft. 10 1/2 in.; overall width 5 ft. 10 1/2 in.;
overall height (suspension normal) 5 ft.; turning circle, 36 ft.;
weight, 2,600 lb.
|(mean of 2 ways)
|SPEEDS IN GEARS
|Standing quarter mile
|Manufacturers: Citroen Cars Ltd., Trading Estate, Slough, Bucks.
Price: £1,298, plus £270 19s 7d. purchase tax. Total price: £1,568 9s. 7d.