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Slough-built D Series logo.jpg cot.jpg

Cars Illustrated review of the

Slough-built DW


ALMOST 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 fuel consumption.

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 suffer adversely.

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.

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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 control.

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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 outstandingly efficient.

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.


Engine: 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.

Transmission: Front wheel drive; single dry-plate clutch; four-speed and reverse gearbox with synchromesh on all four forward gears. Steering-column mounted gearlever.

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.

Dimensions: 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) 102.8

First 30.0

Second 58.0








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.

© 2017 Citroėnėt/1964 Cars Illustrated