The CX is yet another example of Citroëccentricity - being different for the sake of being different rather than better. As a replacement for the DS, it was, at the time, hard to believe that 20 years worth of lessons had been learned, let alone applied to the new model.
Despite the principal criticisms of the DS being directed at its engines, the CX retained them and was rightly criticised for so doing.
Interior trim was tacky on early models and was poorly put together. The dash contained those ghastly and inappropriate digital instruments and of course the predecessor of the PRN satellite system (P = Pluie/rain, R = Route/road, N = Nuit/night) which, while they were fine from an ergonomic point of view, were difficult to learn and had a tendency to burn out.
Cars were available with either the obligatory Schwarzennegger muscle building unassisted steering which was slow to boot or with the conceptually flawed DIRAVI.
The suspension was attached to sub frames which were mounted to the body employing flexible mountings, ostensibly to reduce road noise - fluids are marvellous at transmitting noise and all hydropneumatic sprung cars suffer from road noise - but which in fact created handling problems, masked of course by the DIRAVI set up.
The front suspension arms were an exceedingly clever design and fabricated out of light alloy in order to reduce unsprung weight which was up on the DS due to the fitting of outboard brakes. This was of no benefit to the punter, indeed it was a distinct disadvantage since the cost of a new arm was prohibitive. Another knock on disadvantage was that the D's steering geometry, where the swivel point was in the middle of the tyre tread, was abandoned for the more conventional and geometrically inferior off set arrangement which again creates handling problems which were masked by the DIRAVI system.
Another foible was the single wiper system - fine for the vertically challenged but creating visibility problems for those of us who are taller than average. The concave rear window did not compensate for the lack of a rear wiper.
Early series I cars had non existent or ineffective rust proofing.
Notwithstanding its name (CX is French for CD - coefficient of air resistance), the car was less aerodynamic than the GS and not a great improvement over the D; indeed later performance variants had to have spoilers fitted. The basic design was a late 60s Pininfarina one which had been rejected by BMC. It looked like a hatchback but wasn't. The car was fitted with impractical spats over the rear wheels.
When the D engine was finally put out to grass, the PRV (Peugeot, Renault, Volvo) replacement was no great improvement in terms of power output, refinement or fuel consumption.
All manual models suffered from an amazingly heavy and long throw clutch with right hand drive cars being worst. Why the company did not see fit to provide power assistance is a mystery.
As for the ventilation system, this was useless and accessory manufacturers acknowledged this and attempted to rectify it with the provision of a bonnet mounted scoop. Air conditioning was a must.
The CX was, in its more mundane manifestations, slow, noisy, and thirsty while the performance and luxury models were insufficiently refined. The Series II represented an aesthetic improvement and build quality was improved but a lot of the original faults were retained in particular the vertical mounting of the radio - fine in the days before cassette players became the norm so excusable on the Series I. Most cassette mechanisms don't like working at this angle and dust and dirt find their way into the cassette slot unimpeded. You can't readily see what station you are listening to and the passenger has to be able to read upside down - another unmitigated disaster.
If all the foregoing seems somewhat negative, I suggest that you read Richard and Graham's column in order to redress the balance. Compared to its peers (the Rover SD1, Leyland Land Crab, Renault 20/30 etc.) the CX still looks remarkably fresh and modern, especially now that curvaceous body syling is à la mode again. The CX, in all its manifestations can, on the right road, be a marvellous driving experience.
|This article was originally published in the Citroënian, the monthly magazine of the Citroën Car Club .|