When it comes to car-related clichés, Citroën has automotive quirkiness all sewn up. At least, that used to be the case. Following a succession of pathologically bland cars in the 1990s, the French firm has only recently begun to once again pay more than lip service to a heritage rich in engineering innovation and offbeat design.
Of course, cars have evolved almost beyond recognition since Citroën carved out a niche courtesy of forward-looking models such as the Traction Avant and innovations including air suspension or the helical gear pattern that forms the basis of the company’s logo to this day. It’s now digital systems as much as the oily bits that separate the good from the bad and the bland from the grand in the modern automotive jungle.
With all that in mind, how exactly does Citroën’s infotainment kit stack up compared to the competition? Is it, perhaps, permeated with Citroën’s singular tradition of imaginative, independent thinking? If so, is that actually a good thing or is there no place for quirkiness in contemporary infotainment systems?
To find out, we snagged an example of the incumbent flagship of Citroën’s range, the C5. It’s a large, comfort-oriented cruiser in the traditional Gallic idiom. It’s not an absolutely brand spankers model having been on the market for around a year. But it is new enough to pack a huge range of in-car technology along with a handful of intriguing driver aids.
Our test C5 is the family-friendly Tourer in range-topping Exclusive trim and benefits from a thorough plundering of the options list. Highlights start with the obligatory sat-nav installation and extend to a hard-drive based music system, voice control and even a lane-departure warning system that gives the driver’s bum a buzzing sensation. Power, meanwhile, comes from the company’s 2.7-litre V6 diesel lump – a 208hp unit with 325lb/ft of torque which feeds the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic gearbox for suitably effortless progress. Oh, and for the record our C5 does indeed come complete with Citroën’s signature hydro-pneumatic suspension.
Thus specified, the C5 rocks the price lists at a hefty £30,580. Well into the premium territory that so often proves problematic for middle market brands like Citroën, in other words. But the C5 does have a few things going for it. For starters it’s a big, imposing beast. It certainly looks like thirty grand worth of car. As a Citroën, it also boasts a certain eclectic charm that eludes more resolutely mass market makes such as Ford and Vauxhall. Nevertheless, it still faces a monumental task in taking on the usual German and Japanese suspects.