If you’ll forgive a little occupational proselytising, most cars in this game fall into one of three categories. Those you expect to like and do indeed fulfill your expectations. Those you try to hate but can’t help being won over by. And then you have cars like the C5. Cars you want to like but can’t quite see past the shortcomings.
Make no mistake, there is indeed plenty to like about the C5. Most significant is its unapologetically comfort-centric setup. It’s an extremely relaxing car to drive thanks to the hydro-pneumatic suspension and a decent V6 diesel engine and gearbox (note that Citroën has just announced an upgraded 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine that’s due to replace the 2.7-litre engine in our test car).
In terms of driving comfort and pleasure, if not cabin quality and ambiance, we reckon the vast majority of the population would be better off with a C5 than the pseudo-sporty German alternatives. We live in a peculiar age where most buyers seem to be besotted by sportiness at the same time as being hysterical about speeding, so the honesty of the C5 is extremely welcome.
Nevertheless, it’s a great shame that the C5’s in-car kit is so shoddy. Whether it’s features, presentation, usability or ergonomics, this car’s infotainment system falls well short of our expectations. The ergonomics of the main console controls in particular are the worst we’ve seen as is the logic and hierarchy of the infotainment interface. In this regard, the gap between Citroën and bona fide premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Lexus looks bigger than ever.
There are, however, grounds for some hope. The quality of the instrument cluster and the secondary display therein is much, much better. Frankly, these aspects feel like something from another car altogether. Citroën should build on that. It should also take a lead from some of the more innovative work being done by the likes of Fiat with its Blue&Me platform developed in partnership with Microsoft, as seen in the Fiat 500.
In that sense, Citroën’s typically Gallic sense of independence needs to take a back seat. It simply has too much ground to make up to go it alone with infotainment technology. Instead, it needs to partner with established experts in the field and then leverage tried and tested core technologies to which it can then add its own flavour. Again, the model to look to here is Fiat and its Windows CE-based Blue&Me platform. If Citroën can do that, while still retaining its unique driving experience, it will once again be able to offer buyers something truly compelling and different.