Citroen C5: Just relax and go with the flow

By David Linklater

You'll feel as though you're hovering in the air on the Citroen C5's Hydractive suspension

There's still plenty of Citroen idiosyncrasy in evidence in the interior of the Citroen C5 V6 Tourer.Pictures / David Linklater
There's still plenty of Citroen idiosyncrasy in evidence in the interior of the Citroen C5 V6 Tourer.Pictures / David Linklater

It's no secret that I'm a bit disappointed by the Citroen DS5. Why? Basically, it comes down to the fact that it looks so amazing.

The DS5's flamboyant, slightly left-of-centre styling reminds me of Citroen's weirdest and most wonderful family cars from the past: XM, CX, even touches of one of the greatest cars ever made, the original DS.

Yes, I know Citroen says the branding of old DS ("Deesse", or goddess) has nothing to do with new DS (which stands for Dynamic Style, apparently). But still - I'm sure you see it too.

But I am disappointed in the DS5 because it isn't at all like a weird and wonderful Citroen to drive. This is because despite the name, it's based on the platform of the C4/DS4 and therefore has completely conventional suspension (which also happens to be a bit too hard, but that's another story).

A properly weird and wonderful Citroen family car - at least one that looks like a luxury jet - should have floaty suspension that employs Space-1999 spheres at each corner of the car and pressurised hydraulic fluid. That's what the XM, CX and DS had. That's what Citroen is famous for.

In short, I wish the DS5 was a bit more like the car you see on this page: the C5. Platform sharing with parent company Peugeot means Citroen's unique Hydractive suspension is on the endangered list, but the big C5 still has it.

The C5 doesn't come close to the wacky style of the DS5, but in Tourer wagon form it's still impressively sleek. Hydractive's self-levelling function is ideal for a wagon of course, but regardless of its practicality I just love the way the C5 chassis feels.

Once you're under way it quite literally floats along in the most magnificently relaxed manner. It doesn't feel like each corner of the car is suspended separately - instead, it's like the whole chassis is hovering along as one entity. Which, in effect, is how the Hydractive system works.

The latest Hydractive III Plus system fitted to the C5 not only automatically lowers at high speed, but it offers a pushbutton Sport mode to firm up the chassis for fast cornering. I find this concept ridiculous as the whole point of a Hydractive Citroen is to waft along at your own pace, but if you must hurry - well, the option is there.

This car is certainly capable of rapid performance. The C5 comes in two specifications, both diesel: a 2-litre and the flagship twin-turbo 3-litre V6 tested here. The V6 engine is magnificent: it makes 177kW/450Nm, with all of that torque available from a mere 1600rpm. Clatter, whoosh - and you're gone. Wonderful.

In Tourer form, the C5 V6 costs $70,990. Some of the interior fit and finish justifies that, but some betrays the car's mainstream origins.

The Citroen C5 V6 Tourer costs $70,990. Photo / David Linklater
The Citroen C5 V6 Tourer costs $70,990. Photo / David Linklater

Beautifully soft materials dominate the parts of the dashboard you touch most, which creates a premium impression. But some bits seem really poorly thought out: there's a knob on the stereo that looks like a volume control but isn't (instead, there's a hard-to-find rocker switch for that), and a cutout with a small chrome garnish on the passenger's side that looks like an extra little glovebox but isn't. It's actually just a cutout with a small chrome garnish. The end.

Crucially though, there's still plenty of Citroen idiosyncrasy in evidence: for example, the C5 retains the marque's signature fixed-hub steering wheel (once fitted to the C4 but now dropped), which keeps the centre-boss and all its pushbutton controls static while the rim spins around it. The seats are trimmed in high-quality leather and the driver's seat will even give you a massage if you ask nicely.

The C5 wouldn't be properly French without a few things that make you scratch your head. And it wouldn't be a really cool Citroen if it didn't have Hydractive suspension. A little more C5-flavour would go a long way in the DS5.

- NZ Herald

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