Looking back, it’s difficult to see why the Citroën CX has languished in the shadow of the DS for so long. It bettered its predecessor on almost every technical level, looked like absolutely nothing else on the road and it even won European Car of the Year in 1975.
When the CX first hit the showrooms back in 1975, most people didn’t quite know what to make of that completely alien cockpit either. The majority of other 1970s (and a lot of ‘80s) cars felt positively prehistoric in comparison. Sink into those incredibly soft seats in any CX today, and you will feel equally as refreshed.
Citroën liked to be unconventional, and driving a CX is the very definition. Fingertip control means that the toggle switches for the indicators, lights and wipers are all mounted on the dashboard rather than conventional stalks. With just 2.5 turns from lock-to-lock, the powered self centring DIRAVI steering offered almost telepathic direction changes too. On the road, driving a CX is a similarly puzzling experience. Take some time to learn the CX over a few miles of long, sweeping A-roads; adapt to those hyper-sensitive controls, and this is a car that rewards you with a combination of comfort and pace matched by very few.
Much like the DS, the hugely advanced CX cost the company a fortune to develop - actually bringing Citroën to the brink of bankruptcy. After Peugeot stepped in and bailed the company out in 1975, the CX went on to stay in production for an impressive 17 years, with the last-of-the-line CX Safari models rolling off the production line as late as 1991.
Citroën’s design team - lead by chief Robert Opron - produced a genuinely groundbreaking machine, boasting a very impressive drag coefficient of 0.36Cd, which as it happens, was the inspiration for the name. Cx is actually just another way to measure aerodynamic efficiency. Slightly less sexy than the Goddess tag applied to its predecessor, but this was a statement of intent from a company looking to push technological boundaries as it had always done.
Which one to buy?
The series 1 CX (1974-1985) is rare, which is why you’ll probably buy a series 2 car, built between 1985 and 1991. These later cars feature colour-coded bumpers in place of the previous chrome items, while the instrumentation is conventional – earlier cars featured a quirky dash.
CXs are just as rare in France; the biggest fans are in Holland, but shop there and you’ll pay a lot more for a good car. Nobody wants diesels or estates; it’s petrol-powered saloons that are the most sought after. The long-wheelbase Prestige is the most valuable, followed closely by the GTi Turbo 2.
With a bewildering array of variants, forget trying to track down a specific derivative as you must buy on condition rather than specification. If you can find a Prestige you’ll have one of the most alluring limousines available. Similarly, track down a Safari and you’ll have one of the most capacious and comfortable load-luggers ever made; with the Familiale you get a third row of seats added to the mix.
Performance and specs
Citroen CX25 GTi Turbo
Engine 2500cc, inline four-cylinder
Transmission Five-speed manual
Power 168bhp @ 5000rpm
Torque 217lb ft @ 3250rpm
Top speed 139mph
Fuel consumption 28mpg
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1409kg
• Pre-October 1980 CXs rusted badly; later cars were painted and rust-proofed far better, but corrosion is still likely. Two critical areas are the floorpans and sunroof surround; most saloons had a sunroof. The wings also rot, along with the windscreen pillars, door bottoms, the leading edge of the bonnet, plus the inner and outer sills.
• Check the state of the rear subframe, which is riveted to the longerons towards the rear of the floorpan. Replacement is a huge job that isn’t financially viable.
• Early CXs were powered by the 1985cc, 2175cc and 2347cc (later 2473cc) engines carried over from the DS. Properly maintained, they’ll easily rack up 300,000 miles.
• The all-alloy overhead-cam Douvrin engine was introduced in 1995cc form in 1979, and 2165cc guise in 1985. They’re more powerful and more economical than the earlier engines, but less durable.
• The first diesels were the now-extinct 2.2-litre unit, superseded by a 2.5-litre unit in 1978. This lasts 150,000+ miles if maintained. The Turbo I and Turbo II editions can suffer from a cracked cylinder head, while the DTR Turbo 2 can suffer from a porous block – check for water being used.
• Gearboxes rarely give trouble, aside from synchromesh wearing out at massive mileages. The C-Matic semi-auto is best avoided as it’s unreliable at high mileages and parts are hard to find; the ZF auto is tough but costly to fix.
• Be wary of a clutch that’s slipping, as the engine has to be removed on earlier cars, to facilitate clutch replacement. At least the powerplant can be left in place if the car has a Douvrin engine.
• The hydropneumatic suspension is simple, effective and reliable if maintained. Switch the engine on and ensure the car’s ride height lifts to the normal position within 15 seconds. Much slower, and the fluid needs replacing. Check the colour of the fluid; it should be bright green and replaced every few years. It’s also possible that the hydraulic pump is getting weak; they’re durable but can fail.
1974: CX announced in France.
1975: First 2000 and 2200 editions arrive in UK.
1976: LWB estate launched (2000 Safari), along with 2400 (also in LWB Prestige form) and the first diesels (badged 2200 D).
1977: All 2400 editions get five-speed ‘box and Familiale arrives (estate with three rows of seats). GTi also appears with injected 2.4-litre engine.
1978: A 2.5-litre diesel replaces the previous 2.2-litre unit.
1979: Reflex and Athena replace the 2000; Athena is posher.
1982: Cars are now badged 20 and 25 instead of 2000 and 2500.
1983: 25 DTR (turbodiesel) range arrives, with five-speed gearbox. There’s also a fuel-injected 2473cc engine for the 25 TRI Safari (estate), 25 IE Familiale (seven-seater estate) and 25 GTI – long-wheelbase CX.
1984: 25 GTi Turbo brings 168bhp from 2473cc plus a five-speed ‘box.
1985: Series 2 on sale, with colour-coded bumpers, redesigned interior with conventional instruments and electronically adjustable ride height.
1986: GTi Turbo 2 debuts with air-to-air intercooler and 168bhp.
1987: DTR is succeeded by 25 DTR 2 in saloon or Safari guises, with intercooled version of 2.5-litre diesel. 22 RS Safari and Familiale replace 20 estates, powered by 115bhp 2175cc engine. All 2.5-litre cars get ABS as standard.
1989: Estate range rationalised and saloon killed off to make way for XM.
1990: All CXs to special order only, with the final car being built in 1991.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
While the DS is without doubt the one and only Goddess, the CX is truly a worthy (if still under appreciated) successor. Today, the best CXs can still be bought for the price of a tatty DS, and we think that it’s a car just too special to ignore any longer.
Prices for the more run-of-the-mill CX models are very affordable. Expect to pay around £1000 for a Mk2 in need of considerable work, while a car with MoT and a solid undercarriage will command upwards of around £2500.
Early cars are rare but unless the car is in perfect condition, values are still very low with clean examples generally commanding around £4000. Desirable models, such as the GTI, are worth around 30 per cent more.
The two stand out models are the GTI Turbo/Turbo II and long wheelbase Prestige. Expect to pay £8000-plus for a top GTI Turbo II. While there are still cheap Prestige models around - the very best Series 1 examples are now extremely difficult to find, and highly sought after. Pay £5000 for something presentable, although a concours car could potentially fetch more than £10,000 if and when it becomes available.