What is disconcerting is the way the car will settle and level itself
out on the hydro-pneumatic suspension everytime you stop.
I think most people understand a little about the suspension system so I wonít go into a great deal of technical detail. Basically what happens is this. Each wheel is connected to a suspension ball which replaces the conven-tional shock absorber/spring system. The ball is filled with a mixture of gas and oil. The interaction between the oil (incompressible) and the gas compressible) absorbs the road shocks and improves stability, ensuring at the same time that the car remains level. This applies whether on rough or uneven surfaces orwhen the car is heavily laden with luggage.
The system also provides a built in anti-dive system by compensating
for weight transfer under heavy braking.
The carís handling isacombination of good and bad. In long sweeping curves it is excellent. The self-levelling suspension keeps the car flat and level maintaining maximum wheel con-tact with the road surface at.all times.
Ideal for freeways and the autobahns and autostradas of Europe. Unfortunately here on our lousy roads the self-levelling suspension doen not take kindly to short sharp corners .and curves, or twisty bends. In fact it goes berserk trying to compensate and sets up violent body roll which can be quite frightening to the uninitiated.
The power steering is another thing you must get used to. The system
ó known as Diravi ó is power steering with variable ratio and automatic
self-centring. The power decreases as the carís speed increases, which
is fine. But the power return or self-centring can catch you unawares and
have you wallowing all over the road. At standstill, the power assist is
so strong that you can turn to full lock and then let the wheel go, and
the automatic return will turn the wheels back to the straight ahead position!
Driving around the city at low speeds, where the power steering is at its strongest, is where you notice this problem most. When the over-correction situation occurs the suspension also tries to compensate for the body roll and results in a weird rocking motion from side to side. As I said, it takes some getting used to. However it just canít be beaten for out and out manouvarability.
The Citroens performance is not staggering. Itís comfortable and adequate and its high speed touring capability is most proba-bly its strongest point. To really get it going around town you have to work the gears and the engine hard ó and that results in poor economy and increased interior noise. But, out on the open road the car will cruise very comfortably all day at 100km/h plus, in complete comfort.
I managed an average fuel consumption for our test period of 13.1 litres/lOOkm (21.5mpg) which is not spectacular for a four cylinder car but is acceptable in the light of the carís size, weight, appointments and comfortable carry-ing capacity. It is also marginally better than the consumption of the CX 2000, its pre-decessor, which carried the same load with a smaller enoine. The CX 2200 returned a best of 12.8 litres for a hundred kilometres (22 mpg).
Braking is without any doubt at all the Citroenís strongest and most remarkable point. The car does not have a pedal, but a button on the floor which looks similar to a pedal. This activates the four wheel discs at a touch, and again like everything with the Citroen it takes getting used to! The first few attempts will result in dramatically sudden stops . . . then you realise that the brakes require only a touch. The self-levelling suspension works well in conjunction with the brakes, ensuring flat and level stops under any circumstances. There is little or no brake fade, even after a number of emergency stops and it is impossi-ble to lock the wheels and skid.
In fact, in an attempt to lock the wheels during one test run I threw
my full weight (a mean 88kg) onto the stop button to such an extent that
the muscles in my calf cramped on me, and still no lock-up! But, that is
the Citroen... a car of extremes. Extremely advanced design, extremely
com-plex, extremely good at some things and not so good at others.
But, at close to $23,000 on the road, I find it difficult to believe the car would appeal to more than the dedicated and enthusiastic Citroen owner.