Citroën CX
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Production 1974 - 1991
Class Executive car
Body Style 4-door fastback
4-door fastback long wheel base
4-door shooting break (estate)
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Similar Audi 100
BMW 5 Series
Mercedes-Benz W123
Designer Robert Opron

The Citroën CX is an automobile produced by the French automaker Citroën from 1974 to 1991. Citroën sold nearly 1.2 million CXs during its 16 years of production.

The CX was voted European Car of the Year in 1975. It is considered by some enthusiasts as the last "real Citroën" before Peugeot took control of the company in 1974. "Real Citroën" refers to the trademark avant garde technical and design innovation, prized by marque loyalists.

Available models were a four-door fastback, a break (estate), and a long-wheelbase model built on the break chassis. The CX employed Citroën's unique hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension system.


The CX was initially a huge sales success in Europe, producing a little over 132,000 units in 1978. It accrued new customers beyond the loyal Citroën DS customer base and brought the technology of the advanced, but somewhat impractical Citroën SM to the masses. Unlike its principal competitors, the CX did not have world-wide distribution — the cost of development and improvements had to be met from a geographically small sales base.

It is hard to mistake the CX for any other vehicle. Robert Opron penned the dramatic flowing lines and sharp Kamm tail of the CX, which resembles a larger version of the 1970 Citroën GS. The CX also bears a resemblance to a 1967 design study by Pininfarina for the BMC called the 1800 berlina aerodynamica, yet both Citroën and Pininfarina deny any contacts during this period.

The car combined integral self-leveling suspension, speed-adjustable DIRAVI power steering, and a unique interior design that did away with steering column stalks, allowing the driver to reach all controls with his or her hands on the steering wheel. The British magazine "Car" described the sensation of driving a CX as hovering over road irregularities, much like a ship traversing above the ocean floor.

The CX was a transverse engine design, in contrast to the mid-engine layout of the Traction Avant and DS. This design saved space; the CX was a foot shorter than the DS. The short wheelbase CX fastback had insufficient rear legroom to function as a chauffeur driven limousine (a common use for the spacious DS model), so in 1976, Citroën introduced a 10 cm longer version, the "Prestige" variant, which later also had a heightened roofline to add more comfort.

The CX was very slowly developed and improved, with key elements the car needed to compete in its market segment taking many years to emerge. Decent factory rustproofing and an automatic transmission were added in 1981 and a turbocharger in 1984. The parent company PSA Peugeot Citroën was fielding three competitors in this segment, the Peugeot 604, the Talbot Tagora, and the CX, each competing for PSA's scarce financial resources.

The CX also acquired a reputation for high running costs, which over time cut sales. Ironically, it was the components standard to any automobile (steel, door hinges, starter motors, electrical connections, etc.) that proved troublesome in service, while the advanced components were unobtrusive. The quality of construction improved too slowly to eliminate this perception.

Although the minor 1986 Series 2 changes did create initial interest from press and public alike, they did little to revive sales with around 35,000 units being produced in 1986 and the same again in 1987. Unlike the revolutionary and timeless DS, at the same point in its 20 year lifecycle, the CX design was subject to the normal process of aging.

The CX was originally developed as a rotary engined car — with several downstream consequences. First, the small Comotor three-rotor rotary engine was not economical and the entire rotary project was scrapped the same year the CX was introduced, Second, Citroën went bankrupt in 1974, because it had too many development projects going at the same time; bankruptcy distracted the company from the CX's launch. Finally, the resulting engine bay was too small for anything but a modest inline four-cylinder engine. The car thus had 15 different four-cylinder engines during its life, each offering a minuscule improvement over the last, while the market segment had moved on to the six-cylinder engine.

In 1984, Citroën sold 2,500 CXs to China and nearly succeeded in getting the "large car" contract that would have made the CX the most common vehicle in China. The Chinese government decided to award this contract to Volkswagen, and instead gave Citroën the rights to the "compact car" segment, with what today is known as the Dongfeng Peugeot-Citroën Automobile factory, producing over 100,000 cars per year.

This car was also used by the East German dictator Erich Honecker in his govermental car pool.

CX in North America[]

800px-Citroen CX serie 1

The CX was never sold in North American markets by PSA Peugeot Citroën, but many Americans were still able to obtain the car through alternate means.

As an engineering innovator, Citroën was constantly running into issues where restrictive U.S. design legislation criminalized new technology: items that define modern automobile design today, like mineral oil brake fluid, aerodynamic headlights, directional headlights, and height adjustable suspension. The regulators have since reconsidered the wisdom of each regulation that bedevilled Citroën; most have been repealed in the light of developing technology.

The final nail in the coffin was the U.S. decision to criminalize passenger vehicles with height adjustable suspension, from January 1974. Citroën actually built 1974 model year cars for the U.S., but was legally barred from selling them.

Since height adjustable suspension was an integral feature of the CX design, there weas no way to engineer around it. Even financially powerful Mercedes-Benz succumbed and had to delete height adjustable suspension from its flagship 6.9 in the U.S.

A few CXs came to North America under unclear circumstances during the 1970s, but the floodgates opened when Ronald Reagan repealed the ban on height adjustable suspension in 1981. As with any other grey market car, the CX could be imported and brought into compliance with the unique design regulations applied by the U.S.

In addition to personal imports, several companies began converting and selling CXs to Americans. These vehicles were not "grey market" cars, but officially imported vehicles remanufactured and type approved for the U.S. These companies suffered legal harassment from PSA Peugeot Citroën. Despite all this and with no advertising, and a minimal service network, the powerful cult brand of Citroën still managed to sell about 1,000 cars at approximately double the price of the same vehicle imported conventionally.

Today the U.S. Government exempts cars older than 25 years from all design legislation, so most CXs can be freely imported. The Canadian government applies a similar rule after 15 years.

Design variations[]

At launch in 1974, the car was rushed to market, with some teething issues. Very early models do not have power steering.

The Safari estate, produced from 1975 to 1991 was joined by the seven-seat Familiale, both taking full advantage of the CX's integral self-leveling suspension to support heavy bodies.

Both petrol and diesel-powered models were available in various engine sizes including turbocharged versions. The top-end sports model, alongside the CX Prestige luxury model, was the CX 25 GTi Turbo, launched in autumn 1984, rated at 167 hp (122 kW) and a top-speed of 220 km/h.

Manual, semi-automatic ("C-Matic") and fully-automatic transmissions were fitted, with a fully-automatic ZF transmission replacing the C-Matic in 1981. Luxury trim-level models were badged as Pallas and sports variants as GTi. The long-wheelbase models were badged as Prestige (petrol engine) or Limousine (diesel). The factory never produced the CX with both the powerful turbocharged petrol engine and automatic transmission in one car.

The Series 1 vehicles (1974-85) were characterised by stainless steel front and rear bumpers, suspension nearly as compliant and soft as the DS, and a "spaceship" style dashboard featuring a revolving drum speedometer and tachometer.

In 1986 the styling was revised, and became known as the Series 2. The cars lost some of their earlier distinctiveness. The suspension became stiffer. Plastic bumpers were the most notable exterior change, giving what some say is a more aggressive look, as opposed to the more elegant series 1 design. Although the dashboard retained the "pod" housing for the instrumentaion, it lost the revolving drum speedometer and received a sloping centre dash area and the radio migrating to a position sideways and between the front seats, with the height corrector & heating controls moving to the centre console.

The CX was frequently used as an ambulance and camera car, applications where the cosseting suspension was especially valuable. There were a number of CX estates elongated and retrofitted with a second rear axle, mostly used for high speed bulk transport such as carrying newspapers across Europe. They are known as the "loadrunner" variant. Most of them were prepared by the French company Tissier.

The last CX was the venerable Safari Estate, to this day still one of the largest, and because of its suspension, most practical family cars available in Europe.

1,170,645 CXs were sold from 1974 to 1991.

Replacing the CX[]

Successful competitors in this market segment have adopted a cycle of redesign and substantial improvement every seven years. Despite the success of the CX design, there was no new and improved "big Citroën" model on the horizon by 1981. CX sales began to slide and never recovered.

Citroën did incur the expense of designing an entirely new gasoline 4 cylinder engine in 1984 for the top of range cars - this allowed the CX to go slightly faster at the cost of slightly worse fuel economy.

Citroën also designed a CX replacement that resembled the flowing CX design by 1986, but Jacques Calvet, CEO of PSA Peugeot Citroën at that time killed that project and fired the Citroën designer responsible.

The CX was finally replaced by the XM in 1989. This vehicle was based on the same chassis as the Peugeot 605, styled in a distinctive, angular fashion, and fitted with self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension, featuring new electronic controls and branded Hydractive suspension. It also featured a hatchback and a conventional interior rather than the starship command deck of the CX. The XM can be fairly described as the anti-CX.

The XM at first achieved annual sales similar to the totals of the CX in the last decade of its life, before a total collapse in demand set in around 1995. It was retired without replacement in 2000.

The 2006 Citroën C6, first announced as the C6 Lignage concept car in 1999, appears to be the direct descendant of the CX. The design of the Citroën flagship is directly inspired by the personality of the CX.

In popular culture[]

The CX GTi Turbo was featured prominently in the 1985 music video for Grace Jones's "Slave to the Rhythm". Ms. Jones also recorded for the new car, and sported a haircut shaped like a CX.

The CX Prestige model was used by the French government, including president Jacques Chirac. The CX was also the official car of Erich Honecker, who ordered several extended versions of the CX for official DDR use. Francis Ford Coppola, Manuel Noriega, and Carlos Santana were other prominent owners.

The CX appears in the 2006 film Children of Men, which is set in 2027. The exterior of an estate version was changed to make the car look like something you would expect on the roads in the near future.

A CX was used by the bank robbers in the heist movie Killing Zoe.

The most collectible CX models are the very rare Series 1 GTi Turbo, and the Series 2 Prestige Turbo.


  • 1974: August 28th: Introduction of the 2000 and 2200 fastbacks, with engines inherited from the Citroën DS — positioned between the bottom of range DSuper and the exclusive DS 23 Pallas
  • 1975: CX voted 'Car of the Year' by 49 journalists from 14 European countrties. July: Introduction of the long-wheelbase saloon, the CX Prestige October: Introduction of the Estate version .
  • 1976: January: Introduction of the 2200 Diesel saloon and estate. Semi-automatic "C-Matic" transmission introduced as an option. July: Introduction of CX 2400 Carburettor model. September: Introduction of the CX Ambulance. October: Introduction of the CX Familiale Estate, a 7-seater version. December: The President of France receives a CX with electronic fuel injection, 5-speed gearbox and a raised roof.
  • 1977: May: Introduction of the 2400 GTi with fuel injection and the larger motor from the DS 23. July: The CX Prestige receives a raised roofline and fuel injection as well as a 5-speed gearbox. All CX 2400 models are given the optional extra of a 5-speed gearbox. December: Introduction of the CX 2400 Pallas Injection with semi-automatic, C-Matic transmission and vari-power steering as standard.
  • 1978: January: Introduction of the CX 2500 Diesel model. July: CX 2500 Diesel saloons and estates have the option of a 5-speed gearbox.
  • 1979: July: Introduction of the bottom of range 2000 Reflex and 2000 Athena Saloons, as replacements for the previous 2000 Super and 2000 Confort Saloons. Reflex and Athena have new 1995cc engine from the Renault 20 TS, with 4-speed gearbox on Reflex, and 5-speed gearbox on Athena. November: Introduction of the CX 2500 Diesel Limousine, which combines the CX Prestige bodywork and the engine and transmission of the CX 2500 Diesels.
  • 1980: July: The CX 2400 engine receives a horsepower and torque performance increase. 5-speed gearboxes are standard fitting on the Athena and CX Diesel, Super and Pallas. New gearbox ratios for the CX Estate, GTi and Prestige. Rear aerodynamic spoiler fitted to the CX GTi. September: CX Pallas models (both carburettor and injection) can be fitted with the new ZF automatic transmission as an option.
  • 1981: Introduction of the 2000 Reflex Safari, 2000 Reflex Familiale, 2400 Reflex Safari and 2400 Reflex Familiale Estates. July: Cruise control offered as option on the CX Pallas (5-speed manual and automatic), CX Prestige automatic and CX GTi. New enlarged front wheel arches are introduction throughout the range, to allow for the fitment of Michelin TRX tyres. Michelin TRX tyres are standard to the CX GTi and optional to the fuel injected Pallas and Prestige models.
  • 1984: March: Introduction of the CX Entreprise models, the CX 20 Entreprise and the CX 25D Entreprise, having only front seats fitted and the rear lined for carrying loads and targeted towards businesses. April: The limited edition CX 20 Leader is launched. 700 examples are produced and the model has the same technical characteristics to the 5-speed CX 20. October: The CX 25 GTi Turbo is introduced - the first genuinely fast CX model
  • 1985: March: ABS braking becomes optional to the CX 25 GTi Turbo. July: Introduction of the S2 (Series 2) CX, restyled in appearance. Plastic bumpers, new mirrors and protective body strips are among the most obvious changes from the outside.
  • 1986: Introduction of the 25 GTi Turbo 2, with new intercooler and improved performance
  • 1989: Introduction of the 25 TGi Familiale estate. All other available models discontinued.
  • 1990: Introduction of the 22 TGE Safari, 25 TGi Safari, and 25 TGD Safari Turbo Diesel estates.
  • 1991: Last available models discontinued.

Engine types[]

  • 2.0 L (1965 cc) I4
  • 2.0 L (1995 cc) Douvrin I4
  • 2.2 L (2165 cc) Douvrin I4
  • 2.2 L (2175 cc) I4
  • 2.3 L (2347 cc) carburetted I4
  • 2.3 L (2347 cc) fuel-injected I4
  • 2.5 L (2499 cc) fuel-injected I4
  • 2.5 L (2499 cc) fuel-injected I4 with turbocharger
  • 2.5 L (2499 cc) fuel-injected I4 with turbocharger and intercooler
  • 2.2 L (2200 cc) diesel I4
  • 2.5 L (2500 cc) diesel I4 75BHP
  • 2.5 L (2500 cc) diesel I4 with turbocharger 95BHP
  • 2.5 L (2500 cc) diesel I4 with turbocharger and intercooler 120BHP


  • "Car" magazine (U.K.) March 1981
  • "Car" magazine (U.K.) March 1986
  • "Car & Driver" magazine (U.S.) March 1987

See Also[]


PSA Peugeot Citroën

Peugeot | Citroën | Gefco | Motaquip

Current (Worldwide): C1 · C3 · C3 Pluriel · C3 Picasso · DS3 · DS3 R3 · C4 · C4 Picasso · C4 Grand Picasso · DS4 · C5 · C6 · C8 · C-Crosser · Berlingo · Jumpy · Jumper · C-Zero EV · AirCross . DS5

Current (China, DPCA): C2 · C-Quatre · C-Elysée · Fukang · Xsara Picasso · Nemo LCV

Historic: Type A · Type C · C2 . 7U · Traction Avant · TUB · TUC · 2CV · Acadiane · Ami 6 / Ami 8 / Ami Super · Axel · AX · BX · CX · C15 · C25 · C35 · Dyane · DS · ID · Evasion · FAF · GS · GSA · H Van · LN · LNA · M35 · Méhari · Saxo · SM · Visa · XM · Xantia · Xsara Picasso · ZX · DS Safari · Bijou · C-Triomphe · Xsara . Berlingo Electrique

Racing: U23 · Belphegor · Xsara WRC · C4 WRC · DS3 WRC

Concept: C-Metisse Concept · G Van Concept · Prototype C Concept · Prototype Y Concept · 2CV Pop Concept · GS Camargue Concept · C44 Concept · Karin Concept · Zabrus Concept · Activa Concept · C6 Lignage Concept · C-Airplay Concept · C-Buggy · C-Airdream · C-Airlounge · C-Sportlounge Concept · Renaissance 2054 Concept · C-Airscape Concept · Cactus-C Concept · NEMO Concept · Hypnos Hybrid Crossover Concept · GTbyCITROËN Concept · C4 WRC HYmotion4 Concept · DS3 Concept · DS Revolte Concept · DS High Rider Concept · Survolt Concept · GQbyCITROËN Concept · Metropolis Hybrid Sedan Concept

One-Off: U55 Cityrama Currus

Iran Khodro · Dongfeng Peugeot-Citroën Automobile · Toyota Peugeot Citroën Automobile · Sevel

André Citroën Corporate website A division of Peugeot-Citroen PSA

External links[]