The CX Line

A micropost on the reverberations of certain design themes across decades and between brands and a reflection on their meaning.

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One of our readers has asked for further clarification on the meaning of the “CX line” with respect to the 2008 Renault Laguna. The first photo shows the 1976 Citroen CX, designed by Robert Opron. The second photo shows a Series 1 Renault Laguna from 2009. The CX line is partially obscured by the cut-out of the headlamps and, of course, is set within a more complex environment than the corresponding line on the 1976 car.

I think this means that someone in Renault, under Patrick le Quement as design director, was keeping the Citroen CX in mind when designing the Laguna. The lamp cleverly hides the reference but the underlying forms are visible once you know to look for them. Citroen forms have been very influential; for a long time they were the designer’s car.

Can that be said of even the great names like Lancia and Alfa Romeo? While Mercedes have devised some excellent vehicles, their forms are seldom inspirational. Designers might say “I want this to be as good as a Mercedes W124 but not look like a Mercedes W-124”. Citroen’s motifs have affected many firms while Mercedes have inspired (though their ribbed rear lamp covers did get copied a few times here and there).

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

28 thoughts on “The CX Line”

  1. Thanks for the clarification, Richard. I was really looking at the wrong spot (and the wrong Laguna generation) when you mentioned the wing line. Actually I am very fond of that front corner treatment on the CX, I think it’s one of its sweet spots. I failed to see the reference on the Laguna, but now it’s very apparent. Thanks for pointing that out.

  2. You´re welcome. There´s not much new to be said about the CX. It is just plain superb. Automotive design is really cluttered now. The people who do the design are probably living in tidy and orderly homes but the work they do is Baroque (which is a disservice to Baroque). I am not against decoration at all; for buildings and other media I have different standards.

    1. Richard, I feel that car design went beyond Baroque quite a while ago. Much of it is now firmly Rococo.

      The crease line you point out on the CX gets even better.There are two horizontal creases which, if you saw a crop of both front and rear side views, you’d assume would meet in the middle. But they don’t and all the better. It’s masterfully done, but it’s a feature I normally dislike because it’s done so badly.

      For an prime example of badly, let’s look to Mercedes, masters of the inane side crease. Of course this is compounded because it was a half-hearted attempt to get rid of the even more awful ‘Ponton’ arch crease of the pre-facelift model.

    2. I’ve never spotted those vanishing creases before, having always assumed they were the front and rear crease meeting at some point.

      Colour me very impressed indeed. With both Opron’s masterly sculptural skills and Sean’s humbling eye for detail.

    3. Well spotted, Sean! This is another detail I admired hundreds of times on my CXs. Not only the two lines, but especially the two surfaces they define. They both twist from horizontal to almost vertical, the first one from the bonnet to the door flanks, the second starting as a tiny shelf under the front window and becoming the concave upper part of the rear wing, encompassing the whole DLO. Masterfully done by Opron!

    4. Sorry for another addition.
      Note also how the kinks in the door shutlines are aligned with these creases.

      Why do all designers today seem to have forgotten the basics of their work?

    1. Wow – that’s really nice, the white is OK. Worth more than my near 6 year old, V6 diesel C6, for which I was recently offered £4,500! It would have retailed at £40k when new. Crazy

  3. I think light colours are great for the CX. White in series 1 (with stainless steel bumpers) is a good colour, especially with the colourful interiors of the first years (was there even red?). For series 2 it’s a bit more problematic, as the white plastic bumpers tend to yellow (and paintim them is a sacrilege).

  4. Personally I would prefer a nice metallic light blue, brown or even green on a Mk1 – all very 70’s. But each to their own.

    1. Me too! Or the great orange they had around ’78, complete with black-and-white leather seats… But it’s not unsightly in white like many modern cars.

    2. Simon. Do you mean this Mandarine? It’s very nice.

      In the UK, we were so obsessed with beige in the 70s, I don’t think Citroen even offered this. Actually, their original colour options at launch in France were very dull – something that they shared with most large French cars I believe. I think this is all of them in 1975.

      *Anorak point, I couldn’t find the original green Vert Guérande, so I substituted another dull green Vert Iroise from 1976.

    3. Yes, the mandarine! That’s exactly what I meant. And nothing against the dull(ish) colours of 1975, I think that for example a brownish metallic beige is the almost perfect colour for an early CX (coincidentally, it was also launched in this colour).

    4. I like Sam´s colour choices. I like the metallic light blue but also the metallic green. The flat colours are not so good except black which brings out the wonderful brightwork.

  5. I just walked by another car that uses The CX Line, even less disguised than in the Laguna: the Alfa 159.

  6. I noticed that. It´s a fine saloon though, isn´t it? It could have been a bit lighter but is it that much less competent than a 5 series? I really thought the 159 would have made more a mark than it did. I don´t like it as much as the 157 which is – these days- a deliciously tiny little sport saloon.

    1. I seriously entertained the idea of buying a 159 but I found the handling very stodgy and a much less spirited turn than the 156. Apparently the later car was much more lardy and it feels it. Still, even now, a more handsome saloon would be difficult to find.

    2. Yes, the 159 is a nice saloon, expecially as an estate. It was one of my top contenders when replacing the Xanta, and I’ve spotted a wonderful example in white with blue leather, but it was above my budget. The 156 (not 157) was better looking and lighter, though. I might still want one of those, series 1, in that delicious non-metallic powdery light blue, please.

    3. The 156, surely a masterpiece, also plays the subtly disappearing side featureline trick (if someone could find and post a nice side elevation …) that also incorporates the lovely chromed front door handle … Quite superb!

    4. SV, you really made me take a new look at the 156 when I saw one today. Initially, I was never a fan of the hidden rear door handle. One one hand, because I’m a four/five-door car guy and don’t see a point in that faux two-door look. On the other hand I always thought it was a pity for a car that has such nicely sculpted, shiny metal handles instead of the usual body-coloured plastic slab.

      But the two creases over the wheels, slowly fading towards the middle, and this handle in the centre – now I can see that it makes sense.

  7. The CX is one of my favourite Citroens, in that it carries the mantle of the DS without being beholden to it.

    Incidentally, has there ever been another car so comprehensively ruined by a wonkily applied rubbing strip? The tan CX in my fantasy garage would certainly have that removed.

  8. My least favourite CX feature is the concave rear window, which looks like the glass is about to drop out under its own weight. Not the best impression to give a customer worried about flaky build quality.

  9. I’m certainly not suspected to wanting to belittle the CX’s merits, so I’d like to raise the question: was the CX really the first car to use “The Line”?

    1. That’s a very interesting reference, Simon, especially because it seems obvious to me that the Robert Bourke / Loewy designed Studebaker of 1953 influenced Bertoni’s styling of the front of the original DS.

      I’ve always admired the Avanti (though like the AC Cobra it is hard not to visualise it in its later cartoon-like versions), but there are others on these pages who remain unconvinced.

    2. You don’t have to convince me, Sean. I was always surprised about such a light, elegant vehicle coming from overseas. And what I liked most are exactly the protruding wings at the front. It’s the first time, however, that the resemblance to the CX strikes me.

      About the later versions… I first met the Avanti in the 80s, as a kid in my dad’s car catalogues. It had square headlights then, which I still like more than the original, round ones. But later body-coloured bumpers and wide tyres are really awful.

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