While we’re on this Citroen kick, I wondered idly about an alternative evolutionary pathway from where the XM left off. What could Citroen have done next?
Here is the Citroen C8 of the year 2000. In order to avoid giving critics ammunition, PSA invested in a new platform for the C8 which was adaptable such that a large Peugeot saloon and a corporate monospace were also spun off it at a later date. The main details were that it involved extensive use of lightweight steel and aluminium for the doors, bonnet and liftgate. The goal was to make a car slightly larger than the XM but weighing 10% less.
Citroen abandoned the hydropneumatic suspension, reasoning that what made Citroen special was not the particular technology but the aim it served. Thus they deployed electro-rheostatic dampers and shock absorbers which allowed genuinely continuously variable adjustment to the road and driving style. This eliminated the criticism that the suspension was too soft for ordinary motorists. It could be set up precisely as the driver wanted, from Cadillac-soft to Porsche firm. Citroen also made good on research that aimed to use cameras to read the road and to control suspension settings, a technology Mercedes decided to deploy on its 2014 S-Class.
Citroen also gave the driver control of steering ratios, again addressing the demands of their core customers but satisfying the tastes of those unfamiliar with the brand. A quick ratio setting could be selected among others. As a nod to Citroen drivers, the suspension and steering pre-sets allowed choosing from the characteristics of the DS, CX and XM alongside more mainstream settings.
The engine technology was tailored to the car’s base 1350 kg weight, from 1.8 to 2.5 litre petrol engines, a 2.3 and a 2.6 diesel plus a hybrid powertrain. The engine blocks all weighed 20% less than those they replaced which benefitted handling and reduced understeer which was also controlled by intelligent systems that modulated braking and side-to-side power delivery. “Sharper than a CX,” wrote Iain Bludgeon in Vehicle Magazine in 2001, “but as smooth as a Rover 95 too.” With a fuel efficiency of up to 48 mpg in the real world, the car had a 720 mile range. The cD was rated as 0.26.
The rear passengers got legroom that equalled the CX Prestige; the seating was designed in co-operation with Dunlopillo. The boot volume rose to 520 litres with triple lamps fitted as standard. The ashtrays were the largest in the class, with two fitted up front and three at the rear, all illuminated by special LEDs that could be custom-controlled for colour and intensity. Citroen offered the interiors in a five main colourways: mid-green, ochre, deep red, navy blue and jade.
An estate went on sale in 2001 and a coupe in 2002.
As step towards the next generation of car, the C8 chassis was designed to take a full battery pack. In a nod to the car’s historical roots, the electric C8 had the same top speed and range as the CX GTi Turbo of 1988 but used a fraction of the energy. Tesla Motors adapted the C8s chassis for their first foray into electrical vehicles in the US, going on to sell 49,000 units in a three year period. Annual sales of the C8 ranged from 45,000 to 65,000 units annually in what was a declining overall market.