The 1986 Eole was an exploration of what would happen if one truly applied aerodynamic theory to a Citroën CX Estate. The results were somewhat mixed.
Truly aerodynamic vehicles tend to be fairly uncompromising looking devices for the most part. Citroën’s Eole concept from 1986 certainly wasn’t conventionally handsome, but it contained a lot of thinking that would become more widely adopted. The work of UK car designer, Geoffrey Matthews at the PSA/Talbot facility at Whitley, Eole was sanctioned ostensibly to give Citroën something new to show at that year’s Geneva motor show; the AX model (also styled by Matthews) not being due to debut until that Autumn.
Designed entirely on computer, Eole was an exploration of a next-generation CX Break, taking its styling theme but applying a far more rigorous application of the CX principle. Similar to the production CX Safari in silhouette, the major departure, apart from an aerofoil-shaped roof profile was the enclosed front wheel treatment – the oleopneumatic ring-main being employed to move the wheelcovers clear while the car was being steered. The tapered nose was smooth, referencing Trevor Fiore’s 1980 Karin concept, with a thin band of integrated light units set within a glazed panel. The resulting drag coefficient was a spectacularly low 0.19.
Eole’s interior was as advanced as one would expect from the home of the double chevron with all controls grouped around the steering wheel in a derivation of Citroën’s satellite controls. Somewhat presciently, the passenger side of the dash panel also contained an integrated video game. The seats were cantilevered off a prominent central spine which contained additional switchgear and an electrified track which allowed the in-car entertainment system to move between front and rear passengers, or be removed from the vehicle completely.
Styling was a bit of a mixed bag. Enclosed front wheels are notoriously difficult to incorporate in an aesthetically satisfying manner, which says much about our visual expectations. However the nose treatment didn’t aid matters either, the inset headlamp units lending Eole an unfortunate cross-eyed appearance from some angles. Matthews also appeared to have run out of ideas at the rear, the tail treatment seeming particularly half-hearted. Mind you, is that a pair of modified SM tail-lamp units we once more see before us?
Former Citroën design chief, Carl Olsen later made the following assertion; “Marketing did not like the car because it looked too much like a Citroën; it was their goal to kill the aesthetic traditions of the marque.” A statement while difficult to prove, remains entirely believable. However, not only was Matthews et al working on the CX’s actual replacement (1989’s XM), but with the benefit of hindsight, his theme for Eole was neither sufficiently advanced (too CX-like) nor by the same token sufficiently production-capable to be anything other than motor show fare. Something for PSA’s management to dangle on a World stage to underline their credentials as guardians of the Chevron.
Regarded as something of a maverick, Geoffrey Matthews is said to have worked on many car designs over his lengthy career at Chrysler/Talbot UK, and later Citroën, having stylistic input into the Alpine, Sunbeam, Tagora, Rancho and nascent Espace projects. At Velizy, in addition to the AX, he is believed to have been associated with the BX, the facelifted 1985 CX and XM models. Post-Citroën, he set up his own consultancy, but it seems, lost heart and pursued other interests. After leaving the motor industry, he seems to have suffered something of a reversal in his personal life, losing both fortune and ultimately, his health. He passed away in 2015 and was recently the subject of a BBC4 documentary made by his family after his death.
Eole today is just another half-remembered Citroën concept that over-promised, but it did foresee a number of features we take as givens today. So if it can be viewed as something of a stylistic cul-de-sac now, that perhaps says more about PSA management’s creative cowardice than any slur upon its creator.