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Driving report Citroën 11 CV, DS, CX: 3 French classics

Karl-Heinz Augustin
Citroën 11 CV, DS and CX driving report
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Anyone who traveled to France at the beginning of the 1960s was sometimes faced with a strange picture on the streets: Among the ultra-modern C itroën ID and DS models in the smooth-surfaced torpedo style and the chic Peugeot 404 with mini tail fins designed by Pininfarina mixed many black or gray pre-war sedans.

Not every Frenchman, it seemed it could afford a new car as a family car. At least this is what some Opel Rekord and Ford 17 M drivers from Germany who were on vacation with their relatives in France thought. But you were very wrong, because the old-fashioned, somehow lowered and somewhat eerie looking 'gangster cars' were full of modern technology and were available as new cars from Citroën until 1957. And today the 7, 11 and 15 CV versions of the Traction Avant, which were presented in 1934, are a coveted classic.

Citroën 11 CV with 23 years of service

Thanks to its self-supporting body, the space-saving one and safe front-wheel drive, the low center of gravity and the comfortable torsion bar suspension, the Traction Avant, as it was commonly known, remained in the sales range for 23 years. When production started up again in 1946 after a five-year break in the war, the 11 CV was still presented in the pre-war look with doors hinged at the back, a huge upright radiator and large free-standing fenders and headlights.

The only major change took place in the summer of 1952: The windshield wipers were now attached at the bottom, and an extension of the rear created space for the spare wheel that had previously been mounted on the outside and more luggage. A distinction is therefore made between a bike and a suitcase model. The latter is now ready for a test drive.

Successor models with hydropneumatic suspension for the first time

Driver and front passenger count in a Traction Avant rather to the driver who has to drive the gentlemen in the cozy rear with care. The forward-tapering footwell and the windshield, which rises up directly in front of the driver, seem almost cramped compared to the princely space on the back seat. The unorthodox shift lever protruding from the dashboard also stamps the 11 CV driver for goodA coachman with a talent for machinists, although this means that the three-speed gearbox located in front behind the radiator grille can be shifted effortlessly.

The steering without power assistance, on the other hand, requires as much power when stationary as an earlier MAN five-ton truck of the Bundeswehr. After all: the road holding is decent, and the suspension comfort deserves the rating pleasant. A relatively high noise level in the 11 CV simulates rapid speed. The 56 hp 1.9-liter four-cylinder at least manages just under 120 km /h - those who wanted more had to wait for the more dynamic DS.

When Citroën presented the Traction Avant successor DS 19 in 1955, Most regular customers suffered a shock to the future: Citroën expected them to switch from the stagecoach to a jet jet. Nevertheless, on the first day the car was presented at the Paris Salon, 12,000 orders were received.

With the DS series, the designers not only skipped half a century of design development, but also hid under the futuristic one Body also a lot of new technology. The hydropneumatic suspension alone made driving a car an experience.

Especially when parked, our dark red DS 21 Pallas from 1967 also looks like a spaceship because the rear wheels are almost completely hidden under the body. When the engine is running, the chassis comes to life and raises the body a few centimeters. The hydropneumatic suspension combines nitrogen gas as a spring element with a central hydraulic system, the pump of which ensures constant, even adjustable ground clearance. Only the relatively high seating position is reminiscent of the predecessor, while the single-spoke steering wheel and the dashboard in the style of a medical monitoring device are reminiscent of the new Citroën era.

Thanks to the semi-automatic, there is no clutch pedal next to the typical DS Brake pad. We shift gears without coupling the steering wheel lever, brake without pedal travel just by applying more or less pressure on the rubber mushroom and gliding almost contactlessly over the asphalt. The progress is also evident at the maximum achievable speed: the DS 21 with its 100 hp can achieve a solid 175 km /h. However, you have to ignore the fact that it scares passengers and passers-by in fast corners with its sloping position. But then came the CX, for our three-way comparison even as a GTI from 1979.

Citroën CX GTI with 128 hp

Here, too, is the visual difference between the DS series and the successor presented in 1974 mighty: Although the CX GTI is six centimeters narrower than the DS 21, it is significantly wider and more present than its predecessor. The main difference is the large, trapezoidal broadband headlights and the ones that are almost ten centimeters lowerVehicle height. The CX looks like a successful cross between a DS and the mid-engine athlete Matra-Simca Bagheera.

Sporty contoured leather seats and a five-speed stick shift underline the dynamic demands of the 128 hp and 190 km /h touring sedan. The now transversely installed engine allows a significantly lower sitting position with legs stretched out forward. Despite the hydropneumatic suspension and still drastically different track widths, the CX GTI drives crisply around corners, but does not dispense with the typical Citroën Chichi such as a single-spoke steering wheel, magnifying tachometer and even magnifying tachometer. But that's precisely why we love these courageous, headstrong French people - because they spare us off-the-shelf goods.


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