The sight of this Citroen CX Safari on the Cohort, posted by Nathan Williams, reminds me of an arguably irrefutable fact. That for the European buyer from the late 1970s to the very early 1990s, the best estate car available was the Citroen CX Safari, also known as the Break.
Based, as you’d expect on the saloon CX, it was more than just a larger rear bodyshell. Like the Peugeot 404 and 504 that Paul Niedermeyer discussed last week, there were extensive alterations, and some features that were a direct consequence of the CX saloon origins. Indeed, the Peugeots were the only cars to get close to the CX in capacity and ability, and also outscored it in toughness and durability.
The CX first came to this planet in 1974; the estate in 1975. This was almost a foot longer that the saloon, nudging 5m/196 inches long, on a wheelbase of 121 inches. The load bay was over 2m/78 inches long; with the Familiale’s second row of seats up the load bay was still over 4 feet long. By any criteria of load bay length, area or volume, it was the largest available in Europe.
And probably the lowest to the ground as well. Even in the suspension’s neutral position, the flat floor was only 18 inches above the ground, and the suspension could be lowered further if you wished. “The suspension with automatic level compensation” and “drive like God in France” says the advert
Perhaps the suspension was the secret ingredient. Not only did its hydropeneuamtic nature permit the raising (as seen here) and lowering so much associated with the big Citroens, but the layout also kept any space intrusion to a minimum. Add the raised roof, and the carrying capacity and access were in a class of their own. Something over 75 cuft and the ability to tow 1.25 tons.
The drive was good too, with superb comfort from the hydropenumatic suspension. This was not a stiffened up installation to cope with heavy loads, and had self levelling as well. Unique to Citroen and in the class in the 1970s.The car came as the Break (or Safari in the UK) with 2 rows/5seats or as the 3 rows/7 seats Familiale version. The latter could handle a group of 5 with luggage as well as almost any estate car could two plus luggage, or support a full size multi-generational outing, just as a minivan does. The 5 seat version could offer options matched only by an expensive car and a compact panel van, potentially at the same time. Heck, you can get even motorcycles in the back – that may be less novel in North America but in Europe no one else could.
Power came from 2.0, 2.2, 2.3 or 2.5 litre petrol and diesel options, of varying types over the years. The power was not immense, but with the easy cruising gait common to larger French cars and the suspension’s ability to cope with curves and damaged surface, a surprising average speed could be obtained across country or on the autoroute. The engines were not the greatest part of the CX though, until the Douvrin V6 was fitted. The Safari was probably best when fitted with a turbo diesel.
This example is a 1983 car, with the 2.3 litre four cylinder petrol engine. That means it has the stainless bumpers, that to me add so much to CX’s character, and the original interior with the striking instrument pod. Not just a comfortable and spacious interior, but perhaps the most striking saloon interior you’ve ever seen.
And here’s one satisfied return customer. If you’ve ever watched horse racing on British television, you may have seen the camera car chasing alongside the rails, and it was almost always a DS or CX. The long wheelbase Safari platform was used for the Prestige limousine version of the CX, as used by French presidents, and for many aftermarket conversions, typically as an ambulance.The styling of the CX was by Robert Opron, a man with a great resumé, not just with Citroen but also with Renault, Simca and Fiat. Opron, seen below in a Citroen SM, was responsible for the style of Ami, Dyane, GS, CX and the immortal SM, It was as I researched this piece that I found that, sadly, he died earlier this year, aged 89. But he left a pretty solid portfolio for us to appreciate for many years.