Already the finest in French luxury, the Citroen C5 gets a twin-turbo boost for a limited time only.
There has been nothing in the Citroen C5 lineup for French sedan fans with a penchant for performance since the suave petrol V6 was dropped last year.
Back then the Citroen C5 range was rationalised to offer two four-cylinder options – 1.6-litre turbo-petrol or 2.0-litre turbo-diesel – with reduced prices ranging from $35,990 and $47,190. Neither engine could motivate the medium-sized prestige sedan from standstill to 100km/h in less than 10.0-seconds, however.
Citroen has now dropped the entry-level C5 Seduction to focus on a two-tier range of $42,190 Exclusive (tested here) and new $54,190 Exclusive Limited Edition (or $57,990 drive away).
That higher price buys a 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder, with 150kW of power at 3500rpm and 450Nm of torque at 2000rpm (up only 30kW but a sizeable 110Nm on the 2.0-litre). The C5 Exclusive Limited Edition is more than two seconds faster than models with the smaller diesel, claiming an 8.3 second 0-100km/h (which we matched during testing).
As with the C5 Exclusive, a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive remain the only choice for the C5 Exclusive Limited Edition, and Citroen’s hydropneumatic air suspension (called Hydractive III) is standard.
In addition to its bigger engine, the C5 Exclusive Limited Edition, erm, exclusively scores 19-inch black alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust and 350-watt premium audio system.
Also standard are swivelling xenon headlights, auto headlights and wipers, auto-dipping rear-view mirror, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, full leather trim with heated, electrically-adjustable front seats and – for the ultimate in French indulgence – a massaging driver’s seat.
On the safety front, there’s dual front, side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags, and stability control, though perhaps betraying the fact the C5 is six years old, there’s no contemporary technology such as blind-spot warning, auto park assistance or collision warning alerts. Front and rear parking sensors are standard, but a reverse-view camera also isn’t available.
It is also disappointing the C5 only gets a three-year or 100,000km warranty (though roadside assistance is included over that period) when the Citroen DS line and Grand C4 Picasso get six-year, unlimited kilometre cover.
Age has also wearied elements of the C5’s cabin. The trip computer screen inside the speedometer is a grainy, monochromatic unit, for example, and a slim line of audio controls on the dashboard make accessing the infotainment system tricky. There aren’t enough buttons to quickly and conveniently switch between sat-nav, phone and audio systems, though audio sound quality is excellent, and once connected the Bluetooth phone quality is superb (perhaps because the cabin is so quiet).
The C5 has only a single cupholder, too, and it’s placed awkwardly inside the centre console bin, meaning you need to leave the large lid up if regularly accessing your morning coffee.
Despite all this, however, there is plenty to love about this quirky Citroen cabin, at least up front. The dashboard and door plastics are consistently matched, and nicely soft to touch, and even the lower-level plastics are of a high standard.
The broad, supportive seats remain lush, the driving position is spot on and once familiar to the myriad buttons on the fixed steering wheel hub performing basic tasks is easy.
Seats are supportive in the rear, too, and the retractable side blinds and B-pillar-mounted air vents ensure both paparazzi and harsh elements are kept out. There is, however, a distinct lack of legroom particularly for a sedan measuring 4.78 metres.
Similarly, for a front-wheel-drive sedan with a space saver spare wheel underfloor, the 439 litre cargo capacity is below average for the class.
As with the cabin quirks, much is forgiven on the road, for this is a true French luxury sedan of the old school.
As with the C5 Exclusive we’re familiar with, the air suspension is as superbly cosseting as the seats. In its regular mode, the Citroen wafts over bumps large and small with just a hint of floatiness. Switch to Sport and you don’t get a hard ride and reduced bodyroll as you would with many cars that throw around that tag, but rather it just ties down the float a bit, creating near perfect freeway ride quality.
You’d struggle to guess that the C5 Exclusive Limited Edition rolls on low profile (45-aspect) 19-inch tyres. Only a clunk over sharp-edged impacts such as potholes gives any clue, though there’s little intrusion in the cabin.
The excellent Michelin Pilot Sport tyres that are standard help with the handling for a car that’s not exactly targeted as a sports sedan. The combination of soft suspension, plenty of bodyroll, yet lots of cornering grip, makes an express trip to the vineyard on the backroads surprisingly entertaining.
Yet the C5 always remains focused on being an indulgent tourer, because in addition to the outstanding ride comfort it is also deathly quiet, even on coarse-chip bitumen.
The steering is decently mid-weighted, consistent and direct, though a surprising amount of rack rattle comes through over larger bumps – this being an old school hydraulic system, rather than a new electro-mechanical variety – and there’s a reluctance to self-centre when parking around town. You can’t opt for an auto-parking feature either, as it isn’t available…
While it’s worth remembering that you can have all the C5 luxury, comfort and quietness from just over $40K these days, there’s one big difference that elevates this C5 Exclusive Limited Edition beyond its cheaper siblings.
The 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel is an outstanding engine. Most of the lag that afflicts the 2.0-litre has been reduced, though you can occasionally catch the six-speed automatic napping in its regular mode, to the detriment of throttle response.
The slowness to rev, and just general slowness of the smaller diesel has been replaced with a newfound enthusiasm to shift the 1660kg French sedan.
The auto’s Sport mode keeps revs up to help with driver response, yet not needlessly so, and it may not be surprising at this point to learn that engine noise suppression is terrific.
Only 40 units of the Citroen C5 Exclusive Limited Edition will arrive in Australia, and the brand says half of that allocation is already sold – to existing Citroen owners, 60 per cent of which simply upgrade to another Citroen.
We can see why, because although this car is perhaps $5K too expensive and is dated in some areas, it is brilliantly unique being an indulgent, quiet, comfortable, stylish cruiser in a world full of sedans trying to be sporty.