The pinnacle of the Citroen range is the C5 Limited Edition Exclusive Saloon. How does it stack up?
When a brand brings out a limited edition, it's not unreasonable for some buyers to rush out and lay down a deposit as soon as the news gets out. But you’d be forgiven for excusing any such reaction to the news of this car, the 2015 Citroen C5 Limited Edition Exclusive Saloon.
Aside from having a name that elegantly rolls off the tongue, the Citroen C5 Exclusive is the last of its kind, in that it is offered with a more powerful, bigger engine than the regular Exclusive sedan model.
That engine is a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel unit producing 150kW of power (at 3500rpm) and 450Nm of torque (at 2000rpm). Citroen labels it a "legendary engine". We’ll get to that later, but it's worth noting you can't get the engine in the stylish wagon variant. Shame!
Just 30 examples will be sold in Australia (all of them sedans), which means about a quarter of all C5 sales this year, and according to the brand more than half of that allocation has already been snapped up. That’s not to say that C5 sales are undergoing some kind of resurgence – they aren’t strong at the best of times, and just 76 have been sold to the end of July 2015.
But Citroen says sales figures aren’t the end game for the brand, let alone this model. It is a car that will appeal to certain buyers who know what they want.
What do they want? Well, with alternatives such as the impressive mainstream mid-size brigade including the Subaru Liberty, Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Passat or Ford Mondeo – heck, even the venerable Holden Calais! – available, it must be something none of those cars have.
It mustn’t be luxury, either, particularly when you consider this C5 Exclusive asks a sizable $59,990 drive-away and there are prestige models such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class that aren’t far off on price…
So, what is it about the C5? Well, it’s the last of the old guard in terms of big Citroen models, and it’s the only car left with the French brand’s regarded hydropneumatic suspension system – we’ll get to that soon.
First, the size: it measures about average for a current-day mid-sized sedan, at 4779 millimetres long, 1860mm wide and 1458mm tall, and rides on a 2815mm wheelbase. Nothing unusual there, then.
And because Citroen claims its buyers want to get everything they can for their money, it’s no surprise there’s plenty of standard equipment on offer in this Exclusive specification.
The list includes 19-inch ‘Adriatic’ wheels, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, auto headlights and wipers, electric sunroof, rear and side-rear window blinds, dual-zone climate control and rear air vents.
There are also front and rear parking sensors, a reverse-view camera, satellite navigation and an eight-speaker stereo system.
The space itself is comfortable but not as contemporary as many rivals, with the most aged part being the centre stack despite the modern colour media screen that sits atop.
The seats – which are leather-lined, with front electric seat adjustment and heating, and the driver’s chair has a massage function – are comfortable for long or short trips.
The oddball fixed-hub steering wheel takes a bit of getting used to, and it isn’t as comfortable to hold on to at speed as a conventional steering wheel. Also, the array of buttons and scroll toggles don’t follow your hands around, which can be annoying.
The second row is reasonably roomy with adequate space for three across the rear pew, provided none are overly portly. And if you’ve got little ones, we’d imagine those blinds would be well used.
Storage – as you probably expect from a French car – isn’t terrific, but there are stowage pockets in all four doors, though there’s just one cup holder up front (and it’s in the centre console bin) while the second-row occupants get two cup holders in the flip-down centre armrest. There’s a ski-port, too, and the boot is small for the class, with 439 litres of capacity.
Safety is taken care of with nine airbags (dual front, front side, rear side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee protection), as well as electronic stability control and tyre pressure monitoring. However, there are none of those high-tech aids like blind-spot monitoring or forward collision warning/auto braking.
In terms of driving, the “Hydractive 3+” hydropneumatic suspension makes for a comfortable experience.
The suspension features four heights – one very low, presumably for posing, a low height for cruising, a mid-height for dealing with steep gutters, and the high mode, which makes it sit, well, very high. The car will automatically adjust between the heights depending on the speed, too.
The ride is excellent on the highway, with the C5 chewing up country kilometres in a way that makes you forget how much distance you’re covering. I did more than 800 kilometres of mainly highway driving, and it never felt like a hard task.
That said, this isn’t a car that will excite you. The steering is slow, the rack will rattle over bumps, and it generally isn’t quick to corner. If you hit the accelerator hard in a bend you’ll notice torque steer, too.
But it is quick in a straight line. That 2.2-litre turbo diesel helps propel the 1660-kilogram sedan from 0-100km/h in 8.0 seconds, which isn’t warp speed but it is respectable for a sedan of this size.
That punch is effortless in the mid-range, but there’s a low-rev lag spot below 2000rpm. It’s a quiet and refined engine for the most part, despite some vibration noticeable in the cabin at idle.
The car is fitted with a six-speed automatic as standard, and the transmission does a good job on the highway, relying first and foremost on that well of torque before down-shifting smoothly when required. At city speeds it is well mannered, too – we noticed no major flaws in its shifts or response times.
Would-be buyers may be lured by the brand’s six-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and Citroen has recently added a six-year/90,000km capped-price servicing and six-year roadside assistance program - we would understand why that could be a strong hook.
But the Citroen C5 Limited Edition Exclusive Saloon is a niche offering for a niche buyer – and, let’s face it, Citroen buyers aren’t your average car consumer.
In context, it doesn’t offer the same levels of equipment as better-known mid-sized rivals, and nor is it luxurious enough to warrant that price tag if you’re considering something European, and the fact you can get a C-Class, A4 or 3 Series for similar money says a lot.
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