Navigating a Citroën CX with a Learner’s Permit

by Peter Kristensen, Washington, D.C. ….

The Citroën CX is not particularly easy to drive, but that didn’t hold back my daughter from learning to drive a stick shift in my 1980 CX GTi.

The CX is fascinating in so many ways. Sleek aerodynamic exterior design, almost unmatched functional dashboard, and with the GTi engine, my car keeps up with almost any car—it’s simply a timeless car.

I bought my CX unseen in 2016 at an auction in France. (I just had to have the GTi with the sphere ashtray like my dad’s car in the ’80s.) It was restored in the Netherlands and I am the second owner.

Back in 1981 in Denmark, I learned to drive in my father’s CX Athena, so you can imagine it was a special pleasure to pass on that unique experience to my daughter.

So, what was my daughter’s experience as a 16-year old new driver?

The DIRAVI speed-adjusting power steering unique to the Citroën SM and CX can be jittering until you learn to adjust your steering movements to the self-centering steering. The verdict from my daughter is that it’s much easier to steer than the other car she’s taking lessons in, a 2010 VW Tiguan.

The hydraulic brake pedal, which has less than half an inch of movement to release pressurized hydraulic fluid to the brakes, and which requires many to get adjusted to, seemed to take my daughter no time to get used to. “Oh, that brake is the best ever!” she said, as if she was an experienced test driver, while this, in fact, was only her fourth lesson.

The hydro-pneumatic suspension that tends to oversteer at tight turn speeds, and did not disappoint on the meandering Clara Barton Parkway near Washington, D.C., seemed—according to my daughter—to just give a sense of comfortable cruising.

Seating-wise, as always, any passenger I have in my CX whether in the front seats or rear always prompts the words “Wow, this is really comfortable!” It was no different when my daughter sat in the height-adjustable driver’s seat, which when I was learning to drive our family car in Europe was a rare feature.

And gear shifting? Well… starting out from 1st to 2nd is always difficult the first time as you have to manipulate the brakes, clutch, and accelerator while looking out for other cars, and so it was for my daughter. But the other gears were easy, and that is attributable to the GTi’s five gears being pretty close. Basically, you can drive at any speed in second, third, or fourth gear, thanks to the fuel-injected 128 Hp engine.

The CX is an incredibly agile car to drive, inspiring high-speed driving, which my daughter seemed to understand as I several times had to say: “I think you’re going a little too fast.”

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