Giant test-drive Citroen CX Pallas IE Automatic. Revised CX range now provides ZF automatic transmission as standard on Pallas model. Also available with diesel engine and five-speed manual gearbox, and GTi continues with manual transmission only. Long wheelbase Prestige model comes with choice of automatic or manual, and ZF automatic is also available for Safari and Familiale estates. Standard equipment on the CX Pallas now are fuel injection for the engine, and automatic transmission. The aerodynamic styling of the car remains unaltered.
Citroen policy, dating back half a century or more, has always been to establish a sound and very futuristic basic design, and evolve the theme with refinements and model developments within the original basic package, over a period of many years. This was the approach with the original DS19 of 1955, and with the Light Fifteen before it; and since the Citroen CX made its spectacular arrival on the market in 1974 there have been many additions to the model line-up turning it into a now very extensive range.
Citroen CX Pallas IE Automatic - test drive
Throughout Citroen history, though, there has never been a fully automatic model until recently. That original Citroen DS of 25 years ago had a semi-automatic transmission leaving the driver to select the appropriate gears with a hydraulic control lever mounted on the column; and subsequently came the C-Matic, which was effectively a manual gearbox linked to a torque converter and automatic clutch. Again, it was "semi-automatic".
Last year, the range in Britain was widened with introduction of the CX2400 Prestige - the long- wheelbase luxury model; and for the first time a fully automatic transmission was available as an alternative to C-Matic. Citroen adopted the ZF 3HP automatic and, as we shall see, have done an excellent job of adapting the unit to the characteristics of the 2,347 c.c. four-cylinder Citroen M23 engine with electronic fuel injection.
Not everyone, though, wanted the great length, luxury and formidable price of the Prestige, while sales were still being lost for lack of a fully automatic version of the saloon. Introduction of the Pallas with fuel injection engine, as first launched on the five-speed GTi model, and with the same ZF automatic transmission as standard, was the result. It is this new model which is the subject of this Autotest. More recently automatic has become available on the Safari and Familiale. The five-speed GTi, of course, continues.
Performance - smooth and forceful
Citroen reason that anyone who chooses the automatic model will not be looking for the more sporting concept represented by the GTi, and will be seeking refinement and comfort though still with responsive performance. The Pallas injection meets this specification very well indeed, and all who drove it during our test were unanimous about its excellent response, smoothness and good matching of transmission to the engine.
In comparison with the GTi, there is inevitably quite a marked performance penalty. The Pallas took 11.6 sec to reach 60 mph from rest, against the GTi's impressively quick 10.1 sec, and it was not quite able to get up to 100 mph on the one-mile length of our test straight, even with a fast run-in. But the impression formed all the time is that the Pallas performs very well indeed, with sustained power where it is needed. In particular, it has a very smart getaway without any drama, which makes it invariably the first car away after any traffic halt.
Change-up points are well chosen, and at full throttle first gear is held right up to 50mph, and second gear to 80. A sure sign that Citroen have got it right is that we were not able to improve on the times obtained just by putting a foot firmly down on the accelerator, when using the manual over-ride. With less throttle opening, in more normal driving, the upward changes occur progressively earlier, but without robbing the car of that impression of smooth, vigorous power pulling it along.
A lot has been written lately about automatic transmission selectors and the dangers of accidental movement beyond the Drive position and into Neutral, or even worse, Reverse; but with the Citroen layout there is no possibility of any confusion. The control moves in a straight line and is a smoothly shaped hand grip with the detent release as a lift-up pad beneath the curved top. Between Drive and second gear positions the lever is simply pulled back with light action and no need to use the release. Moving it forward, to go back into Drive, it comes to a positive block; and as the detent release never has to be used while on the move there is absolutely no risk of ever getting into an unwanted gear. We always knew exactly where we were with it on the relatively few occasions when it is helpful to over-ride the automatic control. This happens particularly when needing engine braking and extra throttle control to take the car through a fast corner or taking a roundabout at speed, and sometimes on a gradient when the automatic would tend to leave the transmission in top, causing rather a lot of churning through the torque convertor.
Pulled farther back, beyond the clearly felt second gear position, the selector moves into first gear position, again without any need to use the detent release. It is a movement that could never be made inadvertently but if it was, first gear does not engage above 44 mph. Full throttle kick-down changes can be made into first gear at up to 37 mph, and into second at up to 68 mph.
Changes, either going up or down, occur delightfully smoothly. The only jolt experienced is occasionally in traffic on very light throttle, when top gear sometimes comes in with a thud at about 20 mph. There is no jerk on engaging Drive to move away from rest, nor any engine surge if the lever is put into Neutral during a prolonged traffic halt to avoid holding the car back on the brakes. Fairly pronounced creep occurs at tickover with Drive engaged. The only possible criticism of the ZF in this application by Citroen is an occasional pronounced delay in assessing that extra throttle opening at fairly low speed, perhaps accelerating on about two thirds accelerator opening from 30 mph, is calling for a change down to second.
Indication of what gear has been selected is given by coloured boxes which light up the appropriate key letter across the lower part of the facia panel. "A" for automatic is used instead of the more familiar Drive, and lights in green; amber is used for the second and first gear positions, and blue for Park and Neutral. R for Reverse lights up in red. With such a positive and well-gated selector control there is little need for this refinement, but it is sometimes helpful in finding Reverse at night.
Main penalties of choosing an automatic Pallas IE instead of a manual one are added fuel consumption and less relaxed high speed cruising. It maintains a 90 mph cruising pace without too much fuss, but does not give the leisurely feeling of wafting along in a very high gear that is experienced with the five-speed model, although the overall gearing in top is not much lower than the GTi in fifth.
Injection for the engine more than compensates for the power losses of automatic, and the top speed of 115 mph is slightly more than the manual Pallas returned, and is only 3 mph behind the maximum for the GTi.
Central locking is standard, but does not include the boot, which has a lockable push button. Side and indicator lamps are built into the front bumper. The single windscreen wiper remains a Citroen feature, and now incorporates very effective screenwasher jets adjacent to the blade.
Noise - very subdued
All the advantages of the CX has a lockable body for good wind flow and lack Push button of wind noise are unaffected, and the only difference is a rather more busy drone from the engine at speed. As the car accelerates away through the gears and reaches about 60 mph in top one begins to feel the need for another change up into a cruising overdrive gear, as would be made with the five-speed model.
By about ,75 mph the engine is making itself rather noticeably audible, but the noise level does not get much worse at higher speeds and could not be called tiresome or making the occupants talk loudly to be heard above it. It's just that it is not as good as the five-speed model.
At lower speeds, and around town, the noise level is much lower and very refined. There is sufficient slight throb from the engine to reveal that it has four, not six, cylinders, and quite a lot of tyre thud is heard on bumps and coarse surfaces.
Economy - good for an automatic
It is normal to expect quite an economy penalty when a five- speed manual gearbox is traded for a three-speed automatic, but surprisingly the Pallas with this ZF transmission has returned fractionally better consumption than the GTi gave. The overall figure of 21.9 mpg is very fair indeed for such a roomy car with its swift performance, high top speed and automatic transmission.
Refuelling is quick, and the 15 gallon capacity of the tank gives a range of nearly 300 miles. Among the row of tell-tales on the facia panel there is an amber fuel warning light which begins to flash when the level is down to the last two or three gallons.
Road behaviour - superbly comfortable
It seemed a little strange that passengers commented about the impressive way in which the Citroen went round corners. No Citroen owner, we suspect, would venture this as one of the car's main attributes, but it is felt that what they appreciate is the way in which the Citroen leans gently into a corner and wafts round disguising the lateral forces; and with this and the way in which the seats so perfectly locate their occupants it almost gives the impression that all roads are straight.
When we weighed the car, we could scarcely believe the weighbridge read-out, showing that more than twice as much weight is carried by the front wheels as by the rear ones; and with very nearly a ton at the front it is inevitable that there should be very strong understeer. This is disguised to a great extent by the very responsive power steering. They is a lot of roll, but there is no tendency for the front end to plough on when taking a corner too fast - at least in the dry. On wet roads, rather more caution is needed. Tyre squeal gives ample warning before breakaway occurs at the front, and tyre grip on slippery surfaces is impressively good.
Citroen's steering characteristics have to be re-learnt every time one drives a CX. It has high response so that not much turning of the wheel is necessary, and has powered self-centring action so that even when the car has been parked and the engine switched off, the wheels return automatically to the straight ahead position as soon as the wheel is released. At first acquaintance, after driving other cars, the tendency is to turn the wheel too sharply, and to put on more lock than is needed. With familiarity the steering is soon mastered, and the high level of response for small movement of the wheel proves very convenient, making the car restful to drive. Little effort is called for in parking or turning the car, and manoeuvring is easy in spite of the fairly big turning circle of over 35ft.
On the straight, too, the car feels a little uneasy at first, because there is a very slight tendency to wander. If the driver concentrates on just holding the wheel steady, the Citroen keeps to a very good course indeed, but the initial temptation to try to correct small deviations off-line make it follow a rather wandering course. Directional stability, apart from this slight deviation, is excellent, and the car is wonderfully immune to cross winds.
For soaking up undulations and bumps, the suspension is very impressive indeed, seeming to float over the surface, yet with firm damping and without any tendency to wallow. A suggestion of firm resistance to small wheel movements is given by the rather harsh reaction over cat's eyes, manhole covers and other sharp bumps. Not everyone is equally happy with the Citroen ride, some finding it slight "queasy-making", but the general reaction is that it is outstandingly comfortable. The suspension "deflates" during prolonged parking, and there is sometimes a slightly joggy ride for the first hundred yards or so in the morning as normal pressure and ride height are recovered.
Large disc brakes are fitted all round, and they are operated by the power hydraulic system, instead of the more normal vacuum servo. Response is very high for relatively light pedal loads, a mere 50 lb effort on the pedal giving the maximum 95 per cent efficiency. A little care has to be used on the pedal, because travel is short, and it is quite easy to press rather harder than intended, giving an unwanted abrupt stop. The balance is very good and in all conditions we experienced no tendency for the wheels to lock up when braking, even on slippery surfaces. Resistance to fade is very good, and there was only a small increase in pedal load during our series of 10 stops at 0.5g from 75 mph. The handbrake operates on the front wheels, and as well as holding easily on the 1 in 3 test hill, it also works unusually effectively when used on the move as an emergency brake.
Behind the wheel - ergonomic layout
Almost every minor control can be reached without taking a hand from the steering wheel, and the layout, once mastered, works very well. The nacelle before the driver has a push-in switch at each end, a rocking switch at the top at each end, and a lever control protruding beneath on each side. The left push sounds the horn, giving a discreet beep at light pressure and then bringing into effect powerful air horns when pressed harder. The matching switch on the other side is for the headlamp flasher.
The left rocker switch controls the indicators which in usual Citroen fashion, are not self-cancelling; but they have a prominent warning tell-tale and give a pronounced clicking sound so that there is never any occasion for forgetting to reset the indicators switch after use. The matching switch on the right gives main or dipped beam alternately when the main lighting switch is in the headlamps position, and gives dipped or side lamps alternately when it is at the sidelamps position. This is very convenient in town when there is need to alternate between dipped and side lamps according to the street lighting intensity, and movement of the master switch from side lamps to head lamps position can be done without altering the lighting - if they are on and dipped, they remain so, and just alter to the other phase.
One huge windscreen wiper blade clears the big panoramic screen, and works at slow or fast speed, or intermittent with about a five-second delay. To work the washers, the wiper is turned on first and then the switch is moved towards the driver. Water is then spread across the screen from outlets linked to the wiper blade, and we certainly found this system very effective in clearing the glass in dirty weather.
Softly sprung and upholstered in cloth, the seats are luxuriously comfortable, giving good support in the small of the back and under the thighs, as well as excellent lateral support. A lift bar at the front is raised for to-and-fro adjustment, and a lever beside the seat cushion allows the back or front of the seat to be raised, either to adjust the cushion angle or to give height adjustment. As headroom is a little marginal, drivers need to set the cushion carefully to the correct height. Backrest adjustment is in notches, with another lever at the side of the seat to release it.
Seat head restraints are fitted, which also have clip-on cushions to turn them into headrests if there is occasion for a snooze in the car. The restraints are readily removed if required, aiding all-round visibility and improving the view from the back.
Living with the Citroen Pallas IE Automatic 2400
So much thought has gone into the whole layout and detail finish of the Citroen that it should give lasting pleasure to its owner. We certainly liked the car all the time we had it on test. Typical thoughtful provisions are the really bright interior lamp in the centre of the roof, lit by opening any of the four doors, and supplemented by individual spot lamps to the rear compartment and by a forward map light, also roof mounted, which tilts to left or right serving driver or passenger, and switching on automatically as it is tilted.
Switches for the heated rear window and for the main interior light are also roof-mounted, forward of these units. The only possible drawback of the arrangement is that it might make it rather complicated to fit an opening sunroof, but this is available as an extra.
Central locking is standard, and when the key is turned in the driver's door a green light on the driver's door window sill lights to confirm that the electric lock at each door has operated. About 10 seconds later, the green light automatically goes out. The light still comes on when locking up even if one door has been imperfectly closed, but we found that even when locked on the first catch only, the door is completely secure.
Central locking does not secure the fuel filler, which is separately lockable, or the boot, which has a lockable push button release. The boot is easily loaded, having no sill for luggage to be lifted over, and although not very deep, the compartment extends well forward. A light in the boot comes on automatically when the lid is opened, and is independent of the sidelamps.
The rear seat is as comfortable as in the front, with ample leg-room to stretch out, and a folding armrest turns the seats into comfortable armchairs when only two are to be carried in the back.
As invariably the case with fuel injection, the system compensates for cold weather ideally, so that engine behaviour is exactly the same whether stone cold or fully warmed up, and there is never any stalling or hesitance during warm-up. Tickover is even, at about 850 rpm, and the tickover point is marked by a red line on the rev counter. Speedometer and rev counter comprise figures swinging past an illuminated window with lens, and with a little searching one soon finds the thumb wheel below the right hand side of the nacelle for adjusting the brightness of these two instruments, which are lit day or night, whenever the engine is running.
Other refinements include a quartz analogue clock with constant run sweep second hand, a lockable glove box on the left of the facia as well as two open cubby holes, pull-up sunblind’s for the rear seats on either side, and electric front window lifts which function swiftly and quietly, provided the ignition is switched on.
Big improvements in ventilation have been made by Citroen since the CX was first introduced. Originally a crude water valve affair, the heater is now a very effective air blending unit giving very good response to its temperature control, with good output and quick warm-up. There are cool air outlets in the console, as well as bleeds from the heater at either end of the facia for side window demisting.
Another big improvement since we last ran a Citroen in our fleet is provision for a loudspeaker to be fitted in each door.
It's good to find a car that, like the CX, has been so greatly developed since its first introduction. It should prove a very satisfactory car to live with in all respects, and there has certainly been little about it to fault in this test.
A light comes on automatically in the boot when the lid is lifted. Although the opening is not very deep, the compartment is quite spacious and extends well forward. The boot floor is carpeted
Seats are sumptuously comfortable, although rather short in the cushion at the rear. Front doors feature an open oddments bin, elasticated map wallet, and loudspeakers, and there is provision for two more door-mounted loudspeakers to be fitted to the rear doors
Unusual features to be appreciated in sunny countries are individual pull-up blinds behind the rear seats, and flip-down side visors over the doors
The Citroen CX range
Basic models in the CX range are the more sparsely equipped Reflex, with four-speed gearbox, and the five-speed Athena. More luxurious upholstery and various extra fittings such as the front electric windows and improved sound damping come with the Pallas, which also has the 2,347 c.c. engine instead of the 1,995 c.c. unit of Reflex and Athena. The Pallas is now fitted as standard with ZF automatic and the injection engine. The range includes the Safari estate car, and the Familiale with estate body and three rows of seats, and both of these are available with four- speed or five-speed gearbox, as are the CX 2,500cc diesel versions - saloon, Safari and Familiale. Other models are the GTi - a sporting version with injection engine and five-speed gearbox - and the luxury Prestige with long wheelbase body and choice of five-speed manual or three-speed automatic. The Prestige also gets the injection engine.
How the Citroen CX Pallas compares
Ideally we would have liked to compare all automatic cars with this new Citroen, but unfortunately some of the models that are obviously direct competitors have so far been tested only in manual form. The choice of cars to pit against the Citroen includes the latest Mercedes 230E - a slightly unusual step as we have not yet published the test on this model. However, measurement has been completed, and the 230E W123 test is due for publication in a couple of weeks. We have also had to use figures of the Volvo 265 GLE as a saloon has not yet been tested with the larger 2.8-litre engine; a 264 GL might have been able to put up a better showing. However, if even with the advantage of overdrive as tested, the Volvo could not better 20 mpg, it makes a rather poor comparison with the Citroen CX Pallas automatic, and the same can be said of the Opel Commodore which also proves slowest of the group.
COMPARISON WITH COMPETITORS
Real max speed in test MPH
Citroen CX Pallas (A)
Mercedes-Benz 240E (A)
Volvo 264 GL
Audi 100 5E (A)
Acceleration 0-60 (sec)
Mercedes-Benz 230E (A)
Volvo 264 GL
Citroen CX Pallas (A)
Audi 100 5E (A)
Audi 100 5E (A)
Citroen CX Pallas (A)
Mercedes-Benz 230E (A)
Legroom front/rear (in) (Seats fully back)
Audi 100 5E (A)
Citroen CX Pallas (A)
Mercedes-Benz 230E (A)
The Citroen, on the other hand, comes out of it very well, proving to be, as it seems on the road, a good performer, and yet still able to weigh in with an acceptable mpg figure. The Audi 100 (C2) with five-cylinder injection engine offers a good compromise of performance with economy, and so does the rather faster Mercedes. But in general it stands out that the Rover is best all-rounder, offering best top speed, second-best acceleration and also near the top of the batch for economy. Certainly it had the advantage of being tested in manual form, with its very high fifth gear, but it gains much - like the Citroen - from its good body shape and an automatic one would not be expected to be much slower or to use a great deal more fuel.
On the road
In one respect at least, the Citroen is without rival in this or indeed in much wider groups, and that is the matter of ride comfort. Its ability to swallow up bumps and undulations without reaction is most impressive. The nearest rivals in this particular group for ride and seating comfort are the Mercedes and the Audi, with the Volvo and Opel about equal behind. Ride comfort, although very adequate, is not one of the outstanding features the Rover. In terms of handling, the Citroen is easily manageable, and goes round corners much better that its enormous weight bias to the front wheels would lead one to suspect, bi in ultimate cornering its strong understeer needs to be predicted and allowed for. To a lesser extent, the Audi 100 is in much the same category, and higher standards are so by the Mercedes, with its feeling of near-neutral balance, the Rover marred only by its tendency to axle hop on a poor surface, and the Opel Commodore. There is also a lot more roll with the Citroen than with most rivals.
As a new addition to the range of cars available with fully automatic transmission, the Citroen offers a very refined system, with good throttle response, smooth changes, and an excellent transmission selector. The Rover 2600S and the Mercedes 230E W123 are equally good, with the Audi almost but not quite in the same league. Not so good in these respects are the Volvo and the Opel Commodore.
TEST DRIVE INFO
Citroen CX Pallas IE Automatic 2400 1981
Wind 15-25 mph
51° F (12° C)
30.0 in Hg (1016 mbar)
4 in line / M23 Citroen
Water, Electric Fan
2347 cc (143 cu in)
93.5 (3.68 in)
85.5 (3.37 in)
Compression (to one)
OHV, 8 valve
Injectors, Bosch L-Jetronic
128 bhp /4800
145 lb ft/3600
3-speed auto, FWD, ZF 3HP22
Ratios and mph/1000rpm
CHASSIS AND BODY
Unitary steel, with steel frame
Phosphating; electrophoretic dip primer before main paint coats. PVC underbody coating. Wax spray in body cavities.
Two, split front/rear 10.2 in. dia. disc 8.8 in. dia. disc. Central hydraulic pressure system. Centre lever operating front discs.
DIMENSIONS (inches and mm)
Weight unladen (cwt)
28.5 (1450 kg) 3190lb
Weight as tested (cwt)
32.5 (1676 kg) 3640lb
6 (105mm - 233mm)
Fuel tank (gals)
15 (68 litres)
CABIN DIMENSIONS (ins.)
Front headroom Front legroom
Rear headroom Rear legroom
Front shoulder room
Rear shoulder room
Luggage capacity (cu.ft)
Major service time
Sump (capacity/oil grade)
Oil change intervals
Grease points/intervals Time for removing/
Time for replacing clutch. Time for renewing
front brake pads Time for renewing
Number of UK dealers
MECHANICAL SPARES PRICES
Set brake pads
BODY PART PRICES
Front door (primer)
Headlamp unit (each)
TOTAL COST INCLUDING CAR TAX AND VAT 1981 UK
Price without extras
Price as tested
Model range price span
EXTRAS (inc. VAT) Not fitted to test car
Length and conditions
Size and space
Only an inch here or there separate the dimensions of most of these cars, which are all spacious five-seaters. A little extra legroom is offered in the rear of the Volvo, while the Mercedes is best for maximum legroom in front. The Citroen Pallas seems and is a roomy car, but gives a immediate impression of being very low and squat on the road. This is accentuated by the suspension drop which takes place while the car is parked. Luggage loading is easy into the Citroen, due to lack of any rear sill over which luggage would have to be lifted, and scores here over all its rivals, but the space in the boot is not a match for the big capacity of the other models, notably the Audi, Mercedes, Opel and Rover. None of the group, of course, can match the Rover's load space versatility, with removable back shelf and folding seat squab.
In general, the Citroen makes a very good comparison in this rather elite group, offering a high level of comfort reasonable space, and a good blend of performance with economy. It is hotly rivalled, especially by the front-drive Audi 100 and the rear-drive Rover, and although these do not match the Citroen for suspension comfort, they have more to offer in terms of low noise level especially at speed. Rover manage to do all this and be substantially the cheapest car of the group - enough said.
21.9 mpg / 12.9 litres/100 km - Consumption midway between 30 mph and maximum less 5 per cent for acceleration.
24.1 mpg / 11.7 litres/100 km
15 galls / 68 litres
Motor rating (A rating where 1 = 30 dbA and 100 = 96 dbA, and where double the number — means double the loudness.)
Max revs in 2nd
Figures taken at 3,300 miles by our own staff at the Motor Industry Research Association proving ground at Nuneaton. All Drive-my test results are subject to world copyright and may not be reproduced in whole or part without the Editor's written permission.
PRODUCED BY: S.A. Automobiles Citroen, 47-167 Quai Andre Citroen, Paris 15, France.
SOLD IN THE UK BY: Citroen Cars Ltd., Mill Street, Slough, Berkshire SL2 5DE.
Our young news editor and expert test drives Gitter - a big fan of classic and vintage cars, a staunch supporter of the rear-wheel drive petrol atmospheric engines and mechanical transmissions. Owner classic BMW and Alfa Romeo, feels affection for retro car brands Jaguar and Aston Martin. Has higher technical education, is interested in the design and automotive painting.
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