Giant test Peugeot 504GLD vs Citroen CX 2200D and Mercedes-Benz 240D

2014 Drive-My

Giant test Peugeot 504GLD vs Citroen CX 2200D and Mercedes-Benz 240D – Jerry Mason. Acceptance of diesel-powered passenger cars is strictly dependent on the advantages overpowering the inherent handicaps. They are not loveable, but they are economical. It’s as simple as that. The three cars in this Giant Test are, of course, merely the tip of a much larger iceberg that already lies on the surface or is thinly concealed below it. Accept ’em or hate’ em, diesels are now part of the scene, vying for their respective slots in the market.


It would all be much easier if the price differential between diesel and petrol fuels was as immense here as it is in European countries. Then the economies would be so great that diesels would not need the apologies that are required for them in Britain. Significantly, the trio in this Giant Test are from across the Channel: two from France, one from Germany. Like Britain, Italy is only dabbling in diesels, whilst the Swedes would prefer not to know.

Peugeot 504GLD Citroen CX2200D Mercedes-Benz 240D

The moment you start discussing prices, diesel power throws in its first hurdle: you must pay more than for virtually the same car with a petrol engine. The figures illustrate the point rather forcibly. The Mercedes Benz 240D is £6895, whereas the 230 petrol car is £6693. In the case of the Citroen CX diesel Super you need to provide £4949 to consummate the deal, I against £4249 for the 2000CX Confort or £4799 for the CX2400 Super, which is a fairer comparison since the diesel and the Super share the same trim standards. Peugeot, whose newest version of the 504 diesel, as tested, represents an important update, hang a £4472 price tag on the model, whilst the 2.0 litre petrol version is £3893. Although more expensive to make, increased demand for diesel engines will certainly mean that the economies of scale will one day level-peg the petrol burner and the oil burner. Most manufacturers have high hopes for the future of the diesel both on grounds of economy and emissions control.


Peugeot 504GLD

Moderate roll, little understeer and ability to hang-on tenaciously typifies GLD’s road behaviour. Slowish steering means quite a lot of winding if the tail really goes out, though. Despite centre pad, horn is actually on column stalk. Instruments reveal enough Information for most purposes.

Diesel engine may look complex (injection system certainly is), but remember that there is no ignition system to cause trouble. Apart from high lip, 504’s boot is relatively unobstructed. Cloth seats (below) have good adjustment, integral headrests.

Rear legroom is top feature, as is excellent gear-change. Less it pleasant is poor finish around standard sunroof, non-converted wipers.


Peugeot 504GLD Citroen CX2200D Mercedes-Benz 240D


Although the 504 diesel has been re-engined in its 1977 form, the body remains as that peculiarly Peugeot shape that is so familiar in just about every country in the world. Its longevity is not necessarily a disadvantage for it fulfils a very basic design rule: it works exceptionally well in terms of overall size, interior dimensions and comfort. If we assume for a moment that the diesel-engined car buyer is also devoted to the cause of commonsense and utility, then he may not necessarily be wanting to wrap it all up in the very latest shape with the very latest price.

The CX is almost the antithesis of the 504. It is longer, lower, very positively styled in enviable proportions. It also has a very good aerodynamic shape and, like all Citroens, the promise of a long-term existence. To know that there is a compression-ignition engine under that sloping bonnet is a surprise. As we have said before in CAR’s Giant Tests, the CX is a shape you either like or dislike, but regardless of opinion there is no escaping the simple fact that it is an outstanding design.

What does one say about the W123 Mercedes? There are elements in it to suggest that its makers are now more aware of design than they have been in the past, but that does not mean that they have let this become a passion. Indeed, styling is so underplayed that you really have to look quite hard to initially distinguish between one model and the next, and between this year’s product and last year’s. This result is not through lack of ability so much as a very careful treading of very well established paths; they know that to deviate would be to risk a fall, not now but in the long term. So the course followed by Daimler Benz, although superficially plodding, has an enormously solid base of Teutonic commonsense. Meanwhile, however, the W123 is Entirely predictable and looks exactly as we would expect a 1977 Mercedes to look, both inside and out.

Mechanically these three cars range from the most advanced concept to just plain very interesting. Taking the Citroen as a starter, it has all independent suspension via the self-levelling oleopneumatic system that has stood the marque in good stead for many years. The brakes and steering are fully powered from the central hydraulic system, whilst the transverse four cylinder engine of 2175cc drives the front wheels through a four-speed gearbox that is closely related to the unit installed in the Lancia Beta.

Like the Citroen, the Mercedes has power-steering as standard” equipment and the company’s own automatic gearbox comes as part of the British-specification price. The 240D’s engine is a Mercedes’ invention, of course, and is the middle one of a fairly formidable line.

From its 2404cc, it manages to chuff out a respectable 65 horsepower at 4200 rpm with 101 lb/ft of torque at 2400rpm. The Citroen develops its 66 horsepower at 4500 rpm, whereas the Peugeot, newly re-engined, turns out 70 horsepower at 4500 rpm from a cubic displacement of 2304cc, and there’s 96.8 lb/ft of torque available at 2000 rpm. Both the Mercedes and the Peugeot rely upon all-independent coil suspension for the springing and, like the Citroen, have disc brakes all round. As with the CX, the 504 has rack-and-pinion steering, although it is not power- assisted, being quite low geared to ensure satisfactory lightness at parking speeds. It should be remembered that this Peugeot diesel is to the normal GL specification and differs substantially from the basic diesel which Peugeot sold in the UK up until now. It has, you may recall, a live axle, a simple fascia and the willowy gearlever; even less difficult to bring back from the memory bank is the marginal performance and the very stagey throttle action that can make the car difficult and annoying to drive.



What a task it must be to try and sell diesels in a world that has spent the last 80 years being dosed with the virtues of performance it any price. Specially when diesels cost more than their quicker, petrol-engined counterparts! Not that these three manufacturers have been guilty of going overboard about performance; it’s simply that hey automatically get caught up in the whirlpool that has always surrounded the motor industry. Now the task is to partially de-sell the traditional concepts and beat the sharp end of the economy wedge into the softened shell of top speed and 0-60 mph acceleration times.

There’s a trade-off involved: sacrifice some of motoring’s most endearing qualities in exchange for fewer agonising noises from your wallet. There are solutions to the diesel’s low-performance reputation. Turbocharging, long established on trucks, is the way things are most likely to develop with diesel cars.

Meanwhile, we have to live with what they are currently offering, some of which you could unquestionably bring yourself to like and some of which you may find unacceptable. A shift-worker, for example, starting off for-work from the narrow, crowded street outside his suburban flat at two in the morning would certainly not have to resort to crystal balls, tea-leaf reading or the study of pig’s entrails to know that his neighbours were plotting either his, or his car’s downfall.

None of these diesels, or any others we have met, purr politely into life from cold; instead they tumble into activity with all tie grace and smoothness of half a dozen knights in armour wrestling to death on a marble staircase. All three puffed some smoke from a cold start, but the Peugeot was the worst, resembling an unlit dragon trying to appear savage. However, there was almost certainly something wrong with the injectors, for it should have been markedly less smokey than it was. Within a few miles all three settled down to a passable degree if smoothness and quietness, the main giveaway being the usual diesel-taxi type rattle when waiting at the traffic lights. All required a minute or so of combustion chamber pre-heating before starting up.


Citroen CX2200D

Front drive gives Citroen different sort of handling than rivals, but roadholding proved to be quantifiably better. Body roll is at maximum here, understeer is moderate

Ergonomics are fantastic with every minor driving control within fingertip reach of driver. Ventilation system, however, needs improvement. Electric windows are standard in front.

Transverse engine makes full use of compartment’s width; some of the plumbing is hydraulic, for steering, brakes and self-levelling suspension.

Box-like boot opens from bumper height. Soft seats have nice trim. Push-button check for sump level; vacant slot in spare’s centre is for oil can; seats lack lateral support; finish is casual in places.


Although partially cushioned by the automatic transmission, the 240D’s engine felt slightly harsh when accelerating through the middle speed ranges. At open road cruising speeds, however, it was perfectly satisfactory, being on a par with big four petrol engines. The cruising can be just about anything the driver likes, with the proviso that getting to it can be a slightly tedious process, specially if baulked by other traffic; one soon starts to resent lost momentum.

However, we all found that although the Mercedes was slow, planned driving paid dividends both in average speeds and reduced frustration. It also paid another handsome bonus: almost 35mpg no matter how hard the vehicle was driven, and longer non-stop stretches between fuel stops which, of course, did wonders for point-to-point averages. When you drive the 240D, you simply have to face the fact that acceleration, specially when overtaking, is limited and adjust your driving style to suit.

On motorways you can wring 90 mph out of it if the law turns a blind eye, but on narrow A and B-roads it can be a struggle to muster enough acceleration to overtake dawdlers. Our experience suggests that the Mercedes 240D is ideally suited to city and suburban motoring. It is nippy enough to keep up with most of the traffic and easy to drive because of the automatic transmission.

The Citroen CX also proves capable of delivering remarkable fuel consumption figures. We had no trouble getting 35 mpg and this could have easily been stretched to a regular 40 mpg with a deliberately lighter foot. In general motoring it was faster than the Mercedes but less tractible. Around town we all had difficulty making good, clean gearchanges, particularly from first to second, when clutch engagement nearly always resulted in an undignified and annoying lurch, quite out of character with the CX’s image. Yet on the motorways and fast lesser roads it simply sang along. The CX’s forte is going long distances at considerable speed, as we proved when we took a CXD to Turin last year, it winds up well in excess of 90 mph but seems happiest holding around 85 mph and, partially due to the car’s superior aerodynamics, has better upper-end acceleration than its rivals.

Although the CX’s gearchange caused us anguish in our efforts to motor smoothly through city and suburb, the Peugeot’s was the complete opposite. Gearchanges were fast and silky smooth, with a clutch action – that was both light and virtually foolproof. Furthermore, the GLD’s performance in the middle ranges was excellent, being able to accelerate from rest with the best of ’em and provide a convincing burst for overtaking slow traffic. Again, cruising speed could be in the nineties and 70 mph on the motorways was a doddle. However, it was the CX that proved to be better for open-road cruising, partly because of the Citroen’s slippery shape which enables the engine to pull easily.

As a commuter/suburban/city car, we found the Peugeot to be the better performance package; Merc’s automatic box, although very convenient, imposed performance limitations on the engine which is hardly brisk in the first place; the Citroen was hard to live with in stop/start conditions but excellent for long-distance travelling.



Arguably, neither is specially important in the context of comparatively slow-moving diesel-powered cars, when the emphasis is on economy more than anything else. However, it is to the great credit of all three makers that they have not compromised their cars’ dynamic qualities because performance does not match that of their petrol-driven counterparts. Thus, we find the CXD in full possession of the handling and roadholding that has made this Citroen one of our favourite vehicles.

The steering is high geared and responds very quickly to driver input, thus providing an avoidance factor that is far in advance of most other cars on the road. There is a proviso: it takes a few miles to become accustomed to the steering’s sensitivity, a quite a few more to understand its potential. Although a large car, the CX is easy to park and manoeuvre in tight conditions but, at the other end of the spectrum, it has excellent roadholding. Superior, in fact, to either of the other cars.

Roadholding limits are not particularly high, but the handling is reliable and precise; when tail-out attitude develops it is easily corrected.

It settles into a moderate understeer condition and stays there without washing off speed, which is something no diesel can afford. It flops into a mild body-roll stance early, but the self-levelling seems to prevent it getting any worse no matter how great the loads may become. On our test track, the CX proved to have superior roadholding to either the Peugeot or the Merc.


Mercedes- Benz 240 D

Controls and dials are clean, well detailed, work with precision that is typical of whole car. Centre pad activates horn, and single stalk performs number of functions. Overhead cam four cylinder engine sits well back in compartment that takes other engines up to 2.8 litre petrol six. Most of vital points are easy to reach for routine servicing and maintenance. Note battery location. Boot is immaculately finished (left), whilst seats (below) are firm, well shaped. Hand-brake is knee- knocker but gated quadrant for auto works perfectly. One key works all, including central locking system. Fascia knob regulates cold idle.


The German cargoes into an initial and pronounced understeer before finally going light at the rear and moving swiftly into a tail-out attitude that needs positive action by the driver to bring the car back into line. However, although the actual roadholding is inferior to that of the CX, it is effectively masked by the responsive and confidence-inspiring handling that one would automatically expect to find in this type of conservative and careful saloon. Its behaviour is entirely predictable and really the only thing asked of the driver who gets it so wrong that the tail hangs out is to steer into the skid. It’s that easy.

Rather like the Citroen, the Peugeot goes into a continuous but non-escalating understeer and remains that way beyond the point where the Mercedes driver is winding on some correction to counter the roll oversteer. The Peugeot driver has to do a little more wheel work, though, for the gearing is somewhat lower geared than the assisted steering in the other two, needing some 4.5 turns lock to lock for a 36ft circle against the Merc’s three turns for 37ft and the CX’s 2.5 turns for 35.5ft. Of the three cars, the Peugeot has more steering feel and, in fact, provides such a very fast reaction to driver input those 4.5 turns don’t mean much in practical use. There’s some wheel twirling to be done at parking speeds, but the steering is light.

The CX offers the best roadholding, coupled to slightly eccentric handling. The Merc’s handling is faultless, but the roadholding is not as good as the Peugeot’s, which itself has such excellent manners that few drivers are ever likely to find themselves wondering what was going to happen next.

Stopping power is excellent on all three cars, but the CX has the most effective anti-dive arrangements, thanks to its unique suspension.

The brake pedal has virtually no travel and relies entirely on pressure to activate the system. The stopping power is immense and is also felt to be; stamping on the brake pedal on a wet road releases such a lot of hydraulic energy that the wheels are quite easily locked, so a measure of self control is important to avoid over-reaction to the standard crisis one encounters when the weather is bad. There’s not much to differentiate the relative performances of the Merc’s and the Peugeot’s brakes. Both are efficient, smooth, non-erratic, just about fade proof; in other words, they’re right on target.



Sporty overtones in a diesel would be as appropriate as ice cubes in real ale. Thus; the driver-appeal of these vehicles is dependent on their merits as ordinary saloons. The CX, for example, is one of the very few genuine ’77 models on the road and this reflects in the superb ergonomics. Everything really is where you can find it, usually by doing no more than moving a finger to activate the desired function. The driving position itself is square ahead and the seat adjusts for height as well as for reach and rake. Ironically, the driver’s seat could do with more support when cornering hard, the bias being more towards comfort than grip. Besides being slightly too far forward, the gearchange lever is a little rubbery and the clutch pedal is angled poorly for some drivers. There’s no tachometer as there is in the petrol version, so the speedometer stares Cycloptically.

There’s a seat-height adjustment in the Mercedes as well. The generously dimensioned and well-proportioned seat is squarely placed in relation to the strictly conventional but superbly detailed control system. Everything functions perfectly and logically, although the pull-handle, fascia-mounted handbrake is a hazard to navigation when getting in or out of the driver’s seat. That tends to be rather much a British-market device; the Germans have a foot-operated parking brake with a dignified release knob on the fascia.

The cheapest of the trio, the Peugeot is also the least elaborate. It is nonetheless effective. As we have already observed, it has an excellent gearchange, the between-seats handbrake is convenient and powerful, whilst the minor controls, although tending towards the fiddly, are inconspicuously efficient once you get accustomed to them. In other words, nothing is impossibly awkward, just dated.



Quantifying comfort is a difficult thing, but what CAR always regards as comfort abounds in the Citroen. The seats, cloth trimmed, are soft and work harmoniously with long travel of the suspension. There is good legroom front and rear and adequate headroom in the back. It’s an inviting and warm cabin but the ventilation needs improvement both in hot weather and in very cold conditions. Road noise is present on many surfaces but both wind and mechanical noise are well suppressed. The ability of this car to cope very satisfactorily with a wide variation of road surfaces has earned it a completely justified reputation for being an exceptionally comfortable and pleasant form of transport.

As we have noted before, Germans like their cars to have a taut, firm ride in the belief that this is the only way it is possible to achieve the desired level of roadholding and handling. The 240D is no exception to this generalisation. It gives a firm yet very well controlled ride over all surfaces, obtained at the cost of excessive road noise most of the time. However, engine and wind roar are virtually absent and the ventilation system is staggeringly good in both the ambient air and heater modes. There’s probably not a car maker in the world who could not learn something from Mercedes in this area. There’s not a great deal of room in the rear of the 240D unless the front occupants are prepared to sacrifice some of their own room for those less fortunate.

Somewhere between the Citroen and the Mercedes falls the Peugeot. Compared with the others, it is miraculously free from road noise, the engine is quiet and wind roar is similarly minimal. The ride is better than the Merc’s and much of the time matches that of the CX, yet this quite ordinary suspension is well controlled and roll-stabilised. There’s no great secret as to why the 504 is this way: it has been very accurately and meticulously developed over a long period and achieves a great deal with little complication. Furthermore, the body design is such that the cabin is deceptively roomy with good leg and head room back and front. Whilst the ventilation system is okay, it could be better and certainly does not rival the Merc’s.



Daimler-Benz are justifiably proud of their safety research and development. Their efforts have immeasurably advanced the cause of safety so it comes as no surprise to find that this W123 incorporates the fruits of much labour. For example, the side windows remain free of muck in the poorest weather and the rear window, tail lamps and headlamps are cleaned aerodynamically when the going is at its worst, the wipers and washers are highly efficient, the crushability is a known and promotable factor in the body and the dynamic qualities are, at the very worst, totally reliable and predicatable.

A remotely operated external rear vision mirror is part of the standard equipment, as is a laminated windscreen.

Although Citroen’s approach to crash safety is different to that of Mercedes, and is underplayed by comparison, there is little reason to believe that the French car would absorb impact energy less efficiently than the Merc. There are rules, after all, and all manufacturers are obliged to comply with them both legally and morally! As with the Merc, the CX has a laminated screen; the concave back window keeps itself clean by channelling surplus water down the centre line. Of the three cars, the Citroen gives the feeling that the ultra fast steering and very rapid braking response would provide you a very good chance of avoiding an accident.

The 504 was brought onto the market before safety was something that was so freely hung out in the open. Nevertheless, the Peugeot conforms, crumpling up as prescribed, even though it lacks modernity in the more obvious hardware. The screen is laminated, of course, and, as with the CX, there is an external mirror as part of the package.

All three have adequate headlamps, the CX’s scoring a point because their adjustment is constant due to the suspension compensating for load. The Mercedes 240D W123 has inbuilt fog lamps back and front, a spin-off from the ever-present autobahns which, despite the problems, remain as the most efficient road system in Europe.



There is only one reason for buying a diesel-powered passenger car: the need to cover big mileages economically. In that way the buyer can amortise the extra money he pays for having diesel-power in the first place by (a) getting more miles per gallon (b) paying marginally less for the fuel unless he motors in Europe where the difference is realistic and not token and (c) by going longer distances between overhauls because diesel engines have a longer life cycle. This is a matter of straight economics.

You have to get out your electronic slide rule and work out the sums; if they come up in favour of a diesel-powered car, then that’s the answer.

The Mercedes-Benz leg of this tripod is the most costly by a fair margin. The extra money is easily-enough justified when you do a tyre-kicking walk-around inspection: it is superbly put together, refined and magnificently detailed. Against this, it is the slowest of the group with, by a narrow margin, the worst roadholding but the best handling. The counter argument is that it is a Mercedes, and that means a lot! A word of warning, though. If the Three-Pointed Star is your bag for big mileage transport, take a look at the spare parts prices before buying.

If we were going from Bristol to Edinburgh a couple of times a week, or charging around the European motorways system like good EEC businessmen, then the CX would have our money. It is excellent as a long-distance cruising car, but rather less convincing around town, where the jerky gearchanges would drive us up the wall before long.

That leaves the Peugeot. It is the best all-rounder, being smooth to operate in town, fast and really no less economical than the others.

Another thing that comes down strongly in its favour is the comparatively low initial price and the more favourable spare parts prices. Economy is the game here, and the Peugeot has some strong arguments going for it. Those aside, the dynamic qualities and the comfort leave little to be desired. Basically, though, it comes down to looking at these three as tools, not as cars, and buying the one that will give you the best return.

CAR Peugeot 504GLD 1977 Citroen CX2200D 1977

Mercedes 240D W123 1977






Bore (mm)




Stroke (mm)




Compression (to one)




Valve gear






Injectors, Bosch Rotary or Roto diesel injection


Power (DIN/rpm)




Torque (DIN/rpm)






Four speed, RWD

Four speed, FWD Four speed auto, RWD
Ratios and mph/1000rpm

















Final drive









Front suspension

Struts, lower wish­ bones, anti-roll bar

Wishbones, hydro­ pneumatic units

Unequal length control arms anti­roll bar

Rear suspension

Independent, trailing arms, coils, anti- roll bar

Trailing arms, hydro pneumatic units

Independent, trailing arms, coils, anti­ roll bar


Rack and pinion

Assisted rack and pinion, DIRAVI

Assisted recirc ball

Turns lock to lock




Turning circle (ft)


35ft 6in



5J x 14

5.5J x 14

5.5J x 14


Servoed discs

Servoed discs, vented

Servoed discs






Front track
















Weight (lb)




Ground clearance




Fuel tank (gals)





Front headroom Front legroom




(seat forward/back)




Rear headroom Rear legroom




(seat forward/back)




Front shoulder room




Rear shoulder room




Luggage capacity (cu.ft)





Major service time

4 hrs

4 hrs 21 min

3 hrs 30 min

Sump (capacity/oil grade)


10.2pts/HD3C 8.8pts./SAE 10W40

Oil change intervals




Grease points/intervals Time for removing/




replacing engine/gearbox

8 hrs 30 min

10 hrs 18 min

8 hrs/2 hrs 54 min

Time for replacing clutch. Time for renewing

5 hrs 30 min

10 hrs 39 min

2 hrs 54 min

front brake pads Time for renewing

1 hr

1 hr 18 min

36 min

exhaust system

2 hrs 15 min

1 hr 36 min

1 hr

Number of UK dealers






£1310.20 new

£961.47 exch

£726.60 exch


276.27 new

330.63 exch

294.40 exch


234.67 new

81.65 exch

130.95 exch

Clutch unit

56.50 exch



Brake disc




Set brake pads




Front damper


26.61 sphere


Exhaust system




Oil filter





35.47 exch

50.98 exch

71.84 exch

Starter motor

32.90 exch

79.20 exch

94.80 exch






Front door (primer)




Front bumper




Bonnet (primer)








Headlamp unit (each)









Price without extras




Price as tested




Model range price span





Length and conditions

12months/unlimited 12months/unlimited mileage

12months/unlimited mileage



0-30 mph

0-40 mph

0-50 mph

0-60 mph

Peugeot 504GLD





Mercedes 240D W123





Citroen CX 2200D







Peugeot 504GLD





Mercedes 240D W123


0-37 *NA-61 *NA-86

Citroen CX 2200D




FUEL CONSUMPTION (on Elf): Peugeot 504GLD 30-37mpg, Mercedes 240D W123 33-40mpg, Citroen 30-36mpg

*Not applicable to automatic transmission


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