The History of Citroën CX

The CX was first seen in the late summer of 1974 – the new purpose-built factory at Aulnay-sous-Bois, North of Paris, was opened in 1973 and production of the CX eventually got under way during 1974 for the press launch, in Sweden, in August. The UK launch, in June 1975, for the initial right hand drive CX2000 models heralded the end of the D.S. and the start of a new career of big Citroens. The more powerful CX2200 joined the initial model at the turn of the year and was hastily followed in the UK by the first Estate car – CX2000 Safari – and higher specified CX2200 Pallas during early 1976. By the Autumn, the announcement of CX2400 models (Super, Pallas, Safari Estate, and the lavish long wheelbase Prestige) and the CX2200 Diesel Saloon and Safari Estate paved the way for a large, diverse and somewhat complex range of models still to be expanded on. The summer of 1977 saw the first high performance CX – the 128 bhp fuel injection (Bosch L-Jetronic) CX2400 GTi, complete with Alloy wheels, sports seats, Matt-black exterior trim and front fog lamps. Even somewhat bizarre Black and Cream leather was a rare option on these early GTi’s! The fuel injection engine was soon offered in the top of the range CX Prestige usually fitted with the idiosyncratic C-matic, semi automatic gearbox, and by now having gained the raised roofline deemed desirable by French Ministers, and in early 1978 in the CX Pallas along with C-Matic as standard fitment. The new, larger and more powerful CX2500 Diesel replaced the  CX2200 in the spring of 1978, but despite being hugely popular in its homeland – some 48% of CX’s were Diesels at that time – went relatively un-noticed in our petrol favouring nation. 1978 was the best year of the CX – not only in numbers produced, 132,675, but in UK sales, 7058. 

1979 model year cars gained the famous spherical ashtray and moulded head lining but the year was also CX-famous for the launch of the new economy, entry level Reflex and Athena Saloon models (Brand new, lighter and more modern light alloy overhead camshaft 1995 cc engines). Athena had, over and above Reflex, 5 speed gear box, ‘Pallas’ style full stainless wheel trims, ‘Super’ style cord seating, Electric door mirror and electric front windows. 

Little changed during 1980 but 1981 saw many drastic changes. Previous body corrosion resistance problems were largely countered by the vast improvements made for 1981 model year’s cars, spotted instantly by the new range of exterior colours, by the change of ashtray shape – from spherical to slide-out, and by the widening of the front track by 40 mm. The C-Matic gearbox gave way to a 3 speed fully automatic transmission from ZF. Many other minor alterations were made for this year’s models and later in the year the flared-arch front wings heralded the 1982 model year cars along with the introduction of a new range of CX Reflex Estate models (CX Reflex) (2 litre), CX Reflex D (Diesel) and CX Reflex 2.4 (Carb. 2400 Automatic). In January 1982, the new CX Reflex IE fuel injection Estates were launched. 

Range modification in late 1982/3 resulted in CX Reflex becoming ‘CX20’, CX Reflex D becoming ‘CX 25D’ and CX Reflex IE becoming ‘CX IE’. The CX Athena became CX (20) Pallas. All sounds simple, eh? 

All done in the interest of resurrecting ailing sales figures, the range continued to expand: during late 1983, the new CX 25 petrol models, with minor technical engine alterations replace the trusty CX 2400. A new Turbo diesel engine had been launched (95 bhp) and endowed the new CX 25 DTR Turbo Saloon and new high specification Safari Estate with Diesel power of a performance level previously unseen in the U.K. Sales of these models however remained low amidst an unconvinced U.K. market and the launch of the new rocket-ship petrol-engined CX 25 GTi Turbo in September 1984 went a little way towards waking up our buying public. Grace Jones’ famous TV advertising – the last ever TV advert for the CX – also re-awakened us. 

The CX was, by now, looking a little dated and plans were well afoot to face-lift the design. 1984/85  sales had been abysmal and the new Series 2 launched here in September 1985 rekindled interest with its smart new integrated plastic bumpers, aerodynamic new door mirrors, grille and sill covers, along with drastically improved interior. The totally new model CX 22 TRS completely overshadowed the entry level CX 20RE saloon, which died an early death, and sales once again picked up. The new, improved, CX 25 Gti Turbo 2 of July 1986 and the incredibly fast and powerful (for a Diesel) CX 25 DTR Turbo 2 of March 1987 further improved the credibility of the CX. The advent of a new flagship model, – the CX 25 Prestige Turbo 2 – however remained a flop in the UK with only 5 examples sold – at a cost of around £20,000 each. In fact, the CX 25 Prestige Automatic, previously the flagship car had floundered and was terminated in early 1987. 

Late 1987 saw further further improvements with ABS brakes on all CX 25 models, sportier interiors and better equipment on all CX 25 saloons, and new CX 22RS 2.2 litre Estate car to replace the former CX 20RE models. All CX Estates now had grey interior trim. 

A new, entry level limited Edition CX 22 TRS Croisette model was launched in May 1988 whilst for 1989 all other CX 22 TRS models were ‘specked-up with the VIP interior. 

1989, though was to be the final year of CX production at Aulnay – the long awaited replacement was in the wings. We had been misinformed that it would be termed the ‘DX’ – surely an accolade – but the eventual ‘XM’ nomenclature showed little link to its proud predecessor. Estate car production, however, was, as usual, not coincident with saloon and the decision was made to continue with CX Estate for an indefinite period, but sub-contracted to Messrs Heuliez, the famous French coach builders – already producing the BX Estate. The range was, however, somewhat rationalised and indeed badged ‘Evasion’ for the French market – a name previously used for exclusive coach built Heuliez Estates of the Eighties. U.K. models were labelled TGE, TGI and TGD Turbo, replacing the 22RS, 25TRI, 25RI and 25 DTR Turbo 2 models for the 1990 model year. These cars were, though, built only to special order – in other words, U.K. Citroen dealers were not allocated any stock unless ordered. Sales were slow during 1990, not entirely unexpected at the swansong of a model’s 17 year production run, and the final demise was to come in the form of a brief letter from Citroen U.K. during the first week of January 1991 – the CX Estate was henceforth discontinued – the end of an era.


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