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First look: Citroen makes great Airscape

On show: Airscape concept to debut at Frankfurt.

Citroen’s convertible Airscape concept previews new C5 design language

21 Aug 2007

FRENCH brand Citroen is previewing its next-generation mid-sized family car with the C5 Airscape.

While the fully functional show vehicle will premiere at next month’s Frankfurt motor show, the production version – minus the convertible body (for now) – will debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March as the C5.

Australians will be able to buy it as a five-door hatchback or four-door wagon by the end of next year.

Expect the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney to be the new-generation C5’s first port of call in October 2008.

The C5 Airscape is described as a full-sized four-seater convertible that is “the successor … to the legendary Citroen DS” – which (in 1958 to 1973 Decapotable guise) also happens to be the last large proper drop-top the company offered.

However, far from being a 1950s throwback, the Airscape introduces a variation of the bio-diesel/electric hybrid drivetrain dubbed “UrbanHybrid” that parent company PSA is preparing for production from the end of the decade.

In this application, the internal combustion engine is a 2.7-litre V6 HDI with a particulate filter, developing 150kW of power at 4000rpm and 440Nm of torque at 1900rpm.

Sounding like something from Flash Gordon, UrbanHybrid features a reversible alternator-starter and super-capacitors that can store large amounts of energy temporarily.

33 center imageWhen the six-speed automatic transmission is in ‘Drive’ and travelling under 6km/h with the driver’s foot on the brake, the C5 Airscape’s engine cuts out, only to restart seamlessly the instant the foot lifts off the brake. This slashes fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and noise and vibration transmission.

Many of the in-car electrical devices such as the air-conditioning and audio systems are powered via electricity gained from regenerative braking and deceleration energy storage.

The C5 Airscape also debuts “SnowMotion” – a type of traction control system that provides “virtually the same level of traction as a four-wheel drive system without the weight penalties” (especially when fitted with winter tyres), according to Citroen.

Further kilos are saved with a folding roof that may appear canvas when erect (because Citroen claims executive cabriolets look better in this material), but is really a combination of carbon fibre and glass, for the security and soundproofing of a metal folding unit but without the added mass.

The glazed part of the roof floods the cabin with light, while it retracts with ease and without any assistance from the operator.

Stylistically, the C5 Airscape is an evolution of the successful C4’s design language, especially in the nose, high waistline, pronounced wheel arches and sculptured flanks.

Meanwhile, along with all the convertible roof-related features, the chrome-plated door handles, silver paintwork that seems to vary in intensity with the available light and steeply angled windscreen are most-likely the provenance of show-car flights of fancy.

More connections to the C4 include a fixed centre steering wheel hub with a host of ancillary controls, although the connection stops there since the C5 Airscape also includes seats that bring a watch-strap design to mind, while the dashboard’s buttons feature a covering resembling the texture of skin.

It is unclear whether the C6 limousine-style concave rear window will make it on the production C5.

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