TG's long-term Citroen C5 X: a superb long-haul cruiser
Sorry to start off on a grumpy note, but I’m still pondering a trip I recently did from Bologna to the Dolomites, in the Southern Tyrol, and back. That’s in northern Italy, so far north in fact that culturally it’s closer to Austria. (Haas F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner is from that area, hence the curious accent and his unique way with profane language.) Once you’re on the A22 autostrada, you basically stay on it for about 220 miles.
So why the grump? Well, we did the journey in one go, without encountering any congestion whatsoever. Not a single traffic jam, not one accident, no delays at all, and this despite torrential rain the entire way. A blissful, stress-free four hours.
Anyone who lives within striking distance of any of the UK’s major cities will surely share my disbelief. Not only was the A22 free-flowing, it was also smoothly surfaced and almost completely devoid of any roadworks. The UK’s motorways are rammed, falling apart, and often out of action even if you’re trying to get somewhere in the middle of the night. The junction where the M11 meets the M25 is regularly closed, for example, and heaven help you if you need to leave London’s Orbital to join the A3 any time before 2025 (the year that is, not the time). Mayhem reigns. Meanwhile, I’d love to meet the desk jockeys responsible for the signs on our ‘smart’ motorways. Extinction Rebellion don’t need to glue themselves to the road to cause bother; they just need to phone the Highways people and tell them there’s any empty crisp packet on the M25 by Potter’s Bar to bring everything to a shuddering halt.
I realise I’ve yet to mention the Citroën. The Italian job was actually done courtesy of a high-mileage Audi A4 turbodiesel which delivered a range of 570 miles on a full tank. No anxiety here, then. The C5 X PHEV wouldn’t get near that, not because it’s uneconomical, but because its 40-litre fuel tank hampers its long distance useability. Which is a real shame because this thing is sublime on long hauls, and I actually found myself pining for it at one point. I love travelling through Europe – by car or on the train – and the C5 X gently taps into a largely forgotten romantic ideal. Remember, Michelin only invented its famous guide (and the restaurant star rating that followed) to encourage early motorists to use their cars and therefore their tyres more often.
The C5 X is a supremely comfortable gran turismo, albeit one without the sporting aspirations that characterise its more overtly premium rivals. I fondled and squidged the Audi’s interior and decided that the Citroën is as well made and rather more interesting to look at, in the tradition of big Citroëns. The Lane Assist is phenomenally intrusive but only a single button push away to disable. The phone mirroring has also proven to have a mind of its own, sometimes remembering my device, on others needing a complete reset. Still, how spoiled we have become with all this connectivity. My first car didn’t even had a radio…