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Concept Car of the Week: Citroën C-Airdream

Fri, 26 Oct 2012

In the 1990s and early 2000s one of the most charismatic, brave and forward-thinking car makers, Citroën, had been reduced to the maker of budget, mainstream Euro boxes such as the Saxo and Xsara.

The company hinted at its intentions to break free from its mundane existence as the maker of line-of-least-resistance rental cars with its Lignage concept in 1999 that harked back to its past large sedans, especially the CX. But it was at the 2002 Paris motor show that Citroën put a stake in the ground with its fabulously avantgarde Citroën C-Airdream concept.

The C-Airdream's proportions are unique, combining a long wheelbase, a large front overhang and overhangs that are long in the front and short at the  rear that make no attempt to hide the proud front-wheel heritage. Optimal aerodynamics design played a key role in the C-Airdream's development, seen in the shallow windscreen and Kamm tail. It had a Cd of just 0.28.

But it was the introduction of the new generation design language that really made the C-Airdream stand out with the integration of the double chevron graphic into the upper grille and the use of <<décrocher contrôle>> – the kinked graphic motif that flows through the car – inspired by the beltline of the SM.

The huge glazed roof allows light into an interior that mixes hi-tech features such as the hubless steering wheel with the feeling of a Parisian boudoir, complete with red light.

Technically advanced for its time, the C-Airdream featured drive-by-wire engineering that replaced conventional pedals and a gear stick with a fixed central hub and steering wheel-mounted controls.

It's hard to believe the C-Airdream is 10 years old such is its influence on Citroën's current design philosophy. Dust it off, stick a DS badge on it and its impact and relevance would be no smaller today.

First seen Paris, 2002
Length 4,400 mm
Width 1,870 mm
Height 1,270 mm
Engine 3.0i V6
Drag coefficient Cd 0.28 

By Owen Ready