Citroën readies Audi-rivalling premium saloon for 2021
28 May 2020 - autocar
French brand will return to saloon market next year with Peugeot 508 sibling
Citroën is readying its first new global saloon model in eight years, as the brand seeks to position the C6 successor as its flagship.
Saloons have largely fallen out of favour over the past decade in Europe, but the French firm also wants to grow its presence in other regions – primarily China – where saloons outsell SUVs.
The upcoming model, which will arrive by the end of 2021, was first envisioned in 2016's Cxperience concept, which had similar dimensions to the old C6 and used a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain.
The futuristic concept also previewed Citroën's Advanced Comfort technology, which has since been launched on the C4 Cactus and C5 Aircross.
Given Citroën's focus on comfort, plus the popularity of chauffeurs in China, a newer iteration of the system, which intends to "emphasise a feeling of reassurance, comfort and calm", will inevitably come to the saloon.
Most notably, it will include a Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension set-up promised to give "a magic carpet effect".
The saloon will sit on the same EMP2 platform as its sibling models, the Peugeot 508 and new DS 9. Like those models, it will be offered with regular combustion engines and a plug-in hybrid powertrain that can yield more than 39 miles of electric-only range.
While not engineered for electric cars currently, EMP2 is believed to be adaptable. Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée confirmed that the saloon will not launch with an electric version, but this is expected to become available in time, given the zero-emissions demands of China.
The styling of the saloon will vary in different regions to suit local tastes, explained Cobée.
He said: "We need to find the right balance between global balance and local adaptation. When you talk China, you talk more electronic equipment, more chrome plus the face of the car. In China, [the front end] must deliver the right status, presence, reassurance that you made the right choice. It's a concept extremely hard for foreigners to grasp.
"There's a very particular demand of the Chinese market, which might appear a bit too grand in European markets. There is where you need to tweak bumpers, headlights, chrome or headlights.
"Plus, safety regulations, road conditions, engine size and fuel are different. There will be a number of things related to suspension tuning, powertrain choices, colour and material and overall delivery of the car that vary.
"The different versions will use the same platform and same silhouette, but there are a number of dimensions where you can adapt expectations."
Citroën is currently finalising the design of the saloon, Cobée confirmed. It will be priced as an upper-market model, on par with the likes of Audi and BMW.
Cobée explained: "If you look at Citroën now, it has no particular sweet spot in price range. It's about innovation and comfort. This has been deployed whether it's £5000 or £50,000, both in history and today. We're not particularly an upper, middle or lower-positioned brand.
"There's a clear intention moving forward to push on those capabilities. The saloon will be a demonstration of Citroën's capability at the higher level."
Ahead of the new saloon arriving next year, Citroën recently launched the Ami quadricycle, with its sights set firmly on car-sharing.
Cobée described the quirky two-seater as "an agile, affordable, electric solution" for urban environments, adding that it had attracted interest from people Citroën "has never talked to before".
Citroën will soon reveal its new C4, which will offer electric power. Cobée described the family hatchback as the "fourth weapon" in the brand's line-up, alongside the C3, C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross.
"[The C4] is important for us," he said, "in terms of regaining our position in a number of markets and demonstrating that we know how to deploy innovation and comfort across the range."