That’s no Citroen C5!
No it isn’t, but it could be next year's C5 because the Airscape concept gives us a few clues to what we should expect from the forthcoming Mondeo fighter. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s deal with the silly concept stuff that won't be heading to showrooms first: the carbon-fibre folding hardtop. This is one strange roof. Not only does it have an integral sunroof, but it's also covered in cloth to mimic the look of premium European cabrios still using old-tech roofs.
Has France been invaded again? It looks rather Germanic.
We wondered that too, although the Airscape was in fact designed in-house. But as the upper medium saloon segment is dominated by cars like the Mondeo and Passat, and the class above by BMW and Audi, it makes sense for Citroën to try and tap into that demand with the new C5. So the Airscape’s swept-back lamps and double chevron grille are backed up by a pair of assertive creases in the bonnet and a heavily sculpted swage line. It's more BMW than Citroën. And while there’s a hint of C1 about the rear, there’s a suggestion of Volkswagen Eos too, although the VW doesn’t have the Airscape’s dramatically curved rear window - which you can’t see because Citroën won’t release any more pictures until Frankfurt. Same with the interior although we do know it has the C4’s hubless wheel but with touch sensitive buttons.
What’s under the bonnet? Dirty great V10 I hope.
There’s nothing dirty about the Airscape’s running gear. Dubbed ‘UrbanHybrid’, it combines a bio-diesel compliant and particulate filter-equipped 2.7HDi V6 diesel with a development of Citroën’s Stop and Start technology. So as well as the combined alternator starter, this one employs super capacitors to store electrical energy recovered during braking and deceleration that can be used to keep the climate control, lights, wipers and hi-fi running when you’re stationary in traffic and the engine has cut out. This stored power can also be used to boost engine torque by sending it back through the alternator/starter to turn the engine. But the real benefit is its ability to cut emissions by 24g/km over the standard diesel. Drive is to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox but with the addition of ‘Snow Motion’ traction control which we have a suspicion is nothing more than a limited slip differential.
So what can we expect from the production C5?
Obviously it won’t be quite so radical, but styling should be very close to the Airscape’s. That includes the C6-style curved rear window. And you can expect the concept’s hybrid powertrain to appear in the production car. But forget the two-door convertible body – the real car will come in four-door saloon and five-door wagon shapes only. Base cars will use conventional steel springs but higher spec cars get Citroën’s famed hydro-pneumatic suspension. We expect to see the real car before year’s end and it should be on UK roads by spring ’08. And if it looks anything like this, the Mondeo better watch out.