There's a family of French herb liqueurs called Chartreuse, which takes its name from the Grande Chartreuse monastery where this beloved yellow-green concoction was first made, which in turn takes its name from the Chartreuse Mountains, where the monastery sits, just north of Grenoble. All of them — the liqueur, the monastery and the mountains — are less famous than the colour that also bears this name. It's a colour that is neither here nor there — halfway between two common hues, yet too singular to endure a hyphenated name. French carmakers are renowned for creating cars that sit in just such an uncomfortable place — vehicles that simultaneously occupy two automotive genres, often so effectively that they manage to create a third. The Citroën CXperience will be the latest.
Ahead of an official unveiling at this year's Paris motor show, the famously bold French carmaker has shared a glimpse of technology- and luxury-laden five-door hatchback, a 21st Century recast of the marque's 1974-91 CX hatchback saloon, which was the successor to the vaunted DS. And just as chartreuse the colour sits halfway between yellow and green, the CXperience exists halfway between gorgeous and weird, between restrained and gaudy, between austere and luxurious. It is, in essence, a Gallic take on the Audi A5 Sportback or the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe. And it is much too good for its cheesy show-car name.
The roof is low, just 55 inches, which makes the 22-inch wheels appear even larger than they are. The rear doors are rear-hinged, and there is no B-pillar to bisect the gaping side openings — it's a bit of show-car glam that would never pass crash-testing, but no matter. Glam has to count for something, especially in Paris.
The interior is a wonderland of high style and cutting-edge technology, including a squareish steering wheel, a floating 19-inch-long dashboard display that obviates the need for knobs or buttons of any sort, and tablet computers for rear-seat passengers. The cabin is fitted with curvy panels of unpolished wood and swathed in natty mesh fabric — chartreuse, naturally.
What is perhaps most surprising about Citroën's CXperience is that despite its show-stopping looks, its plug-in hybrid powertrain is enticingly au courant. There are no outlandish microturbines or seawater fuel cells here: The car uses a 200-horsepower petrol engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A small electric motor on the front axle and another at the rear bring total output to 300hp, and Citroën claims the car will cruise for 37 miles on electricity alone and recharge in 2.5 hours. It's all very realistic, which makes the CXperience that much more believable.
In the end, the CXperience, despite its awful name, is the sort of concept car with wheels in two worlds. Yes, there is plenty of motor-show frivolity here, but look just a little deeper and you'll see a real car — and a real rival to some serious players.
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