It’s Citroen’s 100th anniversary this year. The quirky French automaker obviously wants to make its centenary car count especially having aptly named it the 19_19 Concept. The brand could have looked at lots of things for inspiration in making this special car: classic Citroens, anything from the Louvre, or even the humble baguette. But the company had its sights on something the French are equally good at: aircraft.
Ever since gearhead André Citroen started making cars 100 years ago, the only flying machine that his company has ever made is the one-off RE2 helicopter powered by a Wankel engine. Unless, of course, you count the rally thoroughbreds which Sebastien Loeb regularly sent flying through the air. And to celebrate a century of building land-bound vehicles, Citroen has looked up to its products’ winged counterparts up above.
At least that’s what Citroen claims about the 19_19 Concept being aviation-inspired. Since I’m a very keen aircraft enthusiast, let’s see if the aeronautical connection holds true.
Citroen says that the 19_19 Concept’s body is modeled after an airplane fuselage. If I remove my glasses and squint really hard, I can see the lines of the widened cabin of the Socata Tampico light aircraft. The firm also claims that the wraparound windscreen comes from a helicopter’s canopy, so I’m guessing there is a Eurocopter EC130 out there with a missing windshield. The small protrusions at the front and the rear of the 19_19 Concept essentially act as miniature wings, the idea of which may have come from the forward canards on the Dassault Rafale fighter jet. The bespoke wheels shod in specially made Goodyear tires have aerodynamic spats on them just like the Aerospatiale Dauphin chopper’s landing gear.
Designed to drive autonomously, the Citroen 19_19 Concept makes use of an array of radars and sensors scattered around the vehicle. It even has light detection and ranging (LIDAR) receivers mounted on two pylons sticking out of the roof. While the concept of relying on electronics for autonomous driving is only recently becoming more commonplace, a similarly comprehensive network of scanning equipment was what made submarine-hunting possible for the French Navy’s Breguet Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft during the Cold War.
Working together with the low-drag body, the 19_19 Concept’s propulsion system gives the car exceptional performance and energy efficiency. Two electric motors providing four-wheel drive are fed by 100kWh batteries. The output and the torque for this twin-motor setup are 340kW (456hp) and 800Nm, respectively. Zero to 100km/h is dispatched in five seconds, and the maximum speed is set at 200km/h. Drive it sensibly though and this thing can go as far as a whopping 800km on a single charge. The same combination of a sleek fuselage and brute engine power was what enabled the Concorde supersonic airliner to cruise at twice the speed of sound and cross the Atlantic in around three hours and 30 minutes.
But not everything is derived from the French’s rich history in aviation. The cabin has touches of Citroen’s innovative and eccentric past. The single-spoke tiller is unmistakably Citroen DS. The comfort-biased front and rear seats are, again, inspired by the cushy perches in the DS. Even the way the 19_19 Concept rides has its roots in Citroen’s research-and-development mules. A modern iteration of the roll-limiting active suspension system pioneered on the Xantia Activa provides a soft, compliant ride which Citroen says is like flying on a magic carpet.
Toulouse-based commercial airplane maker Airbus is currently looking into the airborne taxi as one of the transit vehicles of the future. If the design and the technology of Citroen’s centennial special are anything to go by, we might see the double-chevron logo taking flight once again.