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Old 19th May 2020, 18:56   #1
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Default 21st Century French Luxury Cars

I've always loved French cars! They are quirky, cheerful and you always know that they were made by people with passion - people who go to wine tasting events every weekend, know atleast 70 different varieties of Cheese and goes on a labor strike atleast once a month (sorry from the French stereotypes )

We've owned four different French cars in our family - a 2002 Citroen Xsara 2.0 (which went like a hot hatch), a 2004 Citroen C5 and two Renault Clios. As with any kid, I always thought they were the best cars in the world but we eventually moved on from french cars because - 1) Except the C5, all the others were extremely unreliable, 2) Parts were expensive and it took ages to import them from France, 3) Their ACs were always underwhelming except the C5 which was average (a major problem when Kuwaiti summers frequently exceed 50 C).

Historically, the French made some spectacular luxury cars (especially Citroen) with cars like the Citroen DS, SM and XM which while being gorgeous came with technologies that made the jaw drop when they were launched (especially the DS). However fast forward to the 21st Century and the French seems to have lost their way with Citroen, Peugeot and Renault being famous in Europe mainly for their cheap and cheerful euro-hatches like the 208, C3 and Clio. But the French did make their forays into the luxury car market in the 21st century with some interesting models and infact PSA now has it's own dedicated 'DS' brand to make luxury models.

So, here are some of the 21st-century French luxury cars. Interestingly, all of these cars have been used by the various French Presidents at some point (Except the DS 9 for now).

1) Citroen C6

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The C6 is probably the quirkiest (and best looking) in this list. It along with the C5 was sadly the last car that came with Citroen's famed hydropneumatic suspension (which we loved in our C5). Famously it was compared by Jeremy Clarkson with a BMW 5 series (E60) where both the cars were made to film a horse race on a very bumpy road at 60 Km/hr. The C6's hydropneumatic suspension ensured that the footage was very stable despite the bad roads while the footage taken from the BMW was terrible as I gather the E60 wasn't particularly known for its comfort.

The C6 was supposed to take on the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes E Class but didn't have many USPs other than comfort and quirkiness with its engines providing 'adequate' power for its class. This one never saw a direct replacement when it was discontinued in 2012 (I'm ignoring the China-only C6 launched in 2016).

2) Peugeot 607

21st Century French Luxury Cars-607_1.jpg

Despite being based on the same platform as the C6, it was quite the opposite in that it is probably the most boring of this list. Jeremy Clarkson famously hated the 607 and apparently called it the worst car ever made. However, it was quite popular with French Cabbies and I remember seeing a lot of them at CDG airport in Paris (those cabbies now have E-classes). While I always liked the smaller 407 (which Clarkson also hated), the 607 never really caught my eye. It never had anything extra to offer compared to the Germans, not even flair like the other cars on the list. It along with the 407 were replaced by the 508 which is just drop-dead gorgeous (but being a Passat competitor isn't really a luxury car).

3) Renault Vel Satis

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Quite the oddball, the Vel Satis is supposed to be a hatch though it's verging on crossover by modern-day standards. I've actually riden in one with a broken AC back in 2008 in the Dubai summer (which contributed to my phobia to buying French cars in the Gulf). It wasn't particularly good at anything with both ride and handling apparently being average. Maybe Renault was too mainstream to make a genuinely quirky french luxury car.

Last edited by dragracer567 : 19th May 2020 at 19:20.
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Old 19th May 2020, 19:13   #2
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Now onto the DS models, there are three which could be considered as true luxury cars:

4) Citroen DS5/DS 5

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Originally launched as Citroen DS5 when the DS lineup was still part of Citroen. It just looks drop-dead gorgeous. It came-up with a cockpit-style cabin before Lamborghini could bring it up in its Urus And it was the first luxury Citroen without the hydropneumatic suspension.

It was one of the first PSA models with a hybrid drivetrain and a convertible (more like a Targa) version was made for the French President. It didn't have very good handling though as Matt Watson remarked - Citroen probably blew all its money on the styling and cabin and had none left for the suspension.

5) DS 7 Cross back

21st Century French Luxury Cars-ds7_crossback_1.jpg

Based on the Citroen C5 cross which is coming to India, the DS 7 is quite an interesting model with an interesting cabin but more mainstream than the DS5. With this model, PSA decided to stick to its strong point - comfort and reviews indicate that it shows. PSA apparently intended to launch this car in America as their first model there in a long time, haven't heard of it since. It is focused mainly on the Chinese market and hence is made in both France and China.

6) DS 9

21st Century French Luxury Cars-ds-9.jpg

The latest DS, it is supposed to be the next 'big-Citroen' being a spiritual successor to the C6, XM going all the way back to the legendary Citroen DS itself. Interestingly, it will only be made in China (and exported to Europe) and it shows that it was made with the Chinese Pallete in mind. This is the only car here that isn't used by the French presidential fleet given that it has just been launched. However, given that it is made only in China, I'm unsure how the French will take to its president being ferried in a car made in a Chinese Factory

Last edited by dragracer567 : 19th May 2020 at 19:24.
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Old 20th May 2020, 09:18   #3
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Default Re: 21st Century French Luxury Cars

Lovely thread, thanks for sharing! Especially important because Peugeot-Citroen are planning to enter India. Personally, I've always found French cars to be a bit of an acquired taste. They aren't for me, and I never agreed with most of their attributes. Not their weak petrol engines, nor the styling or the weird ergonomics. Have liked their suspension tune though, even going back to the Indian Peugeot 309.

Still, there is no doubt that they bring a unique flavour to the automotive sector.
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Old 20th May 2020, 09:49   #4
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Acquired taste is right and although I don't like most of them, some of the Peugeot models look really attractive to me. I much prefer clean timeless lines to over-styled designs but somehow some of the Peugeot (over?)styling works for me. Unlike say many Hyundai in contrast which are an example of what over-styling shouldn't be like.

Last edited by vb-san : 20th May 2020 at 14:54. Reason: Updated as per request
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Old 20th May 2020, 13:30   #5
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Great write up, thanks for sharing.

I have had a number of French cars over the years. My second car (after having owned a VW Beetle) was a Peugeot 404. Very nice, one of the few cars I have owned with the gear stick mounted on the steering column.

You have not mentioned the quirkiest of all French cars: 2CV. Of course, very much a 20th Century car, rather then 21st. I have owned several of those over the years.

I have also had a couple of Renault. The Renault 25 was a great car and very fast for its time. It was one of the very first company cars I had.

Certainly the larger French sedans have always had a feeling of luxury and comfort beyond their German contemporaries, although that is just my personal feeling.

I have not owned a French car for a long time. The closest I came was many years ago; The Peugeot 407 also came in a coupe version, designed by Pininfarina. Drop Dead gorgeous. I liked it a lot. However, it was extremely expensive to lease as a company car. Depreciation was just unbelievable. So I think I went for a boring Audi.

Of course, other than the big luxurious sedans and saloons at some time the French were known for building cool hot little hatchback. The Peugeot 206 was a huge succes, same for the Renault 5.

The only new car we bought ourselves happened to be a French car too; A Talbot Samba for my wife. I have written about this car before, we were not very lucky with it.

One thing is for sure, French car manufacturers have certainly left their mark on the car industry with many legacy cars. It will be interesting to see how successful they will become/are into the next few decades. Renault seems to be doing quite well in India, certainly compared to other European manufacturers.

i would say the general feeling in Europe toward French Car manufacturers was they lost the plot so to speak end of 20th century. But it does look they are coming back now with a strong line up of some very nice cars. Mind you, I always feel that French cars, especially the larger saloons/sedans, do have a rather limited number of potential enthusiast owner. Somehow not everybody is into French cars. In this segment they are facing some heavy competition of course. And quirky might not hack it with your typical Audi/BMW owner!

Jeroen

Last edited by Vid6639 : 23rd May 2020 at 12:53. Reason: BMS = BMW small typo :)
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Old 23rd May 2020, 14:26   #6
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I agree with GTO that most French cars are an acquired taste. Some of their designs actually do not conform to classic car design language. Having said that, I greatly admire two French Cars.

The first is the Renault Alpine. I wonder why this car does not get its fair share of fame. It's gorgeous to look at, superb at handling, and affordable to boot.
21st Century French Luxury Cars-316033.jpg

The other is the classic Peugeot 205 GTI, one of the original Hot-Hatch cars. At an age when I could only look at these cars in dog-eared issues of Autocar bought from second-hand book shops, I used to cut out ads of the 205 and stick them in my Auto scrap-book.
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Old 23rd May 2020, 17:47   #7
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I went on a trip to Sweden and Norway with my family for a cousin's wedding in 2018. I saw lots of quirky-looking Citroens in both countries (Stockholm in Sweden and Bergen in Norway), notably the C4 Picasso, Xsara Picasso, and C4 Cactus. I prayed Citroen would bring its oddities to India, as I am very much susceptible to quirky-looking cars and two-door models (excluding Gypsies and Thars)! I also wish to test-drive a 2CV; its umbrella-like looks are one of the endearing factors for me. I didn't get to see any Renault Avantime, unfortunately, but I'm quite sure it was a hugely amazing car for its time as well.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
Great write up, thanks for sharing.

I have had a number of French cars over the years. My second car (after having owned a VW Beetle) was a Peugeot 404. Very nice, one of the few cars I have owned with the gear stick mounted on the steering column. You have not mentioned the quirkiest of all French cars: 2CV.
I'm also very sure Jeroen sir clearly knows about the 404 being used for the (in)famous Page Not Found: 404 error in Peugeot's website!
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Old 23rd May 2020, 19:51   #8
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French cars are hit and miss. They also are difficult to repair, have electrical bugs and they rust.

Saying that my first car was a Peugeot 309 SRi - (a 205GTI in granny clothes!), I put 60000 hard driven miles on that car and it it never missed a beat although it was getting creaky. A friend of mine had a Renault and had to change remove the gearbox but the bolts were of various sizes, it was difficult to figure which was which. Solution - they bought a scrapped version and pulled the each bolt off, noted location and fitted in in a corresponding location.

My cousin's father in law had a Citroen CX GTI auto. I loved that car. The gentleman loved swapping every 3 year but depreciation was horrendous so her husband gave his dad a new Mercedes E260 and decided to run the Citroen into the ground. It was reliable but it liked a drink and parts were difficult as well as servicing was tight. When he sold it, he got more for his wife's basic Golf that for the Citroen which was a year younger.

Large French cars were built mainly for use by the French Government. It was only the Citroen DS then the CX. The Peugeot 604/605 came along which really were scaled up versions of the 504/405. Similarly Renault had the disastrous 30 which was nasty. The25 and Safrane were not bad but were never aspirational beyond the French government and Parisian taxi drivers.

Along comes the EU and governments were no longer tied to nationalistic affinities. As the German cars state dominating, large French cars have diminished. The volumes td not justify them. Renault is shrinking. Peugeot is buying market share through GM Europe and FCA to apply intelligent cost measures and some good platforms.
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Old 23rd May 2020, 21:51   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dragracer567 View Post
I've always loved French cars! They are quirky, cheerful and you always know that they were made by people with passion - people who go to wine tasting events every weekend, know atleast 70 different varieties of Cheese and goes on a labor strike atleast once a month (sorry from the French stereotypes )
Very Interesting thread , Dragracer567.

It brought back fond memories of my childhood, spent in Nigeria ( 1987 to 1994 ). My dad had a 505, which was pretty much the first time I got the know the brand.

I was too young to know anything about cars back then or what luxury or anything was. As kids, we were strictly relegated to the back seat only. It was a company rule that kids were not allowed in the front seats.

All I recall was the car was spacious. My sister and I had our designated sides and would drop the arm rest as a further demarcation of space.
21st Century French Luxury Cars-505-peugeot.png

Our school was a 504 Station wagon. We would wait for the driver to pull up in the green station wagon and be ready for school, and ditto while returning home.

21st Century French Luxury Cars-504-station-wagon.png

Cutting ahead to 2008 to 2010, my dad, had taken up an assignment in Muscat, had a 406 and the neighbor had a 607.

21st Century French Luxury Cars-406-peugeot.png

I would drool over the styling, the gentle slope of the bonnet and the unique Logo.

I was old enough to understand a little bit about cars by then. I don't think the 406 was by any means anything luxury but my dad loved it. It sort of brought back memories of him driving the Peugeot back in Nigeria.

After reading this thread, I was actually looking up the Peugeot website for their present lineup.

I also recall the 205 was a regular feature in the WRC, and would be thrilled to know that we also had a Peugeot.

I have to ask my dad for pics of the cars. For the time being, I just sourced some from the net.




Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Lovely thread, thanks for sharing! Especially important because Peugeot-Citroen are planning to enter India. Personally, I've always found French cars to be a bit of an acquired taste.

Still, there is no doubt that they bring a unique flavour to the automotive sector.
True Sir, totally agree. Of all my present friends, very few have even heard of Peugeot as a brand. I guess Renault is an exception with their success in the Duster and Alonso helping their brand. Very few even know or acknowledge any other French brands.

I don't know why they don't sell in the US.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
Great write up, thanks for sharing.

I have had a number of French cars over the years. My second car (after having owned a VW Beetle) was a Peugeot 404.

Jeroen
My French teacher in school ( in Nigeria) drove a 404. Just the mention of this car brought back fond memories of that time, since we all loved her. Guess we see the french connection now

Last edited by moralfibre : 25th May 2020 at 06:40. Reason: Typo
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Old 23rd May 2020, 22:11   #10
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Had a recent trip in the Renault Talisman - it might not qualify as a luxury car but was extremely comfy and packed with features. Also, it looked absolutely stunning

21st Century French Luxury Cars-renault_talisman_grandtour_intens_energy_dci_160_edc__frontansicht_24._juni_2017_du776sseldorf.jpg

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Old 24th May 2020, 02:51   #11
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French cars have bad reputation in terms of reliability , atleast in Belgium. Citroen is for sure said to be cheap and once things starts to break down, it will happen back to back. It goes for Peugeot as well. My colleague once said if he is forced to get a company car as Peugeot he would better quit. He was mentioning of an incident where the hand brake (probably brake by wire) got activated in between the motorway while traveling with family.
But I really like the styling of 3008/5008. It's no matter what a head Turner. Truely modern. The interiors as well. The new 208 follows the same design philosophy. I think the 208 will be the best looking budget small cars by any standards.
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Old 24th May 2020, 05:11   #12
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I've driven several Renault's and Citroen's as rental cars over the past few years. They all come out mediocre performance at best. They are all Quirky though in one way or the other keeping them interesting. the DS's being the most quirky.

However, I did get to own a '98 Citroen Xantia with the Pneumatic Suspension.

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Now, this car I'd buy again only for the Ride quality. Supple ride at any speed and any kind of road surface. Heck, I even drove it on the Ouninpohja stage of the Finnish rally during recce days. yes I Did that. Why? Because why not! Interesting fact - some of these dirt roads are actually Public roads and are closed off only during races. they can be driven while recce is going on too.
Anyway, back to the car - Due to its Ride quality, there was a certain amount of directional stability too. I did have some code brown moments on the Yumps (Finnish pronunciation for Jumps). Although I wasn't rally speed fast, my fright was about the Suspension Sphere's breaking out. Replacing them are a nightmare I was told. I came out alright. Amazing car.

Looks kinda Smart too with that Notchback design.

The other Citroen Cars I would buy if possible and Resto-Mod are -

Citroen DS
21st Century French Luxury Cars-16_citroen_ds_at_60_citroen.jpg

It's a Classic and way ahead of it's time with it's styling and technology.

Citroen SM
21st Century French Luxury Cars-1972citroensmfrontthreequarter.jpg

Same as DS. Purely for Styling and ride Quality

Renault Avantime
21st Century French Luxury Cars-4f8918c7f88ef09ad512e97b040e45d7.jpg

Looks like a Land yacht to me and I love the styling after seeing 2 of them on road. One in Monaco and one in Stockholm. I am fully sure if appeals only to a few people. I'm on of those.

As can be noticed, all of the above choices revolve around Cruising and that is the best quality of French Cars I can associate with.
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Old 24th May 2020, 18:24   #13
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From a French drive train perspective, the Peugeot-Citroen 1.4 diesel aka Ford 1.4 Tdci is an absolute gem. Fiat, Toyota, Renault-Nissan backed off from converting their respective diesels to BS 6, except Ford and Honda due to its relatively newer engine architecture.
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Old 25th May 2020, 06:35   #14
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It is clearly an odd case, but the top of the luxury car foodchain has significant French heritage: Bugatti.

Of course, Bugatti is a bit complicated.

It is a French company (Bugatti S.A.S.) that's a subsidiary of a German company. It is headquartered in Molsheim, a French town on the French-German border and one that has been a part of Germany twice in history.

As a brand, Bugatti has had 3 lives: the present Volkswagen era (1998ó), the Romano Artioli era (1987ó1995), and the original Ettore Bugatti era before World War II. Although Ettore Bugatti was Italian born, he was French enough.

In any case, Bugatti is a French brand that puts the French flag on their cars and celebrates French Racing Blue as their historic color.

We live in globalized times. For example: Groupe PSA (the parent company of Peugeot and CitroŽn) is in the process of merging with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Tata Motors is the parent company of the Jaguar Land Rover, and although Pagani is a distinctly Italian brand, Horacio Pagani was born raised in Argentina.
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