PARIS - Citroen's new C5 has two jobs to do. It must replace both the 11-year-old XM that went out of production in July, and eventually the Xantia.
Xantia and C5 will be sold alongside each other until probably 2003. Citroen will then launch a new flagship known tentatively as C6.
The C6 was previewed at the Geneva auto show in March 1999 as the C6 Lignage concept car.
The C5 will be the first car built off PSA's PF3 platform. The C5 features a new intelligent hydraulic suspension system, and a new direct-injection gasoline engine.
The C5 will also be the first car to adopt Citroen's new naming system, in which the letter 'C' replaces 'X.' The 'X' naming system was introduced in 1974 with the Citroen CX. Cars that followed included the BX, AX, XM, ZX, Xantia, Saxo and Xsara.
At 4700mm, the C5 is 170mm longer than the current Xantia. It is also wider and higher.
It has a three-box shape, but a hatchback door is disguised in the rear of the car.
A station wagon version of the C5 is due in the second half of 2001, when production of the Xantia wagon by French coachbuilder and car assembler Heuliez is scheduled to end.
Both versions of the C5 will be built at PSA's plant in Rennes, France.
Production capacity for the C5 will be 1,000 units a day. Capacity for Xantia will fall from its current level of 400 units a day to 200 units.
'With the C5, we first want to satisfy XM customers,' said a Citroen spokesman.
As a result, the first C5s to go on sale will be top-of-the-range versions. Three engines will be offered: 2.0-liter, 143hp direct-injection gasoline; 3.0-liter, 210hp gasoline V-6; and 2.2-liter, 136hp direct-injection diesel equipped with particle filter.
At the same time, the Xantia range will lose some versions, including the V-6.
The C5's new intelligent hydraulic suspension lowers the car's body by 15mm when the speed reaches 110kph.
The C5's starter and alternator have been replaced by a dual-function device located between the engine and the gearbox.
This isn't the first time Citroen has sold a new model alongside an old one. It did the same with AX and Saxo superminis. It still builds the C15 light commercial van three years after the introduction of its successor, the Berlingo.
Citroen sold 121,500 Xantias and 7,000 XMs worldwide last year. In the first eight months of 2000, 64,700 Xantias were sold in western Europe.
Like other carmakers, Citroen is focusing heavily on the German market.
Claude Satinet, executive vice president in charge of Citroen brand, wants to double sales in Germany from 50,000 to 100,000 units by 2005. The C5 will be central to Citroen's ambitions in the country.