Swooping supercar was a Seventies star.
After the innovation of the DS, the firm’s next project had to be really special... and it was. The stunning SM coupé, seen for the first time at 1970’s Geneva Motor Show, was one of the fastest, most expensive Citroens ever.
It had hydro-pneumatic suspension, and was the first Citroen to get speed-sensitive steering. But the really big news was its V6 engine. This was designed by Maserati, which Citroen owned from 1968-75, and brought genuine supercar credentials. The badge stands for Sport Maserati.
Aerodynamics played a big part in creating those stunning lines and the teardrop shape – the SM is wider at the front. A full-width Plexiglass cover housed the headlamps, while other highlights included a ‘cow horn’ chrome rear bumper.
The cabin was equally adventurous, with a wraparound dash and distinctive oval dials. Despite its large external dimensions, the interior was quite small, and the cramped rear was fit only for children. At least there was a large boot behind the wide glass hatch.
All thoughts of practicality are banished when you fire the engine. While early cars were fitted with a 2.7-litre V6, our 1973 example has the more powerful 180bhp 3.0-litre.
At idle, there’s a characterful burble from the exhausts. But rev the engine, and it produces a spine-tingling, race-bred howl. On the road, the SM is more refined cruiser than out-and-out sports car, thanks to its excellent refinement and cossetting ride.
The direct VarioPower steering takes some getting used to. It’s feather-light in traffic, but weights up as speed rises. If you let go of the rim with the vehicle at a standstill, the powered self-centring winds the wheels straight again! Sadly, such details weren’t enough to guarantee success. After lacklustre sales, the SM was dropped in 1975 – just months after rival Peugeot took over cash-strapped Citroen. Yet while it wasn’t a hit, this car demonstrated what innovative engineering could achieve when money was no object.
In this review
- 1IntroductionIn a 90th birthday exclusive, we compare four Citroen classics – plus look at its new 2010 star.
- 2Citroen DS3Famous name returns on new MINI rival. Will it live up to the legend?
- 3Citroen SM - currently readingSwooping supercar was a Seventies star.
- 4Citroen DSBadge played on French word for goddess – and luxury saloon was certainly out of this world.
- 5Citroen 2CVEnduring design saw tin snail stay in production for over four decades.
- 6Citroen Traction AvantFront-wheel-drive model pioneered the family car as we know it.