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CNET On Cars: Top 5​: Citroen SM innovations that saw the future

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CNET On Cars: Top 5​: Citroen SM innovations that saw the future

3:44 /

Brian Cooley tells you about five innovative technologies that the French Citroen SM championed​ as far back as the '70s.

Some cars predict the future in one way or another. But the citron SM did it in at least 5 ways. I'm Bryan Cooley with the top five tech innovations of this odd looking masterpiece, a few of which appeared on it's predecessor, the DS. We're going to rank this tech features by importance, and by how well they predicted future popularity. Number five, composite wheel. They were made of carbon reinforced resin, and weighed only about nine and a half pounds each, roughly half the weight of a steel wheel. Even today, the use of composite, carbon fiber, and ceramics in cars is exotic. But in wheels. Still almost unheard of, unless you look at products like Carbon Revolution's CR-9s. And they're $15,000 a set. About three grand more than an entire SM cost when it was new. Number Four, rain sensing wipers. This is before the modern electronic sensor era. So the SM's wiper motor detected the current needed to wipe and move the blade. It translated that into an approximation of how wet or dry the windshield. Windshield was, and adjusted wiper speed accordingly. Rube Goldbergian. Today, every car has intermittent wipers and a fair number also sense the presence of rain automatically. Number three, automatic suspension. Under the hood of an SN, you'll see all these little odd green orbs. Those are reservoirs. That have pressurized fluid in them, pumped around to the car's corners. That's how it adjusts its ride height, leveling and shock damping, no springs. Now, similar systems are used on super cars today, but it's still pretty exotic. More down to earth, are the related, magnetorheological adaptive suspensions. Like GM's magnetic ride control. But even it can't lift up the car for a tire change the way an SM can. Number 2 adaptive headlights, home market SMs had six headlights up front in an array that made the car look like it was wearing google glass. They both leveled themselves and aimed automatically based on input from the steering wheel. Unheard of then. This is a widespread feature in the last handful of years. But it was so far ahead of its time in the 70s, the U.S. law didn't even know what to do with it. So U.S. spec SMs as a substitute poured dopey seal beams that did nothing except turn on, one of the great tech buzz kills in auto history. Before I get to you our number one amazing Citroen SM feature, here's one more oddity than break through. The brake pedals. It really isn't, it's this rubberized button or bulb on the floor that only has about an inch of travel for the entire range of it's breaking force. If you ever get a chance to drive one of these, I'm pretty sure that'll take the most getting use to. The number one piece of tech that the SM had first. Is variable steering. It adjusted the SM's hydraulic steering assist according to vehicle speed, so the amount of assist got less the fast you drive. And, it was only two full turns lock to lock. That aided slow speed maneuvers and parking. And the wheel inside the cabin was adjustable in both height and reach. This was amazing stuff back then. It's an area where the SM saw the future most clearly. So common in cars today. By the way, technology is what killed the SM in America. That adjustable suspension we talked about back at number four? It also moved the bumper height up and down. So, at various settings it was out of spec with U.S. law. Citron was not about to abandon the feature for that reason. They abandoned the market instead. Hi-tech cars and modern driving. That's what we do at cnetoncars.com. I'm Brian Cooley. Thanks for watching.

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