The first generation C5 was the last Citroën developed under the chairmanship of Jacques Calvet (1982-1999), a period which saw the marque's historically distinctive design and engineering brand erode markedly.
The C5 had a further development of Citroën's hydropneumatic suspension, now called Hydractive 3. The major change with this system was the use of electronic sensors to replace the mechanical height correctors seen in all previous hydropneumatic cars. This allowed the suspension computer to automatically control ride height: at high speed the suspension is lowered to reduce drag and at low speeds on bumpy roads the ride height is raised. Manual control of ride height was retained, though it was overridden by the computer if the car was driven at an inappropriate speed for the selected height. Certain cars also featured the computer controlled ride stiffness seen on the Xantia and XM.
In a major break with Citroën tradition, the brakes and steering were no longer powered by the same hydraulic system as the suspension. It has been speculated that the primary driver for this was the cost of developing electronic brake force distribution for the system when the PSA Group already had an implementation for conventional brakes. Another factor may be the highly responsive nature of Citroën C5 brakes, which some have found hard to adjust to on other hydropneumatic cars, though it is felt by some to be superior. It can be scary for a C5 driver used to the instant reactions of an older hydropneumatic car to drive another vehicle and find an inch of pedal travel before any significant braking is achieved.