By on November 30, 2013

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There isn’t many weirder and more wonderful car in the world than a classic Citroën. Beginning with the “Goddess”, the famous and unique Citroën DS, they combine out-of-the-box technical solutions with quaint but gorgeous design. When the “déesse” arrived in 1955, it looked like something from another galaxy – and drove like that, too. The magnificent SM grand tourer, conceived in cooperation with Maserati added speed and glamour to the formula. And when the big CX replaced the venerable DS, it was still an aerodynamic fastback in a world full of boxy sedans, it still glided over the road like some eerie hovercraft, and with the DIRAVI steering and mushroom brake pedal, it provided a driving experience like nothing else. .

But for now, let’s focus on the redheaded step-child of the Citroën family, the XM. Introduced in 1989, it’s currently in the lowest part of the depreciation curve, loved only by hardcore Citroën enthusiasts. Because of the Citroën’s terrible reputation for reliability, especially when it comes to the unique hydropneumatic suspension, the average examples can be had for €1,000-1,500. And with the proliferation of large hatchbacks in 1980s and 1990s, it doesn’t even look that strange. It’s still unconventional, and it’s the kind of design you love more the more you look at it, but for average person, it’s just an old car.

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Which makes it a perfect vehicle for finding out what that whole “Citroën legend” is all about. Were French onto something with their hydropneumatic suspensions, strange power steering systems and other stuff? Was it an engineering dead end, or shall we be sad that automotive world lost something of its diversity, when Citroën started making more “normal” cars?

In the XM, you can see the Citroën’s weirdness without the mythical aura surrounding its predecessors. I had an opportunity to spend some quality time with a nicely preserved example of the most desirable version of the XM – the 3.0 V6 24V with a five-speed manual transmission, in the highest Exclusive spec. This combination should make it almost into a sports sedan in its day and age – 200 horsepower was still a big deal in 1990s, especially in Europe. And with the full leather interior, power everything, AC and other goodies, and especially with the famed hydropneumatic suspension, it should be also supremely comfortable.

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But the first thing you notice when you place yourself in sizeable, leather-clad chair, isn’t how comfortable it is – although it really is nice. No, the first impression is of unusually low hipline – it is especially noticeable when you transfer from any kind of modern car, but even most other 1980s-1990s luxurious cars feel decidedly “bunker-like” compared to the XM. You sit quite high, looking down on the dash, and with wonderful view around, thanks to the slim pillars. It really doesn’t feel like a sporty, luxurious sedan usually does, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.

And that’s good, as other stuff is dreadfully conventional. The steering wheel is round, with several spokes. Pedals are in the foot well, and all look and work like, well, car pedals. The shifter is on the center console, you need to depress clutch to shift and the shift pattern is conventional. Even the stalks and buttons are normal. If you hoped for some Citroën craziness, like clutchless manual transmission, or a mushroom instead of a brake pedal you’ll be disappointed. Probably the strangest detail in all the cabin is the anti-theft device keyboard, lidded like it should really be used for launcing ICBMs (or putting up white flags). Not enough, Citroën. Not enough.

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But then you start moving, and you instantly realize this car’s got balls. Green balls, all six of them. They serve some function in the hydropneumatic suspension, either being reservoirs for Liquide Hydraulique Minéral, or a mixture of vampire blood, gargoyle sweat and crushed dragon claws. Either way, it should result in a ride that’s compliant when you want to relax, and sporty when the computer recognizes you want to go fast. This is the difference from older Citroëns, which were usually just soft, although eerily stable.

According to the owner’s words, this example had a case of bad balls, with the middle ones not working exactly like they should I was told that if 100% fit, the car would be more compliant, although it still wouldn’t offer that cloud-like ride the older CX can muster.

The suspension was still strangely stable, not leaning into corners or during braking and largely ignoring the road undulations, but the secondary ride quality was a bit lacking – I could still feel the ruts and potholes in the road, although the sound was maybe more intrusive than actual movement. As it was, it rode like a really well-sorted car on a steel-sprung suspension with small wheels and tall tires. For real verdict on the unique comfort of Citroën suspensions, you will have to wait for the CX review later in the series.

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But the Hydractiv suspension is about more than just a comfy ride. It can make itself stiff when needed, not allowing the car to lean into turns. At the photo venue, I had to repeatedly go up the hill with some quite slow but flowing corners and nice road surface, before I could turn around and return to the dam. And with each go, I was confident to push a bit faster, eventually going really quick. And the experience is hard to describe – for lack of better words, I would say that XM drives like in a videogame. With the car hunched to the ground, the body lean is almost absent, removing one important impression of speed and cornering. And then there’s the DIRASS power steering – a modernized version of famous DIRAVI. It is speed-sensitive, getting progressively heavier the faster you go, but there’s absolutely no feel in the helm. I suspect that going for the limits of grip could be a rather unpleasant experience, as the only way to tell you’re past the limit is the sound of tires screeching, but up to some 7 or 8 tenths, it’s actually quite good. Not great, not really sporty, but once again, the good kind of strange.

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But where the XM really gets to its own is on fast, flowing country roads. It’s too large and classy for backroad fun, but on faster ones, it manages to be very quick without really trying, nicely masking the real speed. You can just imagine yourself as a French industry captain, or maybe some high bureaucrat, in a hurry for some meeting somewhere, or just going to check out his domain.

The XM is truly unlike any other car. Large and comfortable on one hand, quick and even a bit sporty on other. Classy and stylish, used by industry captains, ministers and presidents, yet hugely practical with the hatchback trunk. Understated, yet unique in its design.

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Myth or Legend?
Legend. It wasn’t as revolutionary as the DS, or as quirky as the CX, but it was unique, and in many ways, it’s the last of the breed.

Do I need to drive it?
Absolutely, no matter whether you’ve driven a hydropneumatic Citroën before. It can be a good start, or a variation on well-known theme.

Should I buy it?
Well, in US, you can’t, so the question is pointless. But if you can, and if you don’t mind fixing stuff (and have a reliable transportation), go for it. It’s a wonderful car.

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Photo by Jiří Klimeš

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61 Comments on “Myths and Legends: Citroën XM...”


  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    “Should I buy it?
    Well, in US, you can’t, so the question is pointless.”

    Permettez-moi d’être d’un autre avis! Car & Driver reviewed an imported XM way back when, and it made quite an impression on 12-year-old Astigmatism. I went so far as to beg Papa Astigmatism to trade his 420SEL for one (oh, how the XM was overpriced), but to no avail. Some delightful fellow retained his copy and scanned the article at http://forum.imcdb.org/forum_topic-155-11063-French_cars_in_the_USA__Voitures_francaises_aux_tats_Unis.html#p11063 . Man, C/D was great back then.

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      “Should I buy it?
      Well, in US, you can’t, so the question is pointless.”

      BUT, in two years the twenty five year rule will apply to the earliest ones.

      And in only eight years I can import a C6 to Canada.

      Thanks for the link to the C&D article. I think I have it in the attic somewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      The same company in New Jersey that imported CX’s also brought over some XM’s, although not very many and occasionally one pops up for sale.

      Years ago I had the chance to ride in a new CX and it was an extraordinary experience. The dealer drove down streets that were more pothole than street and we didn’t feel any of it inside the big Citroen–absolutely amazing. Cornering was interesting too. Going around a sweeping freeway entrance ramp felt kind of like driving a hammock as if the car was suspended in the middle of each end–lots of tire squeal and a gentle swaying motion. After that I’ve always thought in the back of my head that maybe Citroen was right and everyone else was wrong.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Seems like several examples of this car appeared in the awesome movie Ronin. I like the style – thanks for sharing!

    • 0 avatar
      typhoon

      I watched Run, Lola, Run the other day and one of the supporting characters drives one of these. I had to consult out IMCDB.org to find out what it was. Vaguely Saab-like but with an attractive character of its own.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The example in Ronin kept changing styles and trim levels, too x.x. Especially the location of the chevrons on the grille. Changed from center to side quite a lot.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Looks like an inflated Saab 900. A properly working hydro-pneumatic suspension would seduce this old spine. Wish I could sample one.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    “But the Hydractiv suspension is about more than just a comfy ride. It can make itself stiff when needed, not allowing the car to lean into turns.”

    Unless the center of gravity is lower than the pivot points of the suspension, I doubt it would lean “into” turns anyway.

    Nice article though!

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      I remember reading a CAR magazine (U.K. or ZA I can’t remember) test of the Xantia Activa, which said the hydractive suspension could in fact be designed to cause the car to lean into turns. Consumer testing revealed however that people were freaked out by this, so the factory settings allow for slight outward lean to conform to what people expect.

  • avatar
    probert

    Sweet – a French car series would be fun. Panhard, Matra, an Alpine review, L4 vs 2cv …What was it like to drive a Caravelle on a nice day.

  • avatar
    z9

    The photos accompanying this article are beautiful, particularly the one of the car with its headlights on.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Is there anything special about a current Citroën?

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      They share platforms with Peugeot, but you can still get the hydractive suspension on the mid-sized or larger cars. Styling can still be idiosyncratic ( http://www.conceptcarz.com/view/photo/713223,8536/2005-Citroen-Xsara-Picasso.aspx )( https://www.google.com/search?q=images+%22citroen+c6%22&lr=&hl=en&as_qdr=all&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=6xuaUuebCZbkoATK_4CIBQ&ved=0CDAQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=497 ) though hardly the radical departure that the DS was. Occasionally, Peugeot lets Citroen out of their cage long enough to devise a new quirky feature like the stationary-hub steering wheel on the older C4.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      It looks like right now only the C5 has the hydractive suspension.

    • 0 avatar
      skog

      The C6 is not in production any more. Staggeringly beautiful on the outside, nice on the inside to a goon like me but not quite S-class territory.

      It had the most advanced hydro system yet. Apparently the front wheels reads the road surface and makes the rear suspension react in accordance to what’s coming, making it ultra smooth.

      You can get the C5 with Hydro, i havent driven the latest version but my friend has a 2001 C5. It feels much more conventional than my Xantia. The problem is that the hydro system has always been both a selling point AND a reason people wont but it. It just takes some getting used to.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    This was the romanticized vision of “French Cars” that was behind the small excitement of Renault-Samsung-Mitsu cars coming to America.

    To use Kia’s current advertising language: they’ll be the 35 year-old, twice-divorced, four kids from four fathers, heavier, louder, cruder, and defeated version of that girl you vaguely remember from high school as being different, avant-garde, exotic, in the drama club instead of spirit squad or the marching band.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Got a thing for hydro-pneumatic suspension? Franglais – get an old Silver Shadow. The French taxation system impeded the development of 6 & 8 cylinders. Citroen couldn’t succeed in NA because it was expensive and couldn’t offer decent automatic, air & power.

    Gees you would of had the comfort and better safety plus V8 in a Toronado.

    • 0 avatar
      OliverTwist

      Let me point out that Citroën had offered six-cylinder motors in its Traction Avant from 1932 to 1955. Not to mention the V6 motors sourced from Maserati in the SM from 1970 to 1975.

      Citroën initially conceived CX to have rotary motors so the engine bay was designed accordingly. When the rotary motor programme ran into serious technical problems and was abandoned, Citroën had to shoehorn the tired old four-cyclinder motors from DS and GS in smaller engine bay. The Maserati V6 was too expensive for the CX and too large for the engine bay in CX.

      Of course, XM was the first one since SM to have optional V6 motor. It was the customer’s preference that determined the engine choices, not the French taxation system. Case in point: C6 was initually offered with larger V6 motors only until the customers, especially the fleet, requested the smaller motors to take advantage of 2-litre tax bracket. Don’t forget that the price of fuel is very high in France and elsewhere in Europe (they’re anywhere from $8 to $10 per gallon in Germany where I live).

      Yes, Citroën offered the full automatic gearbox in its SM. I recalled riding in DS with full air-conditioning system that worked very well during the intensely hot summer in Dallas.

      You would be surprised at how many American vehicles with large displacement V8 motors having lacklustre performance after the new emission regulations were introduced in 1975. Cadillac 500cid (8.2 litres) V8 motors could muster only 180 or so horsepower…

      Citroën was forced to leave the US market in 1973 due to the serious financial difficulties brought on by the perfect storm of unreliable Maserati V6 motors in SM, unforeseeable problems with its rotary motor programmes (Citroën had to buy back many of GS vehicles with rotary motors from the consumers), and new round of increasingly stringent US emission and safety regulations for model year 1973.

      Actually, the US safety and emission regulations killed the chance of continuing the American sales since Citroën must engineer and certificate the models separately for the US market. A quite expensive task for the limited number of vehicles to be sold in the US. The new US bumper regulations did not allow the selectable ride heights, killing the uniqueness of Citroën. The hebetudinous lighting regulations meant the flush-forming headlamps were no-no.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    “Citroën’s terrible reputation for reliability, especially when it comes to the unique hydropneumatic suspension”.

    Former Citroen owner here. While the brand had shady quality at times, the problem was the electrics and rust, not the hydropneumatic suspension. By the time of the CX the system had been in use for over 20 years already and was well tested. When the XM arrived the system had been on the market for 40 years. It was however much feared and badmouthed among car mechanics who did not know how to repair it – that was a job for a Citroen dealer.

    I serviced my CX by the book and never had a problem with the hydropneumatics. Keep in mind that the hydropneumatics ran not only the suspension, but the steering and brakes too, making it essential to have it inspected and serviced regularly. If you did that the hydropneumatic would still be fine when the car had rusted away or the engine was worn out some time after 200.000 km.

    I test drove the XM in 1992 thinking about trading in my 1986 CX 22 TRS. But I found the XM less comfortable on the road and more spartan inside. I had bought the CX because it was the most comfy ride this side of an S-class. I ended up with a Volvo 740 instead.

    • 0 avatar
      OliverTwist

      My father’s best friend was Citroën aficionado for many years, starting with Deesee in the late 1960s. I was bedazzled by the bizarre hydropneumatic suspension system that allowed him to change the tyres without jacking it up and down and by the swirling headlamps. His favourite trick was driving with one tyre removed from the rear suspension.

      He leased his Citroëns for two-year duration so we got a chance to ride CX in several different levels of equipment and different types of motors. I had come to love those DS and CX so much that I looked forward to his first of few XM that he took the custody in the early 1990s. However, I was somewhat disappointed with the increasingly generic interior design and equally generic seats. I was so accustomed to the mushroom brake pedal that it took me a while to unlearn the braking technique when I drove his XM.

      Unfortunately, the XM replacement, C6, was several years late. He was offered Xantia as a stop-gap measure, but Xantia was like a huge downgrade for him in same manner of going down from Mercedes-Benz S-Class to Opel Vectra in one go. Consequently, he switched to Audi A6 and never bothered with C6 when it was finally released.

      • 0 avatar
        ekaftan

        I’ve owned 1 GS, 2 CX, 2 BX, 1 XM and 6 or 7 Xantias since 2002. Xantias are by far the most reliable of them all. Post 95 models have ‘anti-sink’ so they dont fall down as much when parked and the interior materials are way better that anything you could get in any other car in that price range… I never got to own a C5 as life
        got in the way and I needed a truck…

        Side tidbit: the braking systems is the same in a BX, CX, Xantia and XM. XM and Xantias’ feel much more conventional because they put a stiff spring between the pedal and the valve that smartly converts travel to pressure, thus feeling like a normal braking system. Old-schoolers replace the spring with a piece of metal rod and you get back the CX no-pedal-travel braking feel.

  • avatar
    nguyenvuminh

    I want to say that it WOULD be a sad day when Citroen goes away but the reality is that Citroen had left us already. I have always thought their cars were the best combination of advance design, unique exterior, combination of handling and comfort, and character. Unfortunately, their reliability was poor (poor reliability from bad design, not poor from a manufacturing/assembly). The saddest part about this is that we Americans will mock Citroens as a typical poor quality French car, like Italian cars or Eastern European cars. Citroen doesn’t belong in this group, in fact, they are above all other makes with the possible exception of Mercedes in terms of innovation and distinct character.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Now THIS is my idea of a proper four-door sedan. Of course, we can’t get it in the states. 99.9% of anyone even half seriously looking at one of these couldn’t handle the maintenance, or appreciate the drive.

    Car-wise, I definitely live in the wrong country.

  • avatar
    djn

    We had a 87 cx GTI auto that was imported by CINA. In the near 7 years of ownership, the only major system to fail (early on) was the ZF auto tranny.

  • avatar
    Vipul Singh

    The first photograph is just wow! That’s one handsome car.

    Kudos to TTAC for publishing this piece. Gives the site a global perspective on enthusiasm.

    To the author: can you please do a review of the Xantia as well, and how did things move on with the C6? I remember Tiff’s review of the Xantia Activa (the one with active suspension) and was truly intrigued. Used to wonder how driving one might actually feel like.

    • 0 avatar
      skog

      The Activa is absolutely magnificent.

      The Swedish magazine Teknikens Varld (World of technology) are doing these “moose tests”, where they simulate an evasive maneuver on a narrow road (where they flipped over the Merc A-class and Jeep Grand Cherokee).

      The Xantia Activa is still the best car in that test at 85kph, beating a 997 Carrera 4S by a lot.

      http://www.teknikensvarld.se/algtest-lista/

      Also check out this Activa ad:

  • avatar
    jmo

    I think this is one of the best TTAC articles to date.

    The photography is by far the best I can recall – exquisite!

    • 0 avatar

      Normally I don’t care about “you-can’t-have-it car” articles… Auto show concepts, or whatever diesel engine we’re being robbed of… Give me news I can use! This was a great exception to the rule. It discussed a car I will never probably even see, and definitely won’t want to own… and made me interested anyway. Great stuff.

  • avatar
    James2

    I wish the French automakers would try to slog it out in the USA one more time. Back when I was growing up I had this weird fascination with the Renault Fuego and Peugeot 405. This Citroen is a good-looking car, too. Maybe they should hire a few Japanese engineers to figure out this whole quality thing.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      They didn’t just hire some Japanese engineers, they merged with Nissan. The Versa is fairly French.

      • 0 avatar
        James2

        The last Versa did look like Renault styled it –and I wish Nissan stayed with it; the current Versa looks like shit. But neither Versa, as far as I know, has any of that quirky Frenchness.

        Also, they might be merged, but doesn’t Ghosn run them as separate companies?

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    There is something wrong in this country when the typical cyberspace auto enthusiast pines for an Alfa-Romeo they couldn’t afford anyway over something so exotic and sinuous as a proper full-sized Citroen.

    I’d trade every ‘beautiful Italian’ for one Citroen…

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    I grew up in Quebec and Renaults, Peugots and Citroens were very popular. Right across from my High School was a Renault dealership, I loved the Renault 5 (Le Car), Citroens left the market in the mid-seventies due to excessive government regulations. Beautiful cars though…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’ve never heard of these hydropneumatic suspensions before, but I know my Audi 100 had some sort of expensive leveling suspension which required Pentosin 11S, and only 11S… else the car turned into Christine and ran you down or something to this effect. I wonder, how reliable is the Citroen suspension system?

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      We had several citroens equipped with hydropneumatic suspension when I was a kid and ours were very reliable.

      There were, however specific ill advised actions people engaged in that harmed suspension reliability. Number one of these, anecdotally, was driving the freeway raising and lowering the suspension for grins. The suspension is never supposed to be adjusted while in motion.

      I’ve not seen a reference to Audi using the Citroen system, but Rolls Royce’s use of it was well known back in the olden days.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydropneumatic_suspension

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    I love the XM, it was the first big Citroën to be imported to Brazil after they made importing legal again, back in 1990. When I was 15 all I wanted from life was a canvas-top Berlingo for the summer. But the one that makes my heart skip a beat is the 2CV.

    It was a sad day when they decided to replace the Xantia with the C5 and its regular suspension. You could still opt for the hidropneumatic one, but it was a sign of things to come. Nevertheless even now Citroen cars are still daring, just take a look at the Mk.1 C4 dashboard, or the DS6.

    I drive a C3 and even at its price point it is still very interesting. I’ll probably drive Citroens to the very end, or maybe until Alfa Romeo comes back to Brazil.

  • avatar
    skog

    WOW a Citroen article! I read TTAC a lot but have only ever seen one other (Boy meets ring).

    I own a 1995 Xantia 2.0i Automatic. Saved it from the breaker because the rear height corrector unit was broken (very cheap). Usually its just a small french plastic cap that snaps off because the unit seizes up (because we put salt on the roads in the winter), but with mine i had to change the whole unit as the metal arm leading to the plastic cap broke. Very unusual. It cost me about 300 dollars in parts and a few hours on the garage floor, spending 90% of the time trying to get the pipes back on.

    The hydropneumatic system is actually very, very simple. With a specialist tool i got off ebay i can change a sphere in five minutes. http://i42.tinypic.com/dxokfn.jpg

    This is basically equal to changing springs and shocks. It should be done about every 5-7 years.

    My car has six spheres. One for each wheel (damping), one accumulator centre front to provide constant pressure for the breaks and steering, and one anti-sink in the rear to provide pressure while parked so it doesen’t sink down.

    The only other issue is the pipes may corrode after a while if they’ve been damaged by rocks etc.
    It’s a pain if you don’t have the correct tool, or if you don’t know how it works. But it’s not complicated at all and quite reliable. The hydraulic pump is mechanical.

    My car is now almost 20 years old, and i’ve recently had it for two years in Germany while being a student. Long treks on the autobahn in the blazing summer heat with five people in the car, doing 130-160kph for 3-4 hours at a time with full air con blast was not a problem even as it rounded 200.000kms on the clock.

    The main problem with these cars, and have been with the XM, CX etc too are bad wiring and connectors, and related design flaws. For example, the wiring going from the body through to the door will wear and snap because its not protected properly as you close and open it.

    The car definitely keeps me busy with small stuff, but i absolutely love driving it and the engine and drive train is extremely solid.

    If you have any Citroen-related questions i can answer them :)

  • avatar
    JD-Tippit

    Excellent post! I loved it! We need to more stories like these from TTAC staff out in Europe.

    I find that the European cars of days gone by had so much character that their little mechanical troubles were forgiveable.

    I’d like to see stories on Peugeot, Renaults, etc :) Please :)

  • avatar
    brianyates

    After 40 years of owning Citroens in the Uk and Canada,which have included several 2cv’s a DS 21 Pallas that had turning headlights(even in 1971) several CX’s turbo and non turbo, I’ve yet to ride in as comfortable a car asa Citroen I currently drive a BMW 550i and alyhough it is a fantastic car, the ride doesn’t come close to a Citroen.

  • avatar
    OliverTwist

    My father’s best friend was Citroën aficionado for many years, starting with Deesee in the late 1960s. I was bedazzled by the bizarre hydropneumatic suspension system that allowed him to change the tyres without jacking it up and down and by the swirling headlamps. His favourite trick was driving with one tyre removed from the rear suspension.

    He leased his Citroëns for two-year duration so we got a chance to ride CX in several different levels of equipment and different types of motors. I had come to love those DS and CX so much that I looked forward to his first of few XM that he took the custody in the early 1990s. However, I was somewhat disappointed with the increasingly generic interior design and equally generic seats. I was so accustomed to the mushroom brake pedal that it took me a while to unlearn the braking technique when I drove his XM.

    Unfortunately, the XM replacement, C6, was several years late. He was offered Xantia as a stop-gap measure, but Xantia was like a huge downgrade for him in same manner of going down from Mercedes-Benz S-Class to Opel Vectra in one go. Consequently, he switched to Audi A6 and never bothered with C6 when it was finally released.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    We will never see their like again.
    As the “future” all cars will be based on stretched Golf platforms.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    when i watch the news i like to watch it when they show G20 meetings or whatever and you see world leaders and their limos

    of course its very hard to compare to Obama and his Cadillac “Beast” but David Cameron in the Jaguar XJ, Merkel in her S-Class, various Russians in their BMWs and such, the Koreans in their Equus and the Japanese Toyota Century V12 and the Australians in their stretched Caprices… and then it comes to Hollande and the old guy Sarkozy in their dinky Citroens… always makes me LOL

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Sometime after Citroen quit the U.S. market in the early seventies I remember seeing ads in the back pages of R&T and MT for Citroens , presumably grey market offered by a dealer in Austin I think . This went on quite a while , possibly including this model if I remember correctly tho here in Houston any Citroen is and always was an unusual sighting .

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Has anyone ever done a reliability comparison of the Citroen suspension and Ford’s air bladder suspension? I’ve heard raves about the performance of both, but general complaints only about their reliability and maintenance issues.

  • avatar

    Oh yes, French cars. Have got to love them. Fact is, nothing goes down the road quite like them. Hope PSA does in fact go on, and gets back to form, as if they went, they’d sorely be missed. To me, having driven French cars, Germans cars will never do. German cars are just hard. Ford Europe is also usually a bit sportier (stiffer) than the French and not as comfy. French cars suspension systems seems to me a bit like Italians suspensions, but more controlled. Italian cars (Fiat I mean) can be quite fun, but they can be too soft and/or unpredictable, though they usually give plenty of warning.

    French car engines usually are responsive and never seem gruff. They would need some work on the idle note though.

    The design has always been beautiful. Renault was always the more conservative, but then as they went all crazy under Le Quement, PSA went more conservative. But they are still some of the best out there.

    Yes, would love to see some more French cars on TTAC.

  • avatar
    hawox

    the citroen xm! yes it’s cheap but, in my opinion it has never been on the parr with ds and cx.
    i rode in the cx, remember the distinctive looking both inside and outside. it was a very popular car for business men / sellers / managers / taxi…. the xm instead never reached the same popularity, elegant in picture looks a bit boring when you actually see it real. inside it simply is a copy of the peugeot 605.
    infact it shares the platform with the peugeot to save money and someone used to say that it was less stiff than the cx, probably wasn’t a platform issue but only interior trims cheaply buildt.
    this cheapness was visible but that car costed as much as bmw and audi, so people started to buy german.
    the same happened to saab 9000, rover 800, big renaults and opels.
    i remember once my father rented the break one when we were changing home, that thing was immense, we charged it as a midsize van.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    My first Citroen C5 was totaled in a nose to tail between a BMW X5 and aMitsubishi Pajero. Ironic when you consider the nationalities involved. The point is that when it came to replacing the car I could not find anything close so I bought another C5. It is the most comfortable and restful car I have ever owned for long distance trips on country roads. The combination of Hydractive suspension, big leather armchairs and silence is seductive. I believe that the economic woes of PSA mean that future Citroens will have a conventional spring suspension. Quelle domage! By the way, I have never had any maintenance issues with the suspension, just a few coil over spark plug failures causing rough running. Mine’s the V6.

  • avatar
    windsormarxist

    I had one of these about ten years ago here in the UK. I had only just moved from the USA, and an XM was top of my list of cars that I lusted after and were dirt cheap here. Mine was a very well maintained 2.0 petrol model in a middle trim level, which meant very high quality velour seats, sunroof, and basic electrics. It was a ’92, which was the sweet spot between the 1st generation defective electrical connectors and the post ’94 generic bland dashboard as pictured in the car above. I should also add that it was a former company car that was purchased by its driver for his wife when he was upgraded after 3 years. When buying a car, that is the type of ownership that means it was a ‘good one’ and not a Monday car.

    My memories were of it being decently quick, very, very comfortable, and had computer adapted suspension which meant that if you were on a 60mph road approaching an empty roundabout, you didn’t need to even think about slowing down- the car sensed the steering input and hunkered down like a Lotus snaking its way around without any tyre squeal or leaning as on the older CX (which I later purchased).

    The interior quality was quite good- it didn’t feel like it was made of tissue paper like the 1st generation CX or GS or even early BX’s, but rather felt solid- like a VW, if not quite like the Audi that it was priced alongside.

    I never had a single problem with the car, but I sold it when I could feel second gear syncro starting to go and I suspected the head gasket would need to be done in the next few months.

    I have NEVER seen a rusty XM, even here in the UK by the sea. These, along with Xantias, were very well galvanized, and Citroen specialists continue to sell immaculate diesel examples with over 250K on them and still look like new cars.

    A good (diesel) XM, serviced by a competent specialist, will keep going for a very long time. My advice is to look for a 2.1 diesel, as the engine bay is much tidier than the larger 2.5 diesel and thus garage fees will be less. Avoid 6 cylinders, unless you really want one, as they are a real pig to work on, and specialists charge accordingly. (of course £1.35 per litre fuel tends to rule them out in any event).

    Another tidbit of interesting information is that the Daewoo Espero was supposed to be the Xantia as designed by Bertone. Citroen rejected it (presumably due to the lack of acceptance of the XM) and went with their own design, and Daewoo fished it out of the clearance rack at Bertone and smooshed it around an ancient Cavalier chassis.

    After the XM, I drove a CX as a daily driver, and the difference in quality was palpable. The CX (named Darth Vader due to the varipower whooshing) was a lovely and charismatic car whose design detail kept me in love, but was nowhere near as good of a car as the XM. You got the feeling the CX was designed to last as long as a company car contract, while the XM was designed to nearly Mercedes principles of durability, as it came from that sweet spot of the early 90s. This was the epitome of durability for most cars- rust was finally conquered, simple injection and engine management systems solved drivability issues, and yet it was before the Great Cheapening of the late 90s/early 00s, when cars were designed to be disposable.

    If you want one, spend £3000 and get a good XM and a Mercedes 190 to use when the Citroen is being a little diva. You know it makes sense.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You can get some crazy French Citroen hatchbackery right now for under $10K.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Citroen-BX-19-GT-BX-19-GT-hatchback-rare-low-miles-sportyhatchback-4-door-collectable-air-susp-/310807583962?forcerrptr=true&hash=item485d935cda&item=310807583962&pt=US_Cars_Trucks

    I’ve never seen one before. Look at the C-pillar parallelogram window!

  • avatar

    Nice article. My dad had one, the 6cil with the automatic gearbox. I drove it from home (the Netherlands) to Limoges, France once, and ever since then, I have always loved it. A beautiful car, super cheap and quite reliable. Nice “first car” for a car person!


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