Back in 1989, if you were in the market for a spacious and comfortable executive motor, you probably had the choice of a Rover 800 or a Ford Granada Scorpio, but at the same time you had something of the same price bracket that was much more advanced.
Unleashed to the public on the 23rd May 1989 wearing a price tag of around £27,000, the Citroen XM was built to replace the earlier CX that dated back to 1974, and had been notable for being the one that killed off the legendary DS. Indeed many of the features inside the new XM were handed down from generation to generation, including the large spacious body, the long low styling, and most importantly the hydropneumatic suspenion. The Citroen XM was also notable for sharing the same platform as their cousin’s executive motor for 1989, the Peugeot 605. The connection between Peaugeot and Citroen was made in 1976, when the two companies joined forces to create PSA Peugeot Citroën, simplified to Peugeot S.A.
The Citroen XM was an immediate success, garnering the European Car of the Year Award for 1990, with many of the features that had made its grandfather the DS such a legendary car being praised. The ride was incredibly smooth thanks to the suspension, the interior space had been improved from the CX with more space in the rear, and the general aesthetic of the car seemed very modern and 90’s, showing that Citroen continued to be at the leading edge of style and substance.
Powered by a 3.0L V6 which produced 200hp, the car had a 0-60 of 9.7 seconds, and would go on to a top speed of 138mph. This was one of the points of contention for motoring press as the acceleration speed was pretty pedestrian and the top speed quite unremarkable.
Other problems however quickly rose and began to damage the reputation of both the XM and the 605. For the XM the main problem was with the quality of the electrics, where had a propensity to corrode easily and thus would make the car undrivable. For the XM these issues largely affected the suspension, which was very sensitive and would make it non-responsive or not work properly.
The root of the problem in the XM was traced by to poor quality multipoint grounding blocks located on each front inner wing, one at the rear, and one under the dashboard. On later cars, these were changed to screw terminals bolted through the bodywork, and most of the older cars have been modified in a similar way.
Once these issues had been addressed, the Citroen XM enjoyed a life of modest success, with the acclaimed ‘Magic Carpet’ suspension being its main party piece. However by the late 1990’s the car was starting to look its age and required a replacement, which would have been the Citroen C6, had it not been for long and tedious developments. As a result the XM was discontinued on schedule in 2000 with 333,000 examples built, but it’s new C6 replacement didn’t leave the factory until 2005, which allowed the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes to chew up the executive car market in Citroen’s absence.
Today these cars are quite rare, with many becoming victims of the scrappage scheme here in the UK. Most early models with the faulty electrics were probably part-exchanged in the late 90’s for an updated version or a comparative motor from a different company. But even though this car did get off to a ropey start, the XM was truly the final Citroen to emulate the beautiful DS style and technological streak, mixing the long smooth low body with acres of internal space and a ride so comfortable you’d swear you were in a hovercar!