Citroen XM

Introduced in 1989, the Citroën XM was an executive vehicle produced by the French automaker Citroën until 2000. The modern redundancy of the Big Citroën, the XM was a replacement for the Citroën CX. A total of 330,000 XMs were sold during its 10 years of production and in 1990 the XM was voted the distinguished European Car of the Year award. The XM also went on to win 14 more awards in 1990.

The design was by Bertone and it took Gandini's Citroën BX concept to its natural conclusion with its slender, well-proportioned, slender and sleek body. The design look of the XM was drawn quite substantially from the Citroën SM of the 1970's as they shared very similar looks and lines. The design was tailored to meet lower production prices and higher production numbers.

Though much was taken from the CX, many updates and advances were made over the previous design especially steps taken to counteract concerns regarding the vintage CX design. The XM featured active electronic management of the suspension to correct the problem the CX had of leaning in corners. The XM also had a part-galvanized body-shell since the CX tended to rust. The CX was considered to be underpowered, so the XM featured the option of a 3.0 L V6 engine, the first of which to be found in a Citroën since the Maserati-engined SM of 1970.

The Citroën XM shared the same floor-plan with the Peugeot 605. The XM was a lift-back design, unlike the CX and the 605 sedans, fortunately a feature that was considered to be very desirable in various European markets. The Citroën XM did not receive as much commercial success as its predecessors, the CX and the DS, but it did have a very ‘loyal global customer base of executive class customers'.

The suspension which was self-leveling hydropneumatic that featured grapefruit-sized metal spheres that held nitrogen which acted as both springs and shock absorbers, received an extremely sophisticated electronic control system called Hydractive. Hydractive was a system that utilized sensors in the steering, suspension, brakes, transmission and throttle pedal to feed information on the vehicles acceleration, road conditions and speed to the on-board computers. These computers could switch an extra suspension sphere where appropriate within milliseconds in or out of circuit and allowed the vehicle a smooth supple ride in normal circumstance.

The Hydractive system was innovative and considered to be ‘above the rest' as early versions launched were considered to be unreliable. A lot of problems in the beginning came from sensitive electronics that controlled the car's hydraulic system, usually caused by the poor quality of the multipoint grounding blocks. The blocks were placed one on the front inner wing, one at the rear, and one under the dashboard. Unfortunately these blocks tended to corrode which caused a host of intermittent faults that were tough to diagnose. Future cars, this was changed to screw terminals that were bolted through the bodywork and many of the older vehicles have been modified in this manner.

When the Hydractive system worked, the large car was considered to be a smooth 'magic carpet' ride and featured better handling than even lighter, smaller sports cars. Unfortunately when it didn't work, the ride was bumpy, harsh and uncomfortable, though not much worse than contemporary high-performance sports sedans. Having an almost conventional DIRASS power-assisted setup, right-hand drive XMs were never fitted with the DIRAVI variable fully powered steering of the CX.

Several production models of the XM weren't equipped with the Hydractive system but they did have a ‘conventional' hydropneumatic suspension that was more similar to that of the Citroën BX. These models were lower specifications were all built for markets in mainland Europe.

The Citroën XM was fitted with a large variety of both gasoline and diesel engines. A vast majority of these engines were found in contemporary PSA cars, like the Peugeot 405, the Citroën Xantia, Citroën C5, the Peugeot 406 and 605. The late V6 had 4HP20, and the ZF 4 HP 18 automatic transmission was also used in Saab 9000, Alfa Romeo 164, Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema and the Peugeot 605.

The first generation of the Citroen CM was introduced from 1989 until 1994 while the second was debuted from 1995 onwards. A number of very visible differences were distinctively external. The second generation XMs featured the Citroen double-chevron logo was moved back to the center of the front grille and was larger while the first generation vehicles featured the logo offset. The XM badge was also on the rear also had a more stylized font that was also moved to the right of the tailgate.

In the inside, the second generation featured a much more modern instrument panel along with a much more conventional steering wheel that included an integrated airbag. The distinctive single-spoke wheel from the first generation was replaced with a two-spoke wheel halfway through the first generation production. Other updates included higher quality interior materials in the seating and the leather becoming softer and more supportive. Comfort for both drivers and passengers was even further enhanced on exclusive models by adding variable heat seating with a dial switch allowing a heat setting of 1, 2, or 3.

The second generation of the XM was also fitted with a lower rear spoiler on the tailgate, sitting a lot closer to the top of the trunk. Other updates included more reliable electrics, a faster computer system controlling the new Hydractive 2 suspension. Several XM received the 'Auto Adaptive' gearbox that ‘supposedly assesses your driving style' before switching to the most appropriate of approximately 6 onboard programs. A ‘Sport' mode button was added to this gearbox and it shortened the gear change times, giving a more responsive experience.

By Jessica Donaldson

Vehicle information, history, and specifications from concept to production.