The Last French Masterpiece. Test Drive Citroen XM V6

This Citroen was cooler than any Mercedes and BMW. He almost destroyed competitors, but in the end fell victim to his own courage.

It was a mutiny! More than ten years have passed since the bankrupt Citroen came under the control of the rationalists from Peugeot in 1976. More than ten years of etching creativity, non-conformism and healthy (sometimes not) car madness. The next big Citro was never supposed to be born: the divine DS and the avant-garde CX risked being left without an heir. But the engineers took up the development secretly from the management, and when everything was revealed, it was too late to stop.

This is how XM was born. The Italians from the Bertone studio drew a faceted body in the style of a space interceptor – and one could say that in 1989 this idea was no longer very relevant, because the peak of cosmo fashion came in the late seventies. But what difference does it make if the liftback still looked ultra-futuristic against the background of dull contemporaries? And yes, he was just a liftback: Citroen residents have historically experienced an acute allergy to sedans, and no “so it is accepted” and “so it is necessary” could not convince them.

Although, in a sense, it was still a sedan: the trunk is separated from the passenger compartment by an additional, thirteenth (!) Hinged glass, which is designed to protect passengers from, say, cold air from the street. Moreover, the passengers in the Citroen XM traveled notable – including the French presidents François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac. Therefore, the interior was packed in full.

Heated rear seats, electric drives for everything and everything, including mirrors, automatic climate control – now this does not surprise anyone, but in 1989 Citroen equipped its top model with almost everything that was available. How do you like the electric adjustment of the center armrest? There was no such decision in the world automobile industry either before or after! The car we tested is already restyled, and its interior is not at all as daring as its exterior. If not boring. But gorgeous leather and open-textured wood inserts – no varnish! – they look luxurious without exaggeration and give an amazing feeling of quality of life. Which XM supports and on the go.

Under the hood, the coolest engine available – a three-liter V6 with 200 horsepower, whose roots go back to the mid-seventies, is full, thoroughbred growls. In general, the engines were one of the weak points of the Citroen XM in comparison with the “Germans” that have grown in muscle, but this top version drives very nicely. Convincing traction, passport 8.6 seconds to a hundred, precise operation of the five-speed “mechanics” (yes, yes!), And most importantly – a solid power reserve even after 120 kilometers per hour, which turns the liftback, if not into a thunderstorm of autobahns, then into a magnificent grand a tourer for sure.

After all, the confidence that this Citroen gives at high speeds cannot be called anything other than magic – and the quality of the asphalt under the wheels does not matter. The secret is in the proprietary hydropneumatic suspension: it appeared in the mid-fifties on the DS model, but since then no one in the world has been able to reproduce it, and Rolls-Royce eventually gave up and simply bought a license from Citroen. And here the system is already adaptive – with sensors that read motion parameters and an electronic brain that automatically adjusts stiffness. In 1989!

It’s even awkward to talk about the smoothness of the ride, rather, you need to come up with the term “smoothness of flight.” It seems that the XM really almost levitates, barely touching the ground: there are no vibrations not only on the seats, but also on the steering wheel – which here is also not like everyone else. The system is called Diravi and is part of the overall hydraulic circuit, which includes both suspension and brakes. In fact, there is no direct connection with the wheels: you simply give a command to the hydraulics, and it already interacts with the rack. Hence – the complete absence of unpleasant blows … however, as well as traditional feedback.

It seems that this should terribly interfere in turns, but no: the steering wheel of the XM is very sharp, the car responds to it quickly and recklessly – and at the same time it does not frighten at all! With increasing speed, the weightless “steering wheel” is poured (literally, hydraulics) with a background effort, and in turns it turns out that information content in its classical sense, in general, is not required for confidence and understanding of everything that happens to the machine. Magic as it is!

Citroen XM generally drives so unlike ordinary cars that it is difficult to get rid of the thought that it was invented somewhere else. As if back in the days of DS, the French made a deal with the devil, and from somewhere from another dimension, a bundle of blueprints just fell on them. The stock of originality turned out to be such that after 30 and 40 years later, hydropneumatic machines were fundamentally different from competitors – and in many respects surpassed them.

So what happened? Why didn’t XM grind rivals into powder in the nineties? You know, he even started. The liftback immediately received the title of the car of the year, and sales in 1990 exceeded 100 thousand copies – commensurate with the BMW E34 and Mercedes-Benz W124! But it was at this time that a huge number of problems with electrical and electronics emerged, and Citroen’s reputation collapsed into the abyss. XM will continue to be produced right up to 2000, but the total circulation will be only 300 thousand cars, and its ideological successor – the weird C6 – will delay its debut until the mid-2000s … and will be of no use to anyone at all. The hydropneumatic suspension will hold out on the C5 for another decade, but Citroen will eventually abandon it. Too expensive, they say.

A sad outcome? It’s hard to argue. Moreover, de and a lot of “X-em” have survived to this day, especially in the top versions – to maintain all this complex equipment is expensive, difficult and costly. But it is safe to say that in a couple of decades this Citroen will be an interesting and valuable collector’s item, and it is a great honor to get acquainted with the coming legend now. And looking into the future is very Citroen-style, right?