These thoughts were spurred on by one of our ViaRETRO readers asking me what one should do with a few old Citroën XM’s. Well I honestly don’t know – do you?
In reality his question could apply to many other cars of the same ilk. More specifically, these were his words:
Is it really the case that the interest for this magnificent car has completely disappeared? They could be an exciting alternative for someone who fancies running a different and special youngtimer. The problem is that I personally believe there is real potential in these cars – but if it is only me who feels this way, then I might as well just scrap them.
The question was presented by a great Citroën enthusiast – just in case you hadn’t already guessed. I can also reveal that my counter-question was “potential for what?”.
And I think that is really the big question in this context.
I do however understand precisely what he means: The XM is the last Citroën which truly lit something within me. There have been others, like the C6, which managed to give a glimmer of hope, but ever since the XM nothing else from Citroën has given me the overall sense of what is essentially the greatness of the French Empire condensed into a car. Part of it lies in its thoroughly arrogant design, which is as close to an extravagant prototype design as you can possibly expect of a production car. Amazingly it even worked: Despite its size, the XM is – to my eyes at least – a very elegant car that better than any Citroën before and after it managed to combine elegance with an appearance worthy of a French president. And I write “is” in the present tense, because just like the reader presenting that question to me, I feel its design is still crisp and up-to-date even today.
I even came as far as trying an XM last year: A manual turbodiesel, which some ViaRETRO readers (you know who you are) babble on about almost as if it were the Rolls-Royce of diesel cars or something like that. And I sense that it’s also to some extent the original inquisitors opinion. As I expected, I quite liked the car (which I looked at as an alternative to my commuter car), including the soft velour seats and the extensive comfort.
I didn’t really like the engine and gearbox, though. Even more so, I disliked the car’s other minor flaws and signs of age – what I think an enthusiast might call “patina”, but which I saw as wear and – literally – tear. What I disliked the very most was the annual tax, which is quite bad for ageing diesels here in Denmark. Especially on that basis, there was no trade and I didn’t feel I missed an opportunity either.
Which is sort of strange as I did recognise that an XM is indeed a great car. Especially for the money: It was a true luxury cruiser in its day and a solid example would probably be quite a relevant cruiser even today. And then with those prototype looks. It should in fact present as a great youngtimer!
I realise that the looks will part the enthusiasts. It always did, the XM – as many Citroën before and after it. But as I said, I actually rather like it. That I didn’t actually buy the one I tried could also just be down to the fact that it was simply too cheap. As I recall it, around 1.500 Euro. Had I only found one for double that price, it would no doubt be triple the condition – and still rather cheap. To purchase, that is. One should be aware that the XM was a rather advanced car for its time, wasn’t really cheap to run in period, and is probably no cheaper to run now it has become old.
But that precise paradox applies to many other former expensive cars aspiring to stardom – well yes, even to cars from the Star itself. Chances are that if you despise the XM, you’d love the Mercedes W124 from the same era and occupying about the same market place – only with much more succes, one might add.
That doesn’t help the Mercedes-Benz much today though – a banger-saloon W124 of the lower powered and specced versions can be had for a song. And it’s not alone either: Should even the Mercedes-Benz be too exuberant for your tastes, you need look no further than the Opel Omega. Or how about the Volvo 850? The Audi 100? BMW 5-Series? Peugeot 605? The SAAB 9000? The Alfa Romeo 164?
In some way, I respect every single one of those executive saloons. It’s just that they’re not CLASSICS yet. I realise this in some way marks me as being old, but I genuinely feel these Eighties and Nineties bruisers are too much old bangers and too little classic cars for me to truly love them.
But is that really the whole explanation? When I search deep within myself for an answer, I’m actually not quite convinced: You often need look no further than within their own bloodlines to se the paradox: Why would you actually opt for an XM when Citroën itself has several unmistakable, genuine and recognised classics in their portfolio – its predecessors CX and DS, for example? I mean – I genuinely, honestly, truly want a CX. Even though the XM might be the better drive, faster and not least much cheaper – simply, a better car.
As I said, I could not actually answer his initial question. What to do with XM now? And for that matter, several of its mentioned period competitors – none of which have the same je ne sais quoi as the XM, but which are (were?) also fine upper middle class saloons, yet today are met with the same dilemma.
Cheap to buy – but is that all you really require from a youngtimer? And if you don’t want it – what to do with the cars then?