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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.

A sharp design if ever there was one. And the car was so good it earned Car of the Year in Europe in 1990.

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.

This is a four-cylinder petrol version. But my deepest desire would be for the V6 which on so many levels makes me think about the SM. Yes, the car…

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.

As the interior of an XM is not quite as exciting as the exterior, I hereby bring a photo from the SM-department: Much better!

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!

The XM never became the commercial succes that Citroën had hoped for: They only sold around 300.000 cars – less than the Mazda MX-5 or the MGB.

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.

This is the look ot the era.

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?


3 Responses

  1. Ole Wichmann

    I don’t think your friend should scrap his XMs, he should find a remote barn to store them in.
    Right now (at least in Denmark) they are in the limbo between everyday cars and classics. Too old to be reliable everyday cars and very expensive in road tax, and not yet old enough to be classics on reduced tax and insurance. All the other ageing luxury cars including some Jaguars are in the same limbo. And this is when they die.
    I remember when I saw my first Citroën XM, I said, one day I will own one of these. So now is the time, they don’t get cheaper, right?
    But as everyday car, I am worried about the reliability, electronics and spareparts supply – and the hefty road tax. So I have chosen to run yet another elderly quality Alfa Romeo in stead.
    But I remember back in the days where we looked at the CX in excactly the same way, the DS was cool, but the CX just an old banger. Now I almost find the CX cooler than the DS. So XMs time will come, and then it will be time to open up that remote barn…

  2. jakob356

    Until 1994 the XM had a very stylish sharp lined interior.

    I loved mine, and would like one again sometime. Unfortunately my own stable is more than filled, and I don’t have an extra barn.

    Keeping the hydraulics clean and without leaks, and avoiding rust in invisible places like the suspension mounts, not so much else could go wrong. The electric wiring is much better than in the CX.

    One thing about it, that was not the best design in the world, is the rear lights, where some of them are located in the rear hatch: Everytime you close it, the filaments get a good shake, so they are prone popping very often.
    It looks really cool at night, almost like an old american car, with the wide red lights, but it comes with a price.. You almost never see one with all bulbs working at the same time.
    The rear blinkers on the other hand are perfect! A high mounted triangle on top of all the other lights. As good as those on the DS!

  3. Tony Wawryk

    This is an interesting question, and as @Claus Ebberfeld says, is relevant to a considerable number of what are nowadays called Youngtimers. It’s possible to buy a late 1990’s Porsche Boxster for less than £5,000. A 1997 Jaguar XJR was sold at Brooklands in November for £5,824. These – and others like them – represent a lot of car for the money, but of course the new owners will have to budget for somewhat higher running costs than for a Golf, and will probably not gain in value for some years to come and this is indeed the dilemma that Claus’s friend with the Citroen XMs has run into.
    As we all know, Youngtimers are the next Oldtimers, but who will take the risk? The Citroen XM is probably the last interesting Citroen, although I’m not a fan – the styling is too sharp-edged for me and a little ungainly, I much prefer the CX or DS. Perhaps @ole-wichmann has the answer – find a barn and store them, though even that comes with costs (by the way, I’m sure you see the irony of choosing an Alfa Romeo over a Citroen on reliability grounds ;-) ).

    Is choosing such a car a “luxury trap”? Perhaps, but if we view such cars as a value-for-money introduction into the world of classic cars, especially future classics, they can make sense. After all, would you rather run a 2-3 year old Ford Fiesta, costing around £10,000 depending on model, or pay £3,000 for a decent XM and use the difference to run it?


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