XM is a luxurious, $50,000 European road car that is quite mainstream
by Citroen's standards - and fairly esoteric by ours. It also is an
automobile that comes with an unwritten guarantee that it will not be
confused with someone else's when you pull into the country club
parking lot. According to John Stout, the car's West Chester dealer and
national distributor, only about 70 of these distinctive denizens will
be sold in the United States this model year.
The exclusivity has
to do with demand and the rather limited conversion capabilities of
CXA, the Middlesex, N.J., company that imports the Citroens and then
modifies them to meet U.S. requirements. The changes include the
substitution of a BMW catalytic converter and the installation of
Pontiac headlights, a third taillight, a set of door-mounted automatic
seat belts and side-impact beams in the doors.
While it is just making its debut here in the colonies, the front-drive
XM is not really a new car. It is a version of a midsize, five-door
Citroen sedan and four-door wagon that have been on the European market
What makes the XM so unusual, apart from its import numbers, are its
styling and suspension. Unlike its predecessor, the XM doesn't look
like the Car from Mars. Rather, it qualifies as handsome, highly
It manages to be arresting and aerodynamic while assiduously avoiding
that most ubiquitous of contemporary cliches, the aerodynamic egg. I
found my eye particularly drawn to that projectile front end which
looks like it is knifing through the wind even when is standing at the
The car's interior is roomy, comfortable and sufficiently sumptuous,
thanks to .a generous use of leather and exotic wood trim. Its only
aesthetic downside is the dashboard which has that clunky,
other-generational angularity found in some Volvos.
The XM has operational touches that caught this driver a little off
guard. The steering wheel is a rather strange, one-spoke affair that
returns to center with such enthusiasm that it can yank you a bit off
course if you let it. The foot-operated parking brake has to be locked
in place by the dash control that also releases it.
The stereo controls are secreted behind a lift-up wood panel. The fuel
gauge is graduated in liters. There is a second rear window inside the
regular one that keeps the cool or warm air inside the car when you
open the rear hatch.
If this sort of thing isn't offbeat enough to meet your exotica quota,
you can always order the car with the voice-controlled stereo and
telephone. This $3,000 option will dial the radio station and the
telephone number you ask for and play the compact disc you mention.
From a technical standpoint, the XM's most offbeat feature is its
hydropneumatic suspension. The XM doesn't have springs and shock
absorbers like other cars. Its ride is controlled by spheres of
nitrogen gas and a related hydraulic system.
The computer-controlled hydraulic system adjusts the stiffness of the
ride and the degree of shock absorption by varying the pressure it
exerts on the gas in the spheres. By selecting the automatic suspension
setting, you let the computer adjust the ride and shock absorption to
driving conditions. Selecting the ''sport suspension'' keeps things
firm all the time. The unique suspension system also allows you to
adjust the car's ride height.
The XM rides and handles well, 'although with a tad more wind and tire
noise than you might expect from a luxury car. Acceleration, courtesy
of a three-liter V-6 that develops close to 200 horsepower, is brisk
but not blinding. The acceleration times - zero to 60 m.p.h. in 9.4
seconds - improve a bit if you substitute the optional five-speed
manual gearbox for the standard four-speed automatic.
Base vehicle: 3-liter engine, four-speed automatic transaxle,
speed-sensitive power steering, disc brakes, anti-lock braking system,
15-inch alloy wheels, P205/60VR 15 performance tires, power windows,
heated power outside mirrors, power front seats, tilt/telescoping
steering, leather seats and door panels, wood trim, stereo/cassette,
air conditioning, keyless entry, security system, front and rear
Test Model: sunroof, upgraded sound system.
Base price: $49,990
Test model: $55,140 (inc. shipping and $1,700 gas-guzzler tax)
EPA city rating: 15 .
Warranty: one year/12,000 miles bumper to bumper, three years/50,000
miles on major mechanical and electrical components, roadside