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CitroŽn Xantia V6

The new Xantia 3.0-litre V6 Exclusive offers a seductive blend of power, prestige and sophistication.

PETER TOMALIN takes it to the land where a 140mph top speed isn't just a figure on a piece of paper

In a recent interview with a leading motoring magazine, Stirling Moss was asked about speed and what it meant to him. “It’s not about speed, it’s about time,” he said. “Time is valuable. Speed is not. The thing you cannot make, cannot gain, is time. All you can do is save it or try to use it. To me, movement is tranquillity.”

Movement is tranquillity. That phrase came back to me as we cruised the German autobahn near Stuttgart in CitroŽn’s new V6-engined Xantia. All was unruffled calm in the cabin, the only sounds the distant murmur of the engine, the faint rush of wind and the background patter of the tyres. The miles slipped painlessly by, the speedometer showing a steady 120mph...

Long stretches of autobahn remain unrestricted by any upper speed limit. Much of the traffic travels at 100mph-plus, and businessmen in a hurry think nothing of cruising at 120 or even more. When there’s a junction or potential hazard ahead, a localised limit of 80 or 100km/h is indicated, and everyone takes heed. All it requires is discipline and concentration — essential commodities, you’d think, on any motorway.

And when a motorway works this well, a car’s ability to travel easily and safely at more than two miles per minute suddenly starts to make sense. Comfortable and secure in CitroŽn’s new executive express, we were covering the miles in virtually half the time we would on a British dual-carriageway. Moreover, we were still feeling fresh and relaxed, despite long hours on the road. This is the V6-powered Xantia’s personal feelgood factor, and it certainly felt good to us.

A trans—Continental dash was the natural test for the new flagship Xantia. After all, this car will spend a good deal of its life on motorway, autobahn, autoroute and autostrada. It has to be able to cut it with the cream of Europe’s saloons and, on paper at least, it has what it takes — the specifications make mouthwatering reading...

Where most of its rivals feature a 2.5—litre engine at best, the Xantia gets a 3.0—litre V6.

It’s also one of the most advanced engines in its class, with all—aluminium alloy construction, four valves per cylinder, and the latest Bosch engine management computer.

Read ‘Technical Focus’ for the full story of this remarkable engine, but the bottom line is 194bhp at 5500rpm, delivered with smooth-spinning ease.

What really makes an engine feel powerful, though, is torque. It’s what you rely on when you pull out to overtake a lorry at, say, 45mph, and the car coming the other way is closer than you thought... Torque is what powers you past. And the Xantia’s V6 has a huge reservoir of the stuff — 1971b ft at 4000rpm. Better still, almost 90 per cent of that pulling power is available from as low as 2000rpm. That’s real flexibility.

Flexibility is the key to the new ‘Auto Adaptive’ gearbox too. On the face of it, it’s a conventional four-speed auto, but by continually ‘talking’ electronically with the engine management computer it’s able to adapt automatically to an individual’s driving style, altering the point at which it changes gear for optimum performance, control and economy.

So, if you’re pressing on, it learns to stay in a lower gear just a wee bit longer. It also provides noticeable engine-braking, something you only usually get with a manual gearbox and particularly useful when you’re descending a steep hill. And because it’s a two-way communication, it can tell the engine to feather the throttle slightly as it slips to another ratio, keeping things creamy-smooth. In short, ‘Auto Adaptive’ provides all the convenience of a conventional auto but with added control. Which means added safety as well as extra driving pleasure.

There wasn’t much pleasure to be had rising at 4.50am on a rain-lashed morning to catch the 7.00am Shuttle service to France, but pretty soon the Xantia was weaving its magic. Air conditioning with ‘Automatic climate control’ kept the temperature in the cabin just where we set it; cruise control did the same for our speed; the standard RDS radio/CD player was playing gently in the background, and the 3.0-litre V6 just went quietly about its business, wafting us along the M20 towards the Channel.

Refinement and real sophistication run right through the V6-powered Xantia. CitroŽn’s unique Hydractive computer-controlled self-levelling suspension provides an unrivalled ride, whatever the conditions or the load. Alloy wheels shod with chunky 205/60 R15 tyres and uprated disc brakes help ensure the most powerful Xantia corners and stops in drama-free fashion, though it’s nice to know there’s ABS and twin airbags, just in case.

As the Shuttle carried us towards France, a chance to take a longer look around the cabin. Leather upholstery or a mixture of leather and rich Alcantaraģ trim, wood panels on the doors and facia, electric operation of Windows and sunroof, electrically adjustable seats — all of these things are standard equipment, and they all add to the feeling that you’re driving something special. As does the attention to detail: controls for the hi-fi are mounted on the steering wheel, just a finger’s stretch away; engage reverse and the passenger door mirror dips automatically to give you a clear view for parking or manoeuvring. Neat, that.

But it’s that smooth V6 that really gives this Xantia its character - deep-chested power instantly on tap whenever you want it, and a discreet but unmistakably sporty edge to the engine note when you take the revs right up to the red line. Not surprising really; a 0-60mph time of 8.6 seconds makes it the fastest accelerating automatic V6 in its class. But it’s the mid-range urge that makes it such an effortless mile-eater; that and long-legged gearing that sees an easy 100mph With just 5500rpm showing on the tacho.

And that was how we breezed down through France, past Arras, Reims and Metz, crossing the Rhine at Strasbourg and — after seemingly interminable roadworks as we entered Germany — finally arriving in Stuttgart at 6pm. Six hundred miles, a total of ten hours on the road, and we climbed out feeling not a twinge of discomfort. As art director Paul Harwood commented, this V6-engined Xantia feels like a mini-limo. Moreover, it had acquitted itself every bit as well as traditional ‘prestige’ saloons costing £50K or more, which makes the Xantia’s on-the-road price of £21,995* all the more remarkable.

Next morning we drove to the Museum of Modern Art, the Xantia’s hydractive suspension taking Stuttgart’s bumpy, tram-lined streets in its supple stride. The museum, designed by the British architect Sir James Stirling, is one of the outstanding post-modernist buildings. It also has an air of timelessness, with much to admire in the quality of its construction and detailing. The obvious temptation to draw parallels with the Xantia proved irresistible. That impressive-looking V6 engine could almost be a sculpture in aluminium alloy...

Later we found a quiet stretch of autobahn, where the road speared for two or three clear miles into the distance, and there we ran the Xantia right up to its maximum speed. As the needle climbed to 140mph, what was really remarkable was not the speed — though I found that sharpened the senses a treat — but the ease of it all. The Xantia felt wonderfully secure and delightfully unstressed, and so did its occupants. No wonder it feels so under-stretched at a ‘mere’ 80mph.

For the drive home we looped down to the south, slicing through the Black Forest, enjoying a different side to the Xantia’s character. With the gearbox and the suspension both switched to ‘sport’ mode, the car felt deliciously taut and responsive as the smooth black tarmac snaked between the pine trees. Then it was back to the autoroute and time to head for home; time to switch to cruise control and spin a CD or two... Like the man said, movement is tranquillity.

* The on-the-road price of £21,995 includes VAT and a standard delivery charge of £645 (which includes VAT, number plates and 12 months’ road fund licence). For more information or to book a lest-drive, contact your local Citroťn dealer, or for an information pack call free on 0800 262 262.
Above: German enthusiasts appreciate virtues of classic Citroťn Traction Avant
Right: return journey sliced through the Black Forest
Above: Xantia took the autobahn (sic) in its stride

Technical Focus

Jeff Daniels takes a closer look at the V6 Xantia's engine and gearbox

A new top-of-the-range Xantia required an engine that would exploit all the most recent technology, and take the car to new levels of performance and refinement. That engine is the 3.0-litre, 24-valve V6.
This is not, you should understand, the well-tried V6 from the XM, which now gets the same new engine and gearbox, but a completely new unit designed for the needs of the 21st century which include our concern for the environment. The new engine is therefore compact, light, economical, and produces very low exhaust emissions. But to meet the needs of top-level customers it is also powerful and refined. The V6 is light and compact not only because it is made entirely from aluminium alloy, but because the block with its cylinder banks set 60 degrees apart for perfect balance, was designed to take advantage of aluminium casting technology; of such developments, notable advantages emerge. The cylinder heads have four valves
per cylinder, not so much for outright performance but because in combination with a clever ‘acoustic’ inlet manifold, they result in a very high, flat torque curve. I’m always trying to explain in these power-mad days that torque is actually more important than power. Put simply, torque output determines acceleration, while maximum power has much more to do with maximum speed. The average driver certainly uses (and needs) the maximum torque of an engine far more often than its maximum power, and driving the Xantia V6 will give you a very clear idea of what strong torque is all about, namely crisp and reassuring response from very low speeds. CitroŽn has combined the V6 With a new four-speed automatic transmission from ZF. As you would expect these days, the driver can select ‘sport’, ‘normal’ or ‘snow’ operating modes, but there is more besides. This is an ‘intelligent’ transmission. Citroen calls it Auto Adaptive, and it’s well-named. Once upon a time, an automatic would change up from one gear to the next at a particular speed (with a little delay if the throttle was wide open) and change down at one speed. Inevitably, in some situations, the changes would come just as the driver would rather they didn’t. The Xantia V6 transmission overcomes this by storing no less than 12 change-speed patterns, each matched to a particular type of driving. It decides which pattern to use according to how the car is being driven.  In ‘normal’ mode, the transmission can choose between any of six patterns, from one which is matched to gentle main-road driving, to the sixth, ‘extreme sports driving conditions’. It almost makes the sports mode unnecessary, one would think, but even here the transmission chooses between two further patterns. The remaining four are evidence of CitroŽn' great attention to detail. One is for the ‘snow’ mode (where you start in second gear to help avoid wheelspin). Another, for driving just after a cold start, changes gear to minimise exhaust emissions (in any car, emissions are at their worst when the engine’s cold). The other two only come into operation if the transmission oil starts to overheat: try towing a heavily laden caravan up an Alpine pass in midsummer, and you might discover what they do. The end result, however, is a transmission which puts paid to the old cry of the enthusiast driver: “The automatic never does what I want it to do!” Try this one, give it a couple of minutes to get used to you, and see if you can still say that...

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