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Driving the XM

What is the XM like to drive?

In many respects, it is a typical big CitroŽn; that is to say it is effortless to drive, it is comfortable, it is faster than the performance figures would suggest and it is safe and predictable.

First impressions, from the outside, are of a big car and these impressions are reinforced when you climb inside. The base of the windscreen seems a long way away, there is plenty of legroom and elbow room and in common with its CX and DS predecessors, the extremities of the car are invisible from the driving seat. That long bonnet is invisible and the impression is almost one of driving a forward control vehicle.
The seats are bulky, comfortable and supportive with electric adjustment of fore and aft position, height and seat back angle. The steering column too is adjustable for rake and reach but despite this, I find that the steering wheel rim obscures the tacho between 2 000 and 4 000 rpm - I am six feet tall (1 m 84) so hardly outside the likely size range of prospective drivers.
Mounted in front of the steering wheel are three display panels - the left hand one is used to display warnings such as doors open, radio station, tape or CD player indicators, selection of sports or normal suspension and defective lamps. The middle display panel shows the following:-


Engine coolant temperature pre-warning
Engine coolant temperature
Parking brake
Hydraulic pressure and level
Low level screen wash 

Front brake pad wear 
Battery charge 
Engine oil pressure Engine oil temperature Coolant level Engine auto diagnosis

The right hand panel comprises the clock and can display five additional types of information:- ambient temperature, instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, average speed and remaining range.

There are two conventional stalks mounted either side of the steering wheel - the left one controls the horn, indicators, headlamp main/dip and flash and lights on/off while the right one is responsible for wipers, washers and selection of ambient temperature, instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, average speed and remaining range functions.

Below the central air vents are switches for front fog lamps, rear fog lamps, rear screen demister, hazard warning lamps, interior lights and burglar alarm.

To the left of the steering column are two further switches for the rear screen wiper and rear screen washer while on the right there is a rheostat for controlling the brightness of the instrument panel lighting.

The centre console has the controls for heating and ventilation, a veneered flap covering a small stowage space, the stereo and the ash tray which is also covered by a veneered flap

The auto transmission selector is conventionally placed on the floor but on either side of it are controls you won't see on anything but an hydropneumatic CitroŽn.

On the left is a switch allowing you to select normal or sports suspension settings while to the right is a control that enables the ground clearance to be varied.

What is missing however is the parking brake - this is operated by a pedal to the left of the footbrake with a release/lock lever to the right of the steering column - even on cars fitted with a manual gearbox.

To start the engine, you must first enter a security code on a keypad located aft of the gear selector. Unlike hydropneumatic CitroŽns of old, you don't have to wait for the car to rise up to normal ride height - a valve in the suspension stops the car from settling onto its bump stops overnight (although after a prolonged hiatus it will sink to its haunches).


© 1997 Julian Marsh