you put your right foot on the brake pedal (no left foot braking here -
the pedal is offset too far to the right), engage drive, release the
foot operated parking brake and off you move. Everything feels
conventional - the steering, the low speed ride. Engine noise is
subdued, the accelerator pedal feels quite heavy and unresponsive. The
first application of the brakes reminds you that you are driving the
successor to the DS, SM and CX - the pedal is rock hard and has hardly
four speed auto box is utterly unobtrusive, changing down at the right
time - you rarely find yourself in too high a gear with the engine
off-boost - in fact, I would go as far as saying that I would hate to
be saddled with a manual gearbox again.
velocity increases, the ride, which was nothing special, improves, the
steering which initially felt rather unresponsive is, you discover,
very precise, enabling totally accurate placement of this big car even
if feedback from the road is masked.
As confidence increases, so you discover that this softly sprung barge has incredible grip and superlative handling.
The car is essentially neutral in its handling - true, as might be expected, it understeers in extremis
but it is very forgiving - lift off in the middle of a bend or even
brake hard and the car loses speed - without drama or fuss.
you find yourself braking on bends far too frequently - not because you
are traveling too quickly but because your progress is baulked by
conventional machinery traveling substantially slower than you.
is all too easy to travel at far higher speeds than are legal - a
combination of low noise and the superlative ride and handling.
But what of the ride - after all, the Hydractive suspension is the car's raison d'Ítre and is the result of nearly 50 years of development.
mentioned earlier, it is nothing special at low speed - but this has
always been true of hydropneumatic CitroŽns. At speeds below 50 mph/80
kph, the car feels conventional - the driver of a Mercedes or BMW would
notice nothing amiss. As the speed builds up, the ride improves
although it is still far firmer than a CX driver - even a CX GTi Turbo
2 driver might expect.
roll is minimal and the car is not caught out by humpback bridges and
the like. Hydractive 2 offers you a choice between two suspension
settings - there is no discernible difference in ride comfort between
the two although handling is slightly more neutral in the sports
setting and steering response appears sharper.
sum up then, the XM is a wonderful, high speed, long distance cruiser.
It is truly a Gran Turismo or Grande RoutiŤre in the tradition of the
15 CV, the DS, the SM and the CX. It is also highly individualistic in
appearance which is refreshing in an era when most cars are anodyne and
bland to look at.