CitroŽn Turbo Diesel Road Test
CitroŽn Turbo Diesel
HOW DO YOU TRAVEL FIVE-up, at speeds of up to 12Omph, yet return 33mpg and a range of at least 500 miles between fill-ups? Answer: buy a new CitroŽn XM Turbo Diesel and (preferably) take it to Germany. A weekend trip to Bavaria proved this latest addition to the XM range to be a very competent and economical long-hauler. At more moderate British road speeds, we have managed 43mpg in mixed running with four people aboard.
But the Turbo Diesel is no dour economy machine. Its O-60 time of 1O.3sec may not be startling, but it is still sufficiently quick - aided by the strong peak torque of 183lb ft at 2000rpm - to be entertaining. For comparison, the petrol 2.0Si does O-60 in a claimed 9.6sec.
The 110bhp maximum power comes at 4300, but the abundance of torque low down allows you to change up at between 2500 and 3000rpm, and use the beefy torquearound 2000 for accelerating, which compensates for the restricted overall engine range.
The XM’s 2088cc turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a development of the existing XUD engine family. It’s the same unit as powers the turbodiesel Peugeot 605 (Newcomers, May), which will not be sold in Britain before September.
The engine uses a cast-iron block and an aluminium cylinder head carrying three valves per cylinder -two inlet, one exhaust - to improve breathing and supply more air for combustion. The economy and performance figures suggest that this works well. The engine and five-speed ME 5TL gearbox are mounted on hydraulic links to help isolate vibrations from the body, while a torsional vibration damper on the crankshaft tackles the problem at source.
Apart from the engine, the Turbo Diesel is standard XM (CAR, June and December 1989), in three levels of trim. All models use CitroŽn's Hydractive suspension, in which sensors monitoring vehicle speed, body movement, the angle of the steering wheel etc, inform a central computer which adjusts both spring and damper rates in the hydropneumatic system.
The Hydractive system adjusts automatically from soft to hard mode very effectively, but a switch allows the driver to choose the sport setting manually. Since the car automatically stiffens up when it needs to, the selector switch is best left as an ornament or, as we found, a talking point for impressionable juvenile passengers.
On our trip to Bavaria (via Calais) the suspension scored noticeably on two occasions. Early in the trip the car was uncannily smooth over the bumpy back roads between Calais and Dunkirk. On German autobahns, travelling at speeds which turn bends into corners, the XM remained impressively flat as the suspension altered to cope with high cornering loads. We made the trip accompanied by a BMW 535i, which rolled appreciably more through fast bends, and passengers who tried both cars preferred the XM.
Although there is a naturally aspirated XM diesel in other markets, only the turbo will be offered in Britain. Here the basic diesel model is the XM Turbo D, which has a good level of equipment, including remote central locking, electric sunroof and front windows, and height-adjustable driver’s seat.
It’s not cheap: at £16,899 it’s £1820 more expensive than the petrol-injected 2.0i in the same trim.
The SD has electrically adjustable front seats, electric windows all round, and automatic temperature control, among other delights.
Its price is £18,449. Top diesel is the Turbo SED, at £21,119, which has leather upholstery, air~conditioning and ABS.
The XM has few snags. The most serious is ungenerous rear headroom, though three passengers of average height found the rear bench comfortable for a 12-hour journey. More irritating, because avoidable, is the nearside mirror, which is partially obscured by the A-pillar. This deficiency is particularly noticeable on the continent, when you need the mirror for overtaking.
And four days weren’t enough to dispel our annoyance with the US-style foot-operated park brake. We noted sourly that you would probably fail a driving test in the XM, because you cannot apply the brake (using your left foot) until you have put the car in neutral.
The Turbo Diesel is clattery and smoky when cold, but much quieter when warmed up, which takes only a few minutes. At cruising speeds, it is petrol quiet.
The slight turbo whistle above 2000rpm when accelerating is exhilarating rather than annoying.
The XM is a car that grows on you, and in Turbo Diesel form, it's cheap to operate. If you're contemplating high mileages, particularly abroad where diesel is sensibly priced much cheaper than petrol, it’s well worth considering the stiff extra price of the oil-burner. If you care about reducing CO2 emissions by improving fuel consumption, the XM Turbo Diesel offers dramatic gains without sacrificing big-car virtues.
|© 1990 Car Magazine/2011 CitroŽnŽt|