The ARRIVAL of an unusually large number of new cars on the European market - many offering major advances in design and technology - meant that the 1990 Car of the Year Award was very fiercely contested.
You might assume that this created severe divisions of opinion among the distinguished journalists who form the awards panel. Not so, however.
The winner of the title - the Citroën XM - was voted into first place by no fewer than 40 of the 57 judges - an astonishing 175 points clear of the runner-up. (Precisely one point separated the second and third-placed cars!)
Citroën XM: European
Car of the Year 1990.
Clearly the panel agreed that the Citroën XM fulfilled in exceptional measure, all the stated criteria - comfort, safety economy, handling, performance, value for money functionality and driver satisfaction.
Their extraordinary unanimity however suggests that here is something considerably more than simply another highly competent executive saloon. The scale of the XM's triumph hints at a car of singular character and outstanding merit.
Visually, the Bertone-styled XM does, indeed, make a dramatic change from the anonymity of today's 'Eurosaloon. This car breaks new ground in other respects, too.
A rational car in every respect.
Those beautifully fluid lines - and a Cd as low as 0.28-owe much to double-curvature glass which is pressed rather than moulded a new process developed by Citroën
The XM's unique 'complex surface' headlights are much brighter on dipped beam than conventional units: so the tiring (and dangerous) need for the driver's eyes to adjust to different light intensities is minimised.
The purely practical benefits of innovative Citroën thinking are just as apparent in the designer's attention to detail. It shows in the key which folds neatly into its fob to prevent damage to your pockets; in the fob itself, which incorporates the infra-red 'plip' for the central locking; in the independently- controlled ventilation for rear seat passengers; in an interior rear screen which shuts out draughts when the tailgate is lifted
never has Citroën's ability to produce fresh solutions to familiar problems been more resoundingly demonstrated than in the XM.
Newest of all though, is the enormously heightened driving pleasure which derives from the XM's bracingly intelligent design. For instance, the XM offers a truly astonishing amount of space - an attribute which is accentuated by its large area of green-tinted glass and complemented by a brilliantly organised cabin
The definitive executive car.
Even a brief inspection of its lavishly equipped interior establishes the XM's right to be called 'The definitive executive car for the l99Os'. Every model in the range is equipped with, among many other things, remote control central locking, electrically-operated sun-roof, power steering and a 6 speaker hi-fi.
The 2-litre Si, 3-litre Si and Turbo SD provide many luxury features not normally found on mid-range executive models - these include electrically-adjustable seats and automatic temperature control.
Whilst the SEi and SED models - fully airconditioned and sumptuously upholstered in the finest leather - promise, quite simply, the ultimate executive driving environment.