Citroën XM Buying Guide

They're characterful and cheap. But troublesome? You might be surprised...

How much to pay

• Project £150-600 • Good £1200-2500 • Concours £3000-5000 •

Overview

Practicality ★★★★★
Running costs ★★★
Spares ★★
DIY Friendly ★★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★

Big Citroëns aren’t flashes in the pan; when launched they remain in production for some time. The XM had the CX’s 15 year heritage to live up to, when launched in 1989, and appeased both the Citroën faithful and enticed new customers in. Underneath, the formula was simplified, drawing heavily upon the smaller BX for inspiration. The floorpan was also shared with Peugeot’s 605, as were the majority of the engines.

However, that doesn’t make the XM a Peugeot in drag, because it still feels very much like an executive Citroen should – electronically-controlled hydropneumatic suspension makes the ride as supple as you would expect. Despite the early cars’ reputations for electrical maladies, the XM has proven to be a trustworthy modern classic, with a band of knowledgeable and enthusiastic owners clubs should you need support. If you like the idea of an XM on the drive, you'll want to start hunting now – they were seldom seen outside central Europe even when new and numbers continue to thin, making good ones prime fodder for collectors.

Your AutoClassics Citroën XM inspection checklist

Engine

The Citroën XM was fitted with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in carburettor, fuel injection and turbocharged derivatives. Also available were 2.1- and 2.5-litre diesels, and two varieties of 3.0 V6. Carburetted variants are rare today, and the bulk of survivors are 2.0i, turbo or 2.1TD models.

The 2.0s suffer cambelt failure, as do turbos – renewal should be every five years or 72,000 miles to be safe, as the XU is an interference engine. The same applies to the 2.1-litre XUD diesel, as this is a derivative of the XU petrol. On turbo cars, the electronic boost valve can fail leading to a car which effectively performs like a non turbo 2.0. A manual boost control valve should cure this – and allow you to play with the turbo set-up. Originally, it was tuned to provide a flat torque curve at the expense of power – a previous owner may already have amended this.

3.0 PRV V6s have few issues barring rattly cams at high miles and occasional loom issues where heat from the block can cause the insulation to melt. The later ES9 V6 is equally reliable, with iffy starter motors being the primary culprit for issues.

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Gearbox

Manual gearboxes pose no issues in service. The long throw is cumbersome, and the foot-operated parking brake makes the clutch awkward, but they are reliable and solid.

Most automatics use the ZF 4HP18, while the late V6 automatics use the ZF 4HP20. Both gearboxes will appreciate regular changes of ATF at around 16,000 miles. You can use Dexron 3 in a 4HP18, though be prepared for shorter intervals if the gearbox has previously been run on Dexron 2. Dexron 3 has greater cleaning capacity, and it would be wise to avoid debris in the gearbox!

If the fluid is not red, ask the vendor when it was last changed. If he is unsure, or if it was over 20,000 miles, save yourself potential pain and walk away.

4HP20s have electronic adaptive properties, and are supposedly sealed for life. It is possible however to change the fluid – through a complex procedure, which is not for the faint-hearted. If it hasn’t been done recently or is anything but red, walk away.

Suspension and brakes

While some basic cars used a standard hydropneumatic system, the majority of XMs used Citroën’s Hydractive electronically controlled suspension system. This used electronic valves and additional spheres to selectively stiffen or soften the ride depending upon road and driving conditions, ensuring that the ride could stay supple without causing excessive wallowing under hard cornering. There were 2 types; Hydractive 1 and the later and more adaptive Hydractive 2 – ECUs are not interchangeable.

Check a previous owner hasn’t forced it into permanent soft mode – there are diodes in the ECU which control the switching, and when these fail the car defaults to hard mode. Rather than cure the issue, a number of cars have had their wiring butchered. If you can’t tell a difference between 'Sport' and 'Normal' modes, chances are this has been done and you should negotiate accordingly. The brakes should be strong, as the high pressure hydraulics in old Citroëns ensure a firm feeling pedal and plenty of bite.

Bodywork

Much of the Citroën XM’s bodywork was galvanised when new, and is thus unlikely to pose significant issues with rust. However, key areas which were not galvanised include the front and rear subframes, and many owners have reported that these can – and will – rust badly. Check them thoroughly to ensure you have a solid car, then turn your attention to traditional troublespots such as the sills.

Inner sills and jacking points can rot out, particularly on cars that have been jacked incorrectly in the past. Spare wheel carriers weren’t galvanised either, and can rust just as badly as the subframes – though with less severe consequences. While we would be surprised to find rust on the bodywork, it is possible that the car has suffered accident damage and poor repairs.

Plastic trim items – such as much of the tailgate, nose cone and bumpers – are no longer available new, and secondhand supply is limited. Examine all thoroughly, and ensure that there are no major cracks, scuffs or splits. Glass is similarly hard to find, and many good cars have been scrapped because of thoughtless thieves or accidental damage.

Interior

Interior plastics are notoriously brittle – and when so much has to be dismantled for as simple a job as a clock bulb change, it’s not surprising to find that many owners haven’t bothered. So don’t be overly put off by a dead clock – look closely and you should be able to see if the LCD is in good condition. LCDs are prone to bleeding; both the clock/trip screen and the warning screen. These are available secondhand, though rare – our advice would be to find a car with working screens. The radio cover panel clips can also break, and don’t be surprised to find that the glovebox lid droops on S1s. The hydraulic ram used to open it can lose charge, and while regassing is possible it involves stripping the glovebox from the car and many simply don’t bother.

Don’t be surprised if the speedo needle is erratic – it’s a known issue, and one that potential XM owners should get used to. Be more concerned about the quality of the interior trim – check for cigarette burns on velour or excessive cracking on leather. If the car has a keypad immobiliser (In the centre console) we advise that you have this disconnected. They can fail and render the car immobile even to its owner, and can only be disconnected when the correct code has been entered.

History

  • 1989: Citroën XM launched as 2.0, 2.1TD and 3.0 12v V6.
  • 1990: 24v V6 joins the existing range.
  • 1991: XM estate launched.
  • 1993: Series 1.5 model launched with revised Hydractive, 2.0 Turbo launched.
  • 1994: Range facelifted into Series 2, new grille, spoiler and interior similar to smaller Xantia.
  • 1996: 2.5TD launched using Iveco diesel.
  • 2000: XM discontinued.

AutoClassics say…

Some say the Citroën XM is a Peugeot 605 in drag and that they are more trouble than they’re worth. We disagree on both counts; the XM is a charming classic, a proper big Citroën, and reliable enough to stand the test of time. Great seats, an unrivalled ride and a big boot make an XM very easy to justify.

Running costs aren’t ludicrous either, so if you have a good one there is nothing to stop you enjoying it regularly. And you’ll want to – an XM will always turn heads, and will always make you feel special. As one of the last big Citroëns, it’s a car that’s well worth preserving – and with everything from leather-lined limousines to diesel workhorse estates available, there’s an XM for everyone. Buy one. You won’t regret it.

Specifications

Citroën XM 24v
  Power 200bhp
  Top speed 146mph
  0-60mph 7.5sec
  Economy 25mpg

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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