Buying Guide Citroen XM
Citroën XM This heir to the DS and SM offers a lot of Citroën for the money, but they’re complex, so buy carefully.
Words RICHARD DREDGE
Photography JOHN COLLEY
Buy a space-age Citroën XM for £3k to £10k
Buying Guide How to buy a cool Citroën XM before the prices rise like its suspension
What to pay
- You can still find running XMs around £2k, although these tend to be unloved 2.0 cars. For a reliable, sorted car, budget at least £3k.
- Traditionally, diesels commanded more, with the best 2.5s making £5k, although given ULEZ restrictions, demand may slacken off. Beware hard-worked estates.
- V6s start at £5k for a good one. At this point, generation and body style matters; mint S2 V6 estates fetch up to £7k, while low-mileage S1 V6 hatchbacks are heading for £10k.
A well-bought Citroën XM potentially represents a very smart classic acquisition right now. Prices are on the up, and yet unlike its predecessors –DS,CX and the exoticV6-engined SM– they’re still in the realms of affordability. Also unlike Citroëns of yore, the PSA-engineered XM resists rust like a Peugeot.
‘Launched in 1989, the Bertone-styled XM worked SM styling cues into a five-door fastback’
In four-cylinder form, these represent a great-value offbeat piece of classic saloon fun. With V6 power, they’re more expensive and sought-after, but fantastic grand tourers in the SM mould. But they are mechanically complex, and have a habit of frustrating mechanics unused to Citroën hydropneumatics and electronics. With this in mind, we called upon specialists Rob Moss of Chevronics, Malcolm Orme of Savoy Garage, and Michał Kurlej of Q&K Citroën Classics in Lublin, Poland.
‘Hydropneumatic suspension is central to the XM’s character’
Which one to choose?
Launched in 1989 to replace the CX, the Bertone-styled XM worked SM styling cues into a five-door fastback, including the thin nose, offset badging and [ What to pay] angular lines. Launch engines were a 2.0 SOHC 8v petrol with carburettors or injection (all injection from 1992), a 2.0 Turbo, 2.1-litre diesels in turbo and non-turbo forms, and a V6 in 12v and 24v guises. Estate models launched in 1991.
Big changes were made in 1994. The styling was made less radical, with the badge moved to the middle of the grille, and a more conventional interior with three-spoke steering wheel and analogue dials. The 8v petrol engines were replaced with a new 16v dohc 2.0 four-cylinder, and the normally aspirated diesel was replaced by a new 2.5-litre turbodiesel. Suspension evolved into slightly firmer ‘Hydractive 2’. Final changes came in the 1997 model year, when the PRV V6 was replaced with Citroën’s new 24v ES9 3.0 V6. Production of all XMs ended in 2000.
Rust is rarely a major issue but can be a big deal to fix. Look for it where the lower front wings meet the sills – or worse, evidence of filler in the panels. Blocked drain holes cause sills to corrode from the inside out, so check for rot around the jacking points.
The box sections that strengthen the floorpans also rot from the inside. Replacement sills cost just £50 each, but depending on the extent of the rust, the cost of repairing them can run over £1000. Rust also occurs where the rear subframe mounts to the body and along the door bottoms. Subframes rarely corrode but thankfully replacing them is relatively cheap and easy compared to sills and box sections.
All XMs got a sunroof as standard until 1998 when they became optional. They can leak – often channelling water through the interior light – and the drive cables are known to snap. Replacements cost £100, plus the time-consuming labour involved in fitting them which includes removing the headlining. As a result, many XM sunroofs tend to be left shut.
The 2.0-litres are the least reliable and the least powerful. The 16v piston skirts lead to wear and consequent knocking, though they do keep going. They tend to leak oil from their cam covers and leaking exhaust manifold gaskets can be an issue; new gasket sets are available for £110. Citroën recommended fitting a new timing belt to the four-cylinder engines every 10 years or 48k/72k miles, but every five years or 48k miles is better. A top-end rebuild kit costs £400, with the job itself running to £2000 or more if done professionally.
The 3.0 V6 is refined and muscular. It’s also the most reliable, partly because it’s the only XM engine to use a timing chain rather than a belt. The earliest V6s had the PRV engine, but this was superseded by an all-new PSA unit in 1997.
Diesels are usually reliable if they’re properly serviced and anti-freeze levels are maintained. Failure to do so risks cylinder head gasket failure because all XM engines have an alloy head.
Replacing the clutch is a big job for which a specialist will charge at least £800, despite it being an engine-in job on all models except the 2.5D. Clutch cables also stretch and snap and replacements are scarce.
All 3.0 V6s came with a four-speed ZF automatic gearbox as standard; a five-speed manual was a nocost option. The 2.1 diesel and some 2.0 engines could be ordered with either gearbox but the 2.5 diesel was manual only. Manuals rarely wear out but the autos aren’t as durable. All early XM autos used a ZF-built 4HP18 gearbox; 1997-on petrol-engined cars got the more durable 4HP20. Both can cover 150,000 miles if the fluid is changed every 12,000 miles but neglected gearboxes suffer from slow gear engagement and possibly overheating. Overhauling a damaged gearbox will cost at least £700.
All XMs have power-assisted steering that is generally reliable, though it’s always wise to check for leaks and puddles of fluid beneath the car. The Hydractive hydropneumatic suspension (Hydractive 2 from June 1993) is also crucial to the car’s character. The earlier system is more reliable as the diodes fail in the solenoids of later cars, but Hydractive 2 provides a better ride. Whichever one you go for, it generally behaves well as long as the LHM fluid is changed every three years or 36k miles. If the suspension feels hard during a bounce test (conducted with the engine running and all doors closed) then it will need new spheres, but this could also indicate electrical failure on a Series 2.
Suspension pipes corrode and the various unions and joints can leak, leading to a lopsided stance. Leaking spheres cause all sorts of issues but should last around 60,000 miles on Series 1s and 100,000 miles on Series 2s. The two are interchangeable. There are six spheres; one at each corner plus two in the centre (front and rear). The corner spheres are easy to replace but those in the centre are less accessible and therefore often neglected. Regassed spheres are £15 each, pattern replacements £25 and OE items £60 each, or £100 for the multi-layer units denoted by three dimples around the filling port, fitted from 1994. Fitting spheres is straightforward for a specialist; they’ll charge £200 to do the lot.
Anti-lock braking was standard on all XMs bar some pre-May 1992 2.0-litres and diesel cars, for which it was a cost option. Early cars used a Bendix system which made way for a Teves setup from 1995. Faulty wheel sensors can cause the system to fail and early Bendix sensors are getting difficult to find. Relay board failure on the ABS pump is another common glitch – replacing it costs £200 including fitting.
The parking brake is foot-operated and acts on the front discs. Although the setup is reliable, rear discs can corrode and the calipers seize. Cleaning and freeing everything off is simple but £400 all-in replacement is the only answer if corrosion is bad.
The electrical system is complex and can throw up various problems, usually resulting from poor earths. XMs have been cheap for so long that bodgery is far from uncommon. Series 2s tend to suffer less from electrical gremlins than the earlier cars, despite having more electrical equipment such as heated washer jets and pressure headlamp washers.
Most XMs (bar the 2.1 diesel) have air conditioning and posher versions have automatic climate control. Check that the system blows icy cold on its lowest setting. Defunct aircon may merely need a recharge, but there could be a leak in the system or the condenser may have failed. New condensers are £35 but they’re time-consuming to fit.
The Series 1 XM dashboard is more characterful than the Series 2’s but contains a digital display that tends to fail in stages. Just a few pixels fail initially until it gradually becomes illegible. Replacement displays are no longer available new, but Q&K Citroën Classics in Poland sources replacements for £100. It also sells set of £12 rubber padding strips to helps reinforce the display’s electrical contacts.
Comfortable cabin gained a large armoury of electronics for the Series 2 Diesels were once the obvious choice, but emissions regs are likely to dampen their popularity.
A careful previous owner will typically have invested heavily in upkeep of the XM’s various systems. If they haven’t, then you will certainly have to.
Owning a Citroën XM
XM owner Will was brought up with Citroëns and learned to drive in a GS. Having owned two XMs new, he now has a pair of them in his garage, both manual-gearbox diesels. Says Will, ‘These cars still look futuristic and attract a lot of interest at shows. They’re spacious and comfortable but still fabulous to drive – the steering, ride, handling and brakes are all superb. They’re easy to work on too, once you understand how they work – I do all of my own maintenance, including the hydraulics, engine and transmission plus the electrics.
‘The XM isn’t particularly rot-prone but corrosion can kill them because of the high cost of repairs in areas such as the sills — if there’s rust there, it’ll be in more complex adjoining areas too. Interiors usually last well although the Exclusive’s Alcantara seats (others got leather or velour) rarely last more than 80,000 miles. You can usually track down used interior parts – some bits are scarce in the UK but most can still be sourced in France via sites like Lebancoin.
‘You’ll be lucky to find XM-specific parts at a Citroën dealer because there’s been no factory support for years. The XM’s rarity means parts rarely crop up at autojumbles but you should have better luck within the two key clubs – XM Club and Citroën Car Club – and online.’
‘I haven’t had any cars other than Citroën XMs for 16 years now,’ says Matthew Thomas. ‘They’re just so unique, and I know my way around their systems and foibles now. I’m an architect, and when a colleague of mine demonstrated his XM to me, I was so impressed that I traded in my Saab 900 for one.
‘I have four now, all early V6s. Not only is the PRV V6 more distinctive, it’s also a simpler engine than the turbocharged variants, a traditional, easy-to-work-on unit.
‘My latest is a 24v, the most exotic of all XMs, and being left-hand drive it has DIRAVI steering like an SM. I found it in Germany – they’re extremely rare in the UK. I’d recommend Germany if you want an XM. They sold relatively well over there and the Germans look after their cars, so there’s plenty of choice, both on eBay.de and moto.de.
‘Engine parts for early V6s are getting rare though, especially things like starter motors and radiator hoses, and you won’t find an XM in a British scrapyard. So I’ve broken 15 XMs and have my own stock of parts. There’s a good technical advice forum for XM owners online too.’
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Peter McIlvenny of specialist classic car insurer Carole Nash says, ‘Now I would be lying if I said I had insured lots of Citroen XMs in the last few years, but with fewer than 200 on the UK roads that’s not a big surprise. What is a surprise is what great value this model remains – and while it’s not quite as cool as a DS just yet, it’s still a comfortable cruiser that says, “I’ve arrived.” Around £3000-£4000 will buy you a really clean example but be prepared to accept that the best are often on the continent and in left-hand drive. Future values are hard to predict but what can be assured is that they’re only going up. So, buy one now and enjoy the ride!’
Classic car insurance quotes: 0333 005 7541 or carolenash.com