A funny thing happened on my way to the 2012 Citroen Rendezvous in upstate New York. I got lost. The venue had changed from the previous year, so even though the event stayed around Saratoga Springs the new location was quite a few miles off the interstate. I vaguely glimpsed the route on The Mapquests the night before my 100+ mile drive from Connecticut, and somehow convinced myself that I knew it cold. But I got lost almost as soon as I got off the interstate in Saratoga Springs, simultaneously forgetting the name of the farm that I was looking for. After driving in circles for about 20 minutes I finally pulled into a gas station, not to ask for directions but to fiddle with my “navigation system,” a 2007 vintage Blackberry that’s been dropped so many times it should have been in a million pieces by now. But since they make them out of a metal whose formula was sent back from the year 2379, it works perfectly. If there is reception. In rural NY there wasn’t any.
Confronted with the reality that I was going to have to actually ask for directions for the first time in nine years, I got out of my car in an attempt to make contact with the local population when suddenly a group of weird cars traveling in an unusually tight formation flew through an intersection just a hundred yards away. I knew that I was rescued, if I actually managed to catch up to them. And leading the pack was a Citroen XM.
Replacing the extremely long lived CX in May of 1989, the Bertone-styled XM premiered to great fanfare. Aimed at such cars as the Mercedes-Benz W124 E-klasse and the BMW 5 Series, the XM tried to strike a balance between channeling the spirit of the DS and pleasing the modern customer base for executive sedans. Engines on offer ranged from a 2.0 liter inline-four, to a 3.0 liter V6, which is what all the North American XMs that I have seen seem to be powered by. The XM and its Peugeot 605 sibling, with which the XM shared the floorpan and some other innards, were not strong sellers out of the gate, being large French sedans, and sales stayed mostly flat throughout the entire production run of the two cars. Early examples of both the XM and the 605 were plagued by various electrical issues, but by the early 90s assembly quality seemed to have largely leveled out.
Never truly imported into the US in the way that, say, the Land Rover Defender was, a dozen or so XMs were brought into the country in the early 1990s. I say a dozen or so because the owners of the various XMs don’t really know either, and official import figures are somewhat lacking. But the number is generally believed to be at least 10 and no more than 20. The early 90s were a time when federalization procedures were an actually achievable goal, so the XMs were burdened with only about a $15,000 premium when it came to government mandated modifications. Even so, the out-the-door prices in the US came within spitting distance of a Mercedes-Benz S-klasse. Of the dozen or so brought into the country by CXA Automotive all but one were sedans, and the sole XM wagon is still believed to exist in seasonal use on Long Island.
Did you know that the XMs were also capable of evading nitrous-boosted Audi S8s? Even though this fact wasn’t publicized in XM promotional literature, these cars could carry themselves quite well when confronted with V8 powered German sedans equipped with all-wheel-drive. In fact, in a head to head test conducted just outside of Nice in 1996, an XM sedan with three sharply dressed gentlemen on board was able to not only win a shoving match of sorts with a 360+bhp Audi S8 4.2 Quattro, but to outperform that Audi on an off-road slalom course. The reviewers also praised the XM for being quick on its feet in the city environment, able to literally slide sideways through narrow passages. The XM’s looks also drew compliments from the experts, with one reviewer noting that it’s avantgarde design was literally able to part crowds, with people jumping out of the way to get a good look at it.
And speaking of getting a good look at it, you really have a chance of seeing a Citroen XM on this side of the pond at just two annual events: the Carlisle Import Nationals, and Citroen Rendezvous. The latter will take place on June 14th through the 16th somewhere around Saratoga Springs, New York, and is an annual favorite of mine even though I do not own a French car. Yet.
Full gallery from Citroen Rendezvous 2012 below:
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]