DTW Summer Re-Issue: “Let’s Sort This Out, Shall We?”

Recently we have been discussing the origins of the Citroën XM.

[First posted Nov 28, 2016, but well worth a second read as it’s a first rate bit of research.]

1989 Citroen XM
1989 Citroen XM

Here are as many of the influences I can find, not counting the aspects of the car that draw on Citroen’s own general heritage. The roll call is long and not exclusive. However, it begins with the 1974 Lotus Eclat which has a similar dropped window line, one of the XM’s signature features. Deschamp’s drawing looks like a saloon Eclat, if you compare the two.

The 1979 Bertone Tundra offers the angular surface treatment which characterises the XM. The 1980 Lancia Medusa has a long wheel base and a very similar raked window screen and bonnet, another Citroen XM feature. The glazing is conventional though.

Two cars provide inspiration for the way the windscreen wraps to the side glass. First, the 1980 Ferrari Pinin shows the wraparound effect and, second, the 1982 GM Aero shows the small triangular glass panels needed to allow the side glass to wind down (later used on Buick and Oldsmobile C-platform models in 1991). In between is the overlooked 1981 Opel Tech concept car which has a floating roof which depends on glazed A, B and C-D pillars.

In the same year Bertone’s Mazda MX-81 (by Marc Deschamps) shows the same surface treatment as the Tundra and particularly the distinctive groove down the body side as it relates to the wheel arches. Marc Deschamp’s XM sketch is from October 1984. The 1985 Subaru XT appeared in February 1985 and it may only be a coincidence but it has many of the same elements as the XM. Its authorship is not clear: I suggest an uncredited Bertone project for an XM coupe, finalised in 1982. I have shown a 1986 car.

I am not aware of a car that has so many clear influences in its final form as the XM. The 1982 Citroen BX must be noted as direct influence in that it was this car the XM had to relate to in the Citroen portfolio. The BX is credited to Gandini. An abbreviated chain of influences runs from Bertone (the Tundra and MX-81), to Gandini (BX) and on to Deschamps at Bertone again. The final car was then polished by Olson and Abrahamson.

Perhaps the 1981 Talbot Tagora, on which Art Blakeslee worked might even be included?

1989 Citroen XM influences
1989 Citroen XM influences

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Image credits:

1974 Lotus Eclat
1979 Bertone Tundra
1980 Lancia Medusa by ItalDesign.
1980 Ferrari Pinin
1981 Opel Tech.
1981 Mazda MX-81
1982 GM Aero concept car
1985 Subaru XT
1989 Citroen XM grey side view.
1984 Citroen XM sketch by Marc Deschamps in Martinez, A., and Sauzay, M (1989) Citroen XM. EPA, Paris.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “DTW Summer Re-Issue: “Let’s Sort This Out, Shall We?””

  1. I think the Medusa is the odd man out, I don’t really see how that car is connected to the XM, I think that’s just wishful thinking.

    And I’d like to draw attention to two aspects of the Citroen heritage, even if you left Citroen out of it. First, the backwards canted sloping floating roof of the DS. They wanted a floating roof for the DS, and in those days, they got that by covering everything with chrome. The thought was that chrome read as a negative area, therefore invisible. And the large C-pillar was covered in chrome except for the poverty specs.

    In the 70’s, the same effect was done with blackening out any negative area, thus everything that had been chromed was painted black. And so it is to this day, black reads as negative area, therefore invisible. And had the DS been done today, all the pillars hade been blackened out to achieve that floating roof effect. Just as it’s done on the XM.

    Second, the upkick on the rear door is taken straight from the window line of the SM. Had they done a four door SM, the upkick would fall at the same place. So, even though the XM is a late 80’s product and done by a third party fashion house, Bertone kept to the heritage and incorporated thoughts from his predecessor down the line, Robert Opron.

    I think it’s actually a very nice gesture from Bertone, considering the XM is a clean sheet design. Not many would’ve done that.

    1. The Medusa offered the profile and proportions: I think it looks very pointy with its very slanted wing line.
      As to the SM, yup, the upkick is a straight reference. As the text say, Citroen refrerences are not included in my geneology. It’s all the other ones I wanted to trace.

  2. Now, if only Bertone had done the XM without the quarterlights. There we can talk about being the odd man out. They add too much visible noice, and keep focusing the eyes into a very centred narrow band. It makes the car look shorter and more cramped than it really is. And none of its predecessors DS or CX had any quarterlights at all. Perhaps some of the photoshop gnomes at this place could make a rendering of the XM without any quarterlights, or at least making them fall where they make less noise?

  3. I’ve to confess that I’ve actually never liked the XM, mostly because I’m not a big fan of Bertones‘ work in general (with the Giulia Sprint GT and the Stratos being two rare exceptions). The XM epitomises many things I dislike in Bertone designs as it comes with an overdose of silly and useless gags like the part-blacked out rear lights, the plastic strip between bonnet and windscreen, the kink in the window line (which for me does not resemble the SM because it is not met by anything from above like the C pillar in the SM) and in particular the clumsy and nasty rear spoiler.
    I particularly dislike the XM’s glasshouse with its too many individual pieces of glass. Had they given the windscreen more of a bend around the A-pillars instead of putting the bend in the front quarterlights and had they left out the rear quarterlights it might have looked far better and more expensive. The XM’s interior is a big disappointment as it lacks attractive design to make well its deficits in the fit and material areas.
    The XM was no sales success and deservedly so. What CX customers had wanted was a CX-style car with proper corrosion protection and reliable electrics and what they got was a Peugeot in drag with even bigger reliability problems and not even proper solutions for the CX’s biggest deficit, its engines where they had to buy in an IVECO light truck engine for teh top Diesel version.

    1. If you delete those features then there isn’t much left. I won’t say you should like them but they seem to have an æsthetic function.
      The plastic at the windscreen base takes visual weight out of the front wing and subtly extends the glass-house by a percent or two. It also bridges the radius of the A-pillar (æroefficient) with the wing to bonnet radius.
      I’ve explored XM variants with different window lines (Gavin Green didn’t like it). I’ll try to find the images: all are rather banal though. The dropped window alllows more light in and a better view out.
      The partly-blacked out rear-lamp cover seems very minor. I can’t suggest an alternative.
      What you can say about the XM was that it was an efficient package, spacious, efficient to drive and agile. The reliability woes were fixed after they were identified – too late, though. My car has been quite trustrworthy in the 14 years I’ve had it.
      Objectively the XM is a better car than the CX but not nicer. It was only patchily superior across the important parameters. As a styling excercise I consider it distinctive and coherent; it was also had Citroen cues but managed to be its own car too.

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