XM: A story

Slotting the key into the door lock, Ian reminded himself that he really needed to replace the battery in his Citroen XM’s key. He pushed the key deep into the recess, because otherwise the XM’s clever door lock just spins. A neat anti-theft method.

Steamed up windows car

Once upon a time…

Clambering aboard, he slotted the key into the ignition barrel, turned to the ignition position and paused to contemplate the soggy state of west Wales on this wet Wednesday morning. And to allow the glow plugs to warm up. With that done, a twist of the key saw the XM’s XUD11T engine fire noisily into life, its three-valves per cylinder bouncing away under the bonnet like toddlers high on chocolate.

Moments later, the car lifted itself from its bump stops as hydraulic fluid was forced into the suspension spheres by the engine-driven pump. It then settled at the correct level for normal driving, one of four height settings controlled by a lever near the gearlever. Ian pulled the handbrake lever, mounted to the right of the steering column, and the foot-operated parking brake pedal sprang back up with a bang.

The car ambled along the driveway, with the heater settings configured to try and get rid of the effects of far, far too much damp. Yes, this was a case of steamy windows and Tina Turner had not been invited.

A pause at the end of the driveway allowed first use of the powerful, hydraulic brakes. These were legendary for their effectiveness when this car was new, yet feel quite feeble and slow compared to the horribly over-assisted systems fitted to most modern cars. As well as thinking about this, Ian also checked that there was no traffic approaching before pulling away.

The wipers were notched up to full speed. There are some types of rain that intermittent just can’t handle. Taking care to avoid Gareth who was walking his dogs, Ian negotiated a tight right hander that made him glad the XM had nicely-weighted power assisted steering.

After a gentle, 30mph climb, the National Speed Limit beckoned. However, the engine was still not at full operating temperature, so Ian elected not to get that turbo whistling too much just yet. Nonetheless, the white barge gathered pace in a far from disgraceful manner.

Tight turns required adjustment of pace, though careful planning ensured the brakes did not need much of a workout. This is west Wales, not Hollywood and progress was swift without resembling a reckless big screen car chase. Any cardboard boxes would have just disintegrated anyway. A lorry approaches. Can they squeeze past? Of course they can. There is no drama here.

A tight hairpin requires use of brakes and downshifting, highlighting the biggest weakness of many Peugeot/Citroen cars. A clunky, vague gearchange that isn’t really befitting such a pleasant car. The road then drops down dramatically towards the village of Pontrhydygroes. Sometimes, it has hyphens in it.

After crossing a folksy stone bridge, there’s a climb back up the otherside before Ian locates the vehicle he will soon be swapping to. Yes, it’s a Peugeot Boxer minibus with sexy graphics and even, luxury of luxuries, alloy wheels. How envious are you?

But that’s a tale for another day…

In other news, it’s been a really, really boring week with dreadful weather and I’ve barely done anything car-related at all.

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