However, while the Scottish rallying star has been pounding the course on the Monte Carlo Rally in his new Xsara World Rally Car on his way to second place, my Xsara experience has been slightly less exciting.
In place of McRae's turbocharged 300bhp engine, I have been experiencing 110bhp-worth of diesel power because Citroen has slotted its HDi unit under the bonnet of the Xsara Coupe for the first time.
Previously only available in 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol guises, the Coupe now has the option of a 2.0-litre common rail diesel engine. But as it's a diesel, the torque figure is more important and the HDi has 184lb-ft of the stuff, easily outweighing the 2.0-litre petrol's 144lb-ft and dwarfing the 1.6-litre's 110lb-ft. A top speed of 121mph and 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds lag behind the 2.0-litre petrol (but are very close to the 1.6), yet once on the move the Coupe HDi comes into its own.
In-gear acceleration is much improved over both petrol models while another area of improvement is fuel economy.
Where the 2.0 petrol model records a fraction over 30mpg on the combined cycle, the HDi records 54.3mpg – almost doubling the travelling range of the Xsara. And drivers will also see a reduction in benefit-in-kind tax bills if they opt for the diesel over the petrol.
With carbon dioxide emissions of 138g/km, the Xsara Coupe HDi qualifies for the lowest BIK band for non-Euro IV diesels of 18% for 2003/04 and the foreseeable future. The 2.0 petrol model, which emits CO2 at 215g/km, falls into the 25% band (rising to 27% after April's tax changes) while the 1.6 model at 160/g/km falls into the 15% band for the current tax year before rising upwards to 16% for 2003/04 and 18% for 2004/05.
On price, the HDi model sits between the two petrol versions – its P11d value is £12,960, compared to £11,350 for the 1.6 and £16,315 for the 2.0 – although Citroen is known for being very generous with its discounts and cashback offers.
The Xsara Coupe HDi stacks up financially and it also does on the road, with plenty of mid-range performance and a chassis that encourages spirited driving. The one thing that spoils the whole package is the gearbox – a long throw affair which feels so vague that you sometimes wonder which gear slot you have selected. However, this is a trait shared by all PSA Group cars. I drove a Peugeot 307 Dturbo immediately after the Xsara and was amazed at the difference.
Despite sharing the same engine and mechanicals, the Xsara felt much quicker and was far more enjoyable to drive.
Model: Citroen Xsara Coupe VTR HDi
Price (OTR): £13,095
Engine (cc): 1,997
Max power (bhp/rpm): 110/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 184/1,750
Max speed (mph): 121
0-62mph (secs): 10.2
Fuel consumption (mpg): 54.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 138
CAP residual value (3yrs/60,000 miles): £3,125/24%