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Autocar C6 Road Test

First Road Test April 2006

by Dave-Retired
 5.0 - 2 votes -

What Autocar Made of the early C6's


Citroen C6 - Background:

Relax and look beyond the obvious. That’s what Citroën would like you to do with the new C6. It’s the latest in a long line of big Citroëns, but it has been a while since the marque’s last, the XM of 1989-2000 (excluding the substantial C5). It seems Citroën isn’t keen to stress the C6 as the XM’s spiritual replacement. Instead, it claims the inspiration for the C6 are ‘great’ Citroëns such as the SM, CX and DS.

Nevertheless, the thinking behind the C6 remains similar to that of the XM – a distinctive, pneumatically suspended front-wheel-drive executive cruiser from a manufacturer renowned for making odd and ultimately rare executive cars.

The C6 is suitably expensive, too: from a smidgen under £30,000 for a 3.0-litre V6 petrol version, the range rises to £37,800 for this 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel in Exclusive trim. That’s the sort of money that would buy a BMW 535d or Mercedes E320 CDi, or get you an identically engined Jaguar S-type 2.7D V6 SE with five grand to spare.

To give the C6 its credit, it does look expensive. At almost five metres long it cuts a stately shape and seems elegant and imposing from most angles. There are also tight panel gaps and seemingly fine assembly, plus some neat external touches – frameless doors with laminated, twin-glazed windows and a concave rear window with bold surrounding buttresses. Whether the C6 errs towards grace (the swooping roofline) or amorphousness (the extraordinarily long front overhang) depends partly on your outlook and partly on the angle from which you view the car.

You’re more likely to appreciate the C6’s interior. From our experience of the colour scheme, it tends towards two extremes: very dark or very beige. With the black leather and trim of some of the examples we've seen, the cabin is somehow less opulent, and certainly less flamboyant, than the light cream trim of our test car.

Design:

In keeping with the appearance (and price), interior fit and finish is first-rate and the selection of materials is mostly spot-on. Only indicator stalks from the C2 supermini let things down. The C6 is enormous inside, with huge electrically adjustable front seats. We can’t fault the seats for comfort, although we can fault the shortage of lateral support and the steering wheel's lack of greater reach adjustment.

C6 gets Citroën’s first electronic handbrake, which, confusingly must be pulled to both activate and release it. There is also a head-up display on the windscreen that shows speed and sat-nav directions. There’s ample storage space, the centre console and glovebox being supplemented by very deep door pockets.

Unusually, the appearance of the wood is respectable: smallish, flattish sections that haven’t been forced to unnaturally negotiate corners and sharp edges.

All C6s feature a tremendously roomy rear cabin that on this Executive model includes a Lounge Pack (£1000) comprising two separate reclining chairs. Flick a switch on the armrest and the base slides back or forth, while the backrest reclines. There’s also a switch to slide the front passenger seat forward in the unlikely event that it’s taking too much rear legroom. This is a car designed as much for occupants as it is for its driver: dynamics and excitement are not priorities, isolation and quietness are.

Step forward Citroën’s hydraulic suspension. No conventional springs or dampers here; instead there are cylinders filled with nitrogen and oil. Movement of the two substances provides the springing and damping. It’s the first time that Citroën’s Hydractive suspension has been mated to double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, which is more expensive and less compact, but should offer better control than the MacPherson strut/torsion-beam combo that the C5 uses.

On The Road:

At very low speeds, the suspension is unable to prevent the effect of broken surfaces from entering the cabin. At these speeds the damping effect is so weak that the C6 begins to pitch and roll, though the damping regains control at higher speeds. At around 30-40mph the C6’s command over bumps and general control is exceptional. At motorway pace, however, it Is less accomplished. The damping firms up to improve body control and stability, but the trade-off is restlessness.

The steering's level of power assistance changes according to speed and driving conditions. Although it is finger-twirlingly light while parking and heavier at speed and in corners, there is precious little consistency.

There’s nothing wrong with the C6’s ability to cover ground – helped by ample grip – but it doesn’t have the agility of its more dynamic rivals, even with Sport mode engaged. That increases body control a tad, but you’re still aware that the C6, despite making a decent fist of cornering, wasn't really engineered with this in mind.

The diesel engine is the same unit that you’ll find in the Jaguar S-type and XJ and the Peugeot 407 Coupé. Average economy of 22.7mpg during our test was disappointing and partly down to the C6’s 1951kg kerb weight. At least the engine’s power is delivered smoothly, driving the front wheels through a soft-shifting, six-speed automatic gearbox. The selectable override is, however, less obedient than you’d want. It was wet and windy when we obtained the C6’s performance figures, but that would have made little difference – it is reluctant to spin its front wheels from rest in the dry. The C6’s 0-60mph time of 8.6sec is some way short of its rivals: the BMW 535d hits 0-60 mph in 6.0sec, the Mercedes E320 CDi in a claimed 6.8sec.

Noise levels are low. The engine is all but inaudible at speed and road and wind noise are both well suppressed. The boot has an ample capacity of 488 litres, though access to it could be improved.

Living:

The C6 has already been put through Euro NCAP crash tests and netted the full five stars for occupant safety. It comes stacked with primary safety equipment – lane departure warning system, seven airbags and a full complement of electronic stability aids. Meanwhile, to improve pedestrian safety, Citroën has adopted pyrotechnic bonnet technology.

The C6 is packed with luxury equipment, too. From heated seats to all-round parking radar, occupants will be left wanting for very little save for super-luxury kit such as massaging seats. Still, you’d be less than impressed if the C6 came with anything other than impeccable safety credentials and plenty of standard equipment, particularly in £38k range-topping form.

With its spaciousness and perceived quality, the C6 almost sounds like good value. But the truth is that a lot of the C6’s equipment can be found on most of its rivals and that could give Citroën a problem. At least Citroën UK is realistic, recognising that this car will sell in ‘hundreds, rather than thousands’ a year.

Those who make the choice will get a competent, characterful and endearing car, one that puts comfort above all other dynamic qualities. But they’d be brave buyers: the market decides on residual values, and it’s a bold soul indeed who spends nearly £40,000 on a French executive car.

Verdict:

Typically, Citroën has gone its own way with its latest big executive saloon. The C6 ticks all the comfort and refinement boxes, offers excellence in many areas, and its peculiarities also appeal. But it is priced against some fine cars and, although competitive, it doesn't beat its rivals for luxury and trails them for dynamism, too.

Data:




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