A big Citroen saloon? Surely they’ve learnt by now that these don’t sell...
Apparently not, but when you have a heritage as rich and idiosyncratic as the DS, SM and CX then perhaps you’ll never learn. Then again, economies of scale with sister company Peugeot’s 607 no doubt help as well, and if you don’t sell many, at least the residual values remain high. At launch the C6 was available with a 3.0-litre V6 petrol or the PSA-Ford 2.7-litre V6 diesel which CAR is currently running as a long-termer. Then it added a new engine - a 173bhp 2.0-litre diesel. The sales of diesel cars in the executive sector are still booming thanks to the Government’s focus on CO2, and currently make up over half of all new-car sales. A smaller engine helps lower the list price, the CO2 emissions, and raise the fuel consumption.
But can such a big car move with such a small engine?
It is indeed a big car – it looks it, and it definitely weights it at 1895kg, which is apparently 24kg more than our long-term V6, strangely. It’s only 35bhp down on power but the real difference comes from the lack of 325lb ft, the four-pot instead making do with 273lb ft. At least peak pull arrives 400rpm lower down the rev range, from 1500rpm all the way to 2700rpm. In practice, this engine is all you need. Paired with a manual gearbox this smaller-engined diesel C6 doesn’t get caught out at roundabouts like our V6, which suffers from hesitant step-off. The other upside is 175g/km versus the diesel V6’s 230g/km, and 266g/km for the petrol six cylinder - it'll save you lots of dosh in cheaper tax bills. But then again, would you want such a luxury car and have change gear yourself? No auto is available on the four-pot, so you'll have to stir the lever yourself...
It sure is a big thing, the C6!
Look, we know it is a big car, but at least it holds true to the Lignage concept of 1999. That length also makes the car appear deceptively low slung, though the sunroof does eat into headroom for those of us approaching two metres in height. The long nose also helps with crash protection, and the C6 scored five NCAP stars for passenger safety, and that large snout with its pop-up bonnet also makes the big Citroen the first car to get four stars for pedestrian safety. Impressive stuff. The rear end initially appears fairly short but the look works, the boot is a decent 488 litres, and the concave, Dino-esque rear screen is a lovely touch, endlessly intriguing. And there’s still lots of room inside for four passengers too, with gargantuan rear legroom for French cabinet ministers to stretch out.
So what is it like on the road?
A strange mix. The C6's steering reacts quickly, the car turning very abruptly, but then the whole car rolls. The two sensations are completely at odds with each other, but it is the rolling soft ride that defines this car. But this doesn’t matter because the C6 fulfils it job of cosseting the driver perfectly. You can schlep down motorways with ease and the car hangs on well, despite the roll, if you take the interesting route home. Just don’t expect much steering feel, or the sport button to have any effect. On the motorway the car is blissfully quiet, though there is always some diesel growl and despite laminated glass, the frameless windows let some wind noise in around the A-pillars.
If you’re thinking of using your own money to buy the C6, beware that you’ll probably lose a good chunk of it, but conversely that means it’ll be a great second-hand buy. The 2.2 will get you an extra 10.3mpg over the 32.5mpg of the V6 diesel, which is almost reason enough to pick the smaller engine. And on our Exclusive spec test car you get sat-nav, cornering headlights, a tyre pressure monitor, and heated front and rear leather seats. But the cream leather on the steering of the test car was already looking a little dirty. The 2.2 will set you back £34,615 - a far less daunting figure than the nearly-£40k of the V6. One feature that works excellently is the standard head-up display, which means you should never have to look down. Except you do, because the minor dashboard controls are all set very low, aren’t intuitive and are set up for left-hand drive cars. Another idiotic feature, as opposed to idiosyncratic, are the wipers that sweep inwards together and dirty the passenger-side screen. But the gimmicky Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) does work well, sending a vibration through the seat to your buttocks if you dare cross the white lines without indicating.
Put simply, the C6 will not sell in massive numbers in any engine guise. But if you want something that looks different – and good – and completely relaxes the driver, this car is for you. The smaller engine will help company car drivers and the generous spec will beat any rival on the market. It's definitely worth a look if you want something different from your exec.