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Old 07-11-2007, 04:25 PM   #1
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Default 'Autocar UK' long-term test of C6 (final report)

from the 31 october issue of Autocar UK

text by Mike Duff; (article has been edited to reflect Singapore-specification)


In a marketplace packed with 'me too' products and seen-it-before design features, few modern cars get to feel truly unique.

And, whatever it is, the CitroŽn C6 stands as the glorious exception to the rule. There is nothing even vaguely like it; there probably won't be ever again.

But even after spending nearly a year in it and with 54000 km showing on the odometer, we're still not convinced that the C6 will go down as anything other than a strange curiosity, proof to 2050's automotive historians that CitroŽn was brave enough for one last throw of the big-car dice. There's a huge amount to like about it; even its detractors have to admit it does some things brilliantly. But its problem remains living up to a price tag that puts it in competition with some very upmarket rivals, and an ownership experience that, in some crucial areas, falls short of them.

The CitroŽn's unashamed eccentricity gives it a charm that transcends a stale consideration of money and equipment levels. The C6's first keeper was editor-in-chief Steve Cropley, whose enthusiasm for it radiated throughout the office and his introduction to the car: "This is far more than a status symbol or some kind of virtuous non-BMW; to me it's nothing less than CitroŽn's successful return to building great large cars."

Given CitroŽn's emphasis on the vast amounts of equipment fitted as standard to the range-topping C6, we opted for full-on Exclusive trim, in conjunction with the 2.7 litre V6 turbodiesel that most buyers will prefer. This comes with a standard six-speed automatic gearbox.

The kitchen-sink spec includes power-operated leather seats and automatic almost-everything. After recovering from the shock of the price tag, we didn't need to tick a single options box.

The C6's utterly distinctive looks were always the first talking point and were responsible for most of both the praise and condemnation the car drew. But there was no doubt that it was a talented mile-eater, rapidly becoming the office's number one choice when a major journey was in the offing. The combination of excellent refinement and the smooth-spinning engine's ability to pull its tall gearing made it a supremely relaxing way to cover long trips. During its time with us it conveyed staffers to Spanish and French holidays, took our video crew to the Frankfurt motor show and transported me to visit family in Scotland twice.

Not that we ever got to the bottom of the more contentious issue of ride quality. CitroŽn's persistence with hydropneumatic suspension gives the C6 a compelling point of difference from conventional rivals - and keeps a common element of a bloodline that dates back to the 1955 DS.

But the C6 was never able to deliver the sort of magic carpet impression the system's parentage would lead you to expect. Sometimes the ride was brilliant, the suspension pillowing away big undulations that would have left steel-sprung rivals struggling to absorb the blow. More often on British asphalt it felt unresolved, failing to settle down over rougher surfaces and with undamped secondary harmonics inducing nausea in more motion-sensitive passengers.

After early criticism, CitroŽn actually took the car away to update the system to a later specification. This improved matters slightly, but the only substantial difference was discovered late in the C6's time with us, when i inflated the tyres to just over the recommended pressures. This put more of an edge on bigger undulations but settled down the secondary ride.

Other criticisms? The automatic wipers were dreadful. The interior also wore badly, acquiring scuffs and scrapes too easily. And the ashtray fell to pieces.

We had few opportunities to try out CitroŽn's after-sales, although on the limited contact we had it proved exemplary. At 12000 km the key fob failed and the car had to be taken in and reprogrammed; the whole process was accomplished without fuss.

A few months' later the C6's double-glazing saved me from a ruined holiday in Scotland. The driver's window was smashed while the car was parked on the street, but fortunately the two panes of glass managed to stay together for long enough for me to get the car back to my local dealer who repaired it quickly and efficiently.

Fuel economy remained fairly consistent throughout the C6's time with us. Indeed, it didn't really seem to matter where or how enthusiastically it was driven; almost every tank averaged somewhere between 31 and 34 mpg. The only really big bill came with the need to replace all of the Michelin tyres at the same time.

But the C6's biggest problem remained its attempt to compete without the badge cachet of any of its significant price-point rivals. Even adjusted for its generous standard equipment, the C6 still looks pricey: you can get a BMW 525d SE for less than the CitroŽn.

But the C6 is an ultra-exclusive choice. This is one of those cars that seems to win attention and friends pretty much everywhere it goes. After a year together, we still don't know quite why it exists; we're just glad it does.
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