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Old 03-04-2007, 10:57 AM   #1
voyager
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Default C6 vs Phantom

The 28th March issue of ĎAutocarí UK has a two-page article on the C6 vis-ŗ-vis the Rolls-Royce Phantom :-)

story by Richard Bremner

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Space and an aura of serenity are what these cars share. They're as much about the wellbeing of backbenchers as those up front, and coming from marques with such illustrious engineering histories they make for mightily compelling drives.

Rolls-Royce has been grafting to produce the best for over a century now, in this case providing the last word in silence, comfort and durability in a machine meticulously assembled from the finest materials. Sometimes its cars have laid claim to being the best luxury saloons in the world, quite often not, but this BMW-based Phantom is a real contender. Rolls-Royces are also about presence: often magnificent, sometimes magnificently vulgar. Either way, this Phantom has it.

At many times in its life CitroŽn has shone a blazing beam towards the automotive future. It is famous for its 1934 Traction Avant, the 1955 DS and the 1974 CX, and this C6 is a direct descendant of these via the more forgettable XM. Sometimes that light has shone at cul-de-sacs, drawing CitroŽn down roads to ruin, which is why it has sometimes built shockingly ordinary cars.

The C6, then, is a compromise with reality. It shares some innards with Peugeots, pioneers little fresh technology and does not redefine the motor car. But it is mildly outlandish and clearly a CitroŽn, both in design and engineering. It is front-drive, fluid sprung, exceptionally aerodynamic - and big. Like the Phantom, it's designed to provide its occupants with exceptional comfort.

Though this is patchy. Inside, you'll find one of the unhappiest dashboards available today. It's different, yes, and surprises with its head-up display, but equally with meanly dimensioned instruments that wouldn't look out of place in a Berlingo. Horizontal veneer spars sit uneasily amid the curious, vein-like grain of the dash, and the protuberant infotainment stack is plain ugly. But it does make this cabin different, and those sliding half-moon wooden door bins are a delight.

But for real sensory excess, step aboard the Phantom. Here is an exquisite meld of materials and textures that will transport you before the car has even turned a wheel. From the fine-stranded lamb's wool rugs to its art deco frosted glass flourishes, this cabin is a temple to craftsmanship. The CitroŽn, at almost a sixth of the price, cannot begin to compete.

But on the move its case improves.

Dramatically.

Like CitroŽns past, it takes acclimatisation. In brisk low-speed manoeuvres it feels wallowly, its steering over-light, its automatic transmission sometimes thumpingly crude, the V6 diesel droningly dull. But find a fast, twisting open road, select Sport and the C6 turns athletic and engaging. This big beast can be hustled at some pace, changing direction with an alacrity to be savoured. And all this while loping along with that strangely comforting, slow rise and fall that only hydropneumatic CitroŽns deliver.

If the C6's deftness seems unlikely, wait till you try the Phantom. The idea of throwing a limo at back-road bends seems foolhardy, not to say indecorous, but this car corners. It goes, too, with a silken, pile-driving authority that's intoxicating. And, of course, this Rolls can waft, satisfying delicate inputs of hand and foot threading this vast car to your destination. Yet it is not immaculately refined. The ride is less pillowly than it might be and there's sometimes a distant roar from the tyres.

The CitroŽn, for all the sophistication of its suspension, suffers the same problem, sharp bumps penetrating the cabin more than they ought. Still, this is offset by electrically reclining rear seats that tip you into a near-decadent lounging position, making this car an absolute pleasure to ride in. The Phantom's back bench is fixed (individual recliners can be ordered), and though it provides more legroom you can't loaf as extravagantly because you sit more upright, your identity masked by the comforting wrap-around of the pillars.

The C6 can't hope to compete with the occasion of this Rolls-Royce, but it is wonderfully comfortable, satisfyingly capable and, like the Phantom, moves down the road in a subtly different and compelling style. These two share more than you think.
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