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CITROňN C6 TEST

CitroŽn C6 2.7HDi V6 Exclusive Automatic test 

How does one approach testing the C6?  One could compare it with its predecessors or one could compare it with its peers.  Or one could judge it on its own merits.  The latter approach is probably the most reasonable since it is unlike its predecessors and also unlike its contemporaries.  However, most people like some sort of benchmark.  And people visiting this site are likely to wonder how it stacks up when compared to the XM, CX and DS.  Unfortunately, I did not have an example of the latter two to hand and memory is fallible. 
At the tail end of August 2007, I drove my XM to CitroŽn UK’s HQ in Slough and exchanged it for a C6 2.7HDi V6 Exclusive for 24 hours.  I was shown the silver car and handed the keys, two press packs and left on my own.  Opening the doors was easy enough, as was starting the engine.  Adjusting the seat was not easy at all.  In fact it required me to read the Owner’s Handbook.  Now I happen to think that the logical place to have seat adjustment controls is on the seat itself – or if not, then the controls should be designed in such a way that their function is obvious.  The controls – four of them – are mounted on the driver’s door and there are an additional three controls permitting the storing of positions and subsequent recall of those positions.  Useful but not obvious.  And a trick has been missed here.  A far more clever way of handling this would be to relate the seat and mirror positions to the key being used – his and her keys that remember his and her driving and mirror positions. 

I eased the car out of the car park and on to the Bath Road and discovered that the HUD (Head Up Display) appeared to have been deactivated so at the first set of lights, I dived once more into the Owner’s Handbook but someone behind me felt the need to sound his horn.  No HUD then but I was determined to get it working so I pulled into a layby – only to discover that pages 7 – 12 were missing and the info regarding the HUD is on pages 12 and 13 with the instructions for activating it being on the missing page 12.  When I got home, I fired off an email to CitroŽn UK and within 15 minutes was given instructions for getting it to work.

Onto the M4 and I headed west.  There are roadworks in the vicinity of Reading with average speed cameras so I set the cruise control to 50 mph and promptly had to brake so I then set the limiter to 50 mph (the average speed one must not exceed) which seemed to infuriate people behind me no end.  The car attracted a fair bit of attention from other CitroŽn drivers and I apologise if any of them end up being fined for exceeding the 50 mph average speed – I had a Xantia steam up behind me at a fair rate of knots, pull along side me and rubber neck, accelerate and then pull in front of me.  The C6 is still a sufficiently rare sight on our roads that nearly three years after its launch, it still elicits this sort of response from the cognoscenti.  Several C5 drivers behaved similarly.

Once the 50 limit ended, I over-rode the limiter, floored the throttle and quickly found myself approaching kiss-your-licence-goodbye speeds.  At legal motorway speeds, the car felt sedate and composed although occasionally I was aware of the front and rear damping being out of phase with one another.  This is, I suspect, due to each wheel having its own, active, electronic damping.  The effect was very slight and certainly preferable to the ride in a large Audi, BMW or Mercedes.
At Chieveley, I headed south on the A34 and then turned off onto the A343 and it was there that the fun began. A slow lane change above 50 mph results in one’s posterior being pummelled by the seat unless one switches the indicators on.  And once I left the A343 and travelled on narrow country lanes, the pummelling became almost continuous because one is obliged to straddle the white line in as wide a car as this.  Some people might pay good money for this sort of treatment.
The A343 is a wonderful road, provided one doesn’t get caught behind a tractor or blue-rinsed pensioner in a Yaris.  There are overtaking opportunities but they are infrequent and Sod’s Law says that there will be something coming the other way.  The gods were clearly smiling on me since there were no blue-rinsed tractors and the chap behind me in a new VW decided he didn’t really want to compete although 30 mph through villages was clearly too slow for him.  That he only caught up with me when I slowed for villages says a great deal about the C6’s handling but here I am going to compare the handling with my XM.  I think my XM feels more predictable and more secure than the C6.  Earlier I mentioned this feeling of the front and rear suspension being out of phase occasionally.  This was much more obvious on twisting roads.  And not only were there odd sensations front to rear but also side to side and diagonally.  I suspect one would get used to this in time and I am convinced it doesn’t impact on grip but it definitely feels a little odd from behind the wheel.  And the wheel itself feels odd too.  The steering is speed sensitive but feels totally dead which makes push on motoring more difficult than it might be.  Again, after a period of acclimatisation, one might overcome this but in the short period I had the car, I frequently found myself having to adjust the wheel; I had either applied slightly too much lock or too little.  And it understeered more than I would like.

It says a great deal for the sound insulation, engine refinement and power characteristics that it was only when I got home and read the documentation that I realised it is a diesel.  And this is the first hydropneumatic CitroŽn that I have driven that did not transmit road noise into the cabin.  The frameless windows feel a little flimsy in a way that will be all too familiar to D owners but despite this, they really do keep the noise out, even if the driver’s window was reluctant to close at speed.  But then my XM suffers from the same problem.
The interior is odd.  Almost wilfully odd.  The French still don’t know how to make timber look like timber.  The doors have very clever pockets with wooden panels that slide up and down and once again, as with the seat adjusters, the modus operandi is not clear.  The centre console has some fifty odd buttons and clearly some very clever functions are available but in order to take full advantage, one is obliged to RTFM (Read The Flipping Manual) – all 150 plus pages of it.
The six speed, auto-adaptive automatic gearbox is sublime.  Totally unobtrusive.  One is always in the right gear and shifts are all but unnoticeable.  And for the unreconstructed DIY merchants, you can shift manually.

© Julian Marsh/CitroŽnŽt 2007