By on September 20, 2006

citroen-c6.jpg The space-oddity known as the Citroen DS was the last successful French executive saloon. Every French grand routier since the “Goddess” has been disappointing to various degrees. Today, even in Paris, one sees more German cars than French (even the taxis). So my expectations for the new Citroen C6 were not high; especially as I’d spent considerable seat time in the segment’s gold standard: the Audi A8. Can the French still parlez voitures luxes?

The ‘Troon’s profile is interesting, long and ministerial. From the three quarter angle, it looks like a conventional hatchback (it’s not). The front and rear aspects are brand faithfully quirky, requiring some major acclimatization. The C6’s prow is dominated by two horizontal chrome strips that connect medium-sized headlights and bisect the radiator opening. The back window is deeply concave a la CX. The narrow strip taillights ride atop the rear fenders and form slight fins reminiscent of a ’49 Buick.

c6dash.jpg Open the front door (with frameless glass like a Subaru or, come to think of it, a DS) and settle into the large, firm black leather chairs. The C6’s window lowers a few millimeters to clear the seal, and then powers back up after the door closed, BMW coupe-style. Nice. And then things get a bit strange…

The C6’s dashboard is a broad, full-width horizontal shelf clad in a strange (but oddly appealing) black vinyl cover with a linen-like texture, topped by a smallish navigation/ICE display. A two inch strip of glossy faux hardwood– with a striking black-stained grain— runs across the Citroen sedan’s cockpit. Another petite digital display lives behind a hefty leather-clad wheel covered with two big chrome chevrons. (The wheel has three spokes, not one like the iconic Deesse.) Speed and navigational arrows appear in the lower windshield’s heads-up display.

The C6’s four door panels are dominated by large slide-down covers for generous lower storage, made from the same exotic looking wood as the dash strip. Like all of the C6’s other moving parts, the panels are dampened to a degree that would freak Ferdinand Piech. The door handles exchange the fashionable satin look of Germany’s premium rides for shiny chrome. Bright but tasteful chrome strips also line the lower dash and the door panels. All in all, the C6’s cabin’s very different, in a BCBG kinda way.

Once underway, the C6 drives like the A8. The French car’s structure is absolutely granitic; no creaks, rattles, squeaks or buzzes. Other than a bit more wind rustle and less tire noise, the boulevardier’s noise levels match that of Ingolstadt’s aluminum cruiser. The ride is also similar: soft but not floaty, with little lean in corners. The power steering is Japanese-light at parking speed but firms up nicely above 25 kmph.

c6side.jpgI drove to the C6 in an diesel-powered Audi; one of the least diesel-like cars I’ve ever driven (very quiet and very fast). I’d been told beforehand that the Citroen tester would holster either a petrol or diesel V6. After driving off, I was sure I was behind the wheel of the gas-powered C6. Only the redline was 5000 rpm. Once it stopped raining, I pulled over and popped the hood. The plastic engine cover said “V6 HDI” Formidable!  Diesel-starved Americans note: the engine was developed as a joint venture with Ford. It’s already is available in various Peugeots, Jaguars and Land Rovers.

I drove the C6 all over Holland, on freeways and secondary roads. The overall driving experience was a hoot, and a deluxe hoot at that. The car glided with imperious ease, a true GT with Gallic charm. But there were a few glitches. The navigational system was hard to program and unreliable; it would go off course inexplicably, guiding me in circles or repetitive U-turns. Whenever I tried to reclose an open window at speed the high interior air pressure prevented the windows from sealing properly.

2007-citroen-c6-undeniably-french-c-640.jpg You want weird science? The C6 lane drift control system is both ingenious and kinky, in a distinctly French sort of way. If you leave your lane “unintentionally” (i.e. without using the turn indicators), the driver’s seat cushion vibrates rhythmically as a warning. It bumps your left cheek if you are veering left, and the right one if right. The first time it happened I nearly crashed (no one had warned me about the feature.) Meanwhile, the C6’s climate control system resurrects the VW Phaeton’s “soft diffusion” methodology, indirectly spreading cooled or heated air around the cabin in four zones. I was never aware of it, so I guess it works pretty well.

Et voila! Here at last is a French luxobarge that European executives and bureaucrats can enjoy that can compete with similar cars from Germany, England or Japan. It’s different and a worthy successor to the DS. Tant pis pour les Americains, bub.

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42 Comments on “Citroen C6 Review...”

  • avatar

    I would be infuriated that the windows do not roll up at speed; this would be inexcusable of the cheapest of vehicles. I would have leaned more towards describing this problem as an unacceptable major design flaw and lean less towards the glitch side.

  • avatar

    “Executive saloon” – is that where the CEOs get drunk?

  • avatar

    It’s french…

    Btw, although it’s big, it’s seen as a competitor to the 5 series/E-class/A6 instead of the A8. Not that you can call it competing; In the Netherlands it’s priced at about 57000 Euro (mainly because cars and all things even remotely related to cars are taxed like nothing has ever been taxed before) and after one year I reckon the’re worth about 3 Euro. Seriously…

  • avatar

    Nice review. You mention “weird science” – Citroen has always had a little bit of that. I’ve owned a DS21 and an SM — both contained plenty of that. Besides the fun of playing with the hydropneumatic suspension (I miss the “rubber mushroom” brake pedal), you had features that other cars didn’t have until much later, such as the steerable headlamps (which, alors, we did not get in the USA) and little things like intermittant wipers that sensed the rain (using a bimetalic strip and nichrome wire in my ’73 SM)

    It might be fun to drive and own a C6, but it will never happen in the US. Guess I will have to try to rent one next time I am overseas and see how it compares. Until then… maybe I should go look for used DS…

  • avatar

    So if there’s a problem with the window, the door can’t be opened?…and if there’s a problem with the battery, *none* of the doors can be opened? How do you pop the hood to get a jump?

  • avatar
    Walter Pabst

    I was just going to ask, does this car match up with the A8 in price? Woof. Why don’t they just put the DS back in production? At least in style, Citroen can’t meet their own benchmark.

  • avatar

    …Road manners notwithstanding…

  • avatar

    That vibrating seat sounds kinda stimulating…did I just say that out loud? ;)

  • avatar
    Jay Shoemaker

    I find the French automotive designs to be a refreshing change of pace from the conservative and even dour Germanic vehicles which populate my own garage. It would be very cool if one of the German manufacturers opened a design studio in France to infuse some new thinking into their automotive architecture. Hopefully it would turn out better than that guy from Wisconsin did with BMW.

  • avatar

    While I agree that the high-speed window rollup problem needs to be fixed, I’d totally buy this car if the review is accurate WRT handling. It is handsome, elegant, and tastefully understated.

    (I’m not interested in a nav system in any case; as a professional software designer, I’m convinced all of them exist only to irritate me. Ugly, unreliable, bad UI, insulting and legally meaningless click-through license agreement…)

    Frankly, I don’t think Farago would be likely to discover a German driving experience in a Ford. I would be interested in a counterpoint review, though.

  • avatar

    perhaps i’m just not that much of a francophile, but isn’t the rear view exceptionally atrocious?

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Nissan may have French influences, but that’s the real deal right there. Man, I’d love to see designs like that here in the States. Nice writeup, Will.

  • avatar

    Sacre bleu!

    I miss the DS. This thing sounds nice enough–although the window thing is a major problem–but visually, it has been homogenized too much for me to take it seriously as a Citroen. The quintessence of the brand has been badly diluted.

  • avatar

    Somehow, that thing is atrociously cool. Don’t know why.

  • avatar

    I don’t see how this is considered a handsome car. The front overhang is huge and out of proportion. I would guess that some of the hideousness is driven by the Euro pedestrian crash requirements. But, to each their own.

  • avatar


    I’ve always liked the C6 (and lots of French cars for that matter) for being a refreshing change from the overengineered and somewhat cold German cars.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    But… it it weird enough to really be a Citroen?

    Like, are the doors hinged at the bottom? Are the tail pipes up front? Do the seats face backwards, unless you are going in reverse?

    Seems pretty normal to me…

  • avatar

    Hey, talking about “Quintessence”, I think that Citroën got its mojo back with this car. They are going back to their roots, but have taken a little bit of the weirdness out of the car with out removing all of its soul.

    I live not too far from the factory where the C6 is assembled in Rennes. I know that they are putting a lots of work into the car to get it right. I saw the thing on the road going on test runs more than a year ago before I knew what it was. They want desperately to compete with Mercedes, Audi and the rest of the high margin luxo-barges, so they have delayed the car for a year just to have it be up to snuff when it comes out.

    After the delay, I would hope that they have gotten the windows right.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The narrow strip taillights ride atop the rear fenders and form slight fins reminiscent of a ’49 Buick.

    Oh Lord. I am just a bit shy of 60, but I do not remember the 49 Buick. My Greatgrandmother owned a Buick with portholes in that era, but I was a little boy and all I remember are the portholes and the nob above the mirror that rotated the radio antena.

    More to the point, hell is a place where the cars are French and the food is German. There are good reasons why there are no French cars sold in the US.

  • avatar

    …and what’s wrong with German food?

  • avatar

    Or what’s wrong with French cars? Perhaps reliability has been almost stereotypically French in its indifference, but neither the British or the Italians have done much better.

  • avatar

    The C6 is on my lottery garage list probably with an SM or more likely a “CX 25 GTI Turbo 2” (catchy name, no ?) to keep it company and tell it stories of the good old days. I’ve never driven a DS but I have spent days with a BX and Xantia both of which were a revalation compared with conventional cars. I haven’t tried a C5 but with those Fugly looks and depressing interior I’m unlikely to.

    A C6 is an appalling new car buy though because like all French cars, especially the big ones, it will depreciate like a stone through a wet paper bag. But used as an ex company car (fully maintained and usually just 2 years old) it will be a keeper. Unfortunately this also means that it probably won’t sell well outside France like the Vel Satis or indeed the CX.

    You have to admire the company though, not only did they make the DS, SM and CX with the advanced suspension, also the GS with a Wankel engine and Hydro suspension, twin engined 2CV not to mention the 2CV itself. Although its also sold as a Peugeot and a Toyota, the new C1 looks cool too.

  • avatar
    Chris Vach

    I am really happy Citroen seem to be getting their mojo back. It seems that the C6 is exactly what you want from a Citroen — a car that is beautiful and one of a kind. Also something that is unusual enough to be called a Citroen but not so bizarre to make it impractical.

    When i was a kid my dad drove an XM, which I suppose is now being considered one of Citroen’s failures. Yet during its time it was still one of the best looking cars on the road.

    Now that the luxury car market essentially consists of BMW, Mercedes and a bunch of brands that are trying to clone them, it is nice to know that Citroen is still trying to be different.

    The window thing is interesting, or more precisely it is interesting that they are trying to keep high pressure in the cabin. This is a known trick luxury buildings use to prevent various outside smells or air of different temperature from coming inside. I hope they fix the window closing issue though.

    I guess Infiniti and Nissan are the only choices americans have if they want to get a flavor of french automotive design.

  • avatar

    I believe the the phrase you were looking for is “Hell is a place where the cars are French and the food is english.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with German food. As far as taste goes, I’d take it over French food anyday.

  • avatar

    A special looking car should have a very special interior in my view… And that is where this car falls as flat as a pancake in my view. “…and then things get a bit strange” re the interior?!!! Have you ever been in a lesser (modern) Citroën mr Bodine? I think not. Had you been you would have noticed how little excitement there is in this car vs the rest of their range. Not to mention the standard and atrociously button-infested-asymmetrical Peugeot-Citroën ICE system… It is a terrible blot in a terribly bland interior. Let alone for a Citroën. Nice rounded (and beuatifully damped) door pockets maketh a lovely interior not.

    Look at Renault’s ill fated (in the UK at least) Val Satis. It was hideously ugly outside but hell did it have a fantastic feel good interior?! Real wood, a bespoke hidden ICE system and the most comfortable front seats this side of a Volvo (with double hinged backrest no less!) and a quality bespoke feel… It felt worth the £30000 or more they were asking for it. The top C6 is nearly £38000 and it feels less special inside than a humble £10000 C4! That is wrong!

    I have driven a C6 and found it wonderfully compliant in its ride but with oh so hard ’80s Mercedes seats! (in a French car!!!) And even the Citroën salesman with me said he would not buy the car new as it will depreciate so much! Says it all I guess.

    Yes, the C6 is gorgeous on the outside, but it has a terrible interior with absolutely zero feel good factor. Go search on the internet for the interiors of both Citroën’s own C4 and the new C4 Picasso… Then you will see what they are really capable of – and you will wish they had done more than just a mere hint of that Frenchness in this car…

  • avatar

    Robert Schwartz wrote: “… hell is a place where the cars are French and the food is German. …”

    You surely meant to say: “Hell is a place where all cars are made by GM and the food is supplied by McDonald’s.”, right?

  • avatar

    So if there’s a problem with the window, the door can’t be opened?

    My 2001 Audi TT has don just fin with this feature. The windows do that to provide a better seal, not to latch the door. Everything still opens & closes just fine with no juice.

  • avatar

    Amazing how some people just generalize cars by countries. Never mind that most designers and studios do work for multiple car companies, badge engineering and minor styling revisions mask identical vehicles sold in different markets, suppliers to ALL major car manufacturers are global, and many “foreign” vehicles are actually designed and/or built in the local market, not in the country of the company’s headquarters.

    Not having driven this Citroën, I can’t judge how “French” it is, whatever that is supposed to mean.

    What i can tell immediately is this:
    – It offers distinctive styling unlike anything else on the road

    – It’s got lots of room

    – It appears to follow the Citroën heritage (as opposed to the French heritage) in terms of proportion, solid structure, overall good design with a few odd elements thrown in.

    For your info, if you take strong offense to the fact that I am defending the French, please don’t forget that Bugatti, though founded by an Italian immigrant to France and currently owned by the VW Group, is and always has been French. They currently build the fastest exotic supercar in the world, the Veyron. Personally, i’d take the mcLaren, but the French automotive engineers obviously know how to get the job done too.

  • avatar

    As much all seem to be smitten with the design of this car from this review, seeing C6 on the road in person could be likened to a religious experience: While in Slovakia this summer, I just stopped walking and stared at it until it went out of view. Also, I was not the only one staring. Finally, it was like a spacecraft floating down the road. Right now, French auto designs are truly inspiring!

  • avatar

    BTW, I am in Central Florida, anyone know where I can get one of these? :)

  • avatar

    Bravo to the comments supporting the C6. I borrowed a friends C6 (after much begging) to drive up from Zurich to Essen. This car is the ‘distance weapon of choice’. Period. No it won’t outrun an M5, but at 200kmh it is solid, quiet & comfortable.

    Another friend has just bought a very nice new 5 series and whilst I admit I have not driven the car over such a distance, it is completely bland by comparison, inside and out.

    I guess when it comes to Citroen’s, you either get it or you don’t.

  • avatar

    Having done nearly 36000 Miles from new I can only but ask the question why, with all the climate technology present inside the car, why would you want to open a window at high speed ? If nothing else, you will find out how quiet the C6 inside really is even at high speed !
    Having grown up with the D series and learned to love the hydraulic suspension, had the pleasure of owning a few SMs and learned to love the self-centering, followed by a couple of CX safaris I can only but say I am over the moon with the C6. Welcome back Citroen but pity about the watered-down wannabe C6 version with the smaller engine……..economy dictates over exclusiveness I suppose

  • avatar

    While in Slovakia this summer, I just stopped walking and stared at it until it went out of view. Also, I was not the only one staring.

    Yes, the other one staring was most likely me :-) I saw one in Bratislava (capitol of Slovakia) and I just stopped walking. My friends thought I’m gone.

    It’s exceptional car. But shall I ever own it, I’d pay for extended 5-year warranty as I did on my C5 Break.

  • avatar

    So here’s the comment of a guy driving a C6 daily on German ‘no speed limit’ moterways . It’s heavenly, even if it’s only the 2.2 HDI Bi-Turbo version: only a 173 HP but 380 Nm of Torque. It easily drives 210 km/h and indeed at thet speed the windows don’t seal properly. But why would you wanna open the window at that speed? At a minor 140 km/h the problem doesn’t exist.
    The car is 9 months old now and it has done 70.000 km with an average consumption of 7.0 liters per 100 km, that is even more suprising for a 2-ton car mainly flying over German highways…

  • avatar

    “I would be infuriated that the windows do not roll up at speed; this would be inexcusable of the cheapest of vehicles. I would have leaned more towards describing this problem as an unacceptable major design flaw and lean less towards the glitch side.”
    He said the windows don’t seal at high speeds. That has nothing to do with rolling up. I have a C6 and the problem does occur at speeds above 150 km/h (100mph): but who opens up windows at that speed?

  • avatar

    I drive around in the 2.7 Litre HDI (1st one in he UK to own one) and I have no problems with all 4 windows staying shut at high speeds (tried it out at 150 MPH/240 KmH). The problem will occur when you try to close the window at high speed. Yes, it is a design fault but once you think about it and understand what is actualy happening and why the problem can be very easely solved. This may well be a problem for the average I-look-at-the-picture-and-therefore-I-am-a-critic to understand.
    I also had a 3 day drive in the Audi A6………..give me the C6 2.7 HDI anytime

  • avatar

    If you are looking for the C6 in North America, look no further than your Nissan dealer… You will find that the latest creation of the Nissan Maxima is a close –but distant second style-wise– to the C6. Since Renault has a significant ownership of Nissan, the C6 design has certainly been inserted in the Maxima. The problem with the 2009 Max is the styling clues were lost going bow to stern as the hip-line approached the taillights. The fluidness of the C6 didn’t get translated all the way to the Max’s rear end. The Max is no where as desirable as the C6 for style. As for the windows not rolling up at high speeds on the C6, I had the same problem on my then-new 1994 BMW 325i convertible, but only when the optional factory aluminum hardtop was installed. The solution: turn the A/C-control off of fresh air to recirculate when using the side windows at speed –high speed. Otherwise, just drive very fast only with the top down. Does the C6 offer an opening “skylight?”

  • avatar

    There is no link whatsoever between Citroen and Nissan. Nissan is partly owned by Renault, direct competitor of the Peugeot-Citroen Group.
    So, if the Nissan Maxima ever resemble the C6, it will be imitation, which is the ultimate form of flattery.

  • avatar

    oh boy dont we like moaning about the french must just be a pass time sport or something.
    i drive a c6 yes sometimes the windows wont seal just hit the button again and its fine
    mine is used for travel from diss in norfolk to heathrow and gatwick some 300 miles most days
    yes you guessed it i run a taxi firm ! it has to be the best car i have ever owned .
    it has never let me down where else can you buy a 9month old executive car for £15000
    trust me i have had mercs bmws ect nothing beats the c6 for comfort and styling oh and its french!!!

  • avatar

    For me it’s simply the most beautiful car on the market and a true Citroen. I love it unreservedly and I’ve had a few before, not all reliable.

  • avatar
    Planet Citroen

    How extraordinary that there’s so much discussion about windows not closing above 150 km/h. I have a 2009 model and have travelled over 120,000 kms without a single issue with the windows, or anything else for that matter.

    It reminds me of discussions about Citroen’s ‘controversial’ fixed hub steering wheel in the first generation C4. One motoring writer wrote that you couldn’t blow the horn while turning a corner (which was wrong) but who has ever blown their horn while turning a corner? Absurd.

    Citroen nailed it with the C6.

    Stunningly beautiful lines that faithfully progress the brand’s identity. A first rate, powerful diesel engine that is as quiet and refined as a petrol engine, a comfortable, spacious, high quality interior (oh, and the wood is real), double glazed windows that assure noise from the outside world is silenced (and heat reduced), powerful air-conditioning that copes with Australian temperatures without any difficulty, and, of course, the most supremely comfortable ride.

    It really is time that people stopped indulging themselves in half-baked discussions about French cars and unreliability. These days, Peugeot, Renault and Citroen produce reliable, good quality cars that offer a little more style and creativity than many other brands. If you’ve ever owned a BMW or a Mercedes, you’ll know that they’re not perfect, or bullet-proof, nor are Audis, Jaguars and many other prestige brands. Modern cars are prone to electrical problems and the Germans suffer perhaps more than their fair share.

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