I hate France. I hate it with a vengeance. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport will understand what I mean. So when a colleague from “Die Welt” (“The World”, a major German newspaper) returned from his drive of the Citroen DS5 and excitedly exclaimed “This is the best French car in 20 years!”, we haters just laughed. He might as well have returned covered in pustules, exclaiming “This is my best syphilis infection in 20 years!” I also hate hybrids. This too is easily comprehensible by anyone who has a look at the smug ignoramuses driving these ugly gravity lenses. And I hate diesel. It is the fuel of lorries and Satan.
The Toyota Aygo, which is the (in-all-but-styling) identical twin of the Citroen C1, is a fine little car, and when I tested it in 2007, I found most everything about it likeable. Packaging, finish, styling, handling, pleasure of driving: the Aygo/C1 turned out to be a thoroughly modern and enjoyable car for a bare-bones price. Only the ride struck me as a bit harsh. I certainly didn’t complain about the revvy, pleasant-sounding and parsimonious engine either, so you might be surprised to hear that I like the electrified version of the C1 just as well. Or, with qualifications, even more. What the heck do I mean? Please bear with me, and I’ll tell you.
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I could feel it getting closer. I heard the flat sixes at WOT nearby. I caught a glimpse of a lime-green race car flying by us. Martin and I were minutes from the one place I’d always wanted to go. I’d seen it countless times on Top Gear. I’d played it countless times on Xbox. And here I was, in Eifel, meeting up with Capt. Mike and Martin Schwoerer, about to turn videogame dreams into reality. To put it succinctly, there was no way the real-life Nurburgring could live up to my expectations. But it did.
It was our first drive on the French autoroute. The highway, heretofore flat, began to climb, all but imperceptibly. Imperceptibly that is, except to the drivers of the Deux Chevaux, cars that look like old Beetles made of corrugated barn roofing. Suddenly, the Deux Chevaux were moving en mass into the far right lane, putt-putting ever more loudly as they struggled vainly to maintain momentum. “Ooooh!” exclaimed Miriam, my two and a half year old sister. “Dudebos fall out!”
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?