Gallic flair you can’t afford to miss: Citroën C6. Seeing is believing. The last old-school Citroen exec was rare even new – here’s why it’s worth tracking one down… Words Keith Adams. Photography Jordan Butters.
Citroën C6 Get a last gasp of Gallic class before everyone catches on…
CLEVER MONEY CARS: CITROËN C6
Dare to be different and you might find yourself quids in – running apart from the herd can pay off
BUYING The final big luxury Citroën in the old-school mould, the C6 has a quirky and classy appeal that’s bound for wider appreciation, so get in first.
Value now £8000
Value in 2024 £12,500
There are few cars out there that divide opinion more than Citroëns – you either love them or hate them. They’ve mostly been designed to do things differently from their rivals – but when it comes to the flagship Citroën models, they’re not just meant to be different, but altogether better.
Take the C6; it followed directly on from the DS, Citroen SM, CX and XM, and needed to make its own serious technological leap. So it had active suspension, a head-up display, active headlights and – gasp – Teutonic levels of build quality.
‘IT LOOKS LIKE NO OTHER CAR. YOU’LL LOVE MAKING A STATEMENT IN IT’
It also took years to develop, was over budget, launched late – and when it hit the market in 2005, its styling and packaging were already being questioned. But there was no denying that it was glorious as a big Citroën should be, and looked at least 10 years ahead of its time. It also carried on the tradition of post- 1990 big Citroëns far too effectively – it didn’t sell well in the UK. How few were sold? In 2011, its last full year on sale in the UK, just four C6s found new homes.
Glorious to behold and hard to get hold of now, it should be a true Clever Money Car. Let’s find out…
Casting your eyes over a C6 as it glides silently and effortlessly over the pretty cobbled streets of Stamford, Lincolnshire, it’s difficult to understand why this car led such a short and unfulfilled life. It looks magnificent, regal almost – so why were a mere 23,000 built during its seven-year production run, when it clearly looks, feels and drives as well as it does?
Rewind a few years, and the answer starts to emerge. When the C6 arrived in the UK in early 2006, Citroën’s past glories were very much that – in the past. The glorious DS, SM and CX were long since part of the classic car movement, while the XM was still square in Bangernomics territory. Citroën was busy selling shedloads of Picassos and C3s as part of its free insurance ‘Happy Deal’ era – so when this new £40,000 flagship glided into showrooms across the country, dealers literally had no idea what to do with it.
‘YOU JUST HAVE TO ACCEPT WHAT A C6 CAN DO WITHOUT ACTUALLY NEEDING TO FEEL IT’
But the C6 was more than worthy of standing toe-to-toe with its legendary ancestors. With styling that differed little from the 1999 C6 Lignage concept, here was an executive car that looked like no other, and which had been engineered to wean buyers off their increasingly predictable fix of German metal stamped out in their hundreds of thousands by Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Delays in its development meant the C6 appeared years after it should have – and in one of those moments of crisis that the company went through on a semi-regular basis, it was put on hold, leaving the outgoing XM unreplaced when it went out of production in 2001. But that gave Citroën the opportunity to throw the kitchen sink at the C6 – further developing its hydropneumatic suspension system into Hydractive 3+ with the addition of an adaptive damping system called AMVAR, which the company fancifully described as ‘active suspension’.
Beneath the fancy name, AMVAR wasn’t that much of an advance – it was based on four variable absorbers controlled electronically, with 16 absorption modes. In essence, each wheel was individually sprung and damped, and unlike older models it relied on computer rather than fluid interconnection for its self-levelling. In Stamford, and on the undulating Lincolnshire roads around it, it’s a system that’s both brilliant and frustrating.
‘ON COBBLES IT’S EXCELLENT, MASKING THE BUMPS AND SOOTHING THE DRIVER’
The C6 rides better than its contemporaries, but not as well as a DS, CX or even an XM. On cobbles it’s excellent, masking the bumps and soothing the driver, and so it should with a kerb weight bordering on two tonnes. But after cruising around the town, we head to the countryside, and while on the whole it’s great, some wrinkles start to appear. The suspension cannot mask the effect of broken surfaces from entering the cabin, which is frustrating in a luxury car. Also, sharp irregularities can jar the driver rather noisily. As speeds rise, the C6 displays adequate body control – but with more fore and aft pitching and body roll than you’d expect in a car sold by the company that brought you the Activa. Still, it feels composed, grippy, and comfortable, and as I push on and relearn how to drive it, the suspension firms up more, and that waftiness ebbs away, despite plenty of roll-rocking and a slightly fidgety ride.
Performance is as effortless as the ride. The car I’m driving, Shaun Lilley’s 3.0-litre V6 HDI, is one of the very few in the country – and I’m thankful for that. In a Jaguar XF, this engine is highly effective, delivering ample performance. As diesels go, it’s fantastic – quiet at idle and punchy from almost walking pace. A blip of the throttle sees the revs rise and fall in a keen, most un-diesel way, and I revel in the power, torque and, most importantly, refinement. The automatic gearbox is soft, smooth-shifting and lazy as you like unless you stick it in Sport mode.
Although there’s plenty of power, it has to overcome the C6’s substantial kerb weight, and as a result it’s never balls-out quick. Rapid, yes. Ballistic, no. The 0-60mph dash is dispatched in 8.5sec and in near silence, on the way to nudging a 150mph maximum. But it never feels anything other than relaxed, and that suits the character of this car perfectly.
As you’d expect from a Citroën, the variable-assistance steering works seamlessly, although there’s almost zero road feel at lower speeds. It’s something you soon acclimatise to, and learn to trust that the car will hang on and grip for dear life. In short, you just have to accept and understand what a C6 can do without actually needing to feel it. And by the time we head back into town, I’m reacquainted with a breed of car I know so well, having owned and loved a C6 (which I featured in issue one of Drive-My).
Back in town, it’s time to take another look at the C6. As it hunkers down kerbside, I take a couple of minutes to take in its amazing shape. There’s nothing else on the road that looks like it – that long nose, short tail and concave rear glass see to that. But there’s more to it than that – it looks more modern than most brand-new cars, and thanks to Shaun Lilley lending us one of the best of the remaining 32 3.0 V6 Exclusives left, it really does look like it could have been made yesterday.
Inside, it’s a fascinating mix of modern and retro. It boasts all the equipment you’ll ever need: the head-up display, a fully-featured and great-sounding infotainment system with built-in satnav, and a centre console festooned with more buttons than the laptop I’m writing this on. For that alone, it’s strangely outdated.
Other joys include TGV rear seats (the rear bench reclines and individually adjusts and even boasts an override for the front seat), parking radar (necessary) and doorbins that slide up and down in a beautifully-damped action. You’ll be playing with those for hours.
The quality of the interior is well above the French norm, with tough soft-feel plastics, and switches that abound with high-precision feel. They last well too – with dark coloured interiors, such as this one looking unblemished after more than a decade’s use. You could never say that about an XM or CX.
So, all in all, a brilliant car that looks like no other, is built well, and rides like a luxury car should. So why on earth were so few made? Well, France needed the C6, if only as a matter of national pride. Britain had the Jaguar XJ, Germany made do with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and the C6 could sit with its head held high alongside either. Because of the accountants’ desire to kill this car, the C6 will be the last of a glorious line of hydropneumatically-suspended flagship Citroëns.
What an absolute shame…
Shape still looks fresh and slightly startling, in classic Citroën style. This is the Exclusive. Say no more… Little steering feedback – you gotta live with it. 3.0 V6 HDI is quiet and punchy. Button-fest dash does show the C6’s age. Hydractive 3+ suspension comes into its own on pavé. HUD was novel for the time.
The Drive-My Classics view
If you’ve sat by and watched DS and CX values head sky wards without taking the plunge and buying one, let that be a warning for you if you’re similarly intrigued by the Citroën C6.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot to like about a C6. It looks like no other car, rides magnificently and – ageing infotainment and button-fest dashboard aside – its timeless overall style gives the impression of a car that was driven out of the factory just last week. You’ll lovemaking a statement in this car, and as long as you choose a reliable and well-maintained example, it should look after you for many years to come (diesel emissions regulations notwithstanding).
Unlike the CX and XM before it, the C6 was always a rare car in the UK, so with limited numbers and an enthusiastic fan base, it’s highly unlikely that it will ever dip below a grand for all but the shoddiest examples. With that in mind, it’s likely that the C6 will remain in demand and fetch increasingly strong money as the years go by. That means that if you’re looking to get into one, and enjoy one of the 21st century’s most comfortable and imposing-looking cars this side of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, then you probably need to jump in sooner rather than later – and enjoy a new and soothing form of transport.
Citroen C6 3.0 V6 Exclusive
Engine 2993cc, 6-cyl, DOHC
Transmission FWD, 6-speed auto
Max Power 237bhp @ 3800rpm
Max Torque 332lb-ft @ 1600rpm
Top speed 149mph
WHAT TO PAY
I DESIGNED IT JEAN-PIERRE PLOUÉ
‘Citroën has always been a legendary brand. It was a manufacturer which knew more than others how to evolve and innovate the automobile, but the model ranges throughout the 1990s did not translate into the company’s unique heritage for being progressive.
‘When I arrived at Citroën in January 2000, the process of reversing this was already underway. PSA management had decided to revive Citroën by offering an exclusive personality across the range. Out would go the Xsara and Saxo, and in their place, we needed to build cars that fitted Citroën’s DNA. That gave me the freedom and the means to act quickly to build some more interesting cars.
‘The C6 was underway when I arrived, and Citroën had shown a preview of it with the C6 Lignage concept in 1998. That had met with a warm reception, but put us under enormous pressure to deliver a production car that would live up to this exciting motor show star. I was pleased to see that we had the basis of a very special and prestigious flagship that would not displease the Germans. It was important to create a car that encapsulated elegance, refinement, quality and comfort.
‘The original design combined traditional Citroën styling cues with those of a contemporary executive car.
The proportions and profile immediately identify it as a Citroën – a long front overhang and short rear overhang were shared with the DS, CX, GS and SM, and an overall design and shape that reflects the emotional appeal of an elegant, dynamic coupe with the proportions and features of an executive saloon brought that concept into the 21st century.’
DEALER VIEW SHAUN LILLEY
Shaun, who owns this magnificent 3.0-litre V6 Exclusive, buys and sells C6s, so he knows the score. ‘Values have held relatively strong compared to the XM, partly due to their scarcity,’ he says. ‘Only 900 C6s came to the UK, but 600+ remain. Many are advertised for sale at £3k-6k. It’s highly likely to be the last big Citroën on Hydropneumatic suspension, so this appeal should keep values strong in future.
NEED TO KNOW
It’s a big, hydropneumatic Citroën, so the suspension’s a concern. Shaun says: ‘The seven spheres last a very long time. Sometimes there’s a loss of pressure resulting in a harder ride, but they can be regassed. Full replacement (if an internal diaphragm-bursts, for instance) isn’t prohibitively expensive at £40-60 each, depending on supplier.
The C6 gained a reputation for chewing through ball joints. ‘The lower arm-bushes can wear’. Shaun admits: ‘Listen for clonking when braking and accelerating or manoeuvring’. Hydraulic pipes can leak, along with front suspension struts. Citroën no longer make these and outsource the supply.
All but a handful of C6s in the UK are diesels. Shaun says: ‘The 2.7 HDi V6 is the most frequently found in the UK; its pair of EGR valves will need changing at around 100,000 miles. Failure symptom is a hesitation at 1700rpm on a light throttle with the engine management light on. The unit costs about £150, but it is a big job to fit them – leave it to a specialist. Cambelts are due at 10 years/160k miles, but I’d change at 10 years/100k.’
The auto transmission is generally reliable – but if the fluid isn’t regularly changed, the valve block can wear causing jerky gear changes. Torque convertor failure symptoms are a light vibration like driving over a rumble strip. There are a lot of electronics in the C6. It needs a massive 100aH battery – if tired, it causes all sorts of error messages. If the electronic dashboard is malfunctioning, repair can be carried out relatively inexpensively by electronics engineers.
THE FINER POINTS
1 Spoiler alert: The C6’s must be the most discreet aerodynamic accoutrement ever.
2 Smooth and lazy auto shift shakes off its laid-back style when Sport’s selected.
3 Looks cool on the outside, so of course the aircon and interior appointments keep you cool inside, too.
4 V6 HDI is quiet at idle with plenty of grunt when booted.
5 Dated display is one of the few things that, er, date the C6.
6 Beautifully-damped sliding doorbins make great executive toys.
7 Citroën made an effort to inject some DS DNA into the C6.