You’ll have to forgive me for this indulgence, especially as it’s concerning a – gasp – rival car built overseas, but in the case of the C6, I’m hoping you’ll understand and bear with me. During my last visit to France, news filtered through that Citroën is ceasing production of its C6, and that it’s already been lifted from the UK retail price list already. It’s a well-known and oft-repeated fact that the company singularly fails to sell its large cars in any numbers in the UK – and that in 2011, Citroën actually only managed to sell four C6s in the UK.
If that’s the case – and I’m afraid to check for fear of being proved right – then that’s an absolute travesty. And a shame. And a real disappointment. And a severe reflection of UK executive car buyers’ fear of individuality. Perhaps.
My relationship with the C6 has been a long one, often from the sidelines as a closet Citroëniste. Having owned and run XMs during the 1990s, I was always interested to see how they’d replace such an individual car. In 1999, we were teased by the arrival of the C6-Lignage concept, which was to all intents and purposes a prototype of the production car. It was taken to several motor shows, and we all knew that its real purpose in life was to act as a styling clinic model for the production variety – and that the real thing would be along presently.
Except that it wasn’t. Disappointingly, the XM went out of production the following year, and in one of those moments of crisis that Citroën went through on a semi-regular basis, the C6’s development was put on hold, while the C4 was brought forward. That left the XM unreplaced, a vacuum at the top of the range, and Citroën claiming half-heartedly that the worthy but ugly C5 V6 was the range’s new flagship.
In the end, the C6 found its way onto the market in 2005, and after the wait, it was good to see France building itself a proper national flagship again. The styling was concept car fresh (despite being a few years late), and echoed the amazing CX. In a sector full of German briefcases, the C6 was a genuine highpoint. The following spring, I managed to bag a week’s drive before it officially went on sale here, and ended up taking it to my spiritual home in Blackpool. Over the week, I fell in love with the car’s long legs, comfortable ride and accommodating (and tastefully styled) interior, and ultra-refined 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel.
But there were disappointments. It rode well, but not as well as the cossetting old CX or DS, and the fuel consumption delivered by this 1920kg behemoth was scandalously poor. Then, of course, it was being sold in the UK by Citroën dealers – and as we all know, these hard-working organisations might know a thing or two about shifting C1s and C3s, they’re not so well versed in dealing with the ABC1s who spend £40,000 on their wheels. And, ah, yes – that was the other thing – load up a C6 and it would cost you 40 big ones in the UK, and although we the cogniscenti look beyond a car’s badge and see the inner soul, it seemed that very few others were prepared to.
The road testers back then were also quite keen to use the ‘D’ word. Depreciation – or the threat of it – was enough to scare off floating voters deliberating on whether they should add a C6 to their portfolio. And we know what happened then.
Thing is, the C6’s existence made the world a nicer place. It’s one of those cars when you see it out in the wild (well, me anyway) you notice it. There’s a dash of style and presence that belongs to the C6, which brightens up any street scene. And, yes, I know that there are plenty of Gaulois/Gitanes/Roll-neck cliches you can apply to the next statement – but I find myself thinking more and more about owning one.
I know from my friend Richard Kilpatrick’s bitter experiences with his dealers that owning one would in reality be akin to dating a psychopathic supermodel, but I do actually think that it might just be worth it. After all, the C6 does a few things in life brilliantly, rather than a broad spectrum of qualities pretty well – and I like that. Cars with USPs fascinate me, and I think that’s because they reflect the ambitions of their creators rather than the accountants running the company.
Which is ironic, given that it’s most likely accountants that killed the C6.
France needs the C6, and needs an equally outrageous replacement. To have something like that is a matter of national pride. And never was that more evident than when the new Socialist president, François Hollande, arrived on the world stage hanging out of a Citroën DS5 Hybrid. Imagine the Queen rolling up the Pall Mall this weekend in a Mondeo Titanium Estate? Exactly. I suspect the C6 will be the last of a glorious line of Hydropneumatically suspended goddess-style big Citroëns, and after loving these cars for as long as I’ve lived, that makes me very, very sad.
Yes, the DS9 is coming – I am sure – but something in me suspects it might be cut from a very different cloth. We’ll see, but I do hope I am wrong.
Adieu, mon brave!