Another one of those bombastic Citroens, and a brief return for the company to the executive car market, the last of these being the XM of the 1990’s, which finished off the design evolution started by the Citroen DS way back in the 1950’s. The Citroen C6 however does spiritually follow the same route in terms of providing an incredibly smooth ride through advanced suspension systems.
The first concept cars for the C6, dubbed the Lignage,were unveiled way back in 1999 at the Geneva Motor Show, intended to directly replace the XM in about 2000. The XM had been in production since 1989 and was in desperate need of a replacement, but the Lignage concept cars were viewed as inferior in both handling and acceleration, but had the advantage of greater comfort and internal refinement. Suspension in the C6 continues to be Hydropneumatic as it was on the DS, meaning that it could be raised and lowered at the driver’s discretion, but at the same time was able to produce an almost weightless ride, the closest to feeling like being in a hovercar! To add to its reputation, the C6 was the first car to obtain four stars in the pedestrian test rating of EuroNCAP, due to the inventive design, where the bonnet pops up a little if a person/animal is hit, thus increasing the gap between the deformable bonnet and the non-deformable engine components below.
The car’s outlandish styling was the brainchild of French designer Jean-Pierre Ploué, also notable for designing the Citroen C4, C5, DS3 and various concept cars such as the C-Métisse, Citroën Metropolis and GT by Citroën. The C6 has a fastback saloon profile which is due in part to the concave rear window, similar to the Citroën CX and some models of Dodge in the 60s. However, the C6 is a conventional saloon with a classic boot, and not a hatchback like its XM predecessor. This could be perceived as a bad idea as it has been proven repeatedly that the increased space of a hatchback over a small boot is often a major selling point, and could have been advantageous to the C6 over the competition. The C6 was powered by either a 3.0L ES9 V6 producing 208hp or a 2.7L V6 HDi diesel producing 201hp. In October 2006 a 2.2L HDi producing 168hp with FAP, four cylinders and a dual turbo was introduced. In June 2009 the new 3.0L V6 HDi diesel producing 237hp replaced the 2.7L V6 HDi.
Eventually the car was launched in 2005, five years after the XM ceased production, and received some colourful reviews. The C6 was aimed primarily to win over the executive car market by way of a stylish and avant-garde alternative to the BMW 5 Series, with its curious styling that many described as almost like a spaceship. The suspension though was something of immediate critical acclaim, like driving a cloud it continued to hold up the company’s reputation for incredibly smooth rides. On Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson took a C6 and equivalent BMW to a racetrack to use them as camera cars for horse-racing, and the smooth suspension of the Citroen won the day by keeping the shot level and focused on the horses, whilst the BMW bounced and jolted into an unrecognisable mess.
The C6 immediately became a prominent vehicle among the fleet of executive cars of the Élysée Palace. Former Presidents of France, Jacques Chirac & Nicolas Sarkozy, have chosen the Citroën C6 as their official car. Chirac, in particular, used a pre-series car before the model was introduced.
The problem is that the Citroen C6 took far too long to produce, and during the company’s 5 year absence from the Executive Saloon market, BMW, Mercedes and Audi were quick to fill the space left by the outgoing XM. The result was by the time the C6 hit the showrooms, the Citroen brand was practically unrecognisable in terms of producing Executive Cars. This, coupled with some poor reputation from the previous XM and it’s faulty electrics that rendered the suspension useless, meant that only 23,000 examples were built by the time the C6 was axed in the face of poor sales in 2012. Indeed 23,000 sounds like a lot, but when you compare it to the 100,000> Audi’s, BMW’s and Mercedes’ of the same range sold in the same time period, then the extent of the car’s failure truly shows.
As such, Citroen has yet to bring about a replacement to get itself back into the Executive Saloon market. Indeed the DS9 concept car of 2012 was slated as a possible replacement, after 4 years things have gone eerily quiet on that front. One can suspect that Citroen may consider the Executive Saloon market a dead duck, and will continue to bless us with its many fantastic little hot hatchbacks and family cars!