individualistic new C6
saloon for executive
drivers who prefer
to be seen rather than
AT THIS WEEK'S media introduction for the new right-hand drive Citroen C6 executive four-door saloon range which will be in dealer showrooms from June Citroen UK said the distinctively-styled C6 is for people who do not want to follow the herd when choosing their executive transport. They're absolutely right with its startling Gallic looks you'll need a certain flamboyant insouciance to be seen behind the wheel.
They also say that only Citroen could have built an executive car such as the C6 and it follows their history of building a long line of beautiful and iconic 'great' cars such as the DS, CX and SM models of the past.
Citroen concedes they are pitting the C6 against stiff opposition such as the BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class, Jaguar S-Type as well as Lexus, where supreme driving dynamics and performance are traditional pivotal requirements.
The C6's trump card offers much more in the way of flamboyant styling, strong safety credentials, innovative on-board technologies and magic carpet ride comfort. Furthermore, it 'delivers' for drivers and passengers alike.
With only 20,000 units of the C6 being manufactured on a bespoke production line for global sales each year, Citroen insists there is no pressure on them to force sales of this executive car. This in itself is good news for both dealers and potential customers possibly worried about future residual values.
For the UK market, Citroen say the C6 will sell in its hundreds not thousands and it is being built to order so there will be no issue with stockpiles of cars without any homes to go to. If Citroen, or the UK dealers, do not have the exact specification C6 a customer wants in stock, it's not a problem. Because the cars are built to order, the required model can be supplied to the customer in just 8 to 10 weeks.
The C6 is available with two engine options: a 3.0-litre V6, 215bhp petrol unit or the new 208bhp V6 PSA/Ford 2.7-litre twin-turboed HDi diesel engine, which is expected to account for 80 per cent of C6 sales. Both engines are mated to six-speed sequential automatic gearboxes. The C6 is available with three levels of specification: standard C6, Lignage the anticipated main seller and the range-topping Exclusive. Prices start at £29,545 and rise to £37,845.
Because of its high standard specification, Citroen says the C6 offers better value than most of its competitors. Extra cost options on cars such as the BMW 530d SE can add over £10,000 to their published price. In real terms this makes the C6 cheaper to buy.
Later in the year a brand new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder 173bhp HDi diesel engine also from the Ford/PSA alliance and offering both manual and automatic transmission options will be added to the range.
Citroen acknowledges that, in the UK, their 210 sales outlets have limited experience in selling vehicles into the premium and executive market sectors being as they are more used to offering value-for-money models in a very competitive market driven by volume sales.
With the new C6, dealers have the option whether to sell the new model or not. The new executive saloon will not form part of the dealers' annual sales targets. However, Citroen says that with the relatively low numbers of sales they expect in the UK that most dealers will already know their customers, and have them waiting for the C6's arrival. But because they will be dealing with executive car customers and taking other makes of executive cars in part exchange, Citroen dealers have in place business measures to help them deal efficiently with this new sector.
To stop the 'distress' selling of C6 demonstrators, Citroen will take back a demonstrator that is not of the correct specification wanted by a customer and exchange it for the right car. They are also using a company called JTK Remarketing, who specialise in providing trade-in values for used premium cars. This means that the Citroen dealer can give any customer an accurate part-exchange valuation on their existing car against the price of a new C6. If the transaction takes place, the dealer can either choose to sell the traded-in model on their own forecourt or the car will be sent to JTK Remarketing for them to dispose of through the normal trade sales channels.
For £499, Citroen dealers will also be offering C6 customers a three-year full maintenance policy that also covers wear and tear items. Citroen, clearly, are making it as easy as possible for their dealers to sell the C6 to executive car buyers.
On the subject of who will buy the C6 in the UK, Citroen says that because of its unique styling and technical innovation it will appeal to
a select group of people. Creative directors, for instance. People, in fact, who want individuality. The executive chauffeur and private hire market, I am sure, will be taking a close look at the C6. Whilst some private sales are expected, many buyers will be user-chooser business customers and some low-volume fleet sales are planned. Citroen's fleet sales arm is already in contact with the French community living and working in the UK who could be attracted to the C6. Businesses with French connections and even foreign embassies are all potential customers.
The biggest problem Citroen has with the C6 is for buyers to take the bold step of buying a large and expensive French car. In the past, French luxury cars have not done well in the UK and have suffered with poor residual values and reliability problems. Being built on a special production line in limited number should certainly help overcome these issues. As long as the UK dealers who have, in recent years concen-rated on volume sales of very competitively priced cars can adapt
to dealing with premium customers, the C6 should have a good future.
Unless you drive your car in the UK in the hours of darkness, we now spend most of our lives trundling along at 50mph on A-roads or 70mph on motorways or worse still sitting in long queues of traffic. Consequently in real-life conditions speed and driving dynamics have a lesser role in our requirements. Comfort and refinement pampering, even are much more important. And this is where the C6 scores very well indeed.
It is not as sharp in the handling department as an executive German car but the computerised hydraulic suspension makes this a car designed for passengers. The large, comfortable and power-adjustable seats and ride comfort are superb, although there is some road noise intrusion mainly because the C6 even the very likeable diesel version is so quiet.
The C6 is full of refinement and it looks really well put together. It is also a very safe car, achieving the highest Euro NCAP safety ratings even for pedestrians, with its active pop-up energy-absorbing bonnet. Airbags are numerous (including knee airbags) and standard safety equipment includes ESP and active headrests.
The C6 is also full of desirable technologies, way too many to list here. But the head-up display (speed and SatNav direction arrows), projected onto the windscreen, is especially worthy of a mention.
The 2.7-litre twin-turbo diesel engine is the best power unit to go for. Its high torque and responsiveness, and the 34mpg my test car returned during a tour of The Cotswolds, was impressive. The V6 petrol engine only returned 22mpg over the same route and had to be pushed harder to get the same performance. But then it doesn't enjoy the diesel's 240lb ft of torque that's available from only 1,900rpm and the diesel unit accelerates faster to 62mph as well.
The C6 scores highly in most areas. It has a superbly comfortable cruising ride, a spacious interior, and is well equipped (electric seats, full climate control, swivelling xenon headlights, reclining and heated rear seats, parking sensors, A-list JBL audio system and SatNav), packed with safety features and with quality fit and finish. Some will consider it pricey 'for a Citroen' and its residuals have yet to be confirmed. My test car had some noise intrusion and the ride could be fidgety at low speeds, but both were relatively minor complaints and I would not see these putting prospective owners off owning one.
But it's the C6's stand-out styling that's the one attribute that sets this saloon head-and-shoulders apart from all of the other executive cars currently on the road. It will not be to everybody's taste, but it will certainly attract attention. And people like to be noticed. Plus it's
a nice environment to travel in as well. Look on it as First Class air travel for the road. Concorde lives! Vive la France! David Miles
Citroen C6 2.7 V6 HDi Exclusive | £37,845
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Test MPG: 34mpg | Power: 208bhp | Torque: 240lb ft
Visit Citroen's website