AT THE LAUNCH of the new Citroën C6 executive saloon there wasn’t one mention of its potential Nürburgring lap time. It won’t be available in anything resembling a ‘Sport’ model and the word ‘relaxing’ is liberally sprinkled throughout the marketing bumf.
This, you’d conclude, is a car created solely for comfortable and effortless cruising. A refreshing contrast to the ‘sportiness’ promoted by most big saloons which, let’s face it, few of them actually deliver.
Comfort and refinement is what big Citroëns have been serving up since before the war and that is exactly what’s promised with the latest one.
On the road it feels like the double chevron has hit most of its targets, too.
The front-wheel-drive C6 sits on the latest incarnation of Citroën’s unique hydropneumatic suspension system. In past incarnations this has only varied spring rates according to speeds and road surfaces; in the latest version, developed for the C6, it repeats the trick with the dampers too.
The result is a quiet ride that isolates you from the worst excesses of the outside world as well as any of its peers and in most situations a damn sight better. Your eyes see the road scars ahead but the chassis does such a good mopping-up job that they’re sandpapered away by the time you’ve crossed them. It’s not perfect – low-speed lumps are not as effectively dealt with – but this is a relaxing multi-lane tool.
In previous big Citroëns such languidness has meant body roll and sacrificing driver involvement and the C6 isn’t guilt-free in this department either.
The steering is precise but disconcertingly light and weights up artificially at speeds. Yet lean through bends isn’t excessive – certainly not enough to engender nauseous passengers.
Anyone along for the ride gets a good deal in other ways, too. The C6 is nearly five metres long and virtually three of those are accounted for by the wheelbase. As such rear riders can sprawl out and benefit from the same wide supportive seats as those up front.
Add the £1000 Lounge pack option and those rear chairs become electrically adjustable and allow you to slide the front passenger seat forward from the rear quarters, liberating another 10cm of knee space.
The cabin itself doesn’t look quite as extravagant as the exterior, nor is it up to Audi standards of fit and finish. But there are plenty of well chosen and textured plastics, wood and leather on show and some Gallic quirkiness. Witness the front door pockets with a vertically sliding cover and hemi-spherical ashtray.
The basics are all sound, too. You could cross Europe in this thing without moaning about muscle aches; there are huge levels of wheel and seat adjustment and all major controls are well thought through.
There’s the added novelty of a head-up display, projecting speed, sat-nav and fuel info onto the windscreen just below your focal point.
When the C6 goes on sale in March buyers will get the choice of two engines: the 2.7-litre 208bhp turbodiesel already used by Land Rover and Jaguar or a 3.0-litre 215bhp petrol V6. We spent most of our time in the petrol, which is effortlessly punchy, free-revving, a great mate for the standard six-speed auto ’box and quells noise in a manner totally in keeping with the Citroën’s laid-back nature.
Trouble is, so is the diesel and with its torque and economy advantages you’d be mad not to take it over the petrol version every time.
But would you be mad to buy one in the first place? Certainly the used market has never been kind to a big French car and with prices starting at £28,752 for the petrol, rising to £37,047 for the top-line diesel, Citroën isn’t giving us too many reasons not to stick with the tried and trusted German contingent. But the company reckons that most C6s will be bought with corporate money and will sell in such tiny numbers that rarity will be on its side and so residual values won’t plummet too savagely.
We’d like to believe them but it’s unlikely. What remains, though, is that Citroën has come up with a viable alternative to the executive saloon norm, and if you like the emphasis on style, comfort and refinement then it’s definitely worth a look.
The world’s a better place with a big Citroën saloon in it, after all.