Would suit: Anyone bored with German saloons
Maximum speed: 140mph, 0-60mph in 10 seconds
Combined fuel economy: 23mpg (diesel), 17.3mpg (petrol)
Further information: 0800 262 262
This is the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Rheims, the new Citroën C6 and me. I thought the Citroën and the cathedral would go well together. Both are monuments to French engineering excess; both have played host to France's ruling class (Rheims was a coronation cathedral, and is the resting place of Joan of Arc; Jacques Chirac has just taken delivery of a C6). Not sure where I fit in, except that I am in awe of each.
The C6 evokes large Citroëns of the past, like the DS, SM and, in particular, the CX. Like them, its external architecture is vaguely futuristic in that endearingly naïve French way (I'm thinking of the bonkers Charles de Gaulle Airport, or any of Mitterand's Parisian follies). It also has its forebears' long front overhang, concave rear window and, of course, hydropneumatic suspension. But the C6 takes this magic-carpet technology one step further, varying both the spring rates and, for the first time, the damper rates according to what the road surface throws at them. It feels as if the car is simultaneously steamrollering the bumps and floating above them. It's a confounding blend of weightiness and waft but without the pitch and roll usually associated with big, soft saloons. In fact, body control improves the more aggressively you corner. And I could hear my watch ticking at 120mph.
Citroën is keen to stress that the C6 will be made in small numbers, for an obvious reason. The last big Citroën, the XM, depreciated faster than Paris Olympics memorabilia, partly because of over-supply and poor reliability, but also because of its daunting complexity and all-out weirdness. Though all mention of the XM is expunged from the C6 press material, the latter two qualities are, of course, Citroën's most cherished brand characteristics and, thankfully, the C6 remains both complex and weird. Outside it's all sweeping curves and Art-Deco flourishes, while inside there are more pleasing touches: the vinyl has an organic imprint, like the veins on a leaf; there are exotic-looking woods; sliding, semi-circular door bin covers; and a simple, elegant dashboard which looks like a closed piano lid.
If you so choose you can have your speed and even satellite navigation directions projected above the bonnet courtesy of a jet-fighter-style "head-up" display, but this made me go cross-eyed, so I turned it off. More welcome are the electronic parking brake, six-speed automatic gearbox and, for an extra £1,000, electronically adjustable "TGV" rear seats. Rear passengers can also move the front passenger seat backwards and forwards at the press of a button - oh, the fun my four-year-old would have with that.
The diesel and petrol versions I tried were fitted with an automatic lane deviation warning system, whereby the driver's seat vibrates if you cross a white line without signalling. This would be a fantastic safety feature if it weren't for the fact that the vibration is actually rather enjoyable, actively encouraging deviation. More laudable perhaps is the "active bonnet", which springs up in the event of an impact with a pedestrian to protect them from further injury.
All in all, the sybaritic C6's sublime refinement and winning charisma have found in me a born-again Citroën disciple. s
It's a classic: Citroën CX
The Citroën CX is due a revival. Sadly neglected since its demise 15 years ago, the CX remains a stunning piece of design - uniquely Citroën, wilfully idiosyncratic and still contemporary-looking even though early models are now over 30 years old.
The CX is generally considered to be the last "real" Citroën, having been launched a year before the company went bankrupt and was taken over by Peugeot. The classic Citroën elements were all in place: hydraulic self-levelling suspension, rear-wheel spats and space-age looks. The interior was pure science fiction, with a "floating" instrument binnacle and single-spoke steering wheel. Like the C6, the CX had a concave rear window which was particularly clever as it didn't need a wiper because the air flow alone kept it clean.
Sadly, CXs were very rust prone, developed a reputation for unreliability and many prospective owners were daunted by its perceived complexity. These days the very early cars, bodywork unsullied by spoilers or trim, are the most beautiful, while the GTi versions are the most valuable.Reuse content