It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…
On deciding that I would put something on record to mark a decade of C6 ownership via this most informative and thoughtful of automotive websites, the above quote involuntarily entered my mind and won’t now take its leave.
Maybe it’s because it reflects the roller-coaster ride of the experience? Maybe it’s because the quote also relates to the French Revolution in as much as the C6 was Citroën’s final attempt to usurp the norms of what we used to call (well, I did) the Executive car market, before it became so multi-dimensional that it could now mean anything from a Skoda Superb to a BMW X7. Maybe it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, as it so often does as hindsight warps and discards memories of what actually was at the time.
I came into C6 ownership on a bit of a rebound. It was a car on the outskirts of my radar from the outset – I had been very taken by the Lignage concept and then was pleased to see that it had made it, of sorts, to production in 2005 (arriving in the UK in spring 2006) with at least the essence of that design intact.
I remember asking a guy from the local dealership – which sold both Citroëns and Subarus and from which I was in the process of buying a Legacy – around that time what it was like. The answer I got was that it was a bit of a barge with a small boot; hardly a compelling sales pitch, but then he was focused on getting me into the Subaru.
I also remember sitting in one at a motor-show at London’s Excel centre in 2008. I was more interested in trying the new C5 at the time, but there was a C6 on display and I spent a goodly period of time playing with the sliding door-pocket covers and admiring its rather compelling looks; as someone has often advised me, it’s quite a clumsy design when looked at through rational eyes, but it’s also hard to argue that it lacks presence. It certainly made more of an impression than the more conventionally handsome but rather un-Citroën C5.
The rebound was from buying a DS. I had finished working for one of the large banks, a job that required me to travel from home to Bristol 2-3 times a week in all weathers – a round trip of about 250 miles in a day. The Subaru had been purchased as a safe, stable and comfortable means of getting me there and back, which it did wonderfully, but then unfortunately took on the stigma of association with that job, the latter which literally drove me to close to burn-out. Hence, in the three months I gave myself before starting a new, City-bound role, I decided to sell the Subaru and buy something else.
Thinking that I wouldn’t really need a car for work, I wondered instead about fulfilling a long-term fantasy about owning a classic DS instead. My lovely and patient wife indulged me and so a brief and frantic internet search was kicked-off to find a suitable car. As if by serendipity, a candidate emerged in Berkhamsted, about 10 miles away from home and, after a call to the owner, a time was set on a bright, crisp December morning to inspect the rather whimsical object of my desire.
To cut a long story short, the DS, a Spécial, was in a heated garage, spotless, resprayed in a rather striking hue of metallic blue (original to a special edition Saxo, so the owner told me) and too pristine for the guy to want to risk taking me out in the car onto gritted roads. Fair enough. However, by the time he had demonstrated the extended and rather extraordinary procedure required to start the car (he knew precisely the number of times the car would need to turn-over, followed by a 20 second pause, followed by more turns before it would catch and start), I was totally in the mindset that, if I bought the heavenly thing, I would kill it (no garage, see) and it would probably kill me (stress being a constant companion in my life – yeah, I know, like owning a C6 would be any easier on the nerves).
And so, I ran away, a bit crest-fallen, and sat in a café in Berko with a latte and my iPad. I was still pumped to buy something though (shallow, you see) and an update call to my wife left me with license to think again – ‘is there not anything more modern that would interest you?’ I recall her asking. And there you have it – bingo, or should that be, kismet; in its excited state, my brain did the maths: ‘more modern’ + ‘DS’ = Citroën C6.
Another rapid search of the internet located a target example (I had a thing about needing SatNav in my cars at the time (again, shallow)) at a dealership in Wokingham, and off I went, in that instant. Boy, was it Adam’s lucky day when I walked into that showroom. I reckon wild-horses would not have deterred me from leaving it without having bagged that C6. I really don’t recommend such actions to anyone reading at home.
The C6 in question was an Exclusive (= SatNav) in ‘Ganache’. Ganache, in that bright, crisp December light, looked wonderfully, deeply, enigmatic. It was brown, yes, but with red and gold and slightly purply glints which have it a deep, burgundy hue from certain angles in that lovely sunlight. Adam took me out for a test drive around Wokingham. The C6 was quite disconcerting to drive.
I know it’s nothing like as idiosyncratic as a DS, or CX, or XM, but, stepping out of a Subaru Legacy, it was like how I imagined driving a Silver Shadow might be like – all a bit remote, isolated from the road, momentary delays between inputs and responses, super-light (if accurate) steering, a slow-witted automatic gearbox … a bit of a barge, then, at first flush in any case.
Just as I was becoming a bit put off, we stopped to take on some fuel (diesel – it’s a 2.7l V6), and I did the honours (I was also in need of paracetamol thanks to all that adrenalin pumping around my system). Waiting to pay, looking out the window of the shop back at the car parked by the pump … I was totally hooked.
It looked utterly fabulous, magnificent even, and quite otherworldly in the context of the busy forecourt cluttered by other cars. It may as well have been a Silver Shadow, actually (well, almost), for all the stately presence it exuded, even dressed in brown. On the drive back to the showroom, I put everything into context – this is a very different sort of car to the Subaru and I would learn to love it in a very different, more relaxed, calming driving experience kind of way.
The C6 was, indeed, super-quiet, huge, had an impressive – if rather naff in places – dashboard, and felt very well built. The car in question had done 18,000 miles in 15 months courtesy of having been registered and used (abused?) until that point by Citroën UK in nearby Slough – many C6s came to the UK market via that route. I liked the charcoal interior (the cream alternative is very light and shows every shade of dirt) and was only slightly disappointed when I later discovered they could also be found in Alezan, an orangey chestnut brown, which was much warmer, more striking and yet still practical.
Back at the showroom, Adam was very professional (aka, gentle with me) in finding an agent who would give me a very good price for my Legacy, so that I added only £2k in cash to pay £18.5k for the C6 – the list price at the time was over £38k – so I felt it was a decent deal, even though I fully expected depreciation to be eye-watering over the 3-4 years during which I expected to own the car.
And so, we now find ourselves at the starting line for what has been 10 years of a kind of mania.