In this episode of one man’s near life-sentence with a large Citroën, he describes some of the more stressful experiences of C6 ownership.
The day I collected the C6 probably should have scared me off… but it didn’t, somehow. I picked it up on a Saturday morning, very early as agreed so that I would not be in the way of the sales guys getting stuck into the punters on their peak sales day. I stopped off on the way home to collect my son from football training. Naturally, he was curious to experience the C6’s trick suspension, so, whilst still in the car park, I started the engine, let it settle and then pressed the button to raise the suspension.
No cigars for guessing what happened next. The car rose to its top setting… and there it stuck. It being new to me, and having heard and read so much about the complexity/ potential unreliability of the oleopneumatic system, all confidence in the car fled from my body and soul, like a bad bout of psychological diarrhoea.
I limped the car to my nearest dealer (yes – the one which also sold and serviced my previous Legacy) and left it with them to attend to on the Monday morning. Devastated does not begin to describe how I felt – like a kid whose best Xmas toy self-destructed by midday on December the 25th. Of course, it was still under warranty, and thank God for that, given that a faulty control unit (which, worryingly, supports every aspect of the car’s systems, I later learned) was diagnosed and a new one fitted, which alone would have cost me well over four figures. It took a week to source one and have it fitted – not a disaster in the circumstances, but what a bloody awful start!
After that initial shock to the system, life with my nearly new, large, brown, residually stress-inducing car started to settle – to an extent. I recall an early trip out as a family to Cambridge was tainted by juddering and hesitations from the big diesel engine (it cleared just after we passed Baldock). On another trip to Aldeburgh, a warning sound came on about a rear seat-belt not being fastened (when it clearly was). I had been used to a flawlessly reliable Subaru and a surprisingly robust Xsara Picasso and could never feel completely relaxed heading out in the C6.
Nevertheless, nothing broke, or fell off, or caused a real issue for the first year or so (admittedly, mileage was quite low because I was not using the car for work purposes at all). I had the C6 serviced by the local authorised Citroën dealer and I spent a good deal of time admiring its looks and enjoying having a talking-point on wheels.
Things changed quite dramatically when I changed jobs about 18 months later, with my main office of work being 65 miles away in Banbury. Now the C6 was being put to more of a test, doing around 700 miles a week or more in all weathers and traffic conditions. Actually, the mix of motorway, dual carriage way and fast B roads worked rather well for the car, just so long as I remembered not to get too carried away on the Welsh Lane approaching Banbury, where the very nose-heavy weight distribution could become especially noticeable (you can take the boy out of a Subaru, but not a Subaru out of the boy).
Just such a thing led to the first really heart-stopping moment in the car when the big diesel engine’s turbos decided to take a break just as I was passing a tractor on one of the two overtaking opportunities on that 8-mile stretch. I managed to complete the manoeuvre, but the turbos hadn’t reappeared as I dropped down into Banbury, so I made my first of what was to prove to be many visits to Evans Halshaw’s Citroën dealership to have them take a look and sort. My relationship with them lasted about 7 years, being quite intense for the first three, and then tailing off to being ‘only in emergencies’ by the end.
I won’t now go into every detail about everything that has gone wrong over the years – for one there isn’t space. It has fully let me down only twice. Once was when a what proved to be a couple of poorly executed, previous fixes led to the front offside brake pad disintegrating whilst I was travelling up to catch a train from Milton Keynes Central. I nursed the car to the station car park, did my overnight trip, and then called the AA on my return the following evening. That proved to be one of the most frustrating experiences of my life as an initial call at 6pm finally resulted in the arrival of a low-loader recovery truck at 4am in the morning.
The report back from my local dealership was that a previous fix had led to the stub axle having been bent, which led to unusually hard wear on the pad, and the worn pad had not been picked up by the warning system because that part of the wiring harness had been damaged and not replaced (probably because the fitting of a whole new harness – the only potential remedy – would have cost the previous owner (Citroën UK) over £1,000 to buy and fit.
The second time I was left stranded, I was again quite lucky in that I was about 200 yards from my destination’s car park and not that far from home (and therefore from BL Autos, whom I discovered for myself about 5 years into ownership). This time, on having driven slowly over one of those small but sharp speed-bumps, there was a loud clonk followed by rapid lowering of the suspension until the car was on its bump-stops by the time I managed to stop in the car park.
A trail of fluid snaked back down the road I had just travelled and the front nearside wheel was soaked in the same liquid. The car was again rescued by the AA – this time with impeccably good service; the care with which the guy got the awkwardly low C6 with its long snout onto the low-loader was a joy to watch – and taken to BL Autos.
They diagnosed that the top of the front strut had corroded and actually popped-off, like the lid of a tin-can. The other front strut had sprung a leak about three years earlier, so this is clearly an area of a degree of weakness, as was to prove other aspects of the suspension’s componentry, as I will explore further in the next part of this saga.