A Photo for Sunday: Batman vs Superman

A blocked drain creates a chance photo-opportunity of two different takes on the large car theme.

Image: the author

Without going into uncomfortable contextual details, after an extended period suffering a downstairs loo that blocked all too frequently, the Robinson household called upon the services of one of those franchises of which the name is a play on their operatives’ usage of dynamically extendable rods. This required that the C6 be temporarily displaced from its habitual mooring on the drive to the small lay-by opposite the house. Having done so, on return from walking the dog, I found that someone had parked their Velar next to the Citroën and it gave me cause to stare a while at the sight before me.

I thought it would make an amusing Photo for Sunday. This is not something I’ve submitted before to DTW, partly because – as witnessed – I am a numpty at taking photographs, and also because I have no qualifications that justify my making of a cold, real world comparative design assessment between objects, inanimate or otherwise. So, forgive the shallowness of the following musings, and the fact that one half of the subject is once again my C6.

The first thing that struck me about the picture was that these are two large cars (although made to look small by the mutated Victorian building in the background – recently converted from a care home into very expensive, luxury apartments). They are different senses of large. Fifty years ago, a Range Rover was a totally new concept and I don’t think immediately would have been seen as an alternative to a DS, but then I have never been sure of how a DS is to be classified either, aside, that is, from ‘large saloon’.  These days, cars like the C6 have effectively been culled by the advent of those like the Velar.

The Velar is, in my book, a particularly interesting take on the SUV.  Its design nods deftly in the direction of ‘luxury/ grand-tourer’, rather than ‘sporty’ or ‘practical’ (although my wife would say that SUVs under any of those headings always give her the impression of being the play-things of obnoxious, attention-seeking people – she sees the distinction I make between them as being too subtle to matter).  When it was first launched, I thought it something of a first – an SUV with elegance and even a dash of panache.  Since then, its allures have waned on me a little and I think that, like many of JLR’s cross-overs/ SUVs, it’s very dependent on the size and design of the wheels.  The example in question here suffers by its chosen hue and rather bland wheels.

I would still rate the Velar as one of my more favoured SUVs (which is faint praise), along with the XC90 and XC40.  I like the smoothly integrated and chiseled nose, the relatively fuss-free panel surfacing, and flush door handles (even if I think they could become unreliable later in life and may well freeze in place in cold snaps – just like the frameless windows on the C6).  There is more than a touch of the luxury yachts about it, an impression encouraged by the gently rising shoulder-line, falling roofline, and the upward sweep of the lower edge of the rear bumper-valance aft of the rear wheels.  There is an imperious attitude too, given the high-set cabin and relatively shallow DLO.  This is augmented by the Range Rover’s width, which is even more generous than that of the car with which is shares this photograph, which is saying something.

These cars (by which I mean large SUVs) always look roomier than they are, though.  I am always surprised at how small the luggage compartments are on them, especially when compared with our old Xsara Picasso or a modern-day Berlingo.  However, a large car it is, the Velar, albeit in different ways to the C6 of course, and, to my eye at least, the way that it looms up over the Citroën in the photo, it looks like a more substantial lump of metal, plastic and glass than the sometime French Presidential saloon.

A look at the statistics confirms what the photo suggests: the Citroën is longer, as is its wheelbase although to a lesser extent which explains what the eye tells you in that the C6’s overhangs are too long, especially that at the rear (I want it to be more pert).  If fact, the visual comparison with the Velar shows just how irregular are the proportions of the French car: say what you like about Gerry McGovern, but I think his oversight is excellent when it comes to proportions and stance.  However, the C6 does have the sleek air of a flying cigar (especially in Ganache) and as such looks even more the grand tourer than the Sunseeker-esque Velar.  From both the driver’s seat and viewed head-on, it also has its own sense of imperiousness.

The presence of the Velar also emphasises the age of the C6’s design (which was crystalised in the late 90s even if the car was not launched until the mid-noughties).  Details and features such as the front and rear lights, the design of the alloys, and, the proportion of the DLO to the side-panels in particular give away the fact that it’s from a different era.  Moreover, sorry to say that the Range Rover is the shape of the future for large, luxury vehicles whereas the C6 – as well as being the last big, oleopneumatically suspended Citroën – not only looks out of date, but its form is rapidly becoming ‘passée’.  

Which would I choose to retrieve from the lay-by back onto the drive?  Well, that choice does not exist unless I wish to undo nearly 30 years of marriage at a stroke.  As she spotted me snapping the scene in the lay-by opposite, my wife advised me that she could never imagine being married to someone who drives a car like that.  She then muttered something about nor wanting to be seen dead in one either, which made me wonder whether Coleman Milne would be tapping the SUV vibe anytime soon?  I think there was once a DTW article on hearses, was there not?


P.S. Re the title: which is which? The somewhat gothic C6 is the Batman, of course, but this is no Dawn of Justice.

Author: S.V. Robinson

Life long interest in cars and the industry

25 thoughts on “A Photo for Sunday: Batman vs Superman”

  1. Goodmorning, S.V. a lovely article, but somehow the photo won’t load on my computer. Same issue on my phone.

    I have a soft spot for the C6, so I don’t mind reading about it again. It’s not a car that suits my needs or wants, but every time I see one I keep looking at it until it’s out of sight.

    I don’t like SUV’s in particular, with the exception of the Jeep XJ that was the subject on a DTW posting yesterday and a few days before. I also like the Jeep SJ. Range Rovers however… The only Range Rover I’ve driven was a first generation Range Rover Sport. I occasionally get carsick while being a passenger, but the Range Rover sport is the only car that managed to do that while I did the actual driving. Needless to say it was a one time experience. It’s not unlikely that the Jeep SJ would have the same effect and maybe even more so than the Sport. Somehow I’d still take the Jeep.

  2. Apologies all for the technical hitch with the photo. We’ll get it fixed as soon as possible.

  3. Image now in place. For me, it’s no contest. In a dark colour, the Velar looks anonymous and generic, whereas the C6 is highly distinctive and could only be a Citroën, in the great tradition of the Traction Avant, DS, CX and XM (the less said about the C5 the better!)

  4. Fly in the ointment time…

    I adore the Velar. It’s the Range Rover I’d have and the only Sports Vehicle, regardless of Activity or Utility that works for me. As Mr Robinson pertinently states (full marks, sir!) there’s some panache, modernity on the (for me) right side of aggression and a poise that anything German is lacking. I’ve only sat in a first edition which had the delightful Kvadrat seat material. And the interior was space age; this is probably before I found the home of car critiquing, DTW…

    Not that I’m knocking the C6 in any way; this is a fabulous juxtaposition of styles, eras, ideas and expressions. And proves the point how idiosyncratic cars are; always have been, always will be. Which is far more interesting than football scores or reality tv.

    Normally, I’d be on Batman’s side; he had the Batmobile, cool extraordinaire. But here, I’d go with Superrman – he can fly. Just not sure about the underpants/phone kiosk thing.

    1. Agree about the Kvadrat fabric. It would be my choice for car seats. At the time it was the most expensive interior option for the Velar, at least in the Netherlands. Probably there weren’t too many punters as it has disappeared from the catalogue here. Not sure if the same is true for other markets.

  5. While I might agree that the C6’s front overhang is slightly long, the rear is OK – rear overhang should always exceed front overhang. The most use-full part of the boot is the part aft of the wheel arches, where it is the full width of the car, and wide enough to accommodate golf clubs and similar awkward items.
    As for the Velar – not often seen locally – my only thoughts were that it’s an F-Pace in a different suit with a funny name, and of no consequence….

    1. “rear overhang should always exceed front overhang”…
      For me the opposite is true. There are some RWD designs I like, but never, never, never large Citroën can have a long rear overhang. I agree with S.V. in that I want the rear to be shorter on the C6. It makes the car look too balanced, while for example a CX conveys a much stronger sense of forward motion.

  6. Ah yes, the F-Pace. I think it actually looks rather good, especially since they facelifted it and removed the nasty shut-line from across the nose:

    It is how I wish Audi styling had evolved, instead of the current slash-happy excesses.

    Speaking of Audi, I saw one of these at a charging point in our local Lidl car park yesterday, an e-tron:

    There’s still too much visual noise at sill level and the huge grille is ridiculous, but otherwise it’s an improvement over some of Ingolstadt’s recent efforts.

  7. well well well. I’ve enjoyed your writing about your C6
    very much, S.V., thank you. but I’m very glad your wife
    knows the difference between a work of admirable design
    and something that – like all new Range Rovers – is an insult
    to the genius of the original.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Lorender. I must admit to having had no idea what a Velar was until completing my read through of all the comments; such is the impact of the current products of JLR (or whatever it calls itself this afternoon) on me that I’d never heard of it…. I know every day’s a schoolday but I doubt this addition will be retained on the reference shelves. The C6, on the other hand, remains on its pedestal

  8. Well, I would also know which of the two vehicles I would drive back into the driveway.
    For me, too, my wife would have made the decision-making process very easy with remarks similar to yours – for the very unlikely event that I would be tempted to want to open the “wrong” door….

  9. C6 every time for me thanks. Mr Miles’ comments about football scores fly in the face of his comments during the recent Euro’s competition I might add…

  10. anything Range Rover screams at you „I have much more money than taste!“, in an arrogant, brash, narcisist manner.

    A C6 wears a little smile that says: „I do have taste in spades, and can actually afford it“.

  11. Interesting comparison, S.V. It’s quite well known what my choice will be between those two, although the Velar comes quite close to the very small category of SUVs I could imagine to drive.
    What you describe as features giving away the age of the C6’s design is exactly what still makes me like it over all current cars. Large windows instead of ostentatious (fake) grille openings sprinkled all over a car’s body: yes, please!

  12. I can only applaud your wife… Range Rovers – as the originators of the genre – are the least egregious SUV’s out there, along with some Jeeps, though rarely from the FCA era. The Velar was something of an escaped design study when it was introduced, but its flourishes rapidly expanded across the range, particularly the Evoque. The C6 – can one ever write too much about a “true” Citroën? – is baroque and as you say, of a past era, but it just oozes character.

    The Audi e-tron mentioned elsewhere is a familiar sight in the Netherlands, given our tax system (company car taxes and tariffs are positively slashed for EVs). Apart from the clumsiness of execution that screams “we were caught with your pants down by Tesla… for close to a decade” I can never get over its gargantuan size.

    1. Hello S.V. – yes, but they’re more of a US thing (Duke of Edinburgh’s Land-Rover, apart). The boxier shape means that conversion isn’t such a difficult undertaking. Ahem.

      You can get van hearses too, apparently, but I think making one’s final journey in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a bit infra dig.

  13. An interesting diversity (verging on dichotomy) of opinions in today’s comments.

    It is, in any case, an intriguing contrast and comparison being offered. The C6 is the more idiosyncratic, interesting and charming option but I must confess to thinking the Velar is far above the standard of the SUV crowd (not difficult, I know) and that Land Rover’s output in general has a stylistic consistency and calmness that most rivals lack. Perhaps I am becoming numbed but I think there’s some real merit there.

  14. I find this modified C6 compelling, white wall tires and gauche pinstripes notwithstanding. Certain details, larger wheels in particular, can help some designs. The spats don’t look great from some angles, but the thought warms my heart. I wonder how much they actually improve the Cd, err… Cx?

    1. Good morning gooddog. The pinstripe is superfluous and it’s a shame the rear wheel spats can’t be completely flush with the rear wings, but the wheels look brilliant and spats, properly integrated, would have looked really great on the C6. Thanks for posting.

    2. I’ve seen these pics before – a really nice modification. I’d use these wheels (white wall and wheelcovers) on a C6 any time. Stripes and logos… well, I could do without them.
      I’m not completely bought on the spats. In principle it’s a good idea, but modern cars aren’t especially suited for them. Too wide rear track and generally a too massive lower body. The sheer mass is emphasized by the large, smooth surfaces. A CX for example, has a much narrower rear track and a slim lower body that tapers towards the back. Perfect for covered rear wheels!

    3. I have also seen these before – here I think – and cooed over the spats and the wheels. On second sight, I agree that the full spats don’t really work, but something to suggest them such as found on the BX and XM would have been a welcome touch. I am generally not a fan of any forms of non-OEM customisations, but those wheels (or are they just covers?) are about as tempted as I will ever be in that direction.

  15. Dear writers, I would like here to post my numbered arguments.
    1. Neither car I am able to afford. I appreciate them as 3d shapes only.
    2. As a shape, I prefer the c6.
    3. As a colour, the c6.
    4. In general, the long low slung car shapes are to my liking. That is why I do not find tall cars attractive.
    5. However, tall lorries and buses seem attractive to me.
    6. I have seen both cars, but in very few cases.
    7. There was a mention of the house in the background. That is fascinating as a subject. What is the relationship between building architecture and design of cars?

  16. I’d take the C6 any day. However, I think there’s a question that needs to be asked, now that we’re in superhero comparison land: which two cars would best fit in with Footprints on The Moon’s hit single “Thor and Dr. Jones”?

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