The discovery of very slow pulsations (Pspin =5560 s) has solved the long-standing question of the nature of the compact object in the high-mass X-ray binary 4U 2206+54 but has posed new ones. According to spin evolutionary models in close binary systems, such slow pulsations require a neutron star magnetic field strength larger than the quantum critical value of 4.4 × 1013 G, suggesting the presence of a magnetar. We present the first XMM–Newton observations of 4U 2206+54 and investigate its spin evolution. We find that the observed spin-down rate agrees with the magnetar scenario. We analyse Integral Spacecraft Gamma-Ray Imager (ISGRI)/INTErnational Gamma-RAy Laboratory (INTEGRAL) observations of 4U 2206+54 to search for the previously suggested cyclotron resonance scattering feature at ∼30 keV. We do not find a clear indication of the presence of the line, although certain spectra display shallow dips, not always at 30 keV. The association of these dips with a cyclotron line is very dubious because of its apparent transient nature. We also investigate the energy spectrum of 4U 2206+54 in the energy range 0.3–10 keV with unprecedented detail and report for the first time the detection of very weak 6.5 keV fluorescence iron lines. The photoelectric absorption is consistent with the interstellar value, indicating very small amount of local matter, which would explain the weakness of the florescence lines. The lack of matter locally to the source may be the consequence of the relatively large orbital separation of the two components of the binary. The wind would be too tenuous in the vicinity of the neutron star.