First Drive: The DS 9 E-Tense 4×4 360 adds a sporty hybrid engine to this new premium sedan
DS has quietly – and slowly – made its mark on the high-end sector with its attempt at a slice of French luxury and with a growing portfolio it seems to be pretty much finding its feet.
This year marks the return of the DS 4 sedan, which will account for a significant share of sales, as well as the brand’s entry into the sedan market with the DS 9. It is a significant high-end offering that aims to play with the big guns, rivaling the likes of the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. Initially launched with petrol engines and a relatively small hybrid setup, DS is now going all out with a powerful new 355hp hybrid option, but is it worth considering?
DS has been involved in the Formula E electric racing series for some time, but so far the brand hasn’t really tapped into the expertise of its Performance division. That changes with the DS 9, as not only does it come with the same petrol-electric setup Peugeot launched its “Sport Engineered” division with last year via its 508 PSE, but it also benefits from a series of upgrades. DS Performance factory level – note that models are shipped there to receive the changes.
Highlights include a lowered suspension setup, unique front and rear axles to give it a wider track, and new alloy wheels shod in Michelin sports tires, although the fundamentals of the design and interior of the DS 9 remain the same.
All DS plug-in hybrids use a relatively similar setup incorporating a 1.6-liter turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor, but what makes this DS 9 different is the fact that it has two motors, with one on the front axle and a second on the rear means it’s four-wheel drive. Like much of the DS range, it also uses an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Delivering 355bp and 520Nm of torque, it is by far DS’ most powerful road car to date and means it can accelerate to 60mph in just 5.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 155 mph.
Yet, due to the hybrid element, it could also prove affordable to run, as once its 11.9kWh battery is charged, you can travel up to 33 miles on electricity. Do it regularly and you might just be able to hit DS’ claimed CO2 emissions of 157mpg and 43g/km.
While DS Performance may have improved on this car, it’s still more of a GT-like sedan, rather than an outright sports car. There’s a good chunk of performance on offer as soon as you set foot, but not as much as the headline-grabbing stats might suggest. The automatic gearbox can also prove a little hesitant, but it is certainly faster and more pleasant to drive than the new 250 hybrid version, which we also got to taste.
Despite the sporty intent, however, it’s a car that stays at its best when cruising. Its high-speed refinement is superb, and it’s an incredibly quiet and relaxing way to put on lots of miles. However, the ride can prove a little firm and will likely be worse in Britain than the mostly smooth bits of tarmac in France.
Standing out in the premium car category dominated by established brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes is no easy task, but DS has certainly managed to make its ‘9’ look the part. To go with the cliché, it’s a car that oozes glamor and is packed with cool details – particular highlights include the intricate LED taillights, as well as the chrome trim that sits in the middle of the bonnet.
It’s the first hatchback we’ve seen from DS to date (aside from the classic original, of course), and its design language really suits the stretched shape, as this car is almost five meters long. You won’t notice many design changes on this ‘360’ model, but the lowered suspension, bespoke 20-inch alloys and wider track really help give it a more focused stance.
Go for the higher-end Rivoli (no, it’s not named after a paste), and you get a cabin filled with high-grade Alcantara and nappa leather. That alone really helps give the DS 9 a premium feel, and more than we’ve seen from DS to date. It’s certainly a far cry from the rebadged DS Citroëns of yore.
It’s not as premium as equivalent models from the high-end German brands, however, with the infotainment and digital dials being a little silly, and not up to par with the excellent systems you find in the Audi A6 and the BMW 5 Series. There’s plenty of space on offer, however, with rear passengers having a generous amount of room to stretch out. The trunk is small and shallow though, while the rear seats all fold into one, which isn’t practical at all.
DS only offers two trim levels here – Performance Line and Rivoli – but whichever you choose, you won’t feel short-changed.
Opt for the Performance Line+ and it comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, matrix LED headlights, black Alcantara upholstery, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and a 12-inch touchscreen.
If you want all the bells and whistles, you should go for the Rivoli – bringing things like heated, ventilated and massaging front seats, plus nappa leather upholstery. There are also options remaining, such as air conditioning and massage for those in the rear seats and a Focal audio system.
The problem with the DS 9 is that it’s struggling at the tough end of the market, with prices starting at £54,100 for the Performance Line and £57,200 for the Rivoli. That makes the 360 around £7,000 more expensive than the standard plug-in hybrid version, and directly in the line of fire against the six-cylinder BMW 545e.
DS could have simply chosen to rip off its German rivals, but instead produced something truly unique in a fast French premium saloon. If you like exclusivity, the DS 9 offers plenty of appeal, while the pace and efficiency of this 360 model is welcome.
On its own, the DS 9 is an exceptionally nice thing, but the quality and tech just can’t match rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes – and they really need it when customers spend that kind of money. .