Test drive DS 9: S-Class comfort in 5-Series format for an A4 price
Nothing is as difficult as positioning a brand new model in a market that is particularly conservative. PSA has therefore thought very hard about the introduction of the DS 9, which is all about luxury, design, space and comfort. But which customers will it seduce?
With its 2,900 mm wheelbase and 4.93 metres total length this grande routière has the same dimensions as the Audi A6. And yet DS sees its flagship model as a contender in the premium D-segment, where the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes C-Class reign supreme.
They are about 20 centimetres shorter and their wheel axles are 5 to 6 centimetres closer together. "That is the big advantage of the DS 9: it is a lot bigger and offers a lot more equipment. Other USPs are its refinement, its exceptional design and the unique customer experience we offer with DS Automobiles", Bastien Schupp, Global Marketing Director DS Automobiles, told us during the presentation. In other words: for the price of a naked, smaller 3-Series, A4 or C Class, you get a lavish DS 9.
Striking but not revolutionary
With the 9, DS didn't try to create a new type of car, like Citroën tried with the revolutionary DS 5 - but its snout has many design touches that make it special. The trademark of DS is the diamond motif, which is repeated in the radiator grille and the LED headlights. Another striking feature is the thick chrome strip that extends over the bonnet from the grille to the windscreen like a thick central vein.
Even more chrome can be found in the rear wing, where a kind of curved sabre supports the rear light units and continues into the boot, underlining its coupé traits. At the top of the C-pillars are so-called "DS cornets": chromed horns which, with their integrated lights hint at the original DS from the fifties.
New and yet recognisable
The stately yet sophisticated look of the body is reflected in the interior by chic materials, nice design touches and a large central display for the infotainment. DS had been given carte blanche to make the dashboard unique, yet it doesn't catch the eye like the Peugeot 508's does while certain PSA ingredients clearly come to the fore.
An example is the infotainment, which is certainly up to the job and has been spruced up a bit, but in terms of speed, graphics and ergonomics it doesn't distinguish itself from the Peugeot 508 and therefore can't match the latest systems from Germany. Also the control satellite for the cruise control on the left side under the steering wheel has been carried over. A pity because you have to operate it blind - i.e. by touch. We also wonder about the position of the switches for the electric windows. They are on the centre console, just like in a Mercedes W124 from the 80s.
The ultimate tourer
Apart from that the DS 9 is very pleasant to drive. In the Rivoli version with Opera pack, the cabin is upholstered in exquisite nappa leather as far as the eye can see. The seats - with built-in heating, cooling and massage function in the front and rear - feature a very graceful watch strap motif, while the door panels and dashboard are adorned with fine stitching.
If there is one area in which the DS 9 raises the bar, it is comfort. To start with, the interior is incredibly quiet. Hardly any wind or rolling noise penetrates the cabin and only when the petrol engine is revved up, some less pleasant decibels reach your eardrums. Besides, the seats are a blessing for your bum and your back. The astonishing filtering power of the suspension also invites you to travel. A Mercedes S-Class with air suspension is the nec plus ultra, but this much more modest French car digests cobblestones, potholes and speed bumps almost as easily.
The secret? DS Active Scan Suspension, which is standard on all versions. The front camera scans the road and in 150 milliseconds adjusts the stiffness of the shock absorbers. If there are any bumps in the road, the damping is eased. When cornering, the dampers brace to support the bodywork. As far as we are concerned, this system is much more convincing than the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions of, for example, the Citroën C5 Aircross.
Only as plug-in hybrid
On most European markets, the DS 9 is only offered in E-Tense livery, i.e. as a plug-in hybrid, with a choice of either 225 hp (front wheel drive) or 360 hp (four wheel drive). We were able to drive the E-Tense 225 and it perfectly matches the rather sedate vocation of the DS 9. The powertrain is carried over from other PSA products like the Opel Grandland X, the Peugeot 3008/5008/508 and the aforementioned Citroën C5 Aircross.
In a nutshell, thermal power is provided by a 180hp 1.6 PureTech four-cylinder, while the electric push comes from a 110 hp electric motor integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission. The battery is 11.9 kWh in size and provides 48 emission-free kilometres according to the WLTP. CO2 emissions are at least 33 g/km according to the same standard, making the DS 9 fiscally attractive.
The million dollar question
DS is asking around €45,000 excluding VAT for the DS 9 E-Tense 225. For that price you get the Performance Line, which leaves the factory with items like active LED headlights, seat heating, sat nav, a 7.4 kW on-board charger, active lane-keeping assist, the active suspension, 19-inch wheels and a power driver's seat with memory.
If DS is to be believed, this offer should convince customers considering a BMW 320e (plug-in hybrid 2-litre petrol, 204 hp), which is around €40,000. For the time being, there are no other really comparable cars in the premium D-segment: there is no PHEV variant of the new Mercedes C-Class yet, and we should not expect one of the current Audi A4. The BMW 520e costs €48,000 without options. The plug-in hybrid Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S90 are a lot more powerful and more expensive.
So it all seems to add up for the DS 9 E-Tense 225. Still, we wonder if it won't be the VW Passat GTE and Skoda Superb iV drivers who will be interested in this premium French car. The German and the Czech both cost around €39,000 without options. That still leaves €6,000 to adjust the equipment...
The DS 9 E-Tense has all the trumps to score in the European fleet market, while not neglecting the emotional aspect either. Whether this ultra-comfortable, chic limousine can make its mark on the B2B segment will largely depend on its lease price, which is mainly residual value driven. A quick glance at the lease rates shows that the DS 9 is well received by lessors. We would not be sorry to see our grey roads brightened up by a bit of French class.
DS 9 E-Tense 225
- Engine: 1.6 petrol 4 cyl + electric motor
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Maximum power: 165 kW /225 hp combined
- Maximum torque: 360 Nm
- 0-100 km/h: 8.3 sec
- Top speed: 240 km/h
- Average CO2 emissions: 33 - 35 g/km (WLTP)
- List price excl. VAT: +/- €45,000
Photo credit: DS Automobiles, Dieter Quartier