The BMW 5th seriesThe Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class, between them, have completely captured the large European luxury car market, with their combined sales accounting for 71 percent of the segment in the first quarter of 2022.
The US chart-topping Lexus ES is down significantly with a 1.9 percent market share in the European tables, and DS Automobiles’ The DS 9 captured only 0.4 percent of buyers. Only 410 DS 9s were registered across the continent in the first four months of the year, and less than 750 in China, its only major market and the site of what is to become a French folly. Are luxury drivers missing a trick, or is the DS 9 really that bad?
Quick facts › › ›
Thin lines, strong details
The DS 9 has took a bit of a beating from European reviewers who criticized it for looking too dull. But in the metal it’s quite a handsome shape with a distinctive face thanks to LED lights that spin to greet you as you walk up to it, elegant flush door handles and a much sportier roofline than its German rivals.
Where things get more controversial is in the detail. You’ll either love it or hate the central chrome strip that runs from the base of the windshield to the front grille, and the odd snakeskin-like taillight design that seems to emit red light between the snake’s scales. There’s also a subtle nod to the original 1955 Citroen DS in the small lights mounted at the top of each C-pillar.
In terms of dimensions, it falls a little short of its German rivals in terms of wheelbase, resting on a 2,895mm (114in) platform that it shares with the long-wheelbase Peugeot 508L in the Chinese market, but is broadly in line with the A6 and 5-Series. foot to tail footprint of just under 5 meters (197 inches).
If you as in the 9th slightly bright exterior details, you’re sure to like the interior design we’ve seen before on other DS cars, including the DS 7 SUV. .3-inch touchscreen that houses nearly all of the car’s controls, though there are at least a few hard keys at the bottom of the display.
It’s a fairly slow system (as is the digital dashboard) and it can be frustrating to look at the screen to make simple changes to something like fan speed when traditional rotary controls work so much better. Lowering all four windows, as you might back in a hot car, is also a slow affair because the switches are mounted on either side of the tall center tunnel. Looks cool, doesn’t work well.
One bit of styling that really works is the chronograph-style leather upholstery that replaces the regular upholstery when you order the opulent Opera trim package. Actually the general atmosphere is good. The DS 9’s interior design may be a little over-the-top, but it certainly looks and feels distinctive.
The Structure of the DS 9 range incredibly simple, at least in the UK, where buyers can choose between the base Performance Line+, which starts at £48,300 ($57,123) and comes standard with keyless entry, LED lights and 19-inch wheels, and more the top-spec Rivoli+ costs £51,400 ($60,789) and adds wireless charging, control leather seats and an adaptive suspension that reads the road ahead, a trick Merc first used on the S-Class years ago. If you want a cool strappy interior and generous cowhide on the dashboard and door panels, the Opera interior costs another £3,000 ($3,548).
Only the Rivoli+ can be ordered with the Opera package, but both models are optional E-Tense 250 and transmissions of the E-Tense 4×4 360. Both are plug-in hybrids powered by a turbocharged version of Peugeot-Citroen’s 1.6-litre petrol engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. But while the front-wheel-drive 250 has a 197-hp engine. (200 hp) and one electric motor for a total power of 247 hp. (250 hp), power 360 in 355 hp. electric motors. It’s the second of these motors mounted on the rear axle that makes the 360 all-wheel drive.
I hope you are in no hurry
DS quotes pretty healthy 5.6 seconds from zero to 62 mph (100 km/h) time for a hot car, but a much more leisurely 8.1 seconds for the 250. We’re actually riding the older 225 that came before it, which takes 8.3 seconds to make the same run , but the experience is generally the same. It accelerates quickly enough when it gets going, but it sounds a little strained to get going, and occasionally leans awkwardly into gear when you’d rather rely on its torque.
And you want to hope for torque, because DS offers the DS 9 as a luxurious antidote to the sport-obsessed German cars. Even with its fancy road-scanning suspension, I don’t think the 9 rides as well as the 5 Series, whose double-wishbone suspension has an incredible ability to isolate you from the imperfections of the road. But it’s certainly smooth at freeway speeds and impressively quiet.
Flip the switch on the console to dynamic mode to change the dampers and it does the cornering too, but again, it has to give a close second to this BMW for fun and handling, and what you gain in roll resistance and extra steering weight , you lose out on driving comfort.
Economy and range
Like all PHEVs, the DS 9 boasts the kind of electric-car mpg and range that make 1960s Detroit total power numbers look believable. In the case of the E-Tense 250, this translates to up to 256.8 mpg (Imperial, WLTP; equivalent to 214 US mpg) and 43 miles (69 km) of emission-free driving. While this is pure fantasy, this 43 mpg figure is a theoretically useful improvement over the 33 mpg (53 km) quoted for the previous 225 model, and comes thanks to a battery pack that has been increased from 11.9 kWh to 15.6 kWh. For reference, BMW 530e rated for just 37mph (50km) on the WLTP cycle, but you’d need the DS 9 E-Tense 360 to beat BMW’s 0-62mph (0-100km/h) time of 5.9 seconds.
Smaller cabin, larger cargo area than competitors
The DS 9 has plenty of room up front, but the slightly shorter wheelbase compared to the 5 Series means there’s little room in the rear seats, and the sloping roofline sacrifices a bit of rear headroom. It’s still a roomy car, and the rear seats also fold down if you don’t have the massaging seat fitted.
On the subject: Unfortunately, wagon lovers, the DS9 Estate is not happeningan
If the BMW wins the battle for interior space, the DS fights back in the cargo war. It’s estimated at 510 liters (18 cu ft), which is 30 liters (0.7 cu ft) less than the combustion-powered 5 Series, but the hybrid’s battery placement drops volume to just 410 liters (14.5 cubic feet). However, our test DS 9 had the optional Focal Electra sound system, and the rear shelf subwoofer hangs annoyingly low, making it difficult to load what is already a shallow boot.
If you’re a longtime fan of smart, well-executed German four-door luxury cars, you’re unlikely to be persuaded to change your habits by the DS 9. But if you’re the type of buyer who finds the obvious German choice with their excellent infotainment systems also, well, obvious and excellent, and considered Jaguar XF or the Volvo S90, then maybe there’s enough here to grab your attention.
The DS 9 is well-equipped, quiet, comfortable, and while the base model isn’t a supercar when it comes to acceleration, it’ll be almost as rare. Maybe it’s a car that will grow on you over time. If so, we’ll find out. I’m currently running this fleet for Car Magazine’s long term test and will be posting some updates on Carscoops about what it’s like to live with the DS 9. Any thoughts on that? Leave a comment below.