Is the new DS 9 a serious rival for the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6? We get behind the wheel to find out…

  • 3.5 out of 5

    Verdict

    If you fancy something other than the premium norm, the DS 9 is worth a look. It’s not the best in the class, but it’s different and for a lot of people that is appealing. While there are frustrations with the usability of the tech, we like the quality, laid-back nature and DS’s promise that it will look after you. The DS 9 has some flaws, but it’s a big step for the French brand towards premium acceptance.

    DS’s march towards premium rivals is continuing apace with the arrival of the DS 9, its range-topping model. If platform sharing is good enough for the likes of Audi and BMW, it’s good enough for DS, so this car uses the longest version of the Stellantis group’s EMP2 platform, which is 4,934mm long with a wheelbase of 2,900mm. Both measurements are only just shy of those of a BMW 5 Series.

    The plug-in hybrid powertrain comprises a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine boosted by a 109bhp electric motor, fed from an 11.9kWh battery. For now, a pure petrol DS 9 with the same 222bhp power output is the only alternative until a 296bhp four-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid arrives in 2022.

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    • With 28 boutique-style retail outlets across the UK, DS promises a different buying proposition. The ownership model has also been designed to “remove the pain points experienced by premium car customers,” according to DS’s UK supremo, Jules Tilstone. You get access to DS’s Only You programme, with a single contact for everything from servicing to roadside assistance, and access to exclusive events.

      As for the car, words like ‘craftsmanship’ and ‘noble materials’ are used. And yes, opening the door via a flush-fitting handle reveals a stylish and beautifully trimmed cabin. Our top-spec Rivoli+ model featured the £3,000 Opera interior pack with Rubis red watch strap leather seats and trim. It’s all rather lovely, although the arrangement of some controls can be maddening – it took us an age to find the door mirror adjuster hidden behind the steering wheel.

      The DS 9 is also saddled with a shared Stellantis infotainment system. It claims a 12-inch screen, but maps on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto use only about half of the space. The rest is used for the climate controls, which needs a couple of prods just to change the temperature – we much prefer just twisting a knob.

      Slide into the back and the extended wheelbase means good knee room and decent head space. But if you’re behind a taller driver, foot space might be tight. The boot is comparatively generous, however, although we’d expect the non-hybrid to offer even more space.

      The good news, though, is that the DS 9 really does offer a touch of French luxury. It’s the details that make the difference, from the way the LED headlights pirouette as you turn the car on, to the DS Cornets – rear indicators that sit high up each side of the rear screen in a nod to the 1955 DS.

      Prod the starter button and a posh (but ugly) clock revolves into view. In our plug-in hybrid model, it’s one of a few clues to the car actually being on – and things are just as quiet when you move off, helped by laminated side glass.

      DS claims an electric range of 33 miles and the car is at its best in electric mode, because the 1.6 engine isn’t the most cultured, nor is the gearbox the smoothest. The ride, though, should be. DS Active Scan Suspension uses a camera to monitor the road and adjust the suspension in just 150 milliseconds. On the whole, it’s comfortable, although the ride can get flummoxed over larger bumps and doesn’t cope so well over frequent, smaller undulations.

      This isn’t a car to hustle through corners, with steering that lacks any feedback and a nose that will quickly go off line if you try to corner too quickly. However, if you drive it gently the DS 9 fits the bill nicely.

      Talking of bills, our car cost less than £50,000. That makes it a few thousand cheaper than a BMW 530e plug-in hybrid that will be a fair bit quicker and better to drive. As with the BMW, though, business users will benefit from the DS 9’s low 11 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax rate. Indeed, we’d expect business users to be the ones to go for a DS 9, but it’ll still take a while for it to match its rivals on fleet sales.

      Model: DS 9 E-Tense 225 Rivoli+ 
      Price: £49,200
      Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol + 11.9kWh battery
      Power/torque: 222bhp/360Nm
      Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive 
      0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
      Top speed: 149mph
      Max economy:  176.6mpg
      Max EV range: 33 miles
      CO2: 34g/km
      On sale: Now

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