DS 9 saloon review
"The DS 9 is a comfortable executive saloon with a plug-in powertrain that makes it affordable for company-car drivers"
- Plug-in powertrain
- Appealing features
- Mediocre driving experience
- Premium price tag
- Tight rear headroom
It might seem like a brave move, but DS thinks now is the right time to launch a large executive saloon to sit at the top of its range of cars and SUVs. It's a market dominated by players like Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar, but in more recent years the likes of Lexus and even Tesla have proved new entrants can win small but steady sales with persistence.
DS is hoping the DS 9 E-Tense plug-in hybrid (PHEV) will appeal to company-car drivers, with an EV driving range of just over 30 miles keeping emissions neatly in check, while also reducing monthly bills for business users. With a 1.6-litre petrol engine, electric motor and battery, it can officially return up to 176mpg and emit just over 30g/km of CO2 if the battery is topped up from the mains regularly. Longer drives away from a socket will see fuel economy start to tumble.
The DS 9 is certainly striking looking outside and in, with quite a few novel features to help it stand out. There are flush door handles, LED headlights that do a dance as you turn the car on and rear indicators mounted high up, paying homage to the DS of the 1950s. The rear lights also have an intricate 'scaled' look to ensure you don't mistake the DS 9 for a more mundane model.
Its interior is similarly quirky, with excellent materials, sumptuous leather or alcantara seats and even an analogue clock mounted above the dash. It's a bit of a mixed bag though, because some of the controls take time to get used to, and the 12-inch infotainment setup isn't the best in the business. Comfort is excellent, both thanks to technology which automatically adjusts the suspension for the road ahead, and decent refinement; especially when driving with just the electric motors.
The DS 9 isn't likely to leap ahead of the BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class anytime soon, but it does offer an intriguing alternative for anyone looking for an alternative to mainstream models. Its quirks give it an undeniable character, the E-Tense plug-in model should be very affordable to run and DS' concierge service will add extra appeal for some buyers.
MPG, running costs & CO2
A petrol DS 9 and two versions of petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (PHEV) are offered, and it's the latter two that are expected to appeal to the business drivers who make up the majority of executive car owners.
That's not just because the 40.4mpg fuel-efficiency of the PureTech 225 is mediocre, but mainly due to its 159g/km CO2 emissions. These figures might make sense for private buyers, but put the car in one of the highest brackets for Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax. The petrol version is also slightly more expensive to tax, sitting in the standard VED band, while the PHEV is liable for the discounted annual rate.
Thanks to the addition of an electric motor and 11.9kWh battery, the DS 9 E-Tense is able to drive for up to 33 miles without using its petrol engine, at speeds of up to 83mph. This has a transformative effect on its official efficiency figures, boosting them to 176mpg, while cutting CO2 emissions to 33-35g/km. This brings it into contention with the BMW 530e and Mercedes E 300 e PHEVs, which have a 12kWh and 13.5kWh battery respectively, and all three qualify for an attractive BiK band.
The DS 9 has a 7kW on-board charger and a lead to connect the car to a home wallbox charger, capable of a top-up in under two hours. On our test we found you'll need to charge up frequently, as we were getting just 15-17 miles of range - some way short of the claimed figure.
Engines, drive & performance
So far, we've driven the DS 9 E-Tense 225, which gets its power from a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, boosted by a 109bhp electric motor. This gives it a combined 222bhp, sent to the front wheels. Every DS 9 is fitted with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 8.3 seconds, which is perfectly quick enough to keep up with traffic, but won't worry the BMW or Mercedes. The 1.6-litre engine can also feel a bit strained and get rather loud and coarse sounding when you ask it to power onto a motorway or overtake a slower vehicle.
The car always starts in its electric driving mode, but can be switched to Hybrid or E-Tense Sport. Hybrid juggles power between electric and petrol depending on how the car is driven, while E-Tense Sport offers maximum power and adjusts the throttle, gearbox, steering and suspension for maximum response.
Its steering is very light, but it's backed up by a chassis with decent composure, so it does feel secure on the road. The BMW 5 Series is comfortably ahead for keen drivers, but for cruising in comfort and tackling long trips, the DS 9 is equally as capable.
The petrol-only PureTech also gets 222bhp from a more highly-tuned version of the 1.6-litre turbo engine, and gets from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds thanks to its lower weight. A more powerful DS 9 E-Tense 360 PHEV with four-wheel drive will sit at the top of the range when it arrives.
Interior & comfort
The DS 9 is fitted with a system called DS Active Scan, which uses a camera to monitor the road surface just ahead of the car as you drive, adjusting the suspension in 150 milliseconds if an imperfection is detected. On the whole it works well, and the DS 9 is a comfortable car, but it can still get caught out by large bumps and lots of frequent ripples in the tarmac.
DS has worked hard to make the interior feel upmarket, and the theatre begins as you get in, thanks to those flush door handles. The Opera option pack features Rubis red 'watch strap' leather seats and trim, which are rather lovely. The DS 9 isn't one of the most intuitive cars to just hop into, though; it took us a long time just to find the mirror adjuster behind the steering wheel.
The 12-inch infotainment screen is familiar with other cars in the Stellantis stable, and while it looks pretty good, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay maps don't utilise all of the display. We also wish the climate control was controlled using a knob rather than prodding the laggy touchscreen. The quality of materials is excellent, though, with lots of attractive finishes and even a stylish BRM clock mounted atop the fascia.
Just two trims are offered, with the Performance Line+ version getting Alcantara upholstery, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lights and two 12-inch displays. Rivoli+ costs around £3,000 extra and adds massaging leather seats, semi-autonomous driver assistance aids and a 360-degree camera view.
Practicality & boot space
The DS 9's high comfort levels can also be experienced in the back seats, thanks to plentiful legroom. Headroom isn't quite as generous, but anyone under six foot is well catered for. The Opera pack adds a glass roof to help flood the interior with natural light, and there's also a large central armrest, cupholders and storage. The climate control can also be separately adjusted from the back seats in top versions.
Another feather in the DS 9's cap is the generous 510-litre boot, which is larger than the BMW 530e and Mercedes E 300 e can offer. It's also well proportioned, with no awkward steps or intrusions from the battery pack, as well as a handy underfloor storage area to put the charging cable.
Reliability & safety
While it may be a new model, the DS 9 shares its underpinnings and powertrain with some other models, such as the DS 7 Crossback and Peugeot 508, which aren't models we've heard any reliability horror stories about. If there are any issues, we'd expect them to be electrical gremlins, as there's no denying the DS 9 is quite a complex car.
If any problems come up, DS does at least promise a hands-on ownership experience, thanks to its 'Only You' customer service. This ensures DS 9 owners have a direct contact to help with servicing and roadside assistance, and can even qualify the owner for exclusive events.
The DS 9 hasn't been crash-tested by Euro NCAP yet, but the closely-related DS 7 Crossback was awarded five stars in 2017. The testing procedure has been made even tougher since then, but we'll still be surprised if the DS 9 achieves less than a top result. Along with a host of airbags, the DS 9 features active safety kit including DS Drive Assist, which can help drive the car at up to 111mph on the motorway, laws permitting. DS Night Vision can help spot pedestrians, cyclists and animals up to 100m ahead of the car in poor visibility.