DS 7 Crossback E-TENSE review
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||31 miles||217mpg||33g/km|
By 2025, every car that DS makes will either be electric – like the DS 3 Crossback E-TENSE – or a plug-in hybrid capable of at least 30 miles in electric-only mode. This DS 7 Crossback E-TENSE falls into the latter category, delivering up to 31 miles of range from its 13.2kWh battery.
Prices ranging from just under £48,000 to more than £56,000 make it a rival for the BMW X3 hybrid and Audi Q5 hybrids, while the technology used in the DS 7 Crossback E-TENSE also appears in the Peugeot 3008, Citroen C5 Aircross and Vauxhall Grandland X hybrids.
A 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine develops 200bhp and two electric motors contribute 108bhp apiece, meaning total system output amounts to 296bhp. This figure is deemed high enough for DS to describe the SUV as a “high-performance hybrid” and as the 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds suggests, the E-TENSE doesn’t hang around when launched off the line.
However, as is the case with the rest of the DS 7 line-up, the E-TENSE falls short in other areas. It’s not meant to be a sporty vehicle, so its lack of sharpness in corners and fast B-roads isn’t really a surprise. More of a letdown is the ride, which uses intelligent adaptive dampers that prepare for bumps and potholes in advance by using cameras to scan the road ahead.
With the exception of during motorway driving, the system never quite delivers the comfort promised by DS, proving too wallowy in Comfort mode or too fidgety in Sport mode. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is another frustration: it’s slow to change down, relying on the electric motors to make up for its sluggishness with the instant acceleration they provide.
With enough charge in the battery, the DS 7 has a four-wheel-drive mode at its disposal: this allows it to drive off-road in silence, save for the occasional input from the engine when extra torque is required. The on-road tyres limit the amount of traction (this is no Range Rover, after all), but the ability to tackle tougher terrain is a boost nonetheless.
In truth, the DS 7 Crossback E-TENSE is at its happiest in all-electric, zero-emissions mode, with a smooth, refined drive: it’ll do speeds of up to 83mph without assistance from the engine, and a full charge from a 7kW home wallbox will take less than two hours. Even if you only have a three-pin plug, the eight-hour recharge time will be enough to cover most commutes when the car is plugged in overnight.
Hybrid mode also has its benefits, with the system working out the most efficient mix of the available electric and petrol power. Officially the SUV returns 217mpg, although achieving this figure in the real world relies on regular charging via the Type 2 socket.
CO2 emissions of 33g/km put the E-TENSE in the lowest Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax category, something the BMW X3 xDrive30e can’t boast. That figure is easily low enough to qualify for London Congestion Charge exemption, too.
The DS 7 Crossback E-TENSE is available in three trims, as is the case with the non-hybrid variants. The entry-level Performance model gets 19-inch alloy wheels and an alcantara interior finish inside, while the mid-spec Prestige model adds leather seats (the fronts are fully electric and have a massage function, while the rears have electric backrests), front parking sensors, a reversing camera and keyless entry.
The top-of-the-range Ultra Prestige version adds a panoramic sunroof, a remote tailgate, an upgraded Focal sound system and semi-autonomous driving functionality, which allows the car to accelerate, brake and steer between lanes. There’s little to visually distinguish the E-TENSE from the internal-combustion-engined DS 7s, with a couple of badges, the charging socket cap and a ‘Pearl Crystal’ paint finish unique to the plug-in model setting it apart.
Inside, the interior quality is a mixed bag: the areas with a leather or alcantara finish feel decidedly upmarket, but the use of hard, scratchy plastics in places does tarnish the overall look. Buyers of top-spec models at least have some brilliant kit to distract passengers: a night-vision camera can detect pedestrians and cyclists hundreds of metres down the road and LED matrix lights – standard throughout the line-up – that can bend around corners as you steer. There’s a massive infotainment touchscreen, too, although this isn’t as intuitive to use as systems found in other premium cars.
The E-TENSE is available on a somewhat eye-watering personal contract purchase (PCP) deal, with a deposit of nearly £6,300 followed by monthly repayments of nearly £600 over a period of four years. Meanwhile, Audi only asks for an initial £1,500 for the Q5 hybrid, making cheaper in the long run. The E-TENSE is the pick of the DS 7 Crossback line-up, but should you choose it over the slicker, better-executed, more affordable German opposition? We’re not so sure.