DS 9 E-TENSE hybrid review
The plug-in hybrid DS 9 saloon is comfortable, luxurious, refined and loaded with kit – but looks too expensive on finance compared to German rivals
- Luxury features
- Excellent refinement
- Laggy infotainment
- Mediocre electric range
- High monthly finance payments
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||33-34 miles||157-176mpg||34g/km|
The market for big, posh saloon cars in the UK has all but disappeared – unless you’re one of the big premium players like BMW, Audi or Mercedes. It’s something the French have wrestled with for a couple of decades now; Renault, Peugeot and even Citroen have long failed to win the hearts of international executives. But DS reckons it can now mix it with the premium players with this swoopy DS 9.
It's available with a choice of petrol or plug-in hybrid power, but the latter will be of most interest to company-car drivers looking to drive down their annual tax bill. With an official pure-electric range of between 33 and 34 miles depending on specification, the DS 9 E-TENSE sits in the 11% bracket for Benefit-in-Kind tax liability during the current financial year.
That’s not nearly as low as a pure-electric car, but competitive with rivals like the BMW 530e and Mercedes E 300 e plug-in hybrids. The amount of tax you pay will likely be a little lower, actually, due to the DS 9’s more affordable list prices versus the like-for-like German alternatives. But if you're a private buyer using finance, the picture is less positive: the DS' poorer predicted residual values mean there's more depreciation to account for, so monthly payments are higher than for the German offerings.
We’ll come on to what the DS 9 is like to drive in a moment, but inside is where the designers have made the greatest leaps towards the brand's more established rivals. Quality is excellent, with loads of high-end plastics, metals and leathers spread across the dashboard and doors. The infotainment system in the centre stack and BRM clock atop the dashboard are well integrated, even if the usual DS caveats apply; the touchscreen is laggy and the graphics feel dated. At least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
There are two versions of the DS 9 to choose from; Performance Line+ and Rivoli+, both of which bring an impressive level of standard equipment. The entry-level car gets black Alcantara upholstery, 19-inch wheels, LED lights front and rear, plus two 12-inch screens inside.
It’s the sportier-looking car, but Rivoli+ ups the kit count with ventilated and massaging leather seats, a 360-degree camera system and semi-autonomous drive functions. DS also offers its sumptuous 'watchstrap' leather seats as part of the pricey Opera option pack – shown in our pictures with deep red leather and Alcantara headlining.
As well as all that, DS promises a unique ownership experience. Buying or leasing a DS 9 gives you access to the company’s ‘Only You’ programme – effectively providing a direct dial to a single contact to help with servicing and roadside assistance, along with anything else a conventional dealer might usually cater for.
Push the DS 9 E-TENSE's starter button and the car springs into life all but silently, provided there’s enough charge in the batteries. In its electric mode (available at speeds of up to 84mph) it’s particularly quiet and refined; it’s a little less composed when the engine kicks in, but that’s less noticeable at speed. Speaking of which, the DS 9’s ride is especially accomplished on the motorway. It wafts along, but with a level of poise that prevents the sense of feeling disconnected from the road. It’s caught out on occasion by larger potholes, but in general, it’s a very comfortable car to drive.
Performance is adequate rather than particularly noteworthy: 0-62mph takes 8.3 seconds and the electric motor helps fill any gaps you might otherwise notice in power delivery. Wring out the DS 9’s 1.6-litre petrol engine though, and it does start to feel a little bit strained. The steering is light but accurate, and body control is fine. The DS 9 isn’t the last word in precision – the 5 Series still takes the prize there – but it isn’t sloppy. This isn’t a car you’ll relish driving with much gusto, then, but for the sorts of jobs the DS 9 will be tasked with that's unlikely to matter.
As we mentioned, comfort is a DS 9 strong point, however the amount of rear-seat space is disappointing compared to what you might expect looking at the car from outside. It's not cramped per se, but there's no more legroom than in any other car in this class. Headroom isn’t as generous as you might like either, but anyone under six foot should be fine. Along with the glass roof, the aforementioned Opera option pack adds a huge central armrest with a pair of cupholders and a storage tray.
The 510-litre boot is a good shape and size. It’s not as big as the load area you’ll find in a petrol or diesel Mercedes E-Class, but it trumps the hybrid version of that car, which comes with a huge step in the boot floor. The DS 9 benefits from a small area under the floor, too – perfect for storing the charge cable.
Every version of the DS 9 E-TENSE comes with a 7kW on-board charger and a lead for wallbox charging, which allows you to top up the batteries in around an hour and 45 minutes. You’ll want to do this as often as possible, as in our experience, a full top-up results in a miserly 15 to 17 electric miles; even when the car is driven relatively gently, DS’ 34-mile official maximum remains largely out of reach.
Overall, the DS 9 E-TENSE is a difficult car to comprehensively recommend. It's unquestionably a luxurious and refined vehicle, but its main German rivals are better to drive, just as practical and – crucially – more affordable on monthly finance. It's hard to ignore, too, that you can get the same plug-in hybrid setup in the Peugeot 508 Hybrid – also for a lower monthly payment.