In-depth reviews

DS 9 E-TENSE review

The plug-in hybrid DS 9 saloon is the French brand's most convincing model yet; comfortable, refined and loaded with kit

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Luxury features
  • Excellent refinement

Cons

  • Laggy infotainment
  • Mediocre electric range
  • Single saloon bodystyle
Car typeElectric rangeFuel economyCO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid33-34 miles157-176mpg34g/km

The market for big, posh saloon cars has all but disappeared – unless you’re one of the established 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 its new, swoopy, DS 9.

It's available from launch with a choice of petrol or plug-in hybrid powertrains, but the latter will be of most interest to company-car drivers looking to drive down their annual tax bill. With a publicised 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 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.

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 toward 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 dash are well integrated, even if the usual DS caveats apply; the touchscreen is laggy and the graphics feel dated. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, at least.

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+ (an additional £3,100) ups the kit count with ventilated and massaging leather seats, a 360-degree camera system and semi-autonomous drive functions. DS offers its sumptuous 'watchstrap' leather seats as part of the pricey Opera option pack.

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. The service, we’re told, also brings access to exclusive events.

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, and that extends to rear-seat space. There’s acres of legroom, and while headroom isn’t as generous as you might like, anyone under six foot will be just fine. Go for that Opera option pack and along with the glass roof, you’ll add a huge central armrest with a pair of cupholders and a storage tray; top-spec models get separate climate controls in the back, too.

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.

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