Tech tweaks bring more efficiency to the upmarket DS 9 E-Tense PHEV
3.5 out of 5
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This DS 9 E-Tense 250 makes more sense than the 4×4 360 flagship version, delivering improved electric range and greater efficiency thanks to a bigger battery, lots of kit and strong refinement. But the package is let down by limited practicality and a slightly jittery ride that means this big saloon doesn’t deliver the same level of comfort as its premium competitors. It’s likely to remain a niche choice as a result.
Nearly 90 per cent of all DS 9s sold are E-Tense plug-in hybrid models, which is where the French brand has focused its development, resulting in this E-Tense 250.
It sits alongside the 4×4 360 performance flagship and supersedes the old 225 version, bringing tech advances that are definitely worthwhile. The most notable is an enlarged 15.6kWh battery that allows for an all-electric range of up to 46 miles. There’s also a little more power, at 247bhp in total.
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However, the bigger battery and potential for more all-electric running mean the 250 is also more efficient, emitting 26g/km of CO2 and therefore dropping into the eight-per-cent Benefit-in-Kind tax band.
It’s priced from £48,300 in Performance Line + trim, rising to £51,400 for Rivoli +, which could be a sticking point for some people. But there are many positives to the package, the first being refinement. This is a premium car from a brand with premium aspirations, going after plug-in machines from established rivals such as BMW and Audi, and in some ways matching them.
Acoustic glass is standard, so on the move, the DS 9 is quiet, helped further by a flexible zero-emissions mode and with an all-electric top speed of 84mph. But even with the petrol engine running, as long as you keep your acceleration sensible, the most you’ll hear is a dull drone in the background as the 1.6-litre turbo unit works away, aided by the electric motor.
The 0-62mph sprint takes 8.1 seconds, and while it never feels fast, performance is adequate. Stretching the DS 9 in this way feels at odds with its set-up, though, as does hustling it quickly through corners.
There’s enough composure at sensible speeds, but go a little faster and the body control breaks down, while the large wheels sometimes rebound aggressively, disrupting ride comfort. This trait is present at normal speeds; it’s just the effect of those harsher jolts is lessened. We’d say the chassis set-up delivers just enough comfort, but it’s not that consistent in the way it deals with bumps.
Unlike some other models on EMP2, the platform the DS 9 is based on, this big saloon offers a good level of legroom in the rear; this long wheelbase helps practicality and also gives its elegant exterior profile, boosted by that arcing roofline. But this means that headroom is only fair. There’s less space than in premium rivals, and large mainstream competitors, such as the Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Passat.
DS has made good strides with the DS 9, but the cabin’s mix of materials, finishes and the location of key controls could be better. However, at 510 litres, the level of boot space is good, especially for a PHEV.
Plenty of kit is fitted as standard, such as 19-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch digital dash, a 12-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless go, LED lights, electrically adjustable heated seats, all-round parking sensors and a reversing camera. Alcantara fabric and lots of safety tech are included on Performance Line + trim.
Quality seems good and the design – whether you call it flair or fussy – is recognisable and offers something that its German rivals don’t. If that floats your boat and will attract you to buy is the $64,000 question, but given sales of big saloons in the UK are on the slide and SUVs are still on the rise, we can’t see the DS 9 being a big player and upsetting the status quo.
|Model:||DS 9 E-Tense 250 Performance Line+|
|Powertrain:||1.6-litre 4cyl petrol/1x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
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