Goodwood Test: DS 9 2023 Review
Saloons are dead. Who makes them now other than the German giants? At least, not ones for sale in this country. Well, how about a squishy piece of french pseudo luxury instead of all that Germanic steel?
That’s what the DS 9 is, a car that perhaps fills the remit of a company calling itself “DS” better than any that’s gone before. The DS moniker began as a luxurious “goddess” of a car (the name DS is meant to ape the French word Deus if you pronounce it correctly, which means goddess), a comfortable cruiser that looked great and beat anything else for that proper french waft. A big saloon with an emphasis on comfort, just like the DS 9. Can it live up to that billing?
- Super comfortable
- Nice interior design
- Hybrid system works effectively
We don't like
- Design really quite un-adventurous
- Petrol motor is lacklustre
- Real-world electric range not amazing
It’s harsh on the DS 9 to start here, because as far as I’m concerned this is one of the two areas in which it falls down the most. The original DS was an absolute jaw-dropper when it arrived. A bold expression of a new France reclaiming its place at the top of the automotive world post-war. This DS is a saloon with the rear indicators in a slightly different place.
That’s not to say that the DS 9 is a bad looking car, it just feels incredibly safe. Where BMW is seemingly deliberately going out there to offend, the DS 9 looks like it just wants your eye to flick past it as you walk along. Yes it has some nice upright daylight running lights at the front, and the high indicators that ape the original are cool, but other than that it’s a saloon with a slightly stubby boot.
Performance and Handling
The second downside to get out the way from the off is that the petrol engine – a 1.6-litre four-cylinder – is a little bit wheezy when left out on its own. If you’ve exhausted your supply of volts from the batteries under the floor and ask for everything its got, the big DS will gasp a little bit, flick down some gears and just about make an overtake. Even in Sport mode.
Maybe it’s harsh to talk about a car when it’s operating outside of its main parameters, but there will be many journeys that overcome the DS’s alleged 25 mile electric range.
That 1.6-litre engine is the same whether you buy the pure ICE car or the plug-in hybrid. And, both have the same power output – 225PS (165kW) – as the petrol is downtuned for the hybrid, Perhaps explaining the wheeze. However there is 320Nm (236lb ft) when both motor and engine are in tune. Give it some volts and the DS is still not rapid, but isn’t as ponderous as before when picking up, the little boost of electric motion makes a fair old difference.
But we should come on to what the DS 9 does well: And that is to be comfortable. The damping and suspension are excellent, matching some cars worth a significant amount more, and you’ll feel you can eat up the long journey miles with absolutely no sweat broken. It takes the most maleficent of potholes to really unsteady the DS 9 from its path, and even then it’ll clear things up swiftly.
Thankfully it’s not thrown into a mess if you show it a corner too. The DS is front-wheel-drive, but it does feel secure even if you’re trying to make rapid progress down a twistier bit of road.
I am rather fond of the design of the insides of the DS 9, although some colleagues at GRR have taken offence to the absolute proliferation of diamond patterning – there’s diamond stitching, diamonds on the buttons, diamonds on the dash, the graphics are diamond shaped and I’m frankly amazed the wing mirrors are ovals. But it pleases me.
Yes it’s extremely black, with black and more black, but its massive buttons are pleasant to use and look at. The materials are mostly very high quality too, with the bluff dash covered with a leather in this case and the BRM clock in the middle is a nice touch, even if it sounds like the gears of an old ship as it opens up and closes.
That said, you can find a few faults. The row of buttons underneath the giant central screen flexes if you push it, and there’s some very low quality plastics to be found hidden in the centre console.
Technology and Features
The DS 9 has a main 12-inch touchscreen in the centre and an additional 12.3-inch screen housing all the dials in the instrument binnacle. The screen is pretty straightforward to use (more diamonds to be found here), and the quick search buttons are useful, even if it is a shame they are touch buttons rather than anything physical.
There’s plenty of kit to be found as standard too, including those screens, the DAB radio, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice recognition, electric boot, parking sensors front and rear, cruise control, heated front seats, automatic lights and windscreen wipers and even the massage seats. The DS 9 has a base price of £49,000, so that’s probably a good thing.
I like the DS 9, it is weird how bold it seems to build “another saloon” in 2023, but in a world when people just don’t seem willing to buy them, that is the truth. The DS 9s rather unassuming outsides hide a drive that is up there with the best for comfort and relaxation. It doesn’t get anywhere near its rivals if you ask it to perform, and that petrol engine finds a lot of things a struggle, but it’s an interesting alternative.
Every saloon these days seems to live off its harder ride and the knowledge that somewhere it was “honed” on a circuit somewhere so that a performance version could follow. The DS 9 is unapologetically not about speed, it’s a bold alternative and one that we should perhaps consider more. You will probably buy a BMW or an Audi, but if your day to day experience needs a little more comfort, you’d be missing out if you didn’t look at the DS 9.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
|Engine||1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged and electric motor|
|Fuel economy||235-353mpg (WLTP)|
Reviewed by Ben Miles