Over the last few years, the number of big saloons available has shrunk considerably. Manufacturers preferring to steer their customers towards much more lucrative SUVs. Alongside the three German premium brands, only the Volvo S90 and the Lexus ES 300h remain available. Seeing a French brand launching a large saloon can be seen as quite appropriate, then.
In any case, DS took the plunge and markets the DS9 in France. It uses the Stellantis widely-used EMP2 platform in a lengthened size. It was first launched in China back in 2019 and just made it to Europe, following its Chinese factory takeover. However, let’s rejoice for the pleasure of seeing a luxurious saloon joining the DS range. All the DS9s available are plug-in hybrids. We recently tested the most powerful model in Southern France. The exterior lines are very restrained in a classical, non-harmful way. This won’t upset conservative customers. Nevertheless, modernity is in the details like the indicators placed on each side of the back windows. These remind us of the original DS… The highly detailerd rear lights or the flush door handles give the DS9 side lines an elegant simplicity. However, we think the numerous chromes bits at the front are more divisive. Like its Peugeot 508 PSE cousin, the DS9 face is defined by two vertical LED lines.
The whole interior is a luxury affair, with top of the range leather featured on the “Rivoli +” version. The components are assembled with great care and the various storage bins covers all scream high quality. We tested a “Performance Line +” version. Leather is replaced by large pieces of alcantara. The excellent seats are set quite low and we like that. They contribute to the car’s “Grand Touring” atmosphere. The multimedia system offers a 12″ screen but it is not on par with the DS4 one and is rather slow to start. At the rear, passengers will enjoy plenty of space and massaging seats are available as an extra to enhance the whole experience even more. Boot volume is generous at 510-litre but it is hampered by massive hinges.
Red hot Hybrid
Let’s now start the machine. We are using the word on purpose here as the small 1.6 petrol is joined by two electric units developping 110 and 113 HP. On the E-Tense 225 version, the first one takes the place of the torque converter in the new eight-speed gearbox. The second one is located on the rear axle. As well as turning the DS9 into an all-wheel drive car, this hybrid unit also makes it the most powerful model in the range : it has 360 HP and torque is 520 Nm. However, the heart of this hybrid powertrain lies in the 11.9 kWh lithium-ion battery that allows a 32 km-range in electric mode. Thanks to a 7 kW single-phase charger, the DS9 can fill up its battery in less than two hours.
This test drive took us back on the small roads close to Nice, including the Esterel Pass. We must admit the DS9 handled it expertly. Selecting the “Sport” mode allows you to take the curves without a second thought for its portly weight (1900 kg). Of course, we lament the lack of a proper gear lever to change gears manually… the paddles behind the steering wheel act only on battery regeneration levels. Eventually, that was no bad thing, because we could fully use our hands to grab the steering wheel and aim the car as we wanted. Throwing it literally into some corners, it was impossible to make the tyres squeal… Our test DS9 was fitted with superlative 20″ Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, no less. Which means it’s the brakes and their twin pot calipers that have to work hard. At the end of a spirited driving session, they nevertheless played a nasty trick on us : while we were approaching a roundabout at low speed, the brake pedal went to the floor without reducing the car speed. Fortunately, pushing it again two times restored some braking power and allowed us to manage it as best as we could.
Genuine Grand Tourer
We were a bit nervous after such an experience and the rest of the journey was much quieter and we even took a short pause to let the brake discs cool down. Despite the ESP and emergency brake warning lights staying on, the DS9 made it to the end of the 156 km test in a rather cosseting comfort. It is a real GT, offering an excellent compromise between comfort and sporty manners. Of course, we really put it through its paces and we are quite sure that not many owners will ever drive a DS9 like we did, but its excellent chassis is remarkable. Our versions had a gimmicky application that helps the driver to use the brakes optimally to regenerate as much power as possible, avoiding heavy braking. A bit like Formula E drivers who spend more time concentrating on saving energy than on driving. Needless to say, our driving style didn’t really suit it, if our final score (47%) is anything to go by…
Let’s talk about money…
As far as range is concerned, it will always be in tune with the way the car is used. The 360 bhp DS9 retails at € 66,090. It may seem expensive but it includes a highly generous equipment level. Among the few extras available are the sunroof with its power blind, the DS Park Pilot, the DS Drive Assist, the DS Night Vision, the 14-speaker Focal HIFI system or the tinted, acoustic and heated windscreen.