Travel in style
A luxury car should offer more than just sound transport from A to B. A luxury car should suit its owner, fulfil a dream and make life more pleasant. Exactly that is where DS makes a difference!
Atop sleek Germans, extravagant Italians and modern Japanese, DS puts French charm. And since this is DS's flagship model, the "9" goes a long way in that. The large sedan already formed an ode to classic French cars, and its looks were already inspired by French "haute couture" (fashion). From the 2023 model year, DS will go a step further by offering a new collection every year, just like the fashion houses. For this test, it is the "Esprit de Voyage", which is all about travelling in style.
What characterises French style is elegance combined with modesty. Despite its unusual decoration, the 9 is not extravagant. Only when the car is viewed calmly do the many details stand out. Over the bonnet, for instance, not only does a chrome line run, but on closer inspection it is finished with a diamond pattern. The mirror caps of the test car appear black, but in fact feature a fine pattern. At the rear, indicators can be found near the roof, like on the legendary Citroën DS.
The interior was previously only available in black or red, now the colour "Pearl Grey" is added. This grey incorporates a hint of brown and the fabrics have the motif of a watch strap. Thus, simple "grey" becomes exclusive and inviting. Apart from the seats, the leather covers the centre console, dashboard and door panels. The headlining comes in the shade Pebble Grey Alcantara. Even something as simple as the floor mats has seen extra work, as the edges are finished with a so-called "Zephir" stitching
With such a reading of colours and materials, it starts to look pretty much like a fashion show, and that is exactly the French manufacturer's intention! Still, the main "lesson" of this renewed acquaintance is that DS was perhaps a bit too French before, but the new version manages to charm even the down-to-earth test driver.
Not changed, but still worth mentioning: thanks to its generous dimensions, the DS 9 also offers generous interior space. The passenger seat can also be moved extra far forward at the push of a button, so the 9 can also be used as a chauffeured car.
The dignitary in the rear can then enjoy a massage function, its own climate control system and USB connections to charge mobile devices on the move.
For the driver, the 9 offers all the luxury and safety features that can be expected from a car in this price range. However, DS certainly does not offer more than that. DS does not opt for technical innovation, but for innovation in materials and workmanship. Therefore, this is not a computer on wheels, but a traditional car that deploys computers only where necessary.
And yet the most important news for the 2023 model year concerns the computer! The audio, communication and navigation system has been completely overhauled. From now on, the driver can decide how to arrange the screens by placing so-called "widgets", just like on the home screen of a mobile phone. This has been perceived as a real improvement, as from now on the car adapts to the user and not vice versa.
But still, the system shows all kinds of animations that are quite nice the first time, but end up making the driver wait for the desired information to be displayed. The voice-activated assistant "Iris" functions moderately. The system is far from intelligent and does not compare to the current generation of AI systems available on the internet. Iris only catches keywords and (hopefully) takes the right action based on them.
The main treat remains Focal's audio system. This French brand makes top-of-the-range hi-fi systems for the living room, and that sparkling, clear and musical sound is reflected in this car.
(Citroën) DS made a name for itself in the distant past with comfort and istinct handling. That was based on a complex system of gas-spring bulbs. The new DS leans on electronics and much less on mechanics (no air suspension, no four-wheel steering). A camera behind the windscreen "reads" the road surface and adjusts the suspension accordingly, so the car is ready for what is to come.
The driver can choose between normal, comfortable and sport mode. Only in comfortable mode is the camera active and therefore it is noticeable how the car reacts with and without "Active Scan". As standard, the DS 9 is grand and stately, but also communicative. This allows the driver to feel what is going on between the tyres and the tarmac. Selecting comfort mode removes the sharp edges from this communication. The worse the road surface, the more benefit Active Scan offers.
The DS 9 comes with a plug-in hybrid powertrain as standard. It delivers either 250 or 360 hp. The latter version owes the extra power to an extra motor on the rear wheels, making this a four-wheel-drive car. For this test, the most powerful version was driven, and despite its hefty engine power, the 9 is patently not a sports car. The power is used to perform with great ease and always maintain composure and dignity. When asked to sprint anyway, the car certainly does not disappoint, but it does not give any satisfaction.
What the DS 9 very clearly does like is "whooshing". With the engine low in revs, the 9 effortlessly whizzes through the countryside at a decent speed. And then it is noticeable what all this marketing talk from the French is all about. DS states that travel should be comfortable and carefree and, thanks to the hybrid drive, that is completely fulfilled.
Does the DS 9 for model year 2023 only offer a new looks or has the car actually improved? Both! The facelift starts with the exterior. New versions, new colours, new materials and new decorations ensure that this top model will have an even stronger appearance from now on. In the process, the French character has remained, while appealing to a wider target group. The "Esprit de Voyage" makes the 9 even more exclusive because this version, like fashion, is seasonal.
In addition to more ostentation, the DS 9 also offers slightly more modern equipment from the 2023 model year onwards. A voice-activated assistant makes life easier, although the level of intelligence is low. The infotainment system is among the car's most frequently used functions, and as its controls are now more customisable, owners will feel even more at home in the car.
- Unique character
- Extremely comfortable
- Fast and relatively economical thanks to hybrid drive
- Sudden, unclear warnings of danger
- Smart assistant Iris is not very smart
- Not (yet) available as a 100% electric car