We live in an age where when so many cars are just interchangeable metal boxes with little in the way of design flair on show. DS Automobiles, however, like to make their models instantly recognisable. So far they’ve done it to best effect with the funky little DS3, which still looks super cool even though it’s been around a while now. You see a lot of them on the roads too, which confirms that owners share this desire to be a little different.
It’s a similar story with the release of the new DS 7 Crossback. This chunky yet curvaceous SUV boasts lots of subtle touches that set it apart from the sea of other high-rise vehicles on the road. From a distance these flourishes aren’t always immediately noticeable, but get up close to it, take a walk around the exterior then have a peek inside, and you’ll start to see why this is a brand that’s taking design and innovation in a very bold direction.
The 8-speed automatic car makes the ideal mode of transportation for getting to Paris for the latest leg of the Formula E race season too as we found out last weekend. DS Virgin Racing have been doing well in this series: British driver Sam Bird won the previous race in Rome and, at an event inside the luxurious confines of the DS Store in one of the most exclusive shopping streets in Paris, he seemed confident of achieving another win for DS Virgin Racing. He was also very excited about the way the all-electric sport is blossoming.
“I signed up for the championship before I’d driven the car. None of the cars were actually built at the time I signed. I was kind of in the dark. But it has just come from strength to strength. With anything new it’s a little bit delicate to begin with, but now we’ve got all of these manufacturers coming on board and it’s got a lot more depth now,” he said while sitting alongside fellow Brit team mate Alex Lynn. The team are currently second in the 2017-2018 season standings.
However, we weren’t there just to see if DS Virgin Racing could live up to expectations because DS Automobiles had some other surprises in store. Central to all of this was a film of the DS X E-TENSE. It’s an unbelievably cool concept that is the end result of a challenge handed out to the DS team. They were given the task of producing a dream machine for the year 2035 – 80 years from the creation of the original and revolutionary DS.
The design is a wild one, with an asymmetric layout that combines leather, wood and metal to produce a car that looks like it’s just come out of some futuristic Hollywood movie. The lightweight construction and all-electric propulsion would result in a muscular 400kW/540horsepower road going model and a circuit option that would deliver 1,000kW/1,360 horsepower. And, if the power got too much then the new technology of the time would let the body recover its original form after an impact.
While the DS X E-TENSE might be a car planted firmly in the future, DS Automobiles have actually managed to incorporate some of the features of that digital vision in the current model range. The DS 7 Crossback has many cool features as you pick your way around it, depending on the model you’re sitting in. And, it’s luxury all the way with sumptuous leather, wood or Alcantara in abundance. Meanwhile, PolyAmbiant lighting lets you adjust the interior to suit your own mood or personal preference. It’s more of an ‘experience’ than just another drive down the road.
Audio fans are well catered for with DS fitting a fourteen-speaker Focal Electra system in the car for maximum aural performance. There are less than essential but very neat touches on show in this range too, including some that aren’t so far removed from the design drawings of the DS X E-TENSE. One example we see, the Opera edition, boasts a rotating B. R. M Chronograph on the dash, which as in-car timepieces go, manages to look elegant rather than tacky.
There are other nuances too, like the DS Active LED Vision, which features no less than six different lighting modes and an adaptive beam. At night, the beam adapts in width and range depending on the speed of your car and the driving conditions. It harks back to those pioneering early DS models, but adds in a whole lot more sophistication.
For anyone living in the UK and having to deal with its appalling roads the DS7 Crossback also has Active Scan Suspension. This uses a camera, four sensors and an accelerometer to scan bumps and potholes on the road and adjusts the suspension damping on-the-fly as a result. Again, it takes the innovative suspension ideas used on early DS models and tailors the ride perfectly to roads that are gradually crumbling to dust.
Aside from that, there was more big news; with company CEO Yves Bonnefont stating that the company would produce electric-only vehicles in less than seven years. “Starting from 2018 with the DS 7 Crossback, all of our cars will have an electrified version, a plug-in hybrid or a full electric model. In 2025 all of the existing models will be discontinued and will be replaced by hybrid or all-electric models,” he told us.
While we’re on the subject of radical ideas, the DS Virgin Racing Formula E car for next season was also on show. The fierce-looking DS E-TENSE FE 19 enjoys a similar level of radical styling and boasts a 0-62mph capability of just 2.8 seconds. Although the core design is used by the other cars in this competition series, the version DS Automobiles had on show in Paris looked like a ground-hugging Batmobile, thanks to its intimidating matt black and gold finish.
The unorthodox edginess of the DS Automobiles brand didn’t stop with its vehicles either. Competition day saw thrills and spills aplenty, with the Paris Formula E race culminating in Sam Bird finishing on three wheels after a crash near the finishing line. Amazingly, he still ended up bagging third place.
And, ironically, there are archive films in circulation that show early DS models going around a racetrack and intentionally blowing out their tyres. The stunt was used to illustrate how the innovative design of those old DS cars could let the vehicle be driven on three wheels. This tenuous connection with car-making history made the finale of the latest race seem cool and quirky – a bit like DS Automobiles really.