DS 9 E-TENSE 360 4x4

DS 9 E-TENSE 360 4x4

French brand’s performance division gives the luxury saloon a go-faster makeover.

There’s something about handfinished and skunkworks cars that speaks to the imagination, which makes the origin story of the new range-topping DS 9, the E-Tense 360 4x4, quite appealing. In the ongoing quest to establish itself as a credible premium car player, DS has produced a fast version of its flagship saloon. At the same time, it is keen to emphasise the link between its road cars and its work in Formula E, so although all 9s are produced in China, a few examples get sent to DS Performance’s workshops in Poissy, where it builds Formula E cars, for a transformation. In addition to the standard 224bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain driving the front wheels, it gets a second, 111bhp electric motor on the rear axle, making it essentially the same drivetrain as in the Peugeot 508 PSE. Bigger, 380mm front brakes are also fitted, as well as lowered and stiffened suspension and longer wishbones for a wider track.

A hybrid super-saloon, then? Not quite. DS wants you to think of it as a GT instead because, like the standard 9, it still majors on comfort and luxury. Indeed, it is exceptionally quiet on the motorway, the interior impresses with material richness and the ride is very forgiving. The trouble is the standard 9 is so laser-focused on traditional luxury that the performance upgrades dilute the recipe a bit. The slightly timid nods towards driver engagement mean there are still many dynamically better cars out there. Meanwhile, the regular 9 with adaptive suspension rides even better while still beingcompetent enough in the corners. It’s a similar story for the powertrain. Despite their often impressive peak power outputs, plug-in hybrids are usually at their best at a gentle canter. When you demand full power, you’re stuck with a small engine having to work hard.

Compared with the lesser versions, the 360 is more effortless, but the difference in daily usage doesn’t feel as big as the numbers suggest. Prices start from £54,100, which is dangerously close to the six-cylinderBMW 545e. The 9 – irrespective of the version – is the individualist’s choice, but the upcoming mid-range 250 version fits DS’s ethos far better than this mild-performance 360.

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