The clever, elegant and now much improved DS5 is certainly hi-tech even before you look at one with a diesel /electric hybrid motor under the bonnet. And that's just what we're going to do here. Jonathan Crouch checks out the innovative Hybrid 4x4 200 version
Ten Second Review
The avant garde DS5 was the first vehicle to feature diesel hybrid technology and this improved model continues to offer this drivetrain. This version combines the performance of an HDi diesel engine with the benefits of an electric motor. The Hybrid 4x4 delivers powerful driving sensations, including 200hp, four-wheel drive, electric urban drive and an accelerator boost function. CO2 emissions are 103g/km and fuel economy can be over 70mpg on a combined cycle, potentially rising to almost 90mpg in the city.
A 'Different Spirit'. The meaning of these two iconic letters is the meaning too of the brand they represent. Today, the DS range defines what a luxury French car should be, just as it did back in 1955 when the first model to wear this legendary badge was launched to an adoring throng at the Paris Motor Show. It was futuristic, it was innovative and it stood apart from the mainstream. As does its modernday successor, this car, this much improved DS5. This was the first of the French brand's models to be chosen to take the PSA Group's clever diesel/electric HYbrid4 powertrain and it's this flagship version we're going to test here. In its dramatic, eye-catching lines, some will see shades of SUV, while for others, the shape will seem sleek and sporty. And what about that novel engine? A real step forward or too clever for its own good? Everyone will have an opinion, but what will yours be? Let's set you on the road to some answers.
Under the bonnet of this clever Hybrid 4x4 200 model, you'll find a layout that combines a 163bhp HDi diesel engine driving the front wheels with a 37bhp electric motor that powers those at the rear making this, in theory at least, a four wheel drive machine. Like virtually all hybrids, this one comes only with an automatic gearbox, with a set of steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles should you wish to take control yourself. This is PSA's 6-speed EAT6 system, as already used in BlueHDi models across the DS5 line-up. With a combined output of 200bhp and a combined 450Nm of torque, 200Nm of it from the electric motor, you'll be expecting this particular DS5 to be pretty rapid. But if you are, then you're failing to take account of the 150kg weight penalty that comes with all the batteries and everything else required for hybrid motoring. That's equivalent to the weight of a couple of extra passengers and it explains why this car is effectively no faster than an ordinary BlueHDi 150 diesel variant with 50bhp less: rest to sixty takes 9.3s on the way to 131mph. You'll need to be in 'Sport' mode with its quick gear shifts and active 4WD to be going this quickly, this one of four driving settings available via the circular controller down where the handbrake would normally be, were that function not taken care of by a rather fiddly electronic handbrake button. There are three other driving settings: '4WD' offers extra all-wheel drive traction for poor conditions, 'ZEV' keeps you in all-electric 'Zero Emissions Vehicle' mode for low carbon urban driving and 'Auto' simply sorts it all out for you depending on the prevailing conditions.
Design and Build
The styling updates to this revised model aren't too dramatic, but serve to remind us what a striking-looking car the DS5 really is. The front end introduces some of the styling themes of the DS3 model and the revised grille features a DS logo in place of the traditional Citroen chevron. The headlights are different too, with xenon and LED options, while the light pods incorporate scrolling indicators. The bonnet panel has also been re-profiled, flowing into a set of chrome 'sabres' that run from the tips of the headlights to the front windows. At the back, there are tail pipes incorporated into a revised rear bumper assembly and shaper-looking tail lamp clusters. We were big fans of the original DS5 interior, but this one moves the game forward with fewer buttons of the fascia thanks to a touchscreen media system. As before, there are some beautifully ornate seats on the options list, plus the latest 'watch strap' upholstery is available in two-tone black and deep blue, along with new 'DS monogramme' trim on the doors and central console. The most symbolic interior feature is the roof. With its three light wells, the ceiling of this car creates a unique ambience that can be tailored to individual requirements, day or night. The main controls are grouped on two centrally positioned consoles, one at a low level near the gear selector and one overhead.
Market and Model
This hybrid diesel DS5 model is a lot pricier than it used to be: you'll need a £33,000 budget for one these days. Or around £35,000 if you upgrade from base 'Elegance' to plusher 'Prestige' spec. Though that might sound a lot, in reality, it's not that much more than you'd pay for the pokiest diesel-engined versions of something conventionally Mondeo or Passat-like, a difference you'd more than re-coup in hybrid-orientated tax savings. And you're looking at a saving of up to a couple of thousand on comparable diesel Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class diesel models that feature this hybrid Citroen's standard auto transmission. Is it also well equipped? Well you be the judge. Even entry-level models come with daytime running lights, front foglamps with a cornering function, electric folding mirrors, keyless entry and start, digital air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth compatibility for your mobile 'phone, auto headlamps and wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. To this, most variants also add niceties like this 'cockpit'-style glassworked roof with its three powered blinds, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, full or part-leather upholstery and the eMyWay satellite navigation system with live traffic information and European mapping. Options include a massaging driver's seat and a 10-speaker DENON hi-fi. Safety-wise, a 5-Star Euro NCAP rating is justified by the usual twin, front, side and curtain airbags, along with the usual electronic assistance for braking, traction and stability control to try and ensure that you'll never have to use them.
Cost of Ownership
This Hybrid 4x4 200 model offers CO2 emissions of 103g/km and fuel economy is rated at 72.4mpg on a combined cycle, potentially rising to almost 90mpg in the city. What else? Insurance? It's between groups 27 and 28. And to keep maintenance costs down, there's 'FreeDrive', a customer support package that can be individually tailored to include everything from servicing and maintenance, MOT testing, roadside breakdown and recovery - even replacement of wear and tear items like tyres.
Whatever else a luxury French car might be, it ought to look, to drive - to feel - different. Cars of that kind have established their own endearingly Gallic niche throughout the years: models from Citroen like the Traction Avant, the SM and, most of all, the DS. Cars of a sort we've seen little enough of in modern times. This DS5 is a throw-back to those days but comes with a very modern twist, especially in this top Hybrid 4x4 200 diesel guise. In thirty years time, when Mondeos and Audi A4s are rusting in scrapyards, there'll be owners clubs for models like this one. If that means nothing to you, then you probably won't get the point of the passion, the care and the sheer charisma that make this car what it is. It isn't perfect, with standards of both ride and handling that can't approach the class leaders. But the really memorable French luxury models of the past never were perfect. Greatness rarely is. Is that what we have here? Try this DS5 and you'll enjoy finding out.