The Citroen spin-off brand is on a roll with its recent PHEV model launches, which include the DS 3 Crossback and DS 7 Crossback SUVs; but the DS 9 will sit squarely at the top of the pile as the most luxurious saloon from a French brand at this point in time. It's actually based broadly on the Peugeot 508 L – an extended wheelbase version of that car which was revealed in China last year – and uses PSA Group's EMP2 platform. But the DS 9 brings with it the archetypal design, tech and chassis features we've become used to with DS. However, it will be built in China rather than France.
Whilst the DS 9 will be offered exclusively in E-TENSE PHEV form at launch, it will be joined by petrol-only alternatives down the line. More interestingly for us, DS will also be introducing more powerful E-TENSE versions in due course.
There's no shocks in the E-TENSE powertrain department available at launch; it's essentially the same as that found in the Peugeot 508. This means that up front there's a 1.6-litre PureTech turbocharged petrol engine which is good for 177bhp. The electric part of the equation is dealt with through a 107bhp electric motor which brings the total system output to a healthy 221bhp which is transmitted to the front wheels via an eight-speed gearbox.
In electric-only mode, the large and inevitably heavy DS 9 is good for between 25 and 31 miles on its 11.9kWh battery, which is a little bit down on the Peugeot 508. It'll hit 84mph and always defaults to EV mode on start-up, before switching to either the hybrid mode, battery level hold mode, or sport. Varying levels of regenerative braking can be dialled in with the gear selector, and a 'final mile' zero emissions mode can be utilised when a route is pre-programmed into the sat-nav. A 7.4kW on-board charger enables the battery to be charged in 90 minutes from a standard public charge point, or domestic wall box.
For those who are thinking about buying a DS 9 E-TENSE and want a bit more poke, waiting for a few months will pay dividends. A 245bhp, two-wheel drive version with a larger battery (and thus better range) will follow the standard car, but topping the range will be a 355bhp, four-wheel drive variant soon after that. We know which one sounds most intriguing, and most like a German luxo-barge challenger to us.
Full disclosure: we really like the way the DS 9 looks. It's distinctive, modern, suave and more visually interesting than many of its rivals. It shares the diamond effect grille and overall design language with the rest of the DS brand, and in a really sweet little nod to the original DS, the new car has high-level tail lights housed in subtle cones.
There's a distinctive contour that brings the front and back of the car together and also serves to raise the car's waistline. Flush fitting door handles, a smattering of chrome and a two-tone black roof finishes off what is a cohesive overall design. It is a big car though, 4.93 metres long and 1.85 metres wide.
On the DS 9 E-TENSE, the charging port is located on the nearside rear flank – the opposite side to the petrol filling hatch.
DS cars of late haven't been found wanting when it comes to interior luxury and as you might expect, in the DS 9, the lavishness continues. The brand's aim is to offer equal levels of comfort for both front and rear seat passengers, with oodles of leather (where spec'd) on the seats – which have a 'watch strap' design – and across the dashboard. Alcantara covers some of the tactile surfaces such as the roof lining and sun visors, offering a softer edge against all that leather, though there are a host of personalisation options through 'DS Inspirations'
A first-in-class option is heated and cooled massaging rear seats which you'd more commonly find in limousine-type saloons rather than the lowlier premium sector. There's the obligatory mood lighting, and the rear centre armrest has built-in storage and USB ports for electronic devices. And as if all of that wasn't enough, the DS 9 has the brand's active suspension which uses a camera to scan the road for imperfections and accelerometers to pre-load the suspension for the most magical of magic carpet rides.
DS DRIVE ASSIST allows for level 2 semi-autonomous (hands-on) driving at speeds of up to 111mph (not in the UK, officer) by controlling speed, via active cruise control, and direction, via an active lane keep assist system. DRIVE ASSIST will also work in traffic jams, making live a bit easier when 111mph is less feasible.
At much lower speeds, DS PARK PILOT can detect, and via a tap on the standard touchscreen, manoeuvre the DS 9 into a parking bay fully autonomously. Safety is handled by six major functions – night vision (which displays a picture of what's up to 100m ahead on the digital instrument binnacle), driver attention monitoring, active LED vision adaptive headlights, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and traffic sign recognition.
Sales of the DS 9 E-TENSE will commence sale in China in the second half of this year with Europe and other markets to follow after. It's no real surprise that China is getting the car first as it's a market which loves luxurious, tech-heavy, extended wheelbase saloons. There's no word on the price, but given that the DS 7 Crossback E-TENSE goes for around £45k, we don't reckon you'll see any change from that figure when it's finally available here.