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Tested: Plug-in version of the DS 7 CROSSBACK

With a 31 mile range, 300hp and four-wheel drive the quickest and greenest version of DS Automobile’s SUV sounds good on paper. We drive the long-awaited plug-in variant of the 7 CROSSBACK to see if it’s worth the rather steep £47,725 price tag.

Discover EV expert verdict...

3.5 / 5

PROS
  • Decent performance
  • Luxurious and comfortable cabin
  • Potentially cheap to run
CONS
  • Very expensive
  • Not very engaging on B roads
  • Infotainment not as good as German rivals

Overview

Having been on sale since 2018, the expanding DS 7 CROSSBACK range is venturing into new territory with the innovative E-TENSE 4x4 model. Back in November we were invited to hear more about DS Automobiles’ electrification strategy as well as test drive the brand's first electric car, the DS 3 CROSSBACK E-TENSE, which we have already reviewed, and its plug-in hybrid SUV. Here are our thoughts.

Driving

The plug-in hybrid system consists of a 200hp version of the PSA Group’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol, which is paired with an 110hp electric motor and both drive the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. A second electric motor making the same power is integrated with the rear axle and provides the DS with four-wheel drive, and the upshot of the total system is an output of 300hp and 383lb-ft of torque.

The transition from electric to petrol power isn’t the most seamless, with the engine sounding a little uncouth when it fires into life and sending vibrations through the steering wheel. Also if you need to suddenly accelerate hard, there’s then a noticeable pause before maximum acceleration arrives, however, once it all works together, acceleration is pretty strong. Given the test car we drove wasn’t quite up to full-production specification and that the PSA Group’s petrol engines are normally fairly refined, we’re hoping these issues will be addressed.

It is capable of covering 31 miles at speeds of up to 84mph using electrical energy drawn from its 13.2kWh battery. The default start mode is ELECTRIC and obviously limits the propulsion to the two electric motors until the battery runs out, then there’s HYBRID, which automatically optimises vehicle performance with energy consumption, 4WD (more on that in a bit) and SPORT. When the battery level is low, or for optimum traction, the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine will kick in. Like most plug-in hybrids you can conserve the battery for some urban driving later on in your journey (E-SAVE function) and as a direct result of expertise acquired in Formula E, decelerating and braking tops up the battery (BRAKE function).

Given it's bearing a DS badge, the ride quality is pretty good. The Active Scan Suspension which is standard on all E-TENSE models analyses the road ahead to help iron out any imperfections and on the smoothly surfaced French motorways near Paris, it felt very refined. With the car gaining an extra 404kg from its two electric motors and battery pack however, at speed on twisty roads the extra mass makes it tougher for the car’s suspension to reign in its body movements. As a result there is a lot of body roll when you turn into a corner, and its steering rack isn’t as quick or as assertive as we would have liked. It’s not a particularly dynamic car, but for most people it should prove comfortable, quick and competent.  

Being an off-roader we were invited to assess its capabilities at Le domaine de Galice, a 100 acre estate with a dedicated all-terrain test area. Being November the ground was very wet and there were plenty of steep ascents and descents and water-filled gullies to contend with. Putting it into 4WD mode (and with the wheels shod in winter tyres) it took everything in its stride. It didn’t lose traction in the mud – even when doing a hill start. It’s never going to rival a Land Rover, but it’ll get you out of trouble during a school run in the snow.

Range and Running Costs

Based on real-world values plug-in hybrids will cover between 16 and 28 miles of range. The official range of the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4x4 is 31 miles so expect to realistically see around 25. Thanks to the map on the 12 inch touchscreen which comes as standard, the driver can see in real time the distance that can be driven in zero emission mode, or where the nearest available charging stations are.

The battery can be charged in two hours with a 6.6kW charger or 8 hours via a three-pin socket. Even if your commute to work is less than 25 miles and you can regularly charge up, the price tag of this premium SUV PHEV is hard to justify with the cheapest PERFORMANCE Line model starting from £47,725 (increasing to £50,725 for PESTRIGE and a hard-to-swallow £56,075 for ULTRA PRESTIGE). Business users will benefit greatly with a lower Benefit in Kind band of just 16 per cent versus 33 per cent for the BlueHDi 130 Automatic which uses a 1.5-litre diesel engine. For private buyers you’re probably better off buying a DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4x4 on PCP. At 5 per cent APR the PERFORMANCE line model costs £599 per month over four years with a deposit of £6,284.73. Though this equates to an additional £90 per month over the equivalent diesel model, the projected fuel savings would overcome this. In fact, DS Automobiles say that you could potentially save as much as £150 per month in fuel costs, less any electric charges.

Design

There’s little to separate the E-Tense from the combustion DS 7 range. The only exterior details that set it apart are special 19 inch alloy wheels and a new (and optional) Pearl Crystal paint finish, subtle badging, and a charging port flap on the opposite side to the fuel filler.

Inside, you get an embossed gear selector as a nod to the electric concept car, and some hybrid-specific displays, but other than that it’s the usual mix of quality materials. Slick and modern in look, it’s a shame the same can’t be said for the infotainment, which isn’t on a par with other premium models.

Comfort and Practicality

Go for top spec models and there’s some innovative tech that little else in the segment offers. A night-vision camera, for example, that can be display its images in the centre of the 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster, recognises pedestrians and cyclists from hundreds of metres away. During our test drive it even managed to identify a man and a deer in a field adjacent to the road.   

Then there’s Extended Traffic Sign Recognition, which also displays speed limits and traffic signs on the driver’s display, DS Active Scan Suspension and DS Connect Pilot, which regulates the speed and distance to the car in front, can bring it to a complete stop and then set off again, and incorporates Lane Keeping Assist. It’s optional on the PERFORMANCE Line and PRESTIGE, but standard on the ULTRA PRESTIGE and we’d say it’s definitely worth having.

The swivel-eyed three-dimensional LED headlights, standard across the range, are worth a mention. They have a cornering function which lights sections of road according to steering angle, and there are three different modes for various driving situations including town, country and motorway. The beam changes during adverse weather, too. As an aside, the headlights give off an imperial purple light, to help accentuate the car’s luxurious feel – its elite status stemming from the rarity of cost of the dye originally used to produce it.

As mentioned the E-Tense is available in three trim levels. PERFORMANCE Line gets lashings of Nappa leather and the aforementioned DS Active Scan Suspension, 19 inch wheels and exclusive paint. The PRESTIGE model brings in leather seats (fully electric and massaging in the front, and with electric backrests in the rear), front parking sensors, a reversing camera, keyless entry and wireless Smartphone charging. The top-of the-range ULTRA PRESTIGE trim adds a panoramic sunroof, uprated Focal sound system, remote tailgate and semi-autonomous drive function.

Thanks to the way the battery is fitted underneath the floor the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4x4 offers the same spaciousness and boot space (628 litres) as its conventional petrol and diesel models (and there’s even a bit of underfloor storage for your charging cable), but it has impacted the 42 litre fuel tank which has been made 20 litres smaller than a regular DS.

Verdict

While it’s few quid more than the BMW X3 xDrive30e, the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4x4 undercuts the Audi Q5 TFSIe by over two grand and the Volvo XC60 T8 by seven. That said DS Automobile’s plug-in SUV isn’t as polished in terms of overall refinement, driving experience and infotainment, so it ultimately comes down to budget. Certainly, if you’re a company car driver who wants to make savings in tax and fuel, and you’re a fan of the relatively exclusivity and avant-garde design of the 7 CROSSBACK then this makes an interesting alterative to the other premium offerings.

Key Specs

2019 DS 7 CROSSBACK  


Price (OTR RRP): From £47,725
Top speed: 93mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
0-30mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: 300hp
Torque: 383lb-ft
Driving range (WLTP): 31 miles
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 33g/km
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 128mpg
Charge time (0 to 100%): 1 hour 45 minutes (7kW wall box)
Insurance group: TBC
Vehicle warranty: Three years / 60,000; battery warranty: eight years/100,000 miles

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