- Sharp looks
- Smooth and comfortable ride
- Interior has a luxury feel
- Impressive off-road capabilities
For a car brand that's effectively been around only for four years to take on the might of the top three long-established German premium luxury brands at their own game is quite a tall order.
But French carmaker DS – the premium off-shoot of the Citroën empire – is doing exactly that, going head-to-head with their own up-market four-wheel drive SUV hybrid, the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4x4.
This newcomer is taking on well-established rivals like BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz all-wheel drive models at the luxury end of the 4x4 sector.
And DS is banking on some avant-garde technology to be a little differen
The DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE is a plug-in hybrid using a 1.6-litre 197bhp PureTech turbo petrol engine, combined with two electric motors – a 109bhp one that drives the front wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox and a 110bhp motor at the rear axle.
Altogether, it gives the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE potential power of 295bhp and some 332lb ft of torque, with the electricity coming from a 13.2kWh battery positioned underneath between the front and rear seats.
DS engineers claim that the car driven purely in electric mode from the battery power will drive for around 30 miles or so at up to 80mph and with zero emissions, but when the petrol engine comes in to help, the combined fuel consumption works out at 128.4mpg on the new WLTP drive cycle with just 33g/km emissions.
Performance figures are 0 to 62mph in a brisk 5.9 seconds, and a maximum of 149mph – not at all shabby for an SUV of such proportions – and there's an 8-year warranty.
There’s a choice of three driving modes – full electric if the battery is fully charged, hybrid, and sport for those drivers who prefer a bit more power and enjoyment.
With any fully electric/hybrid car, drivers want to know how long it takes for the battery to be fully charged up, and DS engineers claim that using a 7kW charging point it will take one hour and 45 minutes. Through a normal household 3-pin plug, it will take eight hours.
As one would expect, in full electric mode, the DS 7 is smooth, quiet and really refined, particularly at slow speeds crawling through busy town centre traffic, but push the accelerator pedal down and the combustion engine comes hurtling into work.
It’s a shade noisy when accelerating really hard, and you can feel some slight vibration feedback through the steering wheel. It's quite predictable and in no way as a misdemeanour, and of course this version is heavier than the normal petrol only driven one.
This is due to the extra weight on board with two electric motors and a battery pack, totalling 400kg. However, the overall ride is still supple, perhaps not quite as soft as the non-electric version, but still comfortable enough with adaptive dampers doing its job on the more uneven road surfaces.
As for the genuine 4x4 aspects of this car, it truly is impressive. Having spent over an hour trundling through water-filled deep farm tracks and water soaked plus thick mud woodland areas, it coped magnificently.
It even passed the standing start on a muddy steep exercise without blinking, and overall was in many ways more impressive off-road than on - but how many 4x4 drivers actually venture off-road frequently?
Inside, the cabin is well up to the luxury and comfort of its German rivals. The panoramic sunroof is a must because it does give a welcome airy feel to back seat passengers, while the boot space of 555 litres is good too, and about the best in class.
Depending on which of the three trim levels, the quality, content is overall good with interior finish, nice leather or Alcantara layered dashboard stitching with a great high-tech night vision camera on some models that shows up on the driver’s display screen picking up straying pedestrians or cyclists.
Stylish, lavish, and versatile, the DS 7 is ideal for those looking for a smooth and effortless driving experience even over the roughest of terrains. Comfort and practicality is second-to-none in this versatile SUV, with an impressive boot space and oodles of room inside for the whole family.