For those of you who have heard the name before, DS conjures images of a space-ship-like car from the 60’s gliding along effortlessly even on the most rutted of country roads. You’ll think of elegantly dressed ladies in posh frocks and men in their Black and Whites sipping cocktails and smoking cigarettes in long holders sitting in the back seat. And why not? The DS was a magnificent automobile. It broke ground with its floaty uppy-downy suspension and aircraft-like exterior. The interiors didn’t miss out on the waving of the magic wands either. The cabin was strewn with acres of velour covering lounge chairs front and back. In latter years, a 5 speed manual was added as well as a 3 speed auto. It was a revelation, and it lasted for 20 years.
ABOVE: the DS gallery BELOW: the SM gallery
With a heightened sense of anticipation whirling about the nether regions, we landed at the Gold Coast airport. Our driver was standing to attention in the arrivals hall ready to whisk us to a hotel nearby. There, in the foyer, was a shiny new DS 3 Cabrio, and everyone was welcome to probe her crannies and fondle her nooks.
Clever as it is, the boot lid is a mere letterbox opening but hey ho.
2CV with canvas roof and the DS 3 with the new 3 layer canvas roof
It’s as cute as a button, with and with the canvas roof slid back to just above the rear window, it reminded me of the 2CV. I was once forced to drive one between Brisvegas and the Gold Coast, on a rainy winters evening, with no heater, and with no wipers. Yes, even the wipers came over all French during the trip and so wasn’t one I remembered with any degree of fondness.
The presentation promised much. Marketing man Manuel Tyras told us of the marvels secreted within the DS3. Everything about the DS’s is mentioned in hushed tones as if you’re being told an industrial secret. The tail lights consist of 31 LEDs which reflect off mirrors giving the effect on infinity, and the 3 layer canvas roof is hand stitched in a little factory in France. There are several variations, but the blue roof is woven from 3 different coloured threads, one of which is silver so as to make it shimmer. The roof folds back in 3 steps, the last of which folds the glass rear window down. Sadly the roof is Laundelette style meaning there is a big bunch of canvas resting on the back parcel shelf. You can’t see rearward which is annoying but these things you get used to. Citroën seems keen to play down the quirks of their cars, but I think they should be playing up to them instead.
Let’s ponder the brand for a moment. Some of us know Citroën, and some don’t but those who do will undoubtedly remember the DS or CX models. Unlike many other brands in Australia who are branches of the parent, Citroën is imported by Sime Daby Motors, a group who also imports Peugeot, Citroën’s sister brand. The previous importer had allowed Citroën to slowly decline both in sales and support. Advertising and product support disappeared and motoring reviews were few and far between. Citroën deserved better and with a 90 year history in Australia, the new importers promise sparkling campaigns backed up by capped price servicing to match their revamped image.
Reviving the DS name can’t discussed without touching on a few interesting facts. The original DS was affectionately known as the Goddess because (in English) we pronounce DS as Dee Ess, and goddess in French is Déesse. Also, “Pallas”, the name used for the top DS model, was a Greek goddess.
I don’t mean to skite, but one of the cars driven on the Gold Coast yesterday was the magnificent DS5. I’m not a religious man but I had a near religious experience in that gorgeous beast. The DS5 revives those early memories of the stunning Citroën SM (a modified DS coupe with an engine by Maserati) and the CX. The DS5 was quiet and quick and floated on its Hydropneumatic suspension. This is the very same system in those early DS models from the 50’s. It’s been modified since then of course. Even older versions were much coveted and was so good even Rolls Royce used the system. The DS5 had the “watch strap” leather option evoking images of 60’s class, and the SM. There is even an analogue clock that looks as if it’s been designed by Alessi. We’ll be doing a few thousand kilometres in the DS5 very soon.
But, back to the C3 Cabrio: it is new to OZ builds on the DS range which in turn was created from the base of the C range (the C3/4/5).
Is the C3 Cab any good? In a word, yes. It’s brilliant. For a start there is the cloud-like ride which is astounding. Sadly the small Citroëns are sans fancy uppy-downy suspension but the conventional setup has the feel of a big limo. As Hot Hatches go, the engine range would be found wanting. For me, the exterior screams “go quick” but the only engines available are an 88kw non turbo petrol and a 115kw turbo petrol. While they aren’t slugs by any means, the performance feels leisurely. We should ring the blokes in France for a quiet word! They need to be convinced that shoving the 147kw turbo in would be a great idea. That idea was further enhanced by a long drive.
The morning was spent in and around the picturesque Gold Coast hinterland. I scored the auto 88kw for that run. With me was the GM of Citroën Australia, John Startari. John is a quietly spoken bloke who spoke honestly and openly about Citroën, its present, and its future. He asked me what I thought of the auto, and of course I told him it need more grunt. 88kw just isn’t enough especially and that stunning 147kw turbo petrol seemed even more desirable. However, I loved the light steering which has just enough road feel to communicate what’s going on underneath. The seating was comfy even on the “base” model, and the ride as I’ve already said, was superb. John smiled as he highlighted the built in air freshener, but it’s hard to miss.
In a way the entire car is a work of art. And this feeling continues to the dealerships. The DS range is being promoted in Australia was the “bespoke” range, and so it is. Each Citroën dealership will have the DS lounge which has been inspired by an exclusive airline members club. There is a tastefully subdued interior design to make the potential buyer feel special. Leather sofas surround a “configurator” which the buyer can manipulate to build their vehicle. It displays the changes in the build waiting time as options are added and subtracted. Because the model range is bespoke, most will need to be ex-factory. However some “generic” specified DS’s will be kept on hand to satisfy those buyers who will choose the popular options. Those cars would be available on a short lead time.
I wasn’t able to make too many notes but 2 hours with the GM was enlightening. It’s obvious that the DS, and the wider Citroën range, have a bright future with new management team. They are injecting both time and money with gay abandon. They are enthusiastic about their cars, just like Citroën owners of old.
The Gold Coast hinterland is full of hills, valleys, and narrow bridges, punctuated by breathtaking mountain views. I’m originally from Queensland and have spent much time on these roads. The Gold Coast was the weekend retreat and Mount Tamborine the place to go for on a Sunday afternoon drive. In many ways this felt like such a drive. It’s the perfect place on the perfect day to experience a near perfect car. If only the roads had been closed so were could really let loose.
It must be said that the roads in this part of Queensland haven’t seen the gentle touch of government care for many years. The tarmac is rutted and crumbling and many parts are single lane only. It was a good test for the handling but also to demonstrate what lifestyle an owner might expect from their funny little French car.
The DS was slightly bothered by rutted corners where she danced a little on the way through. After 2 hours we reached Songbirds Retreat where lunch was served. During this break we were give 25 minute loops in both the DS4 and DS5 to provide a tapas experience with each model getting just a little taste.
In a fit of generosity, John has offered us his own DS5 for a long distance drive which we will take him up on. It is being planned as we speak so he can’t reneg now! In the meanwhile we’ll drive the rest of the range including the cute DS3 Cabrio for a more in-depth inspection.
The afternoon drive was less leisurely as lunch had taken longer than expected and there was a need to complete the program and get back to the airport. The 115kw manual was considerably more engaging than the auto. There was far more power in reserve but the turbo did need a little time to spool up. The manual is beautifully light and easy to use. The clutch has plenty of feel and allows the engine time to do its thing. Changes are snappy with just the right increment between each cog. It allows a degree of flexibility for the lazy drivers in our ranks. Going down low means changing to first if you don’t want to be left hanging when it comes time to speed up again.
If I had a crystal ball I’m sure it would reveal bright a future for Citroën. Expect around $37,000 for the top model.