Yes yes yes oh YES: good looks, economy, unique, cooled console bin
Oh dear me no: boot opener location, no petrol engine, no manual option , no cup holders
It’s been a bit of a slow news week, so what’s a man to do?
The Christmas Road trip is a great Australian tradition which sees elderly dears with the caravans clog highways as far as the eye can see. Caravans are the devil’s work designed to make even the shortest Roadtrip sheer hell for everyone except the elderly holiday-maker. The rest of us follow their trail of misery at 40k below the speed limit and since they take up both lanes, there is no way to get past. Even the young in their clapped out rattle traps honk their horns in frustration.
Hours can be spent stuck behind caravans and campers at 40 below the limit, but it doesn’t stop is from making that yearly trip. Each time, we set out full of hope with the sun shining and the birds singing only to find the clouds come as the traffic backs up.
Christmas day itself is a divine day to be on the roads. Decent folk are home sloshed on brekky champers by 9 am, and the rest are thinking of ways to exchange hideous gifts without offending anyone.
Sadly, roadtrips begin long before the day itself, just after the devil’s spawn start their interminable and much-feared end-of-year break. For some reason, people who rarely drive, start to fancy themselves as Clarkson reincarnate the second the calendar clicks over to December. The roads become nothing more than a series of dodgem rides and car parks, and traffic lights seem almost irrelevant.
It is with not a little trepidation that we turned onto the highway after filling the DS5 chockers full of stuff. A few thousand K’s sort out the men from the boys as they say.
We packed light. Only a couple of carry-on bags but half a dozen pillows. You can do that when you’re not flying. The boot is capacious despite the subwoofer conveniently located on the rear right side. The DS5 is more of a 5 door Shooting Brake than either a hatch or a sports wagon. We drove it at the local launch here and liked it very much. The roof slopes gracefully from the front making the rear seats and cargo area more bijou than they’d otherwise be. It reminds me of the CX models from the 70’s and 80’s. They were gorgeous with the signature uppy-downy suspension that rode like a lounge-on-cloud.
The DS5 no longer has the much-loved fabulously smooth Hydropneumatic suspension. Instead, the big French 5 door has Macpherson Struts and trailing arms like the Germans. In a way, that means it may have lost some of its je ne sais quoi. CITROËN did a spin off the DS range as a bespoke brand so the new DS5 omits the CITROËN badge, a move I continue to resist. It makes no sense at all with over half a century of history behind it.
Dispare not, the Frenchness of the DS isn’t completely dead, oh no. The striking exterior gets looks from admiring passers-by. The chrome blade along the front and the squat rear end mean something special was needed for the headlights and grille, and so it is. The avant garde wing grille is capped off by headlights surely inspired by Versailles’s Hall of Mirrors. Marie Antoinette’s dressing-up box also inspired the interior design. The “let them eat cake” switches and dials look bespoke. It is unique and makes you feel special. Citroen (yes I’ll continue to use my favourite French auto maker’s name) say the cockpit is aircraft inspired.
We were careful to make good use of the Cruise Control because of the NSW government’s addiction to revenue and retribution. Holiday period double-demerits means a misdemenour quickly becomes a major felony with the smallest lapse of concentration. Sadly, the cruise control lacks the addition of radar assistance. This has never worried me before but on such a long journey is almost essential. You find yourself constantly tapping the brake or pressing the “pause” button then the resume button again. Radar cruise control has enough smarts to brake on downhill runs. The DS5 won’t brake but it drops a cog or two on the 6 speed auto to use engine braking. While it isn’t quite the same, it makes quite a good job of slowing such a hefty lass.
With a claimed 4.1 L/100K we had anticipated about 1400k out of our 60L tank, but managed only 1,000 at around 6 L100/k. Whilst 1,000k is fabulous, it is short of claimed figures by 400k. The drive was an easy one relatively speaking and highlights the need for real world figures. The onboard system told us we got 6.1 L/100k and agreed almost exactly with our calculations from refills.
During the launch we noted the suspension was firm, and we felt the same was true on our 2,500k round trip in the anniversary edition car. Gorgeous as it is, the regular car has slightly higher profile tyres which are a little more compliant. The Pacific Highway has several long sections of concrete, including a considerable length along the motorway between Brisvegas and the Gold Coast. Although it was built in the last decade, the billiard-table surface has not weathered well. It makes your bits wobble when you don’t want them to. It’s rhythmic ta-dump ta-dump ta-dump isn’t uncomfortable as such, but as a daily experience would be awful. The tarmac-covered highway was a doddle..
I feel I must mention the lack of cup holders. There are a couple of door pockets to use at a squeeze but none designed for purpose. It’s a French thing, they simply loathe them so I’m told. It somehow feels a bit last century in a car that looks and feels cutting edge.
The countryside is beautiful even though the by-passes have cut most of the pretty but slow-going small towns out of the trip. The time is cut , but so is the interest. There has been a spot of rain so the grassy hills have the hue of a St Pat’s day cocktail rather than a Mudslide. We set out on the Pacific Motorway then cut cross country on Buckett’s Way (no, not pounced Bouquet) to the New England Highway. Its scenic route took us through some achingly beautiful but oft-ignored countryside. Despite the mercury inching towards 40c, the small villages sprinkled through the valleys made the bucolic pleasures worthwhile. We stopped in Stroud for what turned out to be the best burger I’ve ever eaten. Simple country food made from local beef raised nearby and sold at the butcher across the street.
It seemed take an age driving through the heat haze before crossing the border and winding our watches back. My passenger set the DS clock back in the menu then we both watched the hands on the analogue clock wind backwards. We did this another few times for entertainment value alone.
We made a few stops in SE Queensland’s Scenic Rim (a name I can’t say out loud without giggling like a 6 YO) then on to Brisvegas. We stayed a few days there and another in Surfers on the Gold Coast.
After a hearty breakfast, we got on the road for the homeward stretch. The 40c days were long gone, replaced by deep dark clouds and driving rain. The DS5 handled the foul weather with great aplomb. I’ve made this observation before but it is worth another plug: The DS5 handles the same in dry and wet. Usually the merest hint of dampness will see the best of cars all over the place like a mad woman’s breakfast, but the DS was steadfast. Even shallow puddles were dispatched without fuss.
We paused at truckstops to replenish our water. Smaller bottles fit neatly into the cooled centre console bin which keeps liquids at a refreshing temperature. Perhaps the passengers might enjoy a cockltail?
The console bin has an upper section. This is where the USB is located but the tray isn’t quite big enough for an Iphone 6. This design fault means your phone must rest outside on the console, or in the cooled lower bin section. The lids are released by pressing either of two buttons on the front of the armrest pad. Of course you’d normally operate those while driving but you have to pay close attention because the electric handbrake button is only a few cms away. Before you ask, yes, I found this out the hard way. The DS briefly tried applying the parking brake at 110kph. Thankfully, it realised my error before I did, and reversed my request. Smart? Perhaps, but it might have been smarter to put the parking brake button right away from anything that might be used at high speed, else mayhem might ensue.
I particularly like the Heads Up Display. It gives you essential driving info without having to look down at the dash. You get speed and cruise control settings and Satnav when active. You quickly get used to it being there. The start button is found below the analogue clock but an unfamiliar driver will easily miss it.
The A/C unit has the same odd harmonic we encountered recently in the Peugeot 508. It is a high-pitched buzz which changes tone as the revs go up and down. At times it is quite loud, but PSA tells me France is working on a fix. At some stage there will be a non-urgent “recall” where the fix will be applied so it would be unfair to hold this foible against the DS.
Despite the glass roof, the interior temps were not affected by a blazing Queensland summer. The Climate control needs a boost on Max at first, but manages in its own after that. The monogrammed glass roof has 3 internal sections whose blinds can be independently retracted. Although not completely opaque, the blinds do a particularly good job of reflecting the heat with the help of specially treated glass. This glass runs from the windscreen all the way to the rear tailgate. The tailgate is also fully glazed and has a complex curve to it. The window feels small because of the bar running across the middle of it. You notice this when reversing so it makes the camera most useful. In sunlight, the roof casts the most interesting shadows on the leather seats. Unintentional though it is, it is a touch I liked.
Despite the being surrounded by glass, the cockpit-like cabin feels closed in. It isn’t a bad thing by any means, but rather unexpected. The switches have a similar aircraft-like quality, but it is the massage button which cops a flogging on a long trip. You quickly get used to feeling for the button well located between the heater and lumbar controls. It uses the lumbar function to gentle push in and out and up and down in an almost erotic way.
The seats have the “watchstrap leather” option. The leather feels expensive and luxurious. There are two memory positions for the driver’s seat which includes the passenger’s side mirror which dips when reversing. Of course it is programmable to suit all drivers.
I spent much of the time asking my (non-driving) passenger to change radio stations or Ipod songs. It seemed silly to bury these functions under menus. You have to change between these functions to bring up the required buttons. It was only as we pulled into the garage on our return to civilization that I discovered the steering wheel controls shortcut the need for menu switching. The righthand steering wheel controls operate whichever of the audio streams currently being used. Scrolling the wheel will cause the radio stations or playlist to display. You can easily make your selection without having a nervous breakdown and needing 5 gin and tonics.
The good looking DS5 did the trip easily. It had oodles of room and a unique charm which caused comment. Few knew what it was, and therein lies the problem. Citroen have thrown away the heritage relying solely on the “DS” reputation of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s which is a shame. None the less the trip was relaxing and the DS5 performed flawlessly.
I’ve grown fond of the old girl. It’s not all good though:
The rear vision has the annoying bar across the window.
The location of the boot opener is on the under side of the rear bumper. Schmutz gathers there so you get you hand dirty unlocking the boot from the rear.
I could do without the costly addition of the heavy but wonderfully odd glass roof.
Would I buy one? Yes, but only if I couldn’t find a convertible sports jobbie to satisfy my mid-life crisis.
Price (NSW drive away): $65,411
Engine: Blue eHdi turbo diesel, 4cyl, 133kw,400Nm, Euro6
Trans: 6 speed auto
Econ: 4.5L/100k (claimed), 118g/km CO2,