Left: new model, RIGHT old model
Citroën DS5: refreshed French Deliciousness
Citroën launched its DS5 in the beautiful hills just outside Melbourne. In and around Daylesford, the country roads feel like the place a DS should be seen. The Macedon Ranges are part of the Great Dividing Range which spans the east coast of the country. The Spa towns are full of pretty shops and places where natural springs bring weekenders in their SUVs, open top sports cars and ancient P-plated jalopies with rust spots and smoky exhausts.
For me, it seemed obvious that Citroën might want to show the DS in a lifestyle to which its owners might aspire to, if not already be part of.
My plucky co-driver likes sports cars and wanted the DS to drive like a Porsche. It didn’t, and this left him somewhat bereft. As I am always saying, “horses for courses” and it is unrealistic to expect a big 5 seat shooting brake to be a nimble Open Top Tourer. The Porsche jab seemed to wound him in some sort of personal way. We’ll tackle that over drinks at some future time no doubt.
Although changes have been subtle and confined mostly to looks, there is the reduction of engine choices to just one. The Euro6 2.0L diesel has 133kw/400Nm and gets a respectable 4.5L/100k. It will get you to 100kph in a relatively decent, but not breathtaking, 9.2 seconds. One assumes driving like a woman-possessed won’t return such laudable fuel figures.
Citroën says it has dropped the petrol option since 90% of buyers went for the oil burner in the previous model. I can’t understand why petrol isn’t offered as a factory-only selection. Citroën says it is because there needs to be support for other engine options, particularly with dealers needing equipment for servicing etc. It’s a battle I can’t win, but I wouldn’t have thought a low volume model could afford to thumb its nose at 10% of previous purchasers.
Left: Citroen DS, Right Citroen SM
It’s also worth noting that recent independent testing showed PSA (Peugeot Citroën) vehicles came closest to claimed economies and that, and that in particular, emissions were on par with claims. Let’s leave it at that without mentioning the Germans.
The front grille is brand new and the lights are now LED DS Vision (whatever that is, it sounds terribly grand). The rear LED lights now have a “cat’s claw” swish of 3 lines through them bringing it into line with the rest of the DS range. It’s about now that we have to mention that Citroën has spun off DS as a sub brand, so no Citroën badges can be found on the new DS. Personally I think that’s utterly bonkers and intend to keep calling it a Citroën, and that’s that.
The 60th anniversary model is a limited edition to celebrate the fabulous DS of 1955. When it debuted, the public went crazy for it. By the end of the motor show Citroën had sold 80,000 DS cars. It was a pioneer in many ways. Paul Magès, a bloke who had very little formal education, invented a brand new hydro-pneumatic suspension system for which Citroën, and its DS, became famous. The DS was the first production car with disc brakes. The DS’s 2 door sister, the SM, had discs on all 4 wheels with the front being inboard, with speed sensitive power steering, all very new for the day.
Sadly the suspension system (which also powered the hydraulic brakes and steering) has been consigned to the dustbin of auto-history. The DS5 has conventional MacPherson struts and the steering is electric, all of which is very pedestrian.
Slightly less pedestrian is the dramatic design. There are curves, surfaces and premium materials both inside and out. The exterior features a stainless steel blade slashing its way along the bonnet and up the front quarter window. The interior is a mix of soft plastic, leather and metal which have a luxurious if unsubtle look. There are a lot of knobs and switches that have been designed to be look unconventional. It will either appeal or not, but I think it looks spectacular. There is an option of “watch strap” leather on the seats which looks amazing. It is ludicrously complex and is meant to remind you of the metal watch bands with interlocking links. It’s a concept that has been well executed buts adds a fair whack to the purchase price.
Overhead is another console with a couple of extra switches including those for the multi-section sunroof. There are separate blinds for each front passenger and a single one for the rear. The centre console has the usual gear lever and controls for windows etc, it is where the “sport” switches are situated for the 6 speed auto. I gently, gently mind you, pressed the button as directed by my co-driver only to see the switch set disappear into the bowels of the console. We looked at each other in bemused disbelief. It was deftly rectified during our lunch break. Anything is possible when you fellow diners are the department managers of the brand.
On the road, the DS5 feels competent but the lower profile of the 60th edition make the ride a bit rougher. Let’s don’t mince words: it is harsh. The now-defunct suspension system would have sorted all that out, but, hey ho.
The Blue EHDi diesel is incredibly smooth and its mountain of torque gets you moving off the mark quickly. The 133kw is modest but it isn’t something you notice. At no time did we feel underpowered. Well, I didn’t, let’s put it that way
The steering feels light and direct, but like most electric systems, the feeling lacks a little road feel which in this case is completely unimportant. You turn the wheel and that’s where you go. The only time she got a bit unruly was when pushed a little too enthusiastically through corners where unexpected undulations occurred. Although we weren’t sent off course, the thump was unsettling.
It took a little while to get used to the handling nuances but I found the DS5 charming. It felt regal and luxurious with one bystander asking “what is it”. “A Citroën DS” I replied, reinforcing my defiance at the spin-off of the brand name. Those French people will not be at all happy with me.
I didn’t care for the low profile tyres of the 60th model. A DS should feel soft and cosy. Big wheels looking amazing but invariably result in rubbish ride quality. Whilst I wouldn’t declare the 60th Anniversary DS to have rubbish ride, I don’t like any sort of harshness. In fact, remember I upset my co-driver by saying I didn’t like the ride in Porsches. I’d forgotten the young like to drive everywhere at warp 10. They must not have received the memo that warp 10 is not possible and that they’re wasting their time trying. It’s ironic that they are the ones with the most time. Older drivers have realised that the trip is about the journey, and that the experience is much more than just going around corners at light speed. It is during cornering that one might notice the A Pillar is smack in the field of vision. Initially very annoying, it soon faded into normality as most things do. One wonders if a buyer on a test drive might not have enough time to form the same modified impression.
It is horses for course and if 9.2 seconds to 100 is unpalatable then you’ll need to look elsewhere. The demographic for the DS is, surprise surprise, professionals of 57 and over. That may be because they don’t have to worry about where they are going as much as how comfy they are while doing it. At $65,411(drive away NSW), the professional will choose a DS because he wants something unique. Low volume cars are, by their very nature, exclusive. Of course at this price you could buy an entry level Merc or Beamer, but you will not have the same space and certainly not the chutzpah of the DS5.
I like the DS5 very much, very much indeed. For me, it is unique in a trendy boutique kind of way. Large French cars are not known for their resale value. The 2011 C6 was $120,000 at the end its 8 year run. If you could sell it at all, you probably wouldn’t get much more than the $30,000 trade-in value listed in Redbook, which is a shame. I could put up with that, but the DS5 comes with no spare. A recent adverse experience with a puncture repair kit has turned me off any car that doesn’t have, at the very least, a space saver spare tyre. No, it just won’t do, it won’t do at all.
Would I buy one? Yes but only if the “spare” situation could be sorted.