Big car big ideas: DS 5
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I’ll flag this up front. Should you read your way right to the end of this article on the DS 5, you’ll note — possibly with a “tut” and a curt flick of the page — that I appear to have neglected to describe the engine this car’s features. Or details on power and torque.
Or how much fuel it uses, or what it feels like going around a corner.
But if you need to know such base details about this particular car, then you’ve sort of missed the point. This car is all about details, but not those details.
Why am I referring to what clearly — surely — must be a Citroen, as a DS 5? That’s because that’s what the parent company insists it be called.
No C-word here, sorry. The DS is as distinct to a C4 as an RX450h is to a Highlander. It’s part of a separate family line; you’ll possibly be familiar with the racy-looking DS 3 hatchback, but there is a DS 4 Crossback available too, which is ... um, Citroen C4-sized. But with a plumper, more adventure-ready demeanour.
The DS 5 sits above the DS 4 Crossback and offers a range end-point to the entire family line-up. It’s $64,990, but naturally you get a fair bit of standard spec for that.
Nappa leather upholstery, satellite navigation, hands-free entry and start, Bi-Xenon directional headlights, electronic handbrake, all manner of touchscreen-tastic infotainment, dual zone climate air conditioning; you’re not wanting for anything here.
But it’s the theatrical details that give the DS 5 its point-of-difference. Massive light bars called “DS LED Vision” swoop around the headlights.
The driver, front seat passenger and rear seat inhabitants all have the individual ability to travel with the large Cielo glass roof shaded or open.
There are retro-look buttons running down the spine of the headliner, like you’re in the cockpit of Yves Saint Laurent’s private jet.
A little polycarbonate sliver pops out of the top of the instrument binnacle, should you want “Heads Up” data during your journey. It’s all great fun. And some of it is a bit odd.
Does the DS 5’s “quirk” factor come at the compromise of practicality? This is, after all, still a large liftback-style passenger vehicle.
Until the Citroen C5 Aircross — the manufacturer’s first ground-up SUV design — arrives, the DS 5 is the brand family’s largest vehicle.
You’ve opted for this one over the smaller DS 3 because you want space, as much as heritage-laden grace.
The size of the DS 5’s boot is surprising; the model’s c-pillar is set a long way back, so it tricks you into thinking there’s less room behind the second row of seats than there is.
It feels sprightly and the six-speed automatic transmission conducts itself in a reassuringly predictable manner. Rear visibility isn’t amazing, but you do have a reversing camera and suite of sensors to help here.
However, the monitor image you see in the centre stack is the strangest I’ve experienced; it looks like it’s being broadcast via satellite, circa 1974, with little ripples running through the picture.
You wait with the DS 5 in “reverse”, half expecting the image of that parking bay wall to suddenly be replaced with footage of Nixon resigning.
Really though, in the end, it does all come back to style.
DS Automobiles’ tagline is “spirit of avant-garde”. It’s a nice summation. The modern DS line isn’t jaw-dropping, as the original must have seemed to its mid-1950s audience (12,000 orders were taken for the DS during the first day of the 1955 Paris Motor Show, where it debuted). But there are echoes of the ethos that created that lineage.
So yes; style. The DS definitely has plenty of it. Some of it seems a bit misplaced (the rectangular clock in the dashboard).
Some of it seems a bit too obvious (the chrome strip that runs down the front fenders from the a-pillar).
But some of it — the Cielo glass roof, the deeply recessed buttons, the fantastic 18” alloy wheels, the “watchstrap” seat design — is utterly on-point in a way only Citroen can get away with.
And maybe that’s the key thing here: Citroen — or DS, depending on which badge you’re looking at — does get away with it. It always has.
Despite the jaundiced view of the non-believer, there is nothing quite like a Citroen. You either want one or you don’t.
But even if you don’t, you still have to admire a manufacturer that sticks to its guns; that takes as many chances as this one does.
And that looks as good doing it.
Oh and yes, the DS 5’s turbo diesel engine is economical, too.