The DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE is a petrol plug-in hybrid that offers an electric driving range of up to 40 miles, the potential of 200mpg, the practicality of a 4×4 SUV, and the unique styling of DS.
Although DS has in the past been a Citroen model line, DS is a relatively new brand in its own right. It’s aiming to offer stylish and upmarket products that are differentiated from competitors, and the E-TENSE label means there’s an electric powertrain – in the case of the DS 7, this means plug-in hybrid rather than pure EV. Nissan’s Infiniti ‘premium’ brand didn’t go too well, with the company’s presence being withdrawn in the UK, so should the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE give hope for DS?
The DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE looks good on the outside and in the interior. It’s an SUV, so it’s practical with decent amounts of space. The boot appears to be shallow, but there’s a false boot floor that can be removed to give more depth. If you leave the floor in place, then the charging cables can just about be squeezed underneath, out of sight.
You might imagine that an SUV of this size, at this price point, would have a minimum of a 2-litre engine, but instead the DS 7 has just a 4-cylinder, 1600cc petrol unit, with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive. However there’s also an 80kW electric motor, which takes its energy from a 13.2kWh battery. Despite the small engine, the figures are impressive: the engine produces 200hp and 300Nm of torque, and the combined power of the petrol and electric powertrain is 300hp along with 520Nm of torque.
The headline is that the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4X4 is good to drive. It feels like a quality product, it’s quiet, refined, comfortable, and there’s decent performance. This applies when driving using the petrol engine, but even more so when driving on electric power.
There are a number of drive modes to choose from: Electric, Comfort, Hybrid, Sport and 4WD. What’s missing is a mode to hold the petrol engine in order to save the battery for later use. However this option does exist, just not in the drive mode settings: instead you need to press the ‘electric bolt’ button under the touchscreen and then select ‘eSave’ at the bottom of the screen. There’s also the option to charge the battery. You can choose between reserving 6 miles of battery range, 12 miles, or “max’. In our view, this function to hold the battery charge by using the petrol engine, or to charge the battery using the petrol engine, is too hidden away in the touchscreen menus, and isn’t that clear. Separate, simple buttons for battery save and battery charge on the dashboard would be better.
There’s also the option to select ‘B-mode’ using the gear selector, increasing the rate of regenerative braking to capture more energy, and you can change gear using the steering wheel-mounted flappy paddles.
Prior to this UK test, we drove the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE last year in Paris as part of the DS 3 CROSSBACK E-TENSE launch, and this included an off-road course, which was comprised of very sticky mud. The DS 7 coped with the off-roading amazingly well, but after the first couple of hills it seemed obvious that the test car wasn’t on standard road tyres. At the end of the course this suspicion was confirmed by an inspection of the tyres, which had very aggressive tread.
Our test car in the UK had standard road tyres, so no adventurous off-roading was attempted, however it’s good to know that the car can be capable off-road if fitted with the appropriate rubber. You can also drive in 4WD using just electric power.
The very limited off-roading we carried out in the UK did reinforce our experience on tarmac roads that, although the DS 7’s ride is generally comfortable on good roads, if you do hit pot holes or other poor road surfaces, the impacts can be felt transmitting themselves through the car.
This is surprising because the car features ‘DS Active Scan Suspension’. DS claims that this technology, which incorporates a camera behind the windscreen, “analyses the road ahead and adjusts the car’s suspension automatically to handle imperfections in the road’s surface.” Perhaps the UK’s pot-holed roads are too much for the system to cope with. The car’s 1,825 kg kerb weight is also likely to be a factor in this.
The DS7’s steering is probably fit for purpose, but it certainly has an artificial feel rather than a direct connection between driver inputs and the tyres responding on the road.
The interior isn’t as crazy as the smaller DS3 CROSSBACK. The touchscreen features shortcut buttons underneath, which is good, but you still have to go into the touchscreen to change any cabin climate settings, which results in more button-pressing than is ideal.
There’s no obvious graphics in the instrument display showing if you’re using petrol or electric power at any particular time, but you can bring up an image of the car showing the energy flow in the powertrain by pressing the button with the electric bolt symbol under the touchscreen.
The information in the digital instruments in front of the driver can be changed by scrolling a rotary button on the steering wheel, and you can view satnav information between the dials.
The controls for the electric windows are in the centre of car rather than in the doors, which isn’t particularly intuitive, and fitting an Isofix car seat in the rear seat is a real struggle.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4X4 is 166.2–235.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of 33-37g/km (WLTP).
As any regular visitors to Green Car Guide will be aware, the real-life economy of any plug-in hybrid can vary between over 100mpg if the car is driven on electric power most of the time, to around 30mpg if it’s driven on its petrol engine most of the time. So what did we experience in real-world driving? At 70mph on the motorway on the petrol engine the DS 7 returned 48.6mpg. On a 60 mile journey, using a full battery charge and the petrol engine, the DS7 managed 58.5mpg. The average economy after a week of mixed driving was 51.3mpg. All of the above figures are good for a 300hp petrol 4×4 weighing 1,825 kg.
The official WLTP electric driving range of the DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4X4 is 34-40 miles; in real-life this was 26 miles on average, and the range promised by the petrol engine was 335 miles.
The DS 7 can be recharged in 1 hour 45 minutes using a 7.2kW home charge point.
The DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4X4 Ultra Prestige – the top of the range model – costs £56,075. Our test car had the options of E-TENSE Exclusive paint (Pearl Crystal) (£695), DS Night Vision Pack (DS Night Vision reversing camera and 360 Vision) (£1,400); Premium Safety Pack – DS CONNECTED PILOT, Driver Attention Monitoring, Lane Keeping Assist, Extended Traffic Sign Recognition and Active Blind Spot Detection (£250); DS ConnectedCAM (£400); and Extended bi-zone automatic air conditioning (£200). This took the total price of our test car to £59,020. It’s likely that many people would see this as expensive. However DS 7 CROSSBACK prices start from £32,125 for the PureTech 130 Manual.
The plug-in hybrid E-TENSE model has a Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability for 2020/21 of just 16%.
The E-TENSE 4×4 is available in all three trim levels: Performance Line, Prestige and Ultra Prestige.
DS Night Vision, one of the options on our test car, uses the infrared camera in the radiator grille to improve visibility during the night. The technology is able to identify pedestrians and animals over 50cm tall up to a distance of 100m. The DS 7 CROSSBACK is the first vehicle in the C-SUV segment with this technology.
The DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4X4 is a good all-round product. It’s mostly quiet and refined to drive, with a comfortable ride on smooth roads, and good performance. It also has all-wheel drive capability, which can be translated to decent off-roading ability if the right tyres are fitted. It’s also a practical size. Its electric range of up to 40 miles means that much local driving could be zero emission – with the resultant savings in fuel costs. And the Benefit in Kind (BIK) tax liability for 2020/21 of just 16% could mean considerable savings for company car drivers. However the price of £56,075 is quite expensive, especially for a brand that isn’t yet fully established compared to most ‘premium’ rivals. The DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4X4 gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.