L’art du Luxe
We travelled to the haute couture capital to understand France’s answer to the luxury car market – DS Automobiles
France has long enjoyed a strong reputation for creating luxury brands which are the envy of the world. Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Cartier, Givenchy the list goes on. But in the Automotive industry, before 2015 you would have been hard-pressed to name a luxury vehicle manufacturer in France. Today, the answer is DS Automobiles.
Now, let’s get this out of the way nice and early, because I can hear the collective question… “You mean Citroen?”. DS Automobiles began in 2009 as a premium brand of Citroen, enjoying great success. This was until in 2014 when Yves Bonnefont, the then Director of Strategy, along with three colleagues busily worked on a plan to truly allow the creative designs to flourish. He wished show the savoir-faire they knew their team boasted, all with one aim in mind. To grow DS Automobiles into one of the top 10 luxury brands in the world.
What is luxury? This is a very personal question, is it exclusivity? The latest technology? The heritage of a brand? Or simply how you feel when you experience the craftsmanship that goes into creating a luxury product. I believe luxury is an illusion. Without getting too deep, there is no universal rule book or guide to adhere to. There are only versions of luxury created in the heads of the consumer; it’s a deeply personal experience, and one that DS Automobiles taps into with a product range that is hard to ignore.
What better way to see the haute couture influence embedded in DS Automobiles cars than visiting the timeless city of Paris. This trip wasn’t going to be to simply stroll down the Champs-Élysées, we were heading to round 8 in the Formula E calendar.
The mode of transport was the DS 3 CROSSBACK, a B-segment SUV oozing style and sophistication. Upon first thoughts you instantly recognise certain styling elements from the Citroen DS 3, such as the shark fin in between the front and rear glass on the side of the car, but this is where the similarities end. The CROSSBACK 3 is a far taller, more confident car on the road. The presence it holds on the road is notable. With 10 different body colours, and 5 different DS Inspirations to choose from, you are certainly encouraged to make your mark with the materials inside and outside being completely customisable – which at this price point really does feel original.
I was keen to get to grips with the technology that DS Automobiles quite rightfully champion. The first, and possibly most obvious being the DS MATRIX LED VISION, a block of LEDs divided into 15 segments that illuminate the road ahead. What’s more, the headlamps can be left on full beam even against oncoming traffic due to an in-built camera in the windscreen that detects oncoming cars. The segments then individually dim to leave the oncoming driver in a void of light that floats by as they pass. It really must be seen to be believed.
Like many people, I’ve always grown up being slightly terrified of a robot revolution. I’ve always imagined one of the biggest differences between mine and future generations would be the level of trust in technology, and I most certainly never imagined I would be comfortable with a computer system taking control of my car. 2019 marks the year I threw all of that to one side and allowed a level 2 autonomous driving system to complete the vast majority of the 200-mile journey to Paris. By linking Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist, it automatically adjusts its distance from the car in front, staying in lane and following the flow of traffic independently. Was it nerve wracking? Not one bit. It felt like real progress. It felt luxurious.
Having arrived in Paris the feeling of witnessing a pioneering step forward remained. Les Invalids, the site home to Napoleons sarcophagus lent itself as the historic background for a very modern sport. The Formula E grid lined up with the Techeetah-DS drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer starting 14th and 8th respectively. DS Automobiles entered the sport in season two partnering with Virgin Racing but have since moved to the title sponsor Techeetah. With their combined efforts propelled Vergne to win the 2018 championship. At the time of writing this, they are currently first in the team championship, with Vergne looking to take his second championship in a row – the first back to back winner. The race was spectacular and chaotic with the first wet race in 5 years happening before our very eyes. Lotterer managed to take full advantage moving up from 8th to 2nd.
For many, motorsport is simply a case of “boys and their toys”, but this all has real world applications making huge waves in our every day lives. The knowledge built up from Formula E has allowed DS Automobiles to commit to all new vehicles being exclusively electric. The statement is as bold as it is ambitious.
While at the race DS Automobiles showcased their all new E-TENSE range. A hybrid 4×4 CROSSBACK 7, and an all-electric CROSSBACK 3 with a range of up to 200 miles. Both of which are built using the same monocoque as their less ecological counterparts. To own an electric vehicle with DS Automobiles means you can choose the car, styling and trim first, with the decision of which engine to run being as interchangeable. It’s your choice, diesel, petrol, or electric.
When in Paris I was lucky enough to experience a ride along in the CROSSBACK 3 E-TENSE round the circuit as the car was unveiled to the crowds. This was the first time the car had been seen in motion by the public and to experience it from the inside was surreal. The feeling of luxury was only heightened by the lack of sound from any engine, the only sound being that off a soft whirr from the electric motors. The impression it left with me was one of progress – a real tipping point with EV’s finally seems to be approaching.
With the world changing around us, congestion zones being adopted by almost every major city in the world and the public concerns surrounding diesel, DS Automobiles have firmly planted their flag in the sand. Electric vehicles can have individualism, expert craftsmanship and most of all, can be luxurious.
To view the full range by DS Automobiles, please visit: https://www.dsautomobiles.co.uk