Peugeot is rediscovering its mojo, Citroen has found its funk and Renault is taking on low-cost luxury. It would seem all is well in France, then, but there is one gallic brand still struggling to gain a foothold. Citroen luxury spinoff DS is yet to hit its stride, although the high-ups in Paris will be hoping the new DS7 SUV is the car to change that.
Although it has released some very pretty concept cars, DS has struggled to distance its production cars from parent Citroen. Sure, the DS3 looks good, but there's no hiding the fact it's a fancy Citroen C3. It's a similar story with the DS5.
The new DS7 aims to distance itself from more mundane members of the PSA family with a glitzy new design, complete with styling cues borrowed from the E-Tense. Up front, the chrome grille gives the car a totally unique face, with headlamps looking a little jewel-like, while DS describes the three-dimensional taillights as hypnotic. (Although they are very pretty, borrowing the scaly-textured look debuted on previous concept cars, describing them as hypnotic might be pushing things a bit too far.)
This focus on design extends to the interior, which wouldn't look out of place on a concept car. There are two 12-inch displays in the cabin: one in front of the driver for information about speed and revs, and another in the center of the dashboard for infotainment and navigation. The Mercedes E-Class runs with a similar setup, but it can't come close to the DS7 when it comes to aesthetics – the layout on the French four-wheel drive looks utterly stunning, and that's before you get to the eye-catching transmission tunnel.
All the buttons are shaped like diamonds, there's a framed clock on the dashboard and the seats are trimmed in sumptuous diamond-quilted leather. Short of ultra-expensive luxury cars, we can't think of a more interesting or exciting interior design on sale today.
On paper it would appear this is more than just a pretty face, especially when the owner opts for the DS7 E-Tense Hybrid, which couples a 200 hp (149 kW) petrol engine with two 109 hp (80 kW) electric motors for a total system output of 300 hp (224 kW). A 13 kWh battery gives the car a 37-mile (60-km) pure electric range, and the optional 6.6 kW fast charger can top it up in two-and-a-half hours. When it's not being driven in miserly all-electric mode, the hybrid system provides power to the rear wheels to create a part-time four-wheel drive system.
Along with the hybrid, the car will be offered with a choice of five engines, all of which will be hooked up with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Three petrols and two diesels will be available, with outputs ranging from 130 hp (97 kW) to 225 hp (168 kW).
As you'd expect of a modern family four-wheel drive, the full range of semi-autonomous safety systems is available. The active cruise control functions up to 112 mph (180 km/h) and will maintain its lane position, while an infrared camera in the front grille gives the driver night vision, highlighting any potential dangers with a red outline on the screen.
Along with the infrared camera, there's a camera mounted behind the windscreen to scan the road ahead for potholes or broken tarmac. When it sees a broken piece of road, it's able to make on-the-fly adjustments to the suspension, stiffening or slackening each corner to maintain a magic carpet ride. Given parent company Citroen's history with floaty, long-legged suspensions, we're confident the system in the DS7 can make a difference.
The new DS7 will be on show at the Geneva Motor Show, where New Atlas will be on the ground covering all the action. There's no word on pricing yet, but order books will open on March 7th this year.