If modern society is as materialistic and price-obsessed as they would have us believe then the DS 5 must reflect all that is wrong with the world. In this case I have no idea who “they” are but they couldn’t be more wrong if they ran around with neon signs proclaiming 1+1=73. Here we have a leather-clad, gadget laden, luxury car that exudes enough style and elegance to justify a very hefty price tag. Sliding in to this car for the first time it’s easy to imagine having to part with upwards of £50,000 to repeat the experience. This is crazy talk because prices actually start at just half that amount.
I tested the base model Elegance with the 120bhp, 1560cc turbo Diesel engine and, even though it was loaded with over £3000 of options it still came in at just £29,030. Even if you started with the top spec Prestige and went nuts with the options you would struggle to spend much more than £40,000 and for that you would be getting a huge amount of car. If the DS 5 does nothing else, it puts a definitive tick in the value for money box.
The original Citroen DS was in production for 20 years and even though it ceased to be in 1975 it is still regarded as one of the most innovative and beautifully designed cars in history – it came 3rd in a poll to find the most influential cars of the 20th Century behind the Ford Model T and the Mini. I’ve never had the pleasure but those who have are gushing in their praise. All of which could be bad news for the DS 5 because those are big boots to be filling.
The exterior was never going to be as revolutionary as its namesake but I’m happy to forgive that. International motor shows are littered with concepts that could have matched the originality of the original DS but never made it beyond a shiny model on a revolving stage. I think the motor industry has gradually become more conservative as its developed over the last 50 years, the leaps and bounds are consigned to the past and car design has become a more incremental process of refinement. I’m not going to criticise Citroen for any of that because the DS 5 is still a very nice thing to park on your driveway and, more pertinently, it has one advantage over all those concepts in that it you can actually buy one. It’s not strikingly bold but it has a certain elegance that fits it’s purpose and I do quite like it.
Inside is an entirely different proposition because it’s a bit like sitting inside the worlds most luxuriant fighter jet. The centre console sweeps down from the 7in touchscreen and ends at perfect elbow height, it’s surface studded with various switches and buttons. Above you the glass roof is split by the overhead panel which mirrors the centre console with its switches. The seat adjusts in every possible angle to ensure the wheel is positioned just right for you to see the head up display over the top of it. With the glass roof, the long sloping windscreen and overhead switches it’s easy to imagine you’re in the cockpit but no military plane ever had this much leather trim and brushed metal finish. Not to mention the heated, massaging sports seats. The DS 5 takes comfort so seriously even the glovebox is air conditioned.
Gone is the hydro pneumatic suspension that helped define the original but the DS 5 still manages to waft down the road with barely a ripple. This isn’t a car to be driven, it’s more like a mobile spa that gently caresses you until you reach your destination. In all honesty the 120bhp up front isn’t enough to make it worthwhile pushing the DS 5 anyway. It’s enough to allow you to overtake comfortably or to venture into the outside lane of the motorway and that’s just fine. It’s much more pleasurable to simply sit back, set the cruise control and drift along as the world bumps through the pothole you hadn’t even noticed. If you do decide to get a bit vigorous the DS 5 is quite capable of taking a corner without any fuss but you can almost hear the Gallic shrug of disapproval at such unsophisticated behaviour.
The only downside of the DS 5 I can see is that it’s not German which means many people will completely ignore it. It has all the comfort and refinement of its Teutonic neighbours but it costs less to buy, is economical to run and is guaranteed to be rarer. It may lack the performance of those rivals but when you’re sitting in traffic alongside one you can look across at the driver safe in the knowledge that they’re no more comfortable but a little bit poorer and a lot less individual.