► DS Automobiles’ stargazing exercise
► Asymmetric styling divides drive and autonomy
► 530bhp for road, 1350bhp for race circuits
Cast your eyes on this – DS Automobiles’ view of what PSA’s luxury flagship could look like in more than 15 years’ time. The DS X E-Tense has been unveiled to coincide with the opening of the new DS design studio in Paris, known as the Automotive Design Network.
The design proposal, which DS goes to great pains to say isn’t a future production car, is an ideas showcase that also serves as a mission statement for the brand’s direction of travel. So, it is packed with interesting new lighting, materials and driver assistance technologies – some of which will filter into upcoming DS production cars in the coming years.
DS Automobiles is being positioned as France’s national flagship as well as PSA’s top-tier brand, which explains why this electric supercar will pack Formula E levels of performance in a cocoon-like package.
Interesting, but why isn't it symmetrical?
The DS X E-Tense’s asymmetrical design is down to the need to serve two purposes. On the left, is the autonomous side of the car, accessed via a gullwing door. The external design is deliberately retro, but the strong ‘X’ theme on the car's flanks will run through all future DSs.
‘The DS badge at the rear is emphasised by two graphic lines that run from the upper part of the cabin to the diffuser to form an ‘X’. This X shape also features on the car’s sides where it frames the DS Performance badge,’ says Thierry Metroz, senior vice president, DS Design.
If you want your E-Tense to drive itself, you climb in this side, sink into the soft leather seat, and indulge in a cabin that’s a rhapsody in red, trimmed in wood and metal, and has no instrumentation – just a coffee machine.
New types of material and a glass floor
It’s snug, well ventilated, and the seat stretches back, feather-like, in a way that DS says is reminiscent of a ‘deployed bird’s wing.’ In the autonomous side of the E-Tense, you get a sound bar instead of a traditional dashboard. And beneath your feet, there’s a see-through electrochromatic glass floor, so you can watch the road surface flash by.
Ivo Groen, DS vice president of Design Programs and DS Design Direction, told CAR in an exclusive viewing of a virtual version of the E-Tense that the brand will push the boundaries of trim and materials. ‘We want to challenge convention, and have our customers grow with their cars – materials patinate with age, and these imperfections are what add character. Life.’
Metroz added: ‘I would like to see passengers take time for themselves, for time is such a valuable entity – this is no ride-sharing vehicle. It’s a purely selfish place to spend time.’
That's all well and good, but some of us want to drive
Then you’re sorted by getting in the right-hand side. Here, there’s an open cockpit designed to evoke memories of pre-war grand Prix cars. The driver’s seat is semi-reclined, and there’s a small steering wheel, that’s flanked by minimalist instrumentation. This side of the DS X E-Tense is trimmed in blue; the autonomous side is red.
Your dream DS of 2035 will be quick as well as luxurious. It’s all-electric, and powered by a pair of motors housed between the front wheels. In road mode, maximum power is set at 530bhp, but this rises to 1350bhp in ‘circuit’ mode. The powertrain – or at least a version of this – is likely to make it to the next-generation range-topping DS supercar.
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The company has confirmed this is on the way, and Éric Apode, DS’s senior vice president, Products, said, ‘The compact size and reliability of electric motors, coupled with the satisfaction of benefiting from an immediate, linear flow of power eclipsed all the other options.’
Underpinning it all is a carbonfibre tub that sits on a torsion bar-based suspension set-up. Disappointingly, it uses coils and not hydraulics as its main springing medium – a missed opportunity, given the heritage of the brand. But ride and roll is actively controlled.
What, if any of it, will make production?
Let’s be honest: a three-seat, asymmetric sports car with 1350bhp is a flight of fancy, and it won’t make it to your local DS boudoir. But hold your horses – this ideas car will realise some production-car action. The wildly differing power outputs dependent on the driving modes selected should make the cut when DS readies its first all-electric supercar.
The bodywork that’s capable of recovering its original form after an impact also seems like a viable production idea, as does the DS X E-Tenses’s active grille and innovative DS Light Veil light curtains. Expect those to appear at the rear of a road DS before the front in the near future.
Some of the innovative trims and materials will also start to seep in, as will the ‘X’ design themes, which complement the overdose of diamonds in the interior. The next new DS is expected to be a Crossback version of the DS 3, and it’s here that the next steps in establishing DS as a brand in its own right begin to ramp up more seriously.