For an electric concept car, DS X E-Tense offers a visceral experience for its driver – one that reflects both its unusual inspiration and racing car underpinnings.
The X E-Tense, DS’s vision of what motoring could look like in 2035, is a three-seat machine based on a DS Formula E single-seater designed to offer two contrasting experiences. On one side it features an open-top cockpit designed to offer wind-in-hair motoring and enhanced driver engagement. Next to that is a spacious passenger cabin featuring a reclining seat and a footstool that can double as a short-term third seat.
The idea is that the owner of an X E-Tense can choose between an engaged driving experience, or engage autonomous mode and be driven along in comfort and luxury.
According to DS design director Thierry Metroz, the contrasting experiences offered by the asymmetrical layout were styled after a motorcycle sidecar. “With a sidecar you have a driver’s side dedicated to pleasure and driving sensation, which is completely open to the surroundings and nature and you’re connected to your surroundings, and in the other part you’re connected in a luxury cocoon,” said Metroz.
“So the driver can be thrilled in the open wind and real driver engagement, or you can sit in the passenger side with a nice Hi-Fi system and a coffee machine.”
During Autocar’s time with the X E-Tense, we were able to sample both sides of the car. In the concept the passenger side wasn’t as polished as Metroz imagines a version would be in 2035, so there was no coffee machine - but there was a comfy seat and plenty of space to relax in.
Unusually, the passenger cabin also features a see-through floor which, combined with the large bubble window and low roofline, ensures you still have a pleasant sensation of motion while reclined in it. The see-through floor does reveal just how low the X E-Tense’s ground clearance is which, while not an issue for a passenger, does add to the challenge of driving it.
It’s the driver’s side of the X E-Tense where the most interest lays - and where the the car’s racing car underpinnings really show.
The open cockpit feels much like a single-seater racing car cockpit, from the sharply reclined seat to the small steering wheel and minimal switches. It also really focuses your attention forward and makes you feel you’re driving something far smaller than you are.
Underneath, the X E-Tense’s running gear is all based on a Formula E machine, with the motors at the front and battery at the rear, ensuring it can run much lower than an electric car with under-floor batteries. It also features stiff Formula E suspension and firm steering.