We sample the concept car that is designed to launch DS as a standalone premium brand

Launched as the Divine DS at the tail end of 2014, this concept car was created to show the future styling direction for the now standalone DS brand, as well as encapsulating all of the brand’s ideals into one vehicle.

As such, it will never make production in this form – but it is crucially important if DS is to break free of its mainstream Citroën-derived shackles and establish itself as a credible player in the premium market, fighting for sales with Audi, BMW, Mercedes and the like, over the next five years or so.

The concept is based around a fairly standard C-segment shape, chosen because the firm views it as the most challenging – and potentially rewarding - sector in which to compete, as well as one in which it has had success already. Little wonder that rumours suggest a vehicle of the Divine’s proportions could neatly replace today’s DS4 and DS5 in time.

Although there’s no official confirmation, insiders also suggest that DS’s confirmed six-strong line-up, due to be launched by 2020, will include a large and a small SUV, a large and a small saloon car and a replacement for the successful DS3 hatchback.

The core values highlighted by Divine DS are, according to DS boss Yves Bonnefont, the brand’s commitment to avante garde design (summed up as “sensual and remarkable”), cutting-edge technology (comprising efficient powertrains and connectivity), refinement with a focus on faultless quality and dynamicism (but only when balanced with serenity, and as a result never with more than 300bhp as that would be too “brutal”). 

Although this is a chance to drive the car, there’s no escaping the fact that it is a concept in the purest sense, and as such it’s important to separate the extravagant flourish designed to catch attention from the exaggerated flourish designed to hint at what might be possible for production in time.

In the former category you can safely put the scissor and coach doors and interior crystal decorations, which are here to add some bling and highlight the car’s cutting-edge style and high-end fashion aspirations. 

Surprisingly, the absence of a rear window falls into the latter category, according to Divine’s makers. With the rear window covered by a shell-like aerodynamic structure, Divine uses cameras to project an image of what is behind the car onto a rear-view mirror-shaped screen found in the usual place. Its makers point out that lorry drivers can’t see out of the back of their vehicles today, although they do concede that their technological solution may be some years away from production.

More logically, the sharp-edged diamond shapes that adorn many of the surfaces hint at a styling theme that will run on all production cars and which are seen to typify the kind of avante garde styling theme for which DS wishes to become known. So too the chrome double wing on the nose, which is a clear but modern nod to DS’s heritage.

The grille is also in line for production, albeit in slightly toned-down fashion, and is said to have been born with Chinese market tastes in mind, because that is where DS will focus its initial sales efforts. On this concept it is an incredibly intricate and appealing design, although the production version will inevitably need to be simpler to make.

The interior is yet more intriguing. What you see here is called Parisienne Chic, and as such it is most focused on the French styling theme that DS hopes will mark it out from its more Germanic rivals. It showcases embroidered door panels and pleated silk and leather, and there’s no doubt the cabin has an ambience unlike any other.

But the car has been displayed with two other interiors at other times, called Male and Fatale Punk, which suggest how future DS models could get different interior treatments. Male makes use of carbonfibre to highlight DS’s technology-driven side, while Fatale Punk features quilted, jewellery-studded leather. 

The dashboard, meanwhile, is a more heavily sculpted version of that on the latest DS5. The reasoning goes that if you want a premium car, you want your car to make a statement - and this is an exaggerated but representative vision of how that could look. On the move, the wraparound design is cossetting, and the materials and finish certainly combine with the expansive glasswork to give the cabin an airy, luxurious feel.

And the drive? In virtually every way there is no point in dwelling on it. The powertrain and performance claims are set out below, but our test was restricted to low-speed runs at little more than 30mph. Like all concept cars it clunked and clattered, but the point of such a test is purely to get a feel for the cabin ambience. No question, the dash layout works, the cabin is laid out to be involving and there is a real sense of style from the materials. The real test will be how much of this makes production, but in terms of ambience it really does feel different, in a positive way, to the opposition.

While the Divine is purely a concept, you will be able to drive cars derived from it, and on this evidence the promise of this once mainstream brand offering something pleasingly different and potentially upmarket rings true.

Stylistically, inside and out, it demonstrates a flair clearly inspired by its maker’s French origins, and while the concept hides some of that behind an over-the-top facade, it is possible to imagine aspects working in production.

But it is also worth noting that DS’s future success depends on so much more than how the car looks. The engineers must develop a range of cars that ride, handle and steer like premium vehicles - especially in the UK. They must combine image  with practicality, and develop technology that matches that of the very best. Even then, they must have  vehicles that are priced and have residual values to match the best - and which can be sold and maintained through a credible dealer network.

There are many hurdles ahead - but Divine DS at least proves there is hope.

Divine DS concept car

On sale Never; Price na; Engine 4 cyls, 1600cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 267bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 243lb ft at 1900rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight na; 0-62mph 7.3sec; Top speed na; Economy na; CO2/tax band 145g/km, 24%

  

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Comments
14

7 July 2015
It's already firmly established as a maker of tinselled and deeply mediocre hatchbacks. And this actually looks old-hat compared to some current production cars.

7 July 2015
Norma Smellons trolls again.

7 July 2015
Well, it makes a change from the usual 'blob' of designs. Grille looks a bit like Jaguar's and it's 'nice' to see the return of the Allegro steering wheel !

7 July 2015
Oh dear it is all rather busy and not very calming in the interior, they lose the rear window and introduce a crazy glazed roof, rather contradictory.

8 July 2015
230SL wrote:

Oh dear it is all rather busy and not very calming in the interior, they lose the rear window and introduce a crazy glazed roof, rather contradictory.

It's a concept vehicle! Not the real thing.... Anyway Mercedes and Lexus are hardly claming designs these days.. Bothe suffering from fussy overstyling..

7 July 2015
I really like the interior - the taut curvy canopy unites and integrates many elements. The diamond faceted centre console with inlaid switches also looks exquisite.
The exterior is the Mercedes school of design - pile on creases and curves and scooped out panels and the result is a visual mess. This is nothing like the fun and purposeful design of the Cactus. Citroen, you don't need the DS range, just make every model in the mainstream range as interesting as the Cactus and customers will come back to the brand.

7 July 2015
Hopefully DS really will break free of the shackles of current thinking on luxury in cars. Stiff suspension isn't luxurious, and historically the Citroen DS had great suspension. That must be remembered. They do seem to be falling for leather as being the luxurious seat material of choice, despite it being too slippery to hold you except when you get sweaty when you stick to it, is too cold on a cold day, too hot on a hot day, ages badly in the sun (and cars are generally outside), and is common as muck nowadays. Sister brand Peugeot has some good ideas with the XY model. Alcantara seats and the purple colour option do much more to appear luxurious. Some deep, strong colours would be much better than boring silver.

7 July 2015
Looks like an Audi from the front, Mercedes from the side, BMW from the back. None of this is DS heritage of being completely different. It is all for the Chinese and 'me too' people. The interior is cool, if a bit of a headache functionally. Like the new Talisman from Renault, it borrows too much from Audi, which means dull dull dull. Please Citroen, you can do better, or perhaps there is something around the corner. The C6 owed more to the DS than this contrived exercise in marketing. Even the Cactus is more in keeping with the DS than this. This is what happens when you design for a culture that knows nothing of a brand's past and has little regard for IP.

7 July 2015
Unfortunately, you can tell from the stance of the guy in black that he's talking a load of bol**cks to justify why every panel and surface is SO complicated. The original DS was beautiful because of its simplicity, but in so many respects the current models are getting more intricate and loading on more chrome. I like the DS5, but it had more than enough chrome with those long front 'strakes', the heavy chrome frame of the new grille just overloads it. And why block off the rear window if you don't have to, then introduce a camera system to give you the vision back? Again, complication for complication's sake.

7 July 2015
Citroën used to have a "commitment to avante garde design". Now look at the sad rubbish they have been reduced to building by PSA and car buyers scared of something different, not helped by terrible build quality.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

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