Looking for a premium SUV but bored of the cookie-cutter German marques? DS Automobiles thinks it has the answer for you with the DS7 Crossback, a luxury SUV that clearly does things differently.
We'll answer the question that's probably on your mind: who are DS Automobiles?
DS used to be a premium sub-brand of Citroën's, and models like the iconic DS3 hatchback and the DS5 were sold initially under the Citroën badge. However, DS Automobiles became its own full-fledged marque in 2015, with the aim of producing French luxury cars that could rival the German "Big Three": Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
The DS7 Crossback is the flagship car (and the only currently available model) for DS Automobiles Singapore, and the first of the second-generation of DS models. This means that the DS7 Crossback is a "proper" DS, rather than a DS-branded Citroën model.
Here's an interesting nugget of information for you: the DS7 Crossback was used by French President Macron as his official state car during his Presidential Inauguration.
Right, now that we've gotten the history lesson out of the way, let's get on with properly reviewing this presidential car.
A Whole Light Show
The first thing you notice when you approach the car is its DS LED Vision headlamps. As you approach the car and unlock it, the headlamps perform a welcome ballet for you, with each individual crystal-like LED module swivelling one after another as though they were display pieces in a Swarovski boutique.
If this were any other car, we might have been tempted to say that this minute detail was just pure gimmicky, but it seems to work on the DS7 Crossback. As you will soon find out, this is a recurring theme in the DS.
These individually-swivelling LED lamps don't only just serve an aesthetic purpose either. The DS Active LED Vision system ensures that the road ahead is always lit appropriately, regardless of road conditions. Not only does the car have dynamic bending lamps to light up the corners when you make a turn, it is also capable of changing the width and range of the lights depending on the surrounding conditions and your vehicle speed.
It may sound like a trivial thing, but the way these headlamps work are simply magical. Never have we thought that something as basic and essential as a car's headlamps could be improved to illuminate exactly what you need, when you need it, where you need it.
The light show doesn't just stop here, though. Puddle lamps illuminate the ground with the DS logo as you enter the car. Yet again, instead of them feeling gimmicky, these lights just seem to work with the DS7 Crossback, adding to the feeling that you're about to enter the cabin of something special.
The rear lamps too are unique, with signal lights that, like the front signals, also come on sequentially. Coupled with the 3D-effect diamond pattern LED lights that give the illusion of depth, the rear lamp cluster is something that is simply dazzling to behold. This diamond pattern theme continues into the interior of the DS7 Crossback.
- In the Driver's Seat
You step into the cabin of the DS7 Crossback and shut the doors with a solid thump. The electric driver's seat slowly glides forward from the entry/egress position to your driving position according to the memory settings.
Located right above the 12" central HD-display touchscreen, the chrome DS badge on the start button glows a brilliant red, inviting you to start the car. Once you press the start button, the backlight behind the logo fades away, and a B.R.M R180 clock rotates up to greet you. Mind you, this isn't just any random clock either; the French timepiece was designed exclusively for the DS7 Crossback.
Upon starting the engine, you're greeted with a massive 12.3" digital instrument cluster, which displays all your information as you toggle through the settings--from your navigation information to the DS Connected Pilot safety system, which indicates the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, and brakes for you or reduces the vehicle's speed when the cruise control is activated.
The touch points on the multi-function steering wheel feel excellent, whether it be the diamond-pattern knurled toggle switches, or the Nappa leather with which the entire steering wheel is wrapped.
The Nappa leather treatment doesn't extend only to the steering wheel; the entire interior is wrapped in this premium material--this means the dash is wrapped in it, as are the seats--even the grab handles are covered in Nappa leather!
The seats are themselves a sight to behold too, with their design being inspired by watch straps. The front seats benefit from heating and ventilation functions, and also enjoy a massage function with five modes. Believe us when we say that massage seats are a feature that you never realised you wanted till you have tried them. In the second row, the seats are capable of reclining electrically. Whereas these features comes as standard on the DS7 Crossback Grand Chic variants, they will either cost you, or are simply not available on the its competitors.
Where the DS7 Crossback does not perform so well is in the infotainment department. From our experience, it was occasionally laggy and unresponsive especially right after start-up, and clustering all the air-con, radio, and navigation controls into a touchscreen also means that these settings are not easily accessible, especially when you're driving and cannot put as much attention into tapping the touchscreen.
There are physical shortcut buttons located at the bottom of the screen, though, and they are made of crystal and shaped with the same diamond pattern theme that runs throughout the car. However, they are touch-sensitive and offer no tactile feedback, which means that the problem of controlling the infotainment while on the move still persists.
What you do get for these tradeoffs is a media interface that is nothing but sleek, with minimal buttons and controls cluttering the centre stack. The large HD touchscreen also means crisp and easy to see graphics, which is a big bonus when you do use the GPS navigation system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also work particularly well with the large 12' touchscreen. You also get Qi wireless charging in the nook below the central infotainment screen, which is a welcome bonus.
The centre console features a deep storage compartment, and an electronic shifter familiar to some PSA Group models, such as the Peugeot 3008. The window and central locking buttons are also located on the centre console, flanking the shifter. Each individual button is cut in a diamond pattern, making them extremely mesmerising to look at.
If that's not enough to dazzle you, you can look up and stare at the stars in the sky through the panoramic sunroof.
- In the Back Seat
In the rear compartment, the DS7 Crossback's front-wheel drive architecture gives it an edge over its rivals--there is no transmission tunnel running through the centre of the car, thus allowing it a flat rear floor that makes carrying 3 abreast far more comfortable than some of its competitors.
The rear seats also fold down, expanding the boot space from 555l to a stonking 1752l! It is slightly disappointing that the seats do not fold down and up electrically, as one would expect in a premium car. However, the DS7 Crossback does feature an electric tailgate with handsfree function.
We don't want to just wax lyrical about the DS7 Crossback's interior without pointing out any of its shortcomings, though, so we thought long and hard for some criticisms to make. Here they are: first, the steering wheel is only adjustable manually rather than electrically, and second, the leather kneepad trim on the centre console is only padded on the driver's side, but not the passenger's side.
The thing is, how often will you adjust your steering wheel? The DS can be forgiven for not having electric controls for the steering wheel adjustments, since it is likely only ever going to be used just once (when you take delivery of the car and adjust it to your driving position). Furthermore, our second criticism is proper nitpicking, considering that the kneepads are still wrapped in Nappa leather after all. If we didn't point it out, you would probably have never noticed that the passenger side kneepad wasn't padded.
One gripe we do have is that the bottom area of the car's interior is made of cheap-feeling hard plastic. Although one will rarely see or touch these areas, the fact that such hard plastics are present is an extremely disjunctive contrast that betrays the DS7 Crossback's premium ambitions. After all, such flaws are hard to find in Mercedes' interiors.
On the Move
The DS7 Crossback packs a 1.6l turbo engine that produces two outputs. The PureTech 180 Performance Line and Grand Chic models get 180hp and 250nm, whereas our tester model, which was the top of the line PureTech 225 Grand Chic, had a power output of 225hp and 300nm.
Considering that this is merely a 1.6l engine, the power and torque figures in the PureTech 225 Grand Chic trim is extremely impressive--it almost matches the performance of 2.0 turbo engines!
The engine does produce more sounds than one would expect from a petrol car, though. We were asked on multiple occasions whether our test car was powered by a diesel engine. However, all the noise fades to naught the moment you enter the cabin and close the doors.
With a century sprint clocked in 8.9 seconds for our PureTech 225 test model, we would describe the power of the DS7 Crossback as sufficient. You wouldn't feel like you'd need more power to conduct overtake manoeuvres, but you would also be hard-pressed to say that this is a powerful car.
Although we have not tested the PureTech 180 models, we have a feeling that one might be asking for more power in order to make overtaking an effortless process, considering the 45hp deficit over the PureTech 225 variant.
The 8-speed transmission does its job well by shifting gears imperceptibly, and one rarely needs to take control of the gear changes through the paddle shifters, even when overtaking. Cruising on the expressway is also a relaxing experience, as the engine is barely ticking over at around 1,500rpm in top gear at 90km/h.
The biggest compliment one can give when describing a transmission is to not notice it working, as that means that it is doing its job so efficiently and intuitively that you don't even have to think about whether the car is in the right gear and power band. Such is the case in the DS7 Crossback.
One of the key talking points of this car is definitely the DS Active Scan Suspension, which utilises high speed cameras to analyse the road ahead. It then takes this information and other data about the car's speed, steering angle, and braking to adjust the car's suspension. The result? What we can only describe as a magic-carpet ride in Comfort mode.
Instead of having to slow down for humps, we simply glided over them by putting the car in Comfort mode. The suppleness of the Active Scan Suspension is honestly something that words alone cannot adequately describe; the way the DS7 Crossback seems to flatten out bumps on the road is something you have to experience for yourself. The one trade-off of this magic-carpet like ride is that the car can feel slightly roly-poly in the corners and over extremely high humps.
To combat that, one can put the DS7 Crossback into Sport mode, in which case the Active Scan Suspension instead takes data from the road ahead to adjust your suspension so that the car is more hunkered-down when tackling corners. However, don't expect a rock-hard ride setup in Sport mode. The car still preserves a cushy ride feel, but is magically able to go where you aim it towards with no hint of understeer. It isn't a sporty ride more than it is a compliant one, and it is certainly refreshing to be able to carry pace through what ever corner you throw this car at and come out in one piece.
Furthermore, putting the car into Sport mode also gives you electronically-generated engine sounds from the 14-speaker Focal sound system to add to the atmosphere. Taking corners in Sport mode on the DS7 Crossback genuinely makes one wonder why "sports suspensions" on other cars nowadays are so unnecessarily harsh when the DS7 Crossback's set-up can clearly match them in pace in the twists and turns of B-roads.
There is however one major flaw in the DS7 Crossback's suspension set-up. The rear of the car seems to "hop" slightly over humps, which then results in the rear of the car crashing back down harshly. The last time we experienced such skitting, we were driving an unladen Nissan NV350 panel van. If we were to rate the DS7 Crossback's suspension out of a 100 points, we would give it a score of 99 points, and this flaw is what cost it that perfect 100 out of 100. Admittedly, this flaw rarely shows itself, unless you have no intention of even slowing down when you encounter bumps on the road.
- Cabin Refinement
Road and wind noise insulation is excellent in the DS7 Crossback, but we thought that the sound levels transmitted through the windows were a bit too high for something that is supposed to be a premium car. It would do DS well to use thicker glass in its windows.
As we have mentioned, the engine does chatter a bit, though that noise does not intrude into the cabin. When stepping on the accelerator however, the engine does growl a bit. We don't think that is a bad thing, however, as it is not an unpleasant note, and the vibrations don't travel into the cabin either.
Luxury and premium cars always have to be more than the sum of their individual, carefully crafted parts. Does the DS7 Crossback's myriad of minute details and features add up to a premium car, or does it fall short of the benchmark and simply feel like a jumped-up Citroën?
Our take is that DS has, in the DS7 Crossback, hit the mark, and then some. DS has produced a car that to us feels not only premium, but bespoke as well. That little bit of French flair and minute details peppered across the car truly makes one feel like they're in something special. The DS7 Crossback provides an avant-garde French counterpoint to your typical selection of conservative German brands.
We are aware that there are those in the Singaporean motoring community that will disagree with us. After all, are all of us ready to part with S$171,999 to S$214,999 (as tested) for the DS7 Crossback when we could get other luxury SUVs for the same money? Naysayers may point to the hard plastics found at the bottom area of the car, the sometimes fiddly-to-use infotainment screen, the sufficient but not awe-inspiring acceleration, or the insufficiently-thick windows as reasons to park your money elsewhere.
We think that the uniqueness that the DS nameplate offers is also the reason why it may not be well-received in badge-conscious Singapore. The bespoke experience overshadows the individual flaws of the car, but at the end of the day, consumers will be paying premium car prices for a badge that still does not garner that much recognition here. Perhaps this is why DS Automobiles has positioned the DS7 Crossback is a compact-class SUV competitor to the likes of the Mercedes GLA, BMW X1, Audi Q3, and Volvo XC40, even though it is in actual fact more like a mid-size SUV.
But here is what we think: take a leap of faith with the DS7 Crossback. You may have to explain to your friends and colleagues that you actually are driving a premium car that has so many amazing features, and they may not get why you didn't spend your money on a more familiar brand. But we think that's the point of the DS7 Crossback. It's not the typical premium SUV that you are familiar with. You get in it, and it feels bespoke, and that makes you feel special compared to the driver of that German premium SUV stuck beside you in the traffic jam.
Driven by the spirit of the avant-garde and backed by an exceptional heritage - that of the 1955 DS, the DS brand, launched in 2015, aims to embody French savoir-faire in the automotive industry. DS Automobiles is Group PSA’s Premium brand. Designed for a customer base looking for personal expression and eager for new technologies, the second generation of DS models combines refinement and cutting-edge technology.
DS Automobiles is currently offering 7-year warranty, servicing and pick-up delivery service. Furthermore, unlock a Zertona Paint Protection Package worth $600 with your purchase of the DS 7 Crossback! Exclusive to Motorist members only. Promo valid till 10 August 2020.
Download the Motorist App
The easiest and smartest way to manage your vehicle in Singapore.Download Now
S$171,999 (PureTech 180 EAT8 Performance Line)
S$179,999 (PureTech 180 EAT8 Grand Chic)
S$214,999 (PureTech 225 EAT8 Grand Chic)
Engine: 1,598cc Turbocharged Petrol Direct Injection 16-Valve Inline-4
Power: 225hp @ 5,500rpm / 180hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 300nm @ 2,750rpm / 250nm @ 1,650rpm
Fuel Consumption: 16.9km/l
0-100km/h: 8.9s / 9.6s
Top Speed: 236km/h / 220km/h
Drivetrain: 8-Speed Automatic; Front-Wheel Drive
Brakes: All-Round Disc Brakes
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,595mm x 1,895mm x 1631mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60l
Boot Capacity: 555l/1,752l
Tri-Zone Climate Control
Photos in this article by: Lim Sze Yuan
Download the new Motorist App now. Designed by drivers for drivers, this all-in-one app lets you receive the latest traffic updates, gives you access to live traffic cameras, and helps you manage LTA and vehicle matters.
Did you know we have a Motorist Telegram Channel ? Created exclusively for drivers and car owners in Singapore, you can get instant info about our latest promotions, articles, tips & hacks, or simply chat with the Motorist Team and fellow drivers.