RAC Cars News


What's The DS All About?

By raccars Published

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This year Citroen confirmed that its DS sub-brand would be splitting away from the main company to form an independent marque, while at the same time, Citroen appears to be going back to basics with the likes of the C4 Cactus, following a philosophy set by the legendary 2CV. However, auto fans will remember that the DS name was originally applied to a luxury saloon that took the market by storm on its release in 1955.

The DS was first revealed at 1955's Paris Motor Show, where it drew gasps of admiration. Radically modern, its studied languor concealed some ground-breaking technological advances. Not only did the DS look different from anything else on the market at the time, it introduced advanced new hydraulic technology in the form of self-levelling suspension, a semi-automatic gearbox and disc brakes.

Citroen had taken 749 orders for the DS within 45 minutes of pulling the covers off, and 12,000 confirmed purchases by the end of the same day.

The DS was not only the best looking, most luxurious and comfortable car of its time, its pioneering hydro-pneumatic suspension set new standards in handling and ride quality. It contributed in large part to Citroen's reputation as the most innovative and intelligent of car makers.

By 1957 Citroen had launched a simpler version of the DS in the ID, retaining the hydro-pneumatic suspension but otherwise using cheaper and more basic mechanicals than the phenomenally complex DS. The ID's lower price tag saw it dilute the more expensive car's consumer pool and pick up a lot of new converts, but updates over the years saw the two vehicles converge to the point that by 1975 they were pretty much the same car.

Along the way, a glorious looking but vastly expensive Chapron cabriolet version of the DS had been introduced, but its prohibitive cost meant that only just over 500 units were sold between 1958-1962. These models have become hugely desirable collectors' items, fetching up to £250,000 or even more. A versatile ID estate, called the Safari, also joined the range in 1959, with wonderfully flexible seating arrangements and available in 'ambulance' trim.

Such was the DS's prestige that it was chosen by President Charles de Gaulle as his official ride and even saved his life during a 1962 assassination attempt. The DS managed to carry the president and his wife to safety despite receiving more than 100 bullet wounds.

1968 saw the original DS receive some cosmetic updates, which included a revised front end and innovative new directional headlamps. By 1975, Citroen had sold nearly 1.5 million of the DS, which is often named one of the most beautiful cars in the world in polls. The French horsepower taxation system of the Seventies rendered big cars with big engines economically impractical, and production of the DS ended in 1975.

In 2009, Citroen brought the DS name back with the DS3 supermini. Its good looks, high quality fit and finish, entertaining driving dynamics and numerous customisation possibilities made it an instant hit and won it numerous industry awards. Unlike its premium rivals, the Fiat 500 and Mini, it was determinedly modern and very well equipped. The DS3 in standard format and the later cabriolet are the best-selling models in Citroen's UK line up.

A DS 4 compact hatchback was soon released and a DS5 compact executive joined the brand's line up in 2011, a hybrid version of which is used by President Francois Hollande, fitted with a full length sunroof not included on the production options list. In February this year, DS models discarded the Citroen double chevron badge, as the DS brand made its split from its parent company definitive.

Earlier this year, Citroen celebrated the 60th birthday of the original DS with a huge exhibition in Paris and a 700 strong DS parade, which travelled through the French capital in spectacular convoy.

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