Driving the extraordinary, asymmetrical DS X E-Tense electric concept car

A vision of 2035

WITHOUT doubt, the DS X E-Tense fulfils that fundamental requirement of a concept car: having a striking, eye-catching design. Its asymmetric shape makes you look — and then look again.

Concepts also need to showcase new technology and look to the future; the X E-Tense model is DS’s vision of 2035, a two-in-one car with a passenger pod on one side, in which you can relax as you are driven to your destination, and a gorgeous cockpit on the other side for when you actually want to drive.

That will, apparently, be a rare pleasure in a decade and a half. The DS X E-Tense recognises that, while autonomous cars are seemingly inevitable, there will always be room for some good old-fashioned driving.

Thierry Métroz, the car’s designer, explains that the company wanted to create “a two-faceted car, capable of delivering the best of two worlds: that of providing intense, unfettered driving enjoyment with an abundance of power, and that of . . . autonomous motoring.

“In a way the X E-Tense comes across as a reinterpretation of the motorcycle sidecar, with a bold asymmetric stance, but on four wheels.”

DS Automobiles, now a stand alone brand distinct from parent company Citroën, has a great history of revolutionary design. It can trace its roots back to the Citroën DS of 1955, one of the most innovative and influential cars of all time.

Yves Bonnefont, the chief executive of DS, has embraced this pioneering spirit not only in the car’s design, but also its motor. As you’d expect with such a technological vehicle, there’s no smoky oil burner under the bonnet. Instead there’s a clean electric motor — or, rather, two, each powering a front wheel.

Neither is the X E-Tense some automotive show pony. It’s a working car that moves — and moves quickly — making use of the DS Formula E team’s experience with electric power trains.

At the 2019 Marrakesh ePrix in January it was demonstrated on track, between Formula E qualifying and race sessions. By 2020 at least ten manufacturers will be involved in the series. Why? Not only can they develop their electric technology in a fast, competitive setting, but they can show off their environmental credentials to the buying public.

The sight of this almost silent concept car driving around the circuit in Marrakesh is thrilling: an automotive glimpse of tomorrow.

Not that everything about the vehicle revolves around cold, hard technology. There is a nod to artisanal heritage, including leather seats finished by the feather specialist Maison Lemarié, which has ensured that the interior has a touch of Parisian air.

Bonnefont says that he has set out three main goals for this concept car: “To create space for designers to flourish and express themselves, for the design to signpost changing technology in cars, and to make a statement for the brand.”

He would need only to drive one lap of the circuit — and to see the children, adults and indeed race marshals scrambling for their phones to take pictures of the car — to know that he is well on his way to achieving them.

DS E-Tense GT revealed at Geneva, hints at BMW i8 rival