Citroën’s luxury spin-off brand, DS, is named for the legendary Citroën DS, the Déesse, that futuristic mid-century icon of forward-looking automotive design. The DS series hasn’t generally made direct stylistic references to their original namesake, but the new, just unveiled DS9 E-Tense actually does make one very clear reference, in that most important of details: the rear turn indicators.
This new DS9 E-Tense is quite a handsome and sleek premium car. It’s not really as radical or daring as Citroëns once were, but the car has some nice lines and some interesting detailing, and would certainly be at home next to any Mercedes or BMW premium sedan.
It shares a platform with the China-market long-wheelbase Peugeot 508, and, as you may have guessed by the “E” in the name, it’s a hybrid, with a combined 225 horsepower between gas and electric engines, with a 360 hp option to come.
But that’s not what I want to talk about; I want to talk about the rear turn signals, which are mounted up here on the C-pillars:
The reason for this unusual mounting is that it’s a direct reference to the original Citroën DS, which had indicators in the same place, mounted in horn-like housings.
While many think that this odd location was chosen because of extensive studies about visibility and safety, it was actually the result of designer Flamino Bertoni needing an effective way to make his rear-end design work.
Earlier versions of the DS design used far more conventional fastback designs. These limited the headroom at the rear more than Bertoni liked, so he designed a version with a taller greenhouse and a roofline that extended a bit past an inset rear window.
To cover the break between roofline and rear window, a fellow designer named Bossé had the brilliant idea to stick the rear turn signals up there, in dramatic little horns (first red plastic, then stainless steel) and a crucial piece of the DS’ iconic design was born.
It’s nice to see that, even if the overall design is far more tame than the original DS, at least a bit of attention has been paid to tribute the ancestor, and those high indicators do give this new DS flagship a nice little bit of retro-inspired style without seeming too cloying or affected.
Mighty fine indicator work, France. Keep it up.