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DS E-Tense concept points to luxury brand's future

The DS luxury brand is looking to the future with the all-electric DS E-Tense concept car making its debut at Geneva 2016

This is the DS E-Tense concept, a luxurious all-electric GT car that previews future styling, tech and drivetrains for the French luxury brand. It's been revealed at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, but Auto Express had the chance to see the car up close ahead of the big unveiling.

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The E-Tense has a sculpted and aerodynamic design, with a low and wide stance not just there to look good – the car was designed in a wind tunnel for maximum aero performance. There are a few nods to motorsport as well; for example, there's no rear windscreen at all (drivers get a camera instead of a mirror), while the car has a central rear foglight just like on a Formula One racer.

DS product managers were keen to stress that this isn't just a motor show concept; it's a real car that could be put into production. There are windscreen wipers, door handles and a full set of lights. Design manager Bertrand Dantec told us that the only thing needed to put this car into production would be "a decision".

The car uses the new DS Performance brand, and the all-electric powertrain is intended to link DS' road cars and Formula E racing team as well as previewing future drivetrains for the brand. The motor is a Siemens unit running on a set of Saft 53kWh batteries and produces 396bhp and 516Nm of torque.

Uniquely for a modern electric car, the E-Tense uses a three-speed gearbox with a torque adjustment system to control the electric motor's output. That means it will go from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph, but still manages a range of 193 miles in mixed driving. Plus, those aren't just concept figures – the car you see on the show stands is real and DS says it can actually manage those feats.

DS product manager Olivier Desserprit told Auto Express: "It's a different vision of the next step for DS, looking into electric cars. This is the DNA of DS – and parts on the car will appear on future production models. Everything on the car has been chosen on purpose to be used in our future cars."

Although the concept car was hand-built, it uses mass-produced parts that will appear on DS cars in the coming years. Eric Apode, executive vice president for DS product development, told us that "the chassis, suspension and batteries are all ready for production". Even the lights, which are made up of four LED clusters that can swivel 180 degrees for different shapes and brightness, will make it to DS' upcoming model line-up.

While the interior was hand-made by a small team in Peugeot-Citroen's design centre in Paris, much of the switchgear is set for production cars. That means the display screen, digital dials, buttons and switches on the dash, steering wheel and seats will all appear on new DS models.

Of course, there are plenty of wild concept car touches inside, including the 3D-printed sweeping dashboard that wraps around into the mount for the touchscreen. That design is made possible in part because of the solid back, with no rear screen. That means there's more room inside for the designers to add unique touches. There's also a removable watch in the centre console that has been specifically designed by BRM to be readable while driving.

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So despite the aggressive looks and rear-wheel-drive layout, the DS E-Tense's luxury interior is an indication that this is a GT car rather than sports car. Despite using a carbon monocoque chassis, the E-Tense weighs 1,800kg, with 500kg of that being the batteries. Apode told us: "DS Performance products are not sports cars, but fast GT cars. They have high performance, but are easy to drive and comfortable. It's about connecting luxury and performance."

It's possible that the E-Tense could make production, with Apode explaining that with enough demand from customers it's a possibility. But DS says the concept car is more of an indication of the changes it will make to its range in the coming years.

The new brand will have six new models on sale worldwide before 2020, including two SUVs and at least one saloon to take on rivals from around the world like BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Lexus. However, the brand is keen to keep its French heritage to heart, as well as take things at its own pace – as Apode put it, "moving too quickly could kill the brand".

Get all the latest from the 2016 Geneva Motor Show here...

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