Looking at recent offerings from Citroën, one is tempted to ask whether the magic is still there.
Sure, the DS3 and DS4 are stylish little cars, but is Citroën still capable of the dramatic flair that made the whole world sit up and take note when the DS19 was first shown, more than half a century ago?
DS, you may remember, is a contraction of 'deesse', the French word for goddess.
Well, if these pictures of the Numero 9 concept, a radical hybrid luxury 'shooting brake' due to debut at Beijing motor show, are anything to go by - the answer is a resounding “Oui!”
It's an intensely feminine, almost erotic collection of sensual curves, gently tailored outlines and an almost magical attention to detail that somehow manages to look effortless, as all true chic should.
Subtly combining the proportions of a coupé with those of an estate, it melds a long bonnet and ultra-low stance (it's only 1.27m tall) with perfectly tailored wheel-arches wrapped around 21” rims, on an elegant three-metre wheelbase.
The shape is as aerodynamically clean as it looks, with a rear spoiler to reinforce the fastback effect, A pillars sculpted to smooth the airflow around the glazed area and 'turbine' rims with integrated fins to direct air around the wheel arches.
As elegant as she undoubtedly is, the leggy lady in some of the photos is completely upstaged by the goddess on wheels with whom she is sharing the stage.
And if, from certain angles, it reminds you just a little of something you've seen before - this, my friend, is what the Porsche Panamera should have looked like.
At this year's Auto China expo in Beijing, Citroën will launch the stylish DS line of upmarket 'fashion cars' - the DS3, DS4 and DS5 - in China, and the Numero 9 concept serves to underline just how much more adventurous the styling of these cars is, when compared to the prêt-a-porter C series of hatches and MPV's.
While this is just a show car, Citroën says it signals the styling cues of the next three DS models, which will consist of a C-segment premium sedan and SUV on the same platform, and a seriously upmarket executive limo.
For the latter, what's wrong with just putting the Numero 9 into production?
Its plug-in hybrid drivetrain combines a conventional petrol or diesel engine (depending on the market) with an electric motor on the rear axle that develops 52kW and 200Nm, powered by lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged in just 3½ hours from a normal domestic socket.
1.7 LITRES PER 100KM
The show car is actually a runner - it has the 1.6-litre turbopetrol four that Citroën shares with BMW's Mini, tuned for 165kW and 275Nm.
However, it's capable of running up to 50km on battery power only, and limits consumption by switching the combustion engine to stand-by whenever it can get away with it.
Citroën claims fuel consumption of 1.7 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions of only 39g/km in an urban environment.
Then, when you really need to get up and go, it combines the power of the electric motor driving the rear wheels and the combustion engine powering the front wheels for a total of 218kW - good enough, says Citroen, for 0-100 in 5.4 seconds and a standing kilometre in just 25.3 seconds.
The Numero 9 will also switch to all-wheel drive when grip is lacking, using its hydraulic active suspension to improve traction.
All of which is very cool, but this car is really all about Style; unmistakably French, it oozes understated sex appeal from every line and curve. The Numero 9, clearly, was not so much shaped to please men as to annoy other females.
Welcome back, Citroën; the Goddess lives.