President Putin, inaugurated for a fourth term on Monday, drove the estimated 200m distance from the Kremlin's Senate building to Andreevsky Hall in the brand new Russian-made extended wheelbase limo, rather than his traditional Mercedes S600 Pullman.
Project Kortezh, officially called the 'Unified Modular Platform', envisions the creation of a family of luxury vehicles, including a limousine, sedan and minivan, based on a single platform. The vehicles, developed by the NAMI State Research Center in cooperation with automotive holding company Sollers, are expected to be marketed under the 'Aurus' brand (a blend of the Latin word Aurum, i.e. 'Gold' – and Rus, Russia).
During the ceremony, the new limousine could be seen driving through the Kremlin accompanied by nine motorcycle outriders, easily swallowing up light bumps in the road. The vehicle, painted a traditional presidential black, features a large square-shaped chrome grille, rectangular headlights, chrome accents along its windows and rocker panels, an understated rear, and flashing lights emanating from near the license plate.
NAMI has partnered with Porsche and Bosch to develop the lineup of vehicles. Porsche is thought to be working on one of the two engines to be made available for the project, and is rumored to have developed a modified 4.6 liter V8 turbocharged engine featuring 600 hp and 650 ft-lb of torque. The second engine is a NAMI creation, first shown at the Moscow International Auto Show in 2016. That engine is expected to displace 6.6 liters, and to develop 860 hp and 737 ft-lb of torque.
Cortege vehicles are expected to be equipped with a nine-speed automatic transmission produced by Russian transmission specialist KATE.
It is common practice for countries with an automotive industry to have their top officials travel exclusively in domestically designed and produced vehicles. This is the case in the United States, Japan, China, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy. This was also the case in the Soviet Union as well, starting in the late 1940s. First Russian President Boris Yeltsin rejected the tradition in 1997, when he switched over from a ZIL to an armored Mercedes-Benz. After the 2012 elections, Vladimir Putin confirmed that he wants to change this state of affairs.
Speaking to the nation during his annual Direct Line press event last month, Putin offered his thoughts on the need for the Cortege project: "A country like Russia must produce a line of cars that the country's top officials will use. We are working on this. I hope that by the end of 2018 this will materialize, and this will be a line of cars not only for top officials, like limos, but also SUVs, minibuses, hatchbacks, and others – that is, it will be a brand new line of domestically produced cars."
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