Is This Vladimir Putin’s Secret Armored Limo?
And if it is, when will it actually be rolled out?
The W221 Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullman may be fit for a sultan, but a KGB limo, it ain't. Multiple Russian engineering and design firms collaborated to form "Project Cortege" in 2012, with an eye toward creating a brand-new lineup of premium vehicles to escort Russia's highest officials, including a fellow named Vladimir Putin. Economic downturn raised speculation that the project would be iced, but reports from Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov suggest the first Project Cortege prototype limousine is due in January.
"We haven't frozen anything," Manturov told reporters last month. "All plans are not just being maintained, they are being realized. We're not going to show [the limousine] to anyone. The intrigue should be maintained until the final moment. In fact we will have the first running prototype in January. We should deliver the first pre-production examples to the FSO [Federal Protective Service], and you'll see them during the inauguration."
The first rolling prototype from Project Cortege is expected to be demonstrated strictly for Kremlin officials’ eyes. However, a public debut of Putin's new limo isn't expected until the next presidential inauguration in 2018.
The new range of Project Cortege models are poised not only to serve Putin and his inner circle, but to produce a lineup featuring a new SUV, minivan and sedan variants to serve various Russian government agencies, ministries, regional governments and some private citizens. The new range replaces the S-Class Pullman limousine, modified W463 Mercedes-Benz G500 SUVs and the S500 Guard sedan used by Russian security agency FSO. Specifically, the new Russian limousine as well as the guard sedans are expected to feature VR7 ballistic armor specs. Other defensive features include a separate oxygen supply, automatic fire suppression, run-flat tires and communication gear.
Scale models of the prototype Cortege limousine were first shared in late 2014. The design features heavy Rolls-Royce influences, including a large upright grille, a high-beltline and heavy slab-sided body, narrow window openings, and generous chrome trims and details along the length of the vehicle.
Not surprisingly, the effort has met with skepticism, with project expenses coming primarily from Russian taxpayers. What's more, Russia has just seen a 25-percent drop in new car sales in 2015, creating a glut of unsold cars in the nation.
Cold, however, has never deterred determined Russians. Watch this space for the latest from the Kremlin.