Hongqi, China’s oldest automaker, is getting ready to launch an ultraluxurious limousine billed as a locally built alternative to high-end European sedans like the Bentley Mulsanne.
Named L5, the car is essentially a smaller, more affordable version of the L9, which was developed specifically for elite members of China’s ruling communist party. Calling it a base model would be a gross understatement; in concept form (pictured), it weighs nearly 7,000 pounds and it stretches 216 inches from bumper to bumper.
Hongqi is on an ambitious mission to return to its former glory, so every L-series model stands out with a retro look inspired by the 1963 CA770 that carried heads of states for decades. The brand’s name means red flag in Chinese, which explains the flapping flag-shaped emblems on the hood and on both front fenders. Under the skin lies a sturdy frame borrowed from Toyota’s Land Cruiser off-roader, according to Russian website AutoReview.
The heritage-laced design continues inside with a twin-spoke steering wheel and a chromed horn ring that would look right at home in a 1955 Chrysler. However, Hongqi tried to blend tradition with 21st-century tech. To that end, the instrument cluster is replaced by a wide color screen mounted in the middle of the dash, and the infotainment system is displayed on a second screen installed in front of the shift lever. Real wood trim, thick carpet, and soft leather upholstery create an upscale ambiance.
Up until this point, all members of the L-series family have used a naturally aspirated, 6.0-liter V12 engine. The L5 will break with tradition by adopting a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that makes about as much power as the 12, and an eight-speed automatic transmission that spins the rear wheels. The eight-cylinder is more modern, lighter, and cheaper to build than its bigger counterpart. Neither engine’s origins have been disclosed, though it’s worth noting Mercedes builds both a 6.0-liter V12 and a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8.
It’s no secret that well-heeled Chinese motorists have a healthy appetite for luxury cars, and Hongqi is finally getting serious about taking on better-established European rivals in its home market. AutoReview reports the L5 will carry a base price of roughly four million yuan, a sum that converts to approximately $580,000. That sounds eye-wateringly expensive, but China’s homegrown luxo-barge will actually be cheaper than a Bentley Mulsanne once import taxes are factored in.