Without getting into the politics of whether or not this is a good idea, Yahoo Autos is reporting that Porsche has apparently been retained for their engineering expertise to assist the Russian government, under the direction of Vladimir Putin, to help the four major Russian auto makers (Sollers, GAZ, KAMAZ, and ZIL) in an effort to develop a new range of unique vehicles for government use. The Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Russian government’s official newspaper of record, reports that work on the new vehicles started on February 6, and has been given the designation of 'Project Cortege'. Now-defunct Russian supercar maker "Marussia" were also involved in the project, but their bankruptcy has been said not to have affected the project, and won't change the outcome.
Russian dignitaries are currently using a long wheelbase version of Mercedes-Benz's famous S-Class sedan. The under-development vehicle range in question is intended to replace the Russian fleet of aging Mercs with a new "all-Russian" design.
Cortege is funded by the Russian government to the tune of 12.6 billion rouble, or about $377 million. The aim is to bring the major automakers together to create a modular platform to underpin a series of limousines, SUVs, and large capacity people-movers. The vehicles will be primarily for state use, though may be offered to members of the general public as well. The documents related to Project Cortege have listed 40,000 units as the production goal for the SUV version, though no production forecast is listed for the limousine or the 'people-mover'. Production is expected to begin in 2017, with prototypes finished and testing completed by 2016.
Porsche has been an engineering-firm-for-hire since the company's inception, and continues to farm out their engineering department to assist a myriad of other automakers, among other industrial purposes. Based on the design of this one, I'd venture that Porsche were used as little more than 'consultants', and not design heads. The over-the-top and questionably styled look of the new project is certainly typical of Russian automakers. It would seem that Mr. Putin would like to at least attempt to ape President Obama's Cadillac-built "Beast" transporter, as many stylistic choices seem to have been somewhat-incorrectly cribbed from that car, with a twist of Rolls-Royce Phantom mixed in for good measure.
President Putin was reported to have rejected a few designs already that were determined to be "too square", on grounds that they were reminiscent of Soviet-era designs. This series of pre-approved preliminary design mock-up images show off the limousine version of the platform. The interior appears plush and comfortable in the same way a mid-nineties Cadillac would be considered plush and comfortable (ie. overstuffed seating and a less-than-world-class level of fit and finish). There are a number of massive Russian government crests embroidered into the steering wheel and door panels, and as we all know, large scale embroidery just screams 'class' and 'sophistication'. That steering wheel, by the way, appears to have been parts-binned from a late 2000s Ford Mondeo, for some strange reason. What is not clear, however, is just how much will change between now and when the final designs are built.
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Photos: Rossiyskaya Gazeta