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Eastern luxury car alternatives: Aurus Senat, Hongqi L5 and Toyota Century

By Ghaith Madadha - Jan 30,2023 - Last updated at Jan 30,2023

With German and British leaders spoilt for choice for official state cars, Italians often opting for the sporty Maserati Quatroporte and the US presidency relying on the truck-based, Cadillac-badged “beast”, the choice of such high level, high exposure transport is a matter of pride for industrial nations. A sought after status by manufacturers, the association can become part of a car’s mythos, with the Citroen DS even credited with saving Charles de Gaulle from assassination.

While the French presidency downgraded to a less glamorous crossover in recent years, Eastern industrial nations have instead maintained or reinvigorated their small specialised domestic luxury car segment. With Japan’s Toyota Century soldiering on uninterrupted, a re-imagined retro-influenced Hongqi limousine meanwhile become the flagbearer for China’s auto industry. A resurgent Russia has, however, launched the high tech Aurus brand in lieu of the Mercedes S-Class that temporarily replaced the iconic and formidable, but dated Zil.


Aurus Senat

Spiritual successor to the Zil limousine, the Aurus Senat is Russia’s Rolls Royce-rivalling high roller that shares similarly enormous dimensions, luxuriously long bonnet, arrogant aura and a huge upright chrome-ringed grille. With a more vertical design orientation and more curved surfacing than the Zil, the Senat is spacious and luxuriously appointed inside, with quality leather, metal accents and open pore wood trim. 

The only retail sale Aurus yet, the standard length S600 shares its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged hybrid V8 engine with armoured and state car sister models. Developing 590BHP at 5,500rpm and 649lb/ft throughout a broad 2,200-4,750rpm, supplemented with a 61BHP electric motor positioned between its combustion engine and 9-speed automatic gearbox, the S600’s estimated 737lb/ft total system output provides effortlessly muscular versatility.

Putting power down through a sure-footed all-wheel-drive system, the S600 propels its 2,650kg heft through 0-100km/h in 5.8-seconds and onto 250km/h, while a more powerful 6.6-litre V12 version is speculated to be in the pipeline. Engineered for Russian winter conditions, the S600’s all-wheel-drive delivers reassuring road holding over ice, while generous SUV-like 200mm ground clearance provides an advantage over rough snow-covered roads. Driving modes meanwhile include an “all-road” setting. 

Riding on a far more sophisticated fully independent suspension system than its Zil predecessors, the Senat’s ride quality should match western rivals, while optional air dampers provide enhanced comfort and body control. Extensively equipped with driver assistance and safety systems including forward collision, lane departure and blindspot warnings, the Senat’s comfort, convenience and tech features meanwhile include folding tables, privacy curtains, rear refrigerator and double glazed windows.



Engine: 4.4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8-cylinders, and electric motor

Gearbox: 9-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 590 (598) [440] @5,500rpm

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 649 (880) @2,200-4,750rpm

0-100km/h: 5.8-seconds

Top speed: 250km/h

Length: 5,630mm

Width: 2,020mm

Height: 1,685mm

Wheelbase: 3,300mm

Kerb weight: 2,650kg


Hongqi L5

Harking back to Hongqi’s long line of luxury limousines and state cars since 1958, the L5 is the retro-infused pinnacle of China’s rapidly growing and ever more sophisticated automotive industry. Introduced in 2014, and currently serving as an official state car, the ultra-luxury L5 flagship is, however, available for private purchase, unlike most of its predecessors, which were produced for government and state use.

Reminiscent of the 1966 CA770 model in particular in term of design detail, proportions and character, the L5 is a dramatically elegant and unapologetically formal three-box saloon with high and level waistline and roofline, slim vertical rear lights and jutting, high-set round headlights. Bearing a sharp and flowing version of Hongqi’s red flag emblem and broad vertically-slatted chrome grille, the L5 is meanwhile powered by a naturally-aspirated 6-litre V12 engine under it long bonnet.

Producing 402BHP at 5,600rpm and 405lb/ft torque at 4,000rpm, the L5’s smooth, powerful engine carries its vast 3,150kg mass to 210km/h, and can divert power to its front wheels for enhanced road holding. Enormous at 5,555mm long, the L5’s hugely spacious and upright cabin is designed as an invitingly impressive, sumptuous and tranquil environment elegantly decked with fine wood, leather, metal, jade and silk and equipped with an abundance of comfort and convenience features.



Engine: 6-litre, V12-cylinders

Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 402 (408) [300] @5,600rpm

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 405 (550) @4,000rpm

Top speed: 210km/h

Length: 5,555mm

Width: 2,018mm

Height: 1,578mm

Wheelbase: 3,435mm

Kerb weight: 3,150kg


Toyota Century

A car that makes the Lexus LS look no more imposing than a glorified Toyota Camry, the giant Japanese auto manufacturer’s true luxury flagship is in fact the Toyota Century. First launched in 1967 and in its third generation since 2018, the Century’s evolutionary yet conservative aesthetic is a model of understated elegance and clarity, with its crisp lines, clean surfacing, upright cabin, long bonnet and level waistline and roofline.

An ultra luxury domestic model employed by the Japanese imperial household in stretched limousine and four-door convertible parade car guises, the standard Century is meanwhile designed with passenger comfort at the forefront. The vast Century’s low sill cabin is easily accessible, spacious, comfortable and understatedly luxurious rather than ostentatious. It features big comfortable reclining rear seats with a left side foot rest, privacy curtains and a choice of leather or wool upholstery.

Tastefully restrained in style yet boasting extensive comfort, convenience infotainment and safety systems, the Century’s driveline is similarly sophisticated with its hybrid system and naturally-aspirated 5-litre V8 engine positioned behind its broad and intricately styled grille. Developing 375BHP at 6,200rpm and 376lb/ft torque at 4,000rpm, the Century’s engine drives the rear wheels through continuously variable transmission, and is aided by an electric motor for a total 425BHP system output.



Engine: 5-litre, V8-cylinders, and electric motor

Gearbox: eCVT, rear-wheel-drive

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 375 (381) [280] @6,200rpm

Combined power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 425 (431) [317]

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 376 (510) @4,000rpm

Length: 5,335mm

Width: 1,930mm

Height: 1,505mm

Wheelbase: 3,090mm

Kerb weight: 2,370kg


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