Some are humble and some are not, but their cars tell the whole story.
There are many perks to being a world leader. Whether you're a king/queen, president, dictator or pope, one thing heads of state in any country around the world all share in common is that they usually get to ride in some badass cars. OK, not all of them are badass but 9/10 they are pretty damn cool. These state vehicles are almost always armored to infinity and are nothing like the cars sold on the civilian market. Here are some of the most interesting choices from around the world.
We hate to admit it but UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s Jaguar XJ Sentinel is a pretty sweet ride. While most heads of state have to drive around in boring and ugly limousines, he gets the ultimate car for a villain. Of course this XJ is heavily armored to protect the Prime Minister from any attacks and a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 gives the Jag plenty of getaway power. It isn’t too likely that Cameron will need it, though, because when parading down the street this Jag is surrounded by Range Rovers from Jaguar’s sister brand. The irony of the whole situation is that Indian car company Tata Motors bought both Jaguar and Land Rover. Fitting that a country once invaded by the Brits now sells cars to its leader. At least Cameron has his Nissan as backup.
The Toyota Century is the flagship car of Japan, so it’s unfortunate that its name is also indicative of how old the car looks. The Century was initially introduced in 1967 and was bought by both Yakuza mobsters and Japanese prime ministers throughout its history. The engine inside the Century is Japan’s first and only V12 and it is one of the least-stressed engines out there, producing only 305 horsepower despite its capacity. Toyota reliability comes standard, and just for extra measure the engine has one ECU for each bank so that the engine can at least run on half its cylinders should a problem arise. That level of attention to detail extends to the whole car; even the door handles electronically open since a mechanical system is too noisy.
Nearby in China, things aren’t so different with President Xi Jinping’s ride. Looking equally as old as the Toyota Century is his Hongqi limousine, which also doubles as the country's most expensive domestic car with a cost equivalent to $801,624. For that cash Jinping gets a 20-foot-long car, a 400-horsepower 6.0-liter V12 (take that, Toyota Century), an eight-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive because Beijing snow is no joke for a 6,000-pound machine. Despite its weight, the limousine still boasts a 0-60 mph time of eight seconds, but occupants would never feel the strain. Inside things stay fairly retro but get a modern touch with a host of electronic gizmos, a two-spoke steering wheel, and enough wood and leather to save a few endangered pandas.
Russia likes to do its own thing without intervention from the European Union. That’s why despite its recent economic crash the country invested $54 million to retire the very not-Russian Mercedes S-Class and instead build the Cortege limousine. Like Obama’s "Beast," the Cortege will feature plenty of safety features like VR7 ballistic armor, the highest rating for an armored car. Currently the car is in its final stages of development and the only thing we know about it (aside from the fact that it looks like a perfect way to embody Russia in a car) is that it will have a twin-turbocharged V12 from Porsche. Of course Russian citizens are rightfully pissed that they have to foot the bill for such an expensive car when many don't own their own ride.
The president of Uruguay is one hell of a guy. Unlike Vladimir Putin’s expensive automotive experiment, President Jose Mujica drives around in an original Volkswagen Beetle. Not much more gearhead credibility can be given to a president who has the gall to drive a classic and unarmored car. The president is also a charitable man, donating 85% of his salary to the poor and to budding entrepreneurs. In other words, he either has no money to buy something else or he likes the whole “man of the people” image. Either way, we think it works well because how much more personable would our president be if he pulled up to a State of the Union Address in a peace and love Beetle?