British car enthusiasts are up in arms after news emerged that our next Prime Minister, whoever that may be, will be ditching the traditional Ministerial Jaguar, for an Audi after the Metropolitan Police ordered a fleet of armoured cars from the German manufacturer.
The current Prime Ministerial car is a long-wheelbase Jaguar XJ Sentinel with level B7 ballistic protection including bullet proof doors, pillars, glass, roof and wheel arches. The floor is protected against grenade attack. It costs about £400,000, and was introduced in 2010 equipped with a powerful 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine.
British PMs have been driven around in Jaguars since the 1980s, however Jaguar ended production of the XJ two years ago and its current range-topper is the F-Pace, an SUV.
Why the Audi A8?
According to news reports, 10 new Audi A8 armoured limousines have been ordered to replace the ageing Jaguars. The Audi A8 L Security boasts a fully protected passenger cell with a VR9 security rating. It also has built-in fire extinguishers, additional communications equipment, explosive door hinges, its own emergency air supply and run-flat tyres.
All of this makes it heavy at 3875kg, but it gets the powertrain of the sporty S8 model with a 563bhp V8 allowing it to accelerate from rest to 62mph in 6.3 seconds while the top speed is limited to 130mph. It's priced at over £600,000. With all that in mind, we're frankly not surprised by the upgrade.
Top Car Brands with World Leaders
According to research by Bill Plant Driving School, the Audi A8 was only second on the list of the most popular brands among the world leaders. They found that 17 of the 299 cars used by political elite were BMWs and specifically the 7 Series, including King Philippe of Belgium and New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
The Audi A8 came in at second place (15 cars), followed by the Mercedes S-Class in third (14 cars). The Toyota Land Cruiser was next, followed by another SUV, the Chevrolet Suburban rounding out the top five.
In terms of brands alone, it's no surprise that Mercedes came out on top, with 67 of the 299 cars hailing from the storied German marque. Cambodia's Prime Minister has four and Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has three.
Cars for PMs, Presidents and Royalty
Breaking it down by VVIP levels, for Prime Ministers the Mercedes again was the most popular brand, with 15 of the 69 cars assigned to them featuring a three-pointed star on the bonnet. This includes Bangladesh's Sheikh Hasina and Netherland's Mark Rutte. Toyota was the second most popular brand, followed by BMW, Audi and Land Rover.
Moving up to Presidents, Mercedes again took the lead with 40 out of 142 cars. Benz was favoured by the presidents including of India ((Droupadi Murmu) and Germany (Frank-Walter Steinmeier). Perhaps astonishingly, Toyota and then Audi were again second and third, but fourth was Chevrolet followed by Range Rover.
Moving up to Royalty, it's a little reassuring to know that the maker of 'world's best cars' as it's often labelled, Rolls-Royce came top as the preferred choice of Kings and Queens across the lands, with 11 out of 73 cars examined being from the exalted British marque.
Mercedes was close though at nine cars, followed by Bentley, Lexus and, get ready to do a double-take here, Volvo!
Custom Rides of the Big Two
When it comes to arguably the two most powerful world leaders on the planets, the Presidents of the United States of America and Russian Federation, their cars typically don’t feature on any list because they’re either custom made or not widely available.
For example, President Putin’s car is an Aurus Motors Senat Limousine, which was developed by NAMI, which is Russia’s Central Scientific Automobile Research Institute, although the 4.4-litre V8 that powers it, is said to have been developed with input from Porsche and Bosch of Germany.
While the styling is claimed to be inspired by the classic 1950s ZIS-110 saloon, it appears to resemble current Rolls-Royce models. It features a number of life-saving, offensive and defensive measures as specified by The Russian Federal Protective Services.
Meanwhile the American President's State Car, often referred to as 'The Beast', 'Cadillac One' or 'First Car', is an entirely custom-made tank on wheels built by General Motors. The cars are all badged as Cadillacs but actually based on a GMC lorry platform. The car is reported as weighing as much as a staggering nine tons.
Estimated to have cost over $15m to develop, it features defensive measures; is hermetically sealed; features run-flat tyres; night vision; smoke screens; can deploy oil slicks; boasts armour made of aluminium, ceramic and steel; 20cm thick-walled sections, multi-layered and 13cm thick glass; plus electrified door handles to fend off attackers; and a store of President Biden's blood.
The World's Most Humble Presidential Car
Jose Mujica served as President of Uruguay from 2010-2015, and he not only refused the benefits of office, but donated 90% of his salary to charity.
He continued to live on an old farm that belonged to his wife, and the only thing he owned was an old light blue, 1987 classic-style Volkswagen Beetle, valued at less than £2000, although he was reportedly offered $1m for it - which he turned down.
He regularly used the Beetle and famously drove to his Presidential inauguration in the VW flanked by his security detail.