Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the Russian capital on Monday, kicking off his ninth visit to the country in ten years. The trip began with all the grandeur one might expect of a state visit by such an important guest, including a large ceremonial cortege driving Xi to his talks with President Putin in the Kremlin.
The fleet of black limousines carrying Xi Jinping and the Chinese delegation through the streets of Moscow included an ultra-rare model – the Hongqi N701, a Chinese-made luxury car produced for high-ranking officials.
The N701s were first spotted in Moscow two days before Xi’s visit, traveling along Leninsky Prospect – one of the wide prospects in the center of the Russian capital.
Although the car made its debut in China in July 2022 during President Xi’s visit to Hong Kong, very little information about it has been publicized. The five+ meter-long limo features a stretched B-pillar, an extended, traditional-style hood, and a truncated trunk, in line with currently luxury automotive design fashions.
The distinct, stretched chrome-accented red flag hood ornament gives away the car’s brand and status (Hongqi literally means ‘red flag’ in Mandarin). Similar designs have featured on the hoods of all of the N701’s predecessors all the way back to the first Hongqi, model name CA72, which debuted in 1958 and was modeled after the Soviet GAZ-13 Chaika.
The N701 features a large, conservative grill, rectangular headlights, inconspicuous tail lights (accented by a large bar of chrome extending from one end of the rear of the vehicle to the other), dual exhaust, and a shark fin antenna toward the rear of the roof.
No other information is publicly available, but Chinese media assume that the N701 is fitted with either a V8 or V12 engine (domestically sourced), and armor protection.
The N701 is the successor of the N501, a smaller, bolder, arguably less stately-looking state car which debuted in 2018.
The N701 serves alongside the CA7600L, better known as the Hongqi L9, a limousine whose distinctive retro-style features harken back to the original Hongqi CA72. The L9 debuted in 2009, and is perhaps best known Chinese limousine among foreign observers due to its distinct appearance and regular use in military parades.
The Hongqi brand is owned by First Auto Works, a Chinese automotive giant which produces millions of cars, vans, SUVs, trucks, buses and other personal and commercial vehicles each year.
While the N701 is unavailable for purchase, Hongqi does offer a pair of vehicles to console anyone seeking a taste of Chinese luxury (provided they have the money to buy it): the H5 sedan and the HQ9 minivan. The brand enjoys popularity in several countries in the Middle East and northern Europe, and is expected to arrive in Russia in the coming years following European car makers’ exit from the Russian market.