KOLKATA: It’s not just a change of address forincumbent President Pranab Mukherjee. For the first time in his five decade political career, Pranab will relinquish the Ambassador car manufactured in Uttarpara, West Bengal, and step into the Mercedes Benz S600 (W221)Pullman Guard crafted in Stuttgart, Germany.
The custom-built Presidential stretch limousine is an epitome of luxury with interiors that are plush, yet subtle. Once Mukherjee enters the car and the hydraulic doors shut with a soft thud, he will be cocooned from the din outside. The President’s portion of the limousine is separated from the driver’s cabin by a sound-proof glass partition. Inside, Mukherjee can tune into any genre of music or movie through an integrated entertainment system but he is most likely to stay abreast of current news on television while on the move.
While what’s visible to the eye will wow all the President’s men, it is what is hidden—the car’sincredible safety features—that actually makes the car a Presidential limousine. The heavily armored vehicle is ballistic resistant. Not only can it prevent penetration of gunshots from military rifles, it is also designed to withstand grenade attacks and fragments from explosives.
The Harmon-Kardon Logic 7 stereo sound system has 14 speakers, in-dash CD changer and hard drive based GPS satellite navigation system. Inside, there is fiber-optic ambient lighting for footwells and other areas. The leather cushioned seats have heating and active ventilation system. While the seats will be warmed in winter, there are small fans to keep the seats cool in summer and prevent perspiration in long journeys. The limousine is also equipped with Tele Aid that uses GPS tracking and cell phone service to provide assistance. An automatic call is made for help if any of the eight dual-stage air bags or seat belt tensioners gets deployed. “The Pullman is absolutely plush and state of the art. There is great attention to detail on everything that goes into the vehicle,” a Mercedes Benz source said.
The spacious passenger cabin has two rows of seats facing each other that will allow the President to hold face-to-face meetings. There is a refrigerator integrated in between the rear seats so that everyone can sip into something cool while discussing a burning issue.
“The protection systems in the vehicle is in line with weapon technologies. The car is tested for protection against AK 47, M 67 US hand grenade, 3 X DM hand grenade and parcel bombs,” the source said, adding that the windshields and windows have 60 mm polycarbonate coating glass and acts as a splinter shield. The 90-litre fuel tank is self sealing and there is an automatic fire extinguisher system on board, just in case. Also, there is an emergency fresh air system that filters the air and pumps it back into the cabin.
The Michellin Pax ‘bullet-proof’ tyres can continue to drive for 30 km at 80km/hr with total loss of air pressure. The car also has a panic alarm system that can be triggered from any seat. Once activated, all doors are automatically locked. The President or his staff can, without opening the windows or doors, speak to people around the car by an integrated communication system with interior and exterior microphones. The car also has a rear surveillance camera that provides the entire field of view, alerting the limousine driver in case of an ambush from behind.
The vehicle’s armory and the bevy of equipment factory-fitted equipment make it very heavy. Hence, it is powered by a brute of a V12 bi-turbo engine. If the chauffeur floors the accelerator after turning on the ignition, it can hit 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds flat.
All this doesn’t come cheap. The current cost of black limo that serves as the official transport of the nation’s first citizen is a whopping Rs 12 crore, a far cry from the bullet-proof white Amby that costs less that Rs 10 lakh.
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