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This is a very special review, since we’ve got with us a car that is made by the same company that builds the 2.8-million Dirham Chinese Presidential Limousine. For those of you wondering about the model in question, it’s the Hongqi H7 and no, it’s not pronounced Hong-Key, it’s Hon-Chee. Now that you’ve successfully completed your first lesson in Mandarin, let’s look at the Hongqi H7 and see if it can take on American, Koreans and Japanese mid-size competitors such as the Chevrolet Impala, Kia Cadenza, and Lexus ES.
A Chinese executive limousine, the Hongqi H7 pledges its allegiance to the country with a bold, red hood ornament that symbolizes the country’s flag. Dedicated to the likes of VIPs and dignitaries, the H7 is available in three very executive colors (Black, Grey, and Brown) but since the dull palette is unlikely to turn any heads, it does get 18-inch alloy wheels, a big vertical chrome grille, LED headlights, and LED Daytime Running Lights. Although it isn’t much of a looker, what can be said is that the Hongqi H7 is different from everything else out there and because all the badges are in Chinese, other motorists are likely to gaze with a sense of mystery.
Being an executive limousine, the backseats are an extremely important part of the H7. Space in the back is brilliant with loads of legroom and headroom, and you can even move the front passenger seat out of the way for more space with the simple press of a button. To ensure greater comfort, the rear seats do recline electrically, there are soft pillows on each of the headrests, and there are vanity mirrors integrated into the headliner to make sure you look like a million dollars before pulling up to your next business meeting.
Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be said about the other half of the cabin. In the front, the H7 looks old, feels old, and has significantly more plastic than anyone would be comfortable with in an executive limousine. Much like the exterior, the cabin is available in three executive colors (Black, Grey, Brown) and has plenty of artificial wood to distract from bland design. The positioning of the arm rest on the door panels is splendid and something that other manufacturers should look into, but unfortunately it is overshadowed by the tacky red carpets that look like rough door mats.
Although the general vibe of the cabin is more 1998 than 2020, there are features that one would/should appreciate in the H7. For instance, there’s a Tri-Zone climate control system, which is a great feature, except that since it involves a touch sensitive control panel (which isn’t very sensitive) you have to really dig your fingers into the touchpad before it understands what you’re trying to do. Then, there’s an 8-inch infotainment screen, Bose sound system, and a rear-view camera with sensors all around, not bad, right?
Before you agree to the above statement, you should know that there are two more comical features of the H7. Firstly, there’s the Navigation button that does nothing when pressed. That’s right, there’s a button but no navigation installed in the vehicle. There’s also a Voice Command system, which is another great feature, but sadly it only accepts commands in Chinese and since we don’t know any Chinese, it wasn’t much use to us. Having said that, there is a Swing feature on the air-conditioning system that is very, very unique. Much like the wall-mounted A/C you probably have at home, the H7’s A/C has a swing function that distributes the air evenly around the cabin by moving the blades in the center A/C vents electrically. It’s different and a first in any car we’ve tested.
A 3.0-liter, six cylinder pushing out 228 horsepower and 300 Nm of torque to the front wheels through a 7-speed dual clutch transmission is what powers the Hongqi H7 and because it delivers power in a liner manner, it feels fast and can easily reach highway speeds. In city driving, the Hongqi H7 is quiet with almost no road or wind noise, and the independent suspension really irons out all imperfections in the road. In terms of driving aids, the H7 gets a traditional cruise control but misses a lot of new-age features that other competitors offer such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist.
As far as driver engagement goes, the steering is numb and dead at center, meaning there is a lot of input needed from the steering before the car begins the change direction. Due to bad engine mounts, bad wheel alignment or balancing, our test car also shook vigorously after crossing 80km/h. It was so intense that the rearview mirror became unusable and features like a seat massage weren’t missed since the entire car shuddered, giving what can only be described as an involuntary full body massage.
All in all, the Hongqi H7 would have been a great executive sedan if it were priced properly, say between the 70,000 to 80,000 Dirham price range. Unfortunately, it costs an unexplainable 177,000 Dirhams including VAT in the UAE and that doesn’t make much sense because if you go to YallaMotor.com and do a simple search for new sedans in that price range, you can buy cars like the Genesis G80, the Infiniti Q70, or the Toyota Avalon. It’s almost like Hongqi has brought a feather-weight boxer to a heavyweight match, it simply isn’t a good strategy.