New developments in the story of the Beijing Auto BJ90, a car that has been looking ready for the Chinese car market for a very long time but still hasn’t been launched. We have a lot of new photos, the first set showing a black example at a hotel in the mountains near Beijing with blue Beijing license plates.
That should not be possible. A car that isn’t officially launched can’t get plates; period. They are not test-car plates either, those look very different. It could be a car from a Beijing Auto big-wit. The company is largely owned by the Beijing city government, and I guess they can find any plate if they need one.
The Beijing Auto BJ90 is based, down until the alloys, on the X166 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. Beijing Auto can use the GL under a technology-transfer agreement with Mercedes-Benz, in the same way as the upcoming Senova C90L sedan will be based on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class L.
The relationship isn’t always very smooth however; Daimler-Benz is reportedly still very pissed off about the Beijing Auto BJ80, a G-Class clone that was developed without any permission or support of the Germans.
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is presently sold in China as an import with price ranging from 1.03 million yuan to 1.52 million yuan, but the new GLS is on the way and will arrive in Q1 2016. Price for the BJ90 will start around 800.000 yuan or 125.000 USD.
The Beijing Auto BJ90 will be manufactured by Beijing Auto Works (BAW), just like the Beijing Auto BJ40. It will be sold via the Beijing Auto dealer network, alongside the Senova range. It is by far the largest passenger car Beijing Auto has ever made.
Interestingly, BAW doesn’t really seem to ‘make’ the BJ90. We have seen photos of a parking lot at the factory filled to the absolute max with GL-Class cars. It appears that BAW just changes body panels, parts of the dashboard, rear seats, and badges, and leaves it at that. This is not uncommon in China, Hongqi for example created the CA7460 in exactly the same way.
The drivetrain of the BJ90 is completely Mercedes; it will be available with two engines: a 3.0 twin-turbo V6 with 333hp and 480nm (GL400), and a 4.0 twin-turbo V8 with 421hp and 600nm (GL500). Transmission is the MB seven-speed automatic, sending power to all four wheels via the MB 4matic four-wheel drive system.
The Beijing Auto BJ90 will compete directly with the upcoming Hongqi LS5 SUV, which will be powered by a 4.0 twin-turbo V8 with 381hp and 530nm, mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The 4.0 V8 with the BAW logo on the engine cover.
The interior too is taken from Mercedes. Beijing Auto only changed the steering wheel and the layout of the center stack to fit a bigger screen. The center tunnel, the instrument panel, the upholstery, and even the seats were all left unchanged.
BAW did make some changes in the back, replacing the bench with two captain seats and a fixed armrest.
The next set of photos was taken in a residential compound, showing a green example.
It is not a bad looking car but if they wait any longer it will start to look outdated. Earlier on we heard rumors that the BJ90 was going to be a car for military VIPs only. The generals are now mostly transported in the Mercedes G-Class, and it was said that the government wanted a Chinese alternative.
That is a possibility. The government is well known for such vanity projects. But how Chinese is the BJ90? It is just a Benz really, with a few new panels and new badges. However, it is the perception that matters here. People will see it and think it is Chinese. That is usually enough for the gov.
Beijing Auto badge on the lower-left, Beijing badge in the middle under the window. Cars that are made by BAW are usually sold under the ‘Beijing’ brand, so the full name of this fine car is the Beijing Auto Beijing BJ90.
First time we see this very pretty turbo badge with a red T.