President, no doubt!

When you’re getting on in life and can afford the nicer things, you go out to fancier restaurants more often, take flights to distant, exotic holidays, and buy expensive watches. Off the rack suits just won’t do, now they have to be tailor-fitted and fabrics carefully chosen.

Your architect designs your house to your exact desires and for the most part, you get to express your individualism. Unfortunately, when it comes to cars, you kinda have to fit in.

If you think of a luxury car, the mind almost instinctively gravitates to the German marques, Mercedes, BMW and AUDI. Alternatives are the British marques like Land Rover and Jaguar, which are just as conventional, as is the only serious offering from Japan, Lexus. It’s a question of either or. But what if you want unassuming luxury? A car that doesn’t shout, yet oozes luxury and refinement.

Officially known as the PJFG50 the 2010 Nissan President is from a little-known era of luxury, exclusively available to the Japanese Domestic Market, otherwise known as JDM. JDM cars are usually special limited edition sports cars, or, as with the President, part of a ritzy clique of super saloon limousines available for the high and mighty of Japan. The Toyota Century, Mitsubishi Debonair and Isuzu Statesman were the rest of the local gang to take on the Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series invasion.

The likes of Nissan taking on the three-pointed star on luxury is at best laughable. But then again, everyone laughed when David stepped up to Goliath, and look how that turned out.

The President commands presence and continues to be impressively imposing every time you look at it. It’s a handsome brute in a suit stretching out over 5 metres.

Those classic and elegant lines trace back to 1965 when the President became the flagship offering from Nissan and even the Japanese Prime Minister back then had one. The only one in Kenya that I know of is a 2010 Sovereign model that I drove some four years back and still see on my way to work.

It comes with a 4.5 litre V8 for an impressive 480 Nm of torque, which is necessary to tow the nearly two tonnes of luxury. 270 horsepower may not seem like much but it’s the torque that gives the desired velvety smooth acceleration and makes the vehicle feel comfortable with its weight.

The 5 Speed auto also stretches out the gearing, which additionally smoothens out the ride. It’s a comfortable cruiser for statesmen and ambassadors, not for excited boy racers trying to impress college girls with their 0- 100kph times. It does not accelerate; it advances.

As you can imagine it’s a nuisance to manoeuvre in a tight parking lot but that’d be beside the point, as you’d have a driver to take care of such prosaic pursuits.

As the name suggests, you must be very important and even if you’re the president of the local chess club, you sit in the back. Apart from the lavish equipment, including a BOSE sound system, there’s a host of other electronic doodahs controlled from a panel in the rear central armrest.

Most impressive is the “relaxing seat” which slides the front passenger seat all the way to the dashboard, allowing you enough space to do a bit of yoga on the way to work. Not even a Rolls Royce offers you this much legroom!

Contemporary Nissan design seems too busy, haphazard and unrestrained. You don’t get the same sense of iconic permanence as you did with say a 510 or a 240Z. They may dominate global crossover sales with the hugely successful X-Trail and Qashqai and they may set our pants on fire with the R35 GTR.

But, for all the tarmac-torching performance on tap, it simply doesn’t command presence like its predecessor, the R34.

The President is a special car in this regard. It’s a tribute to the alternative, a one-hit wonder that stays fresh forever. It’s that well-dressed yet unassuming guest at a party. It speaks volumes of the personality of the owner, yet discloses very little. It’s a car made with passion and precision to take on the world’s best and were it not for badge snobbery, almost does.

But good luck trying to get your hands on one; the President nameplate went out of production in 2010 which, coupled with its build quality, design and rarity should see it become a classic in the not too distant future. It’s special because it’s how cars are supposed to be, brimming with personality, and in a time where most cars are designed by the marketing department to a budget set by the accounting department, it’s nice to see a car designed by the heart department. An absolute classic punching above its class.

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