By on September 4, 2015

saudisnotinaudisNotwithstanding Remy’s hugely popular Saudis in Audis rap video, it appears that Saudi Arabian King Salman and his entourage prefer Stuttgart and Detroit to Ingolstadt.

The King and his retinue arrived at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday, flying in on four Boeing 747 airliners for a state visit with President Obama. A fleet of Mercedes-Benz S Class sedans, Cadillac Escalade SUVs, a couple M-B Sprinter vans and what looks like one International school bus were awaiting Salman and his attendants. Carol Lee, the White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal tweeted out the photo above.

I count at least 32 S Classes and 23 Escalades. There’s no word if they are owned/leased by the Saudi embassy or if they were rented for the event. If purchased, the Saudis are at least keeping some of that money in the Gulf, as a Kuwaiti sovereign investment fund owns about 7% of Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company.

Not counting the AMG models, the big Mercs get between 18 and 20 mpg, and the Caddy SUVs get just 16 to 17 mpg. I suppose that makes them gas guzzlers by today’s standards but I’m sure that Salman and his crew won’t run out of gas money for the trip. Even as the price of petroleum has plummeted in response to the Saudis flooding the market with crude oil to retrieve market share from and put pressure on frackers in North America, the House of Saud is still making big bucks. At $2.67/gallon currently in Washington D.C., they will, however, be paying more than five times the 48 cents per gallon they are used to paying for gasoline back home.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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57 Comments on “The Saudi Royals Ride In Benzes and Escalades, Not Audis...”


  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    My dad used to visit Saudi Arabia in the early 1970’s for a job he had then. He told stories about how some of these guys were so rich than when their Cadillac (a popular car with them back then) had a breakdown, they’d just abandon it by the side of the road and go buy a new one.

    • 0 avatar
      Car-los

      I heard exactly the same thing from the dad of a friend who used to work there at about that time…

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      Sounds like pretty much every 1970’s era Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      There was this Saudi kid in college who moved in with a semi, whose back opened to exotic cars rolling off of it. I didn’t and still don’t understand why he went to a state school.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        most private/ivy league schools dont want “that kind” since he wouldnt be a good fit. and his GPA probably wasnt all that high either.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        More easily impressed young women, I would guess…purely a numbers game to him, I would guess.

        Doubt he needed a bluechip college degree to make his way in the world, so why not go for the parties?

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Lived there for two years (just got back this past April). Can’t say I ever saw any high-end cars sitting on the side of the road. Tons of crappy white Hyundais and Toyotas, but that’s about it. Did see the occasional royal (they have their own terminal at King Khalid International Airport after all) driving such things as Bentleys and the odd Lambo, but Benz still tends to be the roller of choice. That, and they do tend to love their GM SUVs…

  • avatar
    Joss

    Doing anything to help migrants from their part of the world?

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Why so many cars? Security? Flamboyance? Is the Royal Family that big?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Yes to all of the above. If you’re the third cousin of the Prince’s royal dog handler (I dunno if that’s a thing, but whatever), you’re part of the royal entourage. If one of the cars has some minor issue, they’ll just swap it out with another one and keep going. And having so many cars unequivocally communicates to the world that yes, we have money.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    I’ve been for work a few times and have a couple stories. When you rent a car its gas tank is empty – and I mean empty. Since they don’t charge for a refill it seems like your objective is to coast it into the return lot on fumes. You rent a new car in a foreign country and the car and the gauge is past E with the light on and you have no idea where a gas station is.

    So I had a couple days left on my trip and needed gas. I figured I’d do the same, so tried to calculate how much gas I needed so that I could return it empty. Maybe a third of a tank. As I pulled in I was having a hard time with the conversion, the math, the amount, the money. I ended up asking for something like 25 Riyals. That’s about 8 dollars.

    The guy stopped pumping and gave me change… the tank was full.

  • avatar

    There is NOTHING that audi makes that even compares to an S-class. The A8 is a JOKE by comparison. Not even a funny one.

    The W222 is the greatest luxury sedan on the road. NOT EVEN the RR Ghost or Phantom or Bentley anything even compares. $100,000 for a car designed better than $350,000 truck-sized Chrome-mobiles.

    The Escalade is the greatest luxury car on the American market.

    These people are sitting on a SEA OF OIL…they don’t need Tesla Model S and they would laugh at any liberal Greener who would dare suggest one.

    They need to carry a lot of people around in luxury and the S-class and Escalade are the most luxurious fleet vehicles they can have.

    I hate to say that about the Escalade however, because until GM raises the $90,000 Escalade, $70,000 XTS-Vsport and $70,000 CTS-Vsport to the same interior quality of the $55,000 C-class:

    *power headrests
    *power thigh cushions
    *multicontour seats
    *better interior cut and trim

    I simply can’t EVER get excited about a Cadillac.

    I guess the Saudis like Escalades cause American’s rich people do. Range Rovers and other expensive SUV’s aren’t that big. The Navigator being one of the few other Full-sized luxury trucks. And even the Navigator’s INTERIOR SUCKS.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Escalades are just delivery vans with chrome wheels. Nobody is going to have to ride in them with the luggage.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I expect these cars are rented and were what was available on short notice.

      I prefer the A8 interior to that of the S-Class. Yes, the S cabin is very well constructed and comfortable, but it’s also gaudy and ugly. The A8 cabin is a Bauhaus masterpiece by comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I think that’s probably every S-class in the region and I suspect S-class was specified.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        I’m with you on this one. The current A8 interior is outclassed by the W222 but it’s far nicer than the last generation S-class, and I’m sure the next A8 will be much nicer and more modern than the W222 interior is. I don’t think the giant, bezeled instrument cluster/nav screen will age well either. The S-class also just has too many different surfaces and materials; it’s way too busy. Audi does bauhaus style modernity in a way that no one else can touch.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “four Boeing 747 airliners”

    He’s bringing 1600 people?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I’m guessing some were carrying “stuff”. Also, I doubt those 747s are configured for regular airline service. It’s not like a Delta 747 with a 31″ pitch in economy and a flight attendant that throws a Biscoff cookie and a Sierra Mist at you then disappears for 3 hours.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Somebody flys too much Delta.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I don’t have a choice. Detroit is a fortress hub of epic proportions. I shouldn’t complain too much. Delta runs a very tight operational ship and knows how to maintain aircraft. If I was stuck at a United hub, I would have freaked out over the summer.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I thought Delta’s hub was in Atlanta?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Delta’s current hubs are as followed:

            Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
            Charles de Gaulle Airport
            Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
            Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
            Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
            John F. Kennedy International Airport
            LaGuardia Airport
            Logan International Airport
            Los Angeles International Airport
            Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport
            Narita International Airport
            Salt Lake City International Airport
            Seattle–Tacoma International Airport

            Detroit, Minneapolis, and Atlanta are fortress hubs. Delta controls over 70% of the traffic at each.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Delta has thoroughly ruined CVG by driving out competitors and then jacking prices sky-high. It’s why there used to be three busy terminals and now there is one medium-busy terminal. The other two are dark and filled with boxes and junk.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yeah, it will soon look like Delta’s former hub in Memphis. Being between DTW/MSP and Atlanta sucks for CVG. Plus, Delta told various businesses in Cinncinati to go f themselves. Toyota and Chiquita Banana up and left, in part, because of Delta ruining CVG.

            Heck, the only reason why the Paris flight still exists is all the GE engines Delta shuttles to Airbus.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ah yes I forgot about Chiquita. That was a big, total loss there. Toyota to a lesser extent, because they still have office bits around here and there. I work near to a Toyota regional office and training center up here.

            There’s also a BIG manufacturing place over the river in Kentucky, Toyota Boshoku. Directly on the other side of 275 from there is TSSC, Toyota Support Systems.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        “Stee-rike Three!” @bball40dtw. You nailed the modern American airline experience to a T. A very painful but very true observation…

        My guess is that the Saudis have also worked to perfect their cargo-carrying technology, in light of the unfortunate 747 experience in Afghanistan, when a cargo-carrying 747 had its cargo break loose on take off, leading to an untimely and tragic premature end of flight.

        But I would guess that many S-classes would represent close to a full cargo load for the 747, though I am too lazy to do the math right now.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      One of our clients customizes 747s (and now 787s and even A380s) as a private jet. Imagine the most opulent expenditure of money inside this plane and you don’t even come close to the reality of it. On at least one of them I’m aware of a solid gold toilet and sink installed onboard. And yes, the customers originate from either Dubai or Riyadh.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Based on what I keep hearing from people that spend lots of money on cars, Mercedes-Benz is now occupying the territory Cadillac did forty years ago. They’re bought by people that think they’re playing it safe and fitting in. Meanwhile, the people they’re trying to impress are talking about how tacky they are behind their backs. I think the CLS is the car that finally drove the point home that Mercedes-Benz isn’t the company it was when Mercedes-Benz was the car of fashion leaders. When they built a car that was just about conspicuous consumption instead of excellence, there was no more pretending they were excellent.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    S Classes are simply the best! BTW…DELTA stands for: Don’t Even Let Them Aboard!! LOL They are just about the worst airline. Always late to everywhere. Old planes. Crap service. City busses in the sky, basically.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Y U NO LIKE 35 YEAR OLD MD80?!?!?!

      Actually, they are better operationally than pretty much any airline in the world. They may have some old aircraft, but they get the job done. Don’t expect the same level of service as you get with Asiana, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Luftansa, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        DC-8s were still flying in limited service until last year. MDC FTW.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I flew on a Northwest DC9 in 2008/2009 that was built in 1967…

          I fly on Delta MD80s built in the 80s/90s all the time. I actually prefer them to the 737 and A320 in Delta’s fleet because I always sit near the front of coach and there is more legroom.

          Same goes for American airlines. When just my wife and I used to travel together, the two seat side of an AA MD80 that was toward the front of coach was the go-to.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            How does the FAA allow planes to fly civilian traffic at 38 years old?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s all about hours and cycles. NWA kept their DC9s impeccably maintained. When they finally stopped flying them, the average age of a Northwest/Delta DC9 was 35 years!

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Commercial aircraft can be flown basically indefinitely if maintained according to FAA standards. Aircraft maintenance is a LOT more rigorous than ground vehicle maintenance.

            There are limits on cycles and hours beyond which special “aging aircraft” maintenance programs need to be put in place, and airlines pretty much always retire airliners before those limits are exceeded. For short-haul airliners, the cycles limit is usually the one that comes up first.

            The DC-9 family was designed for extreme longevity, and has a crazy-high cycle limit: between 75,000 and 105,000 cycles depending on the particular aircraft. Think about that… over a 38-year service life, that’s between 5.4 and 8 flights per day, every single day. The Northwest/Delta aircraft were not close to those limits; the decision to retire them was made during the period of high fuel prices, and was based on fuel costs. They had undergone a complete interior renovation in the early 2000s (including new bins, walls, doors, toilets, seats, carpet, etc.) so most passengers had no clue of their age.

            Delta is now flying Boeing 717s, the last variant of the DC-9, that were built in the late ’90s and early 2000s and originally delivered to AirTran. Those airplanes may well be flying in 2030 or beyond.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thank you for such a detailed answer.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            I haven’t looked at the maintenance requirements lately, but it’s something like taking the entire plane apart every 5-6 years, with other periodic maintenance / inspections in between.

      • 0 avatar
        Tifighter

        I was following until you got to KLM, and especially, Lufthansa.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Well Lufthansa and KLM usually do better than the American carriers. The American carriers are better than Air France though. I don’t think the French ever wash their airplanes.

          The good Asian carriers are so much better than the American and Euro carriers though.

    • 0 avatar
      mitchw

      Whoa, whoa there, kmars. I once shared a bus ride from BAL to NYC with a Delta pilot meeting up with his jet for an evening flight. He had owned and wrenched his own C2 Corvette. Recently sold. Not sure if he was B&B.

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      You think Delta is the worst? HA HA, you have clearly never flown American Airlines.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Agreed. Out of all the Domestic airlines that actually fly into smaller airports (Unlike Virgin/Jet Blue/etc) Delta is by far and away the best. However, I thought old Northwest was better. They were a Minnesota-based corporation and just seemed friendly and down-to-earth.

        Sure, Delta isn’t perfect, it gets its butt kicked by the likes of Emirates/Cathay/etc, but for domestic travel its pretty darn good.

  • avatar
    daver277

    It’s easy to make comparisons between the current Saudi royal family and the pre-revolution French royal family.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I used to work in a multi-line luxury dealership, and corporate clients would periodically buy multiple vehicles…Anheuser Busch (pre InBev) would order 6 or 8 black LWB Escalades at a time, or Boeing would call and say they wanted a half dozen LS460s, but this is silly. What kind of entourage has this many cars?

    I read that they rented an entire hotel for this group.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Escalades are just fancy trucks that can be easily modified with any thing you like, including armor.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    These cars are U.S.-spec and U.S.-licensed. They aren’t totally uniform. It seems almost certain to me they were rented. Of course, getting that many cars of the right spec rented is no easy operation, and you have to admire the royals’ logistical staff for getting it done.

  • avatar

    Where’s a Lincoln Continental if you need one?

  • avatar
    tjcase

    The cars that most people like to drive in GCC states are Toyota Landcruiser,Prado and Nissan Patrol.These cars are not sold in the US.

  • avatar
    DearS

    The fact those folks roll around like they do, while people are dying and starving to leave the area, makes us gas loving people look like cowards!

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