What it's like being behind the wheel of an unstoppable armored vehicle
The SVI Max 9 APC is a juggernaut — and it costs an arm and leg
The presence of an armoured personnel carrier in any setting is ominous, threatening. Everyone knows that conflict is big business. A mere civilian like me struggles to comprehend the vast extent of the industry responsible for manufacturing apparatus for the purposes of defence (and offence).
My thoughts feel small standing next to the towering juggernaut that is the SVI Max 9 APC. The massive piece of machinery is produced by local outfit SVI Engineering for worldwide markets.
Applications differ. The brochure, for example, shows a configuration for an ambulance. There's also one with a turret on its roof-probably not for the purposes of mobile health care. Also according to the brochure, its body is "V-shaped for optimal landmine protection" and features "overlaps for increased blast and ballistic protection".
Today, I have the rare opportunity to steer a Max 9. Even clambering aboard is tricky. My soft exterior meets the vehicle's hard exoskeleton as I clumsily hop into the low driving seat.
The gruff idle of the Cummins-sourced 6.7-litre is jarringly loud and the hiss of the pneumatic drum brakes startles delicate eardrums. Turning the steering requires more force than expected. Then again, the axles are connected to rollers with a hefty footprint: 365/85R20. The tread pattern of those all-terrain tyres is aggressive.
And you'd loathe changing one of these wheels, alloys sporting more bolts than a person has fingers.
On the go, the Max 9 is no slouch. Its 210kW and astounding 970Nm of torque is shunted via a six-speed automatic transmission. Top speed is 115km/h but it can achieve 140km/h in short bursts.
My test route is limited to a muddy field off public roads. Achieving those high velocities in something weighing as much as 7,500kg and with a ground clearance of 380mm borders on religious.
Needless to say, the Max 9 is pretty much unstoppable over any treacherous obstacle. It will mount and flatten anything without hesitation.
You'll be pleased to know that not just any megalomaniac can sign up to buy a Max 9 - only ones permitted by the National Arms Control Commission.
As for cost, well, you would probably need to own a small country to afford this one. The base price is R5.5m - and that can easily double depending on the options fitted.