They’re among us and we don’t even know it. Armoured cars have become the must-have mode of transport of Hollywood A-listers such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, and apparently there is quite a demand for these vehicles in South Africa as well. Three are being displayed at this week’s Johannesburg International Motor Show.
Two of the armoured vehicles, the Mercedes-Benz M-Guard and a bullet-proof QX70 Infiniti, can be seen on the manufacturers’ stands. The third, the Audi A8 L W12 Security, is in a restricted-access lounge at the rear of the Audi display area and is obviously only to be viewed by potential buyers.
Mercedes’s armoured, or in Benz-speak “Guard”, vehicles have cruised South African streets for some time now – but because the protection is “invisible” the bulletproof E, S and G-Classes can normally shuffle on by unnoticed. That is, unless flashing blue lights are involved.
Now Mercedes has added another model to its Guard line-up, with a new ML derivative. Merc goes to great lengths to hide the armour-plating in its Guard cars, and this special ML500, dubbed M-Guard, which is able to withstand shots fired from a .44 Magnum and blasts from hand grenades, looks pretty much identical to its unarmoured counterpart.
Its windows, which sound like aquarium glass when tapped, are made of special laminated glazing with a polycarbonate layer, form-fitted steel is hidden inside the body structure to create a safety-cell cocoon, and run-flat tyres capable of 80km/h even with no air are fitted to normal AMG light alloy wheels.
Mechanically, the M-Guard is identical to normal ML500 models with a 4.7-litre biturbo V8 offering 300kW and 600Nm. The extra weight (the M-Guard can tip scales at over three tons) does affect performance a little, but Mercedes says that even with all the added armour it can still do 0-100km/h in a respectable 6.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 210km/h instead of the usual 250.
At R2.295 million the Guard package comes at quite a premium over the normal R965 456 ML500. Order now from any Mercedes dealer and get yours in six months.
The pitch-black, ominous-looking Audi Security, a long-wheelbase version of the A8, meets the strictest guidelines for civilian vehicles, with a host of security features available in addition to its heavy armouring – making it double the weight of a “normal” A8.
Once you are in the car, you needn’t worry about bullets penetrating the windows or body panels, and the Audi can even withstand Nato hard-core ammunition and a hand grenade attack.
This is achieved by using the most advanced tough, resistant materials – hot-formed armoured steel, aramide fabric, ceramics, special alloyed aluminium and multilayer windows made of special glass with a polycarbonate coating on the inside to prevent shattering.
The Audi Security is powered by a massive W12 direct-injection 6.3-litre engine. It develops 368kW and 626Nm of torque and propels the huge car in 7.3 seconds from 0-100km/h and to a top speed of 210km/h. Fuel consumption is surprisingly low at 13.5 litres/100km.
The bullet-proof Infiniti QX70 has been armoured locally by International Armouring Corporation/Armormax. It is rated as having Level B4 security – which means protection against handgun calibres up to .44 Magnum.
It’s clad in IAC/Armormax’s lightweight armour, which has added only 180kg to the vehicle’s weight, thus leaving the car still responsive and driveable.
The company has recently doubled the size of its facility in Northriding in Joburg to cope with the increasing demand for bullet- resistant vehicles in South Africa. Bullet-proof Infinitis can be ordered through the dealer network. -Star Motoring