Isle of Man - Trust Top Gear’s Matt Le Blanc to come up with the biggest, baddest SUV on the planet. Well, the Eastern half of the planet, anyway.
This is the Avtoros Shaman, a four-ton, 6.3 metre, all-terrain monster with eight-wheel drive and eight-wheel steering that makes a Mercedes 6x6 G-Wagen look like a compact crossover. The maker admits that without all-wheel steering it would have the turning circle of a supertanker - and that simile is chosen with malice of forethought, because this Brobdignagian beetle-crusher is also amphibious!
Typically Russian, it’s a fascinating mixture of high and low tech, with an tough ladder chassis and all-independent suspension and amazing independent hydraulic steering; you can opt to steer the front four wheels on the road, the rear four for soft terrain, all eight for tight turns in town - or turn all eight in the same direction and crab sideways for parallel parking, Moscow style!
Drive is delivered to the four axles by Avtoros’ own high and low-range transfer case with lockable differentials and no less than five driveshafts, but is provided by a very ordinary three-litre Iveco F1C turbodiesel four rated for 107kW and 350Nm. Top speed, unsurprisingly, is just 70km/h - but it can tow up to 4800kg.
This combination of astonishing off-road capability and barely adequate power is something we’ve noted before in Russian off-roaders such as the Sherp and the Ural. Speed, in the Cyrillic mindset, is apparently less of an issue than the ability to go over - or through - anything Mother Russia can throw at you.
Part of that ability comes from eight gynormous Russian-made low-pressure tyres, each 1200mm in diameter (that’s about chest height) and 600mm wide, on 21 inch rims, giving the Shaman a towwering 450mm of ground clearance. Fuel consumption is quoted at 25 litres per 100km, and the Shaman has a 260 litre fuel tank, giving it theoretical range of more than 1000km.
The interior is best described as basic, with a singe, central front seat, gauges and dials out of the 1980s and either a long bench seat with nary a sign of a seatbelt down each side, or a combination of single seats three abreast (two and one, either side of an aisle) for up to 12 people, all trimmed in vinyl and hard plastic. Like an original 1970 Range Rover, you clean out the inside of a Shaman by pointing a hose at it.
Pricing, ex works in Novozavidovsky, 135km northwest of Moscow, starts at 183 125 €183 125 (R2.67 million) - not bad for something almost twice the size of an Evoque, with double the number of driven wheels./p>