By Jarryd Neves, automotive correspondent
It’s no secret, sadly South Africa is a dangerous place to live in. Murder and violent crime are rampant, with a woefully incomplete police service unable to combat wrongdoing.
We all intrinsically locked our doors as soon as we got in the car, slamming the Trellidor shut and keeping everything locked and locked. Friends and family overseas are confused by our security measures. For them it’s too much, for us it’s just a necessity.
However, we cannot stay indoors for fear of our lives. However, when some of us go out, ambitious criminals try to help themselves to your car, and they will stop at nothing to get it. South Africa is now considered the piracy capital of the world, with many victims of this violent crime. Some have lived through the ordeal, others have not been so lucky.
So what to do? Surprisingly, many turned to armored and bullet-proof cars to protect themselves from violent attacks. I spent some time with the SVI armored Ford Ranger Wildtrak getting to know what it’s like to live together.
Well, if you have a vision of an army tank, quite the opposite. Avoiding hijacking means blending in… and what fits into traffic better than white bakkie? Despite being able to withstand attacks from an AK-47, for example, the covert armor fitted to the Ranger I rode for several days was very smooth. Parked next to a regular Ranger, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
At least until you open the door. It’s notably heavier; The 38mm armored glass and steel armored panels are hefty. Overall, 650 kg is added to the already beefy Ranger Wildtrak. To help support this, SVI installed a reinforced suspension and replaced the door hinges with reinforced items.
Heavy door closures and the Ranger Wildtrak’s interior remain unchanged. A well-equipped cabin and a solid feel make the Ranger one of the best double cabins to sit in. The leather upholstery supports and offers electric adjustment on the driver’s side. Other luxuries include dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation and a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
One of the features you lose with the B6 shield is the electric windows. The driver’s window drops very little, if you need to show your driver’s license to the police or traffic police. The rest of the windows are fixed in place. It can leave you feeling a little claustrophobic, but it’s a small price to pay for ultimate protection.
One downside of being fixed side window: a quick stop at a local fast food drive-through proved a little tedious as I had to get out of the car to pay for my food and pick it up.
Driving around, you enjoy the feeling of invincibility and absolute security that the B6 armored Ranger gives you. Stopping at a red light at night was a risk we had to take in SA, but on smooth wheels I felt relaxed and safe. Even driving through the more dangerous areas of the Capital was less stressful than usual.
How does it feel to drive?
Like the regular Ranger, this armored car has one of the best ride qualities in its segment. The extra weight of this armored vehicle gives the B6 Wildtrak a smoother ride and its on-road behavior mimics a road biased SUV. The 2.0-liter twin-turbodiesel engine provides enough power (157 kW/500 Nm) to carry heavyweight vehicles with relative ease.
It never feels too complicated or slow to respond. While no official performance figures are recorded, SVI says, on average, bullet-proof vehicles are 1.5 seconds slower to 100 km/h. With an additional 650 kg, I think the fuel economy will be very detrimental. While not as efficient as the regular Ranger Wildtrak, I recorded an average of 11.2 L/100 km. Impressive for a double cab bakkie with weight guard. Ford claims an average fuel usage figure of 8.1 L/100 km for the regular Wildtrak 4×4.
What does it mean?
For this armoring level (B6), the process takes approximately 12 weeks. It was because the vehicle was stripped to its bones and refitted with armor. SVI goes through a painstaking process with all its vehicles, from commercial products (such as cash-in-transit vans) to bullet-proof luxury sedans.
Not only glass and body panels are protected. The rear of the cab, the firewall and even the battery and ABS unit receive protection from a hail of bullets. The front fenders are armored to protect the engine from immobilization. You can also choose from roof and floor guards, bullbar, ballistic grille, and run-flat system for tires. The PA system allows passengers to communicate with the outside world, eliminating the need to exit the protected vehicle.
For the Ranger Wildtrak, the armor will cost you around R690,000 excluding. VAT, although cheaper options are available. The secret package B4 is around R450,000 not included. VAT.
Is this really necessary?
For someone like me, no, no. However, there are many South Africans who really need this level of protection. Entrepreneurs who because of their position become targets of crime. A piracy victim who wants peace of mind and doesn’t want to be traumatized again. A company that provides security. There are many applications where a B6 armored car is essential.
B6 is the highest level of security that an ordinary citizen can ask for, without obtaining special permission. If bakkies aren’t your thing, the SVI can protect other B6 spec vehicles. The only requirement is a body-on-chassis vehicle, such as the Mercedes-Benz G-Class or Toyota Land Cruiser.
Ford South Africa has partnered with SVI Engineering to provide factory-backed armored cars that can be ordered directly from Ford dealers. What’s more, you maintain the all-important four-year/120,000km warranty and six-year/90,000km service plan. In addition, the armored Rangers receive a one year/50,000 km warranty on protective components.
After spending some time in this wheeled fort, I’ve learned to appreciate the security it gives you. Armoring is expensive but if you can afford it, it’s definitely worth it. In a country where piracy happens every day, it’s nice to know you have an extra layer of protection to rely on. As Nicol Louw of SVI said, your car is equipped with airbags, ABS and traction control. You never want to use them, but when the fickle finger of fate decides to point your way, you’re glad you have those features.
Ford Ranger 2.0Bi-Turbo double cab 4×4 Wildtrak with SVI Engineering B6 . guard
Price: R806500 (+ approx. IDR 690,000 not including VAT)
Strength: 157 kW/500 Nm
Fuel consumption: 8.1 L/100km (claimed); 11.2 L/100 km (test average)
Top speed: there isn’t any
Rival: Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 D/C 4×4 Legend RS auto, Volkswagen Amarok 2.0BiTDI D/C Highline 4Motion auto
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