Many vehicles claim to be the king of the road, but in the English countryside right now, the Plasan Sandcat is the emperor of all vehicles.
Modestly described in its brochure as a light tactical vehicle, the Sandcat is actually an invincible-looking armoured 4x4 featuring bulletproof glass and a hardened-steel body festooned with cyberpunk boltheads, loopholes for weapons and a predator-like face. In everyday traffic, it towers over common-or-garden SUVs and looks totally nails.
Autocar is at the wheel, in a world first, because Plasan’s demonstrator is visiting the UK for evaluation by security forces looking to replace stalwarts such as the Jankel Guardian, which is nearing the end of 20 years’ sterling service.
The bones of the Sandcat are the heaviest-duty Ford F-550 commercial chassis, commonly used in North America as a tow truck and endowed with a huge 8845kg gross vehicle weight that frees designers to load the basic chassis with a bespoke armour-plated body plus a squad of six tooled-up police marksmen.
On test is the latest Mk4 Sandcat, which sits on a Super Duty chassis shortened to a 135in wheelbase. It features an easier to build version of Plasan’s ‘kitted hull’, whose modular, easy-to-fit, bolt-on-bolt-off panels can be customised during the design phase and make for easier maintenance at front-line depots.
The exact specification of the armoured protection remains a necessary trade secret, but essentially the Sandcat’s body consists of 12mm of hardened steel and composite armour, backed up in key areas by a third composite layer separated by an air gap to catch fragments of ordnance. Plasan reckons a body made from steel only would need to be 4mm thicker for equivalent protection.
Our test vehicle is rated Stanag 2+ (a Nato standard) and is proofed against grenades, armour-piercing AK47 rounds and Dragunov sniper rifle bullets, all from any angle, oriented 360deg around the body.