The Vehicle

From the outside, the LAV looks like a small tank with wheels; however, once you see it in action, similarities quickly disappear. Significant tactical mobility was its first design priority -- it had to move at a steady 100 kph for extended periods and be easy to drive. All eight wheels are independently suspended with hydropneumatic struts, capable of raising or lowering ride height almost 6 in. A central tire-inflation system, similar to that used on military and civilian Hummers, is also an option. Each wheel is independently driven, so if one gets blown up by a land mine, the other seven will still receive power from the engine. In addition, both sets of front axles are steerable, and the rear three use six-channel ABS. The rear two sets of axles provide traction during normal driving operation, with a selectable 8WD option for serious cross-country recon missions.

The transfer case is the ultimate, heavy-duty hunk of metal, weighing several hundred pounds and capable of handling more than 800 lb-ft of torque. Gearing is unique, with 0.86:1 high range and 1.31:1 low range. This, in effect, allows for the better highway cruising and more controlled low-range crawling. Other impressive details include almost 24-in. ground clearance and built-to-climb-walls 40-degree approach and departure angles.

The engine, not surprisingly, is a monster Caterpillar I-6, capable of generating 400 hp and almost twice that in torque. Our Canadian LAV III test unit featured the slightly detuned version, reportedly putting out 350 horses, although it didn't have a chassis dyno. The equally heavy-duty Allison six-speed transmission uses all the high-tech electronics found in a 1-ton pickup transmission, but it's built specifically for ultimate survival.