Oh, did we forget to mention our test vehicle came equipped with a 25mm armor-piercing gun, capable of shooting 200 rounds per minute at targets as far as 2500 meters? "We can ruin your day from a long ways away," says the jovial 24-year vet who handles marketing. The whole arrangement is wired into a complex thermal-imaging system that allows the gunman to lock onto any target. A stabilizing system keeps the gun steady, regardless of speed or terrain. In addition, our turret had a quick-mount 7.62mm machine gun and two four-cluster grenade and smokepot launchers. The two manholes in the turret hold the gunner and vehicle commander. They can stand upright or drop to their seats, close the hatch, and view surroundings via periscopes or thermal (night-vision) imagers. In all, the turret system is amazing and costs almost as much as the rest of the base platform (a nice option perhaps for more urban full-size SUVs when you need a parking space).
As our day was ending, we became slightly more frenzied to test this vehicle. We headed to a nearby water-soaked field, looking for traction-robbing ooze. It wasn't long before we came to a stretch of deep puddling surrounding a small, murky swamp. We were assured the LAV would float if the terrain disappeared--so long as we stayed on the throttle, the churning of the mud-claw tires would keep the beast moving forward. We closed the hatches, locked the seals, and attempted to creep our way across the mire, playing the engine revs against the suspension stretching and compressing each wheel as the terrain rolled underneath us.
Body creaks echoed inside as hydraulic lines hissed and repressurized. Water splashed onto the rig's front nose and periscope lens, as the left side of the LAV dipped into a hole. Staying on the throttle helped the right side push us along as each wheel climbed out and pulled the rest with it--slow and plodding, yet powerful and confident. We climbed out of the mess, dripping ancient debris and goop. Naturally, we tried a few more laps, with a little more speed, each time cutting through the trail easier than the last.
As the sun touched the horizon, we performed one last test when we rolled up to a wall of dirt, positioned to be some sort of flood-control basin. Up the wall the LAV climbed, pushing, pulling one, then two axles over the hump, then it teetered forward until level. As the machine dug down, its Achilles' heel showed itself: a high center. The sheer weight of the vehicle had tires digging dirt until there was no more. The LAV then quietly rested on its underbelly, treads floating in air. How does one get an LAV unstuck? Obviously, with another LAV. So we waited, at the end of an amazing day of driving an amazing vehicle, finally halted by a careless driver doing something he probably shouldn't have. Our advice: If you ever have the chance to get an LAV stuck, take it.