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Team Ocelot LPPV review review
What - Team Ocelot LPPV
Where - Bedfordshire, UK
Date - August 2010
Price - Not disclosed
Available - Early 2011
Key rivals - Snatch Land Rover, Supacat SPV400, Hummer, the Taliban
Summary - Built to survive roadside bombs and mines, the mean looking Ocelot is a contender for the British army's search for a new patrol vehicle to replace vulnerable Land Rovers
We like - Sci-fi looks, unstoppable off-road ability, IED-proof design, modular bodywork, fast to repair, four-wheel steering, easy to drive
We don't like - Will cost a lot more than a Land Rover, our troops don't already have them
Military vehicles are meant to look a bit scary and everything but, whoah, the Ocelot takes things to a new level. But if that's what it takes to win an all-important psychological advantage before a shot is fired then so be it.
One of two finalists in a contest to find a new LPPV (Light Protected Patrol Vehicle) for the army, the Ocelot is an armoured patrol vehicle built by the European wing of Force Protection and Ricardo to protect squaddies from mines and roadside bombs.
It's a huge step up from the Snatch Land Rovers currently used in Afghanistan and other war zones, which have very little protection from the deadly explosive booby traps favoured by insurgents.
Built by the European wing of the company behind the huge Mastiff MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) family of vehicles currently in service, the Ocelot promises similar protection in a much smaller package.
Based on a V-shaped 'skateboard' chassis, like the Mastiff the Ocelot's hull is designed to deflect blast waves and reduce the effect of explosions from beneath. Composite armour up top protects against small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades.
The design is as clever as it is cool looking, the whole body tipping sideways for maintenance or swappable for different configurations and missions in just a couple of hours. More than just a mean-looking armoured truck, the Ocelot is a smart solution for modern warfare.
The unladen weight of the Ocelot is two tonnes more than the Snatch Land Rover and loaded it weighs 7.5 tonnes. This is offset by a military spec Steyr diesel engine with 218hp able to run on Avtur jet fuel if required.
It drives through a regular six-speed automatic gearbox with a low range setting and differential locks for off-road traction and features four-wheel steering for navigating tight, narrow streets a Mastiff or similar couldn't patrol.
It's all very easy to drive too. Which is a good thing because in a war-zone you want your attention to be focused on the job at hand, not which gear setting you happen to be in. Simply select D, stamp on the throttle and off you go.
It's not what you'd call fast but the Ocelot carries its weight well and, once up to speed, feels literally and metaphorically unstoppable. The intelligent gearbox software predicts gearing needs too, preselecting low gears when engine braking on steep slopes is required.
Ride and handling
That four-wheel steering means the Ocelot's turning circle is less than 12m - way better than the 13.25m of the Snatch Land Rover. The rear steer effect lessens as the speed builds too, eventually locking out above 28mph.
And it can hurtle across broken terrain like it's not there, to the point we were hitting a hideously rocky stream bed at the Millbrook test track flat out. Low speed obstacles like ditches and craters are similarly dismissed.
The off-road ability is impressive, the Ocelot roaring up a near 1:1 bank with ease and able to ford 80cm of water. Which is useful, because if you want to avoid roadside bombs driving anywhere but on the road is a good start.
The Ocelot feels totally indestructible, which it needs to be to survive not just bomb blasts but also the very worst the squaddies can throw at it. And tests don't come much tougher than that.
Military vehicles are all about function of course, the two front seats fitted with four-point harnesses and the four in the rear caged with roller-coaster style head restraints to protect the occupants from being thrown about in rough terrain. Or worse.
Various configurations of armaments are available, a hatch on the cab roof able to mount a 7.62mm machine gun while a circular mount for a more powerful 12.7mm (the traditional .50 calibre) heavy machine gun is also fitted.
Economy and safety
Economy isn't really at the top of the Ocelot's priorities. Safety is though. Only in the kind of environments in which the Ocelot will work you're looking for protection from more than that tailgating BMW driver.
Survivability of both man and machine are the priority, the Ocelot designed to be able to drive away from danger even after being damaged - a key difference with its Supacat rival that instead employs 'sacrificial' body sections.
The MSN Cars verdict
One thing's for sure, we wouldn't fancy driving around Helmand Province for any amount of money. But if we had to we'd rather be doing it in an Ocelot - this thing just screams confidence boosting toughness.
Force Protection's website contains many testimonials from soldiers who've survived multiple bomb blasts aboard the Mastiffs and if this level of protection can be replicated in the Ocelot's smaller, more manoeuvrable package it's only fair our boys should get their hands on it as soon as possible.
|Need to know|
|Engines, diesel||3.2 6-cylinder|
|Power, hp||218/272 (optional)|
|Torque, lb ft||N/A|
|Top speed, mph||N/A|
|Ratings||Force Protection Europe/Ricardo Ocelot LPPV|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||*****|