First Drive: AMW 4923 TR truck
What the truck! TopGear thinks big. Really big
There are moments in life that blindside you with their surreality. This is one of them. Up until now, I was more or less going through the motions, having done this a fair number of times – start engine, slot gear, prod the loud pedal.
However, as the rearview mirror frames the absolutely gigantic rooster tail of dust chasing me like a vengeful tornado, with the impossibly wide expanse of the White Rann stretching to the horizon and beyond, I am dumbstruck. Dumbstruck in a truck – the AMW 4923 TR that won its category in the Desert Storm this year, to be precise. With the tag line ‘Built to win’, they couldn’t stay away from competition for too long, eh?
With a windscreen that’s bigger than my bed and a bunk bed behind me (no kidding), the feather-light controls are an almost-comic juxtaposition. I’m sitting more than six feet above the ground, in air-conditioned, power-steered comfort, feeling quite invincible. Now I know what the Americans feel like – only, they’d probably put in two petrol V12 engines into this and call it a ‘small block’ or some such. Instead, I get a 5883cc Cummins diesel inline-six that makes 235bhp and 836Nm. That torque figure sounds like the exact amount needed to rip a supercar factory to shreds. Or thereabouts.
I’m sure you’ve seen AMW trucks hauling stuff around, but a racing truck is quite something to behold. Parked on the Rann, this bright giant looks like a Gulliver-scale Lego truck! However, a place like the Rann makes everything seem small and insignificant, so the effect of the 4923 TR’s size was a diminished one. Nonetheless, as can be expected, everything on offer is super-sized.
The 20-inch wheels are swallowed up by special Michelin tyres, the Hella fog lamps seem capable of lighting up entire stadiums and the mudflaps are bigger than most doormats I’ve seen. Again, seeing it at rest is one thing, watching it in motion is quite another.
It’s a mixed bag, driving this giant. First off, you notice the gear lever’s markings end with the number ‘8’, and are immediately happy with the promise of much speed to come. Hardly. Slotting it into first and flooring it produces the highly anti-climactic result of the speedo needle not moving at all. Second and third come and go, while fourth shows you 25kph – it was meant for pulling, this thing. I guess the ‘racing’ bit got me all needlessly excited. However, fifth gear onwards, the thing really begins to haul (in the sense that we like), and after the turbo has whistled itself to death, I finally hit 80kph.
Now that may not sound like much, but would you laugh at a small house moving at that speed? That’s exactly what it feels like, though it’s only my imagination that confirms it. A feeling of sheer, unstoppable momentum is the dominant aspect of driving this thing closer to its top speed, and I suspect it would go through a sand dune rather than over it.
Good thing there weren’t any dunes around, lest I felt compelled to put that questionable theory to test. The tachometer is redlined at 2700rpm, but it’d take me the entire length of the Rann to get there in top gear. Nonetheless, the 4923 is highly enjoyable. Until you hit a bump, that is.
Because the rally truck runs stock suspension, being unladen results in a structure that has comfort levels similar to standing between a wall and a wrecking ball. What’s more, the driver’s seat features some sort of independent suspension – way too much of it. Result? Even the mildest irregularity turns the seat into a trampoline. Many times, it was only the seat belt that kept me from going through the roof. No kidding.
The steering and the brakes are too vague (by car standards), being over-servoed to the moon. You’re not sure whether your input has had any effect and then suddenly, you’ve either pulled a near-180 or are peeling your face off the windshield. Oh, what fun!
Also, AMW is planning a full-blown rally-spec truck, which should decimate all. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? I have a little suggestion – ‘4923 TR’ doesn’t exactly set pulses racing, so please give it a fitting (mean and scary) name... something like RallyWrecker, DuneKiller, DieselQuaker, TowBreaker... or something like that. And hand it over to us at the Greater Rann, if you please!