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Need to do the school run, but worried about having to dodge bullets -- and possibly machine-gun or mortar fire? It's a war zone out there, and you need a rolling fortress like BMW's armoured X5.
Based on the third-generation X5 arriving here in November, the X5 Security Plus offers what BMW says is the world's first armoured 'Sports Activity Vehicle' to have a VR6 rating, meaning it's able to withstand attack from weapons like the AK-47 and simultaneous detonation of two DM51 hand grenades under the body.
You'd never know, at a casual glance. The BMW X5 Security Plus -- and its VR4-rated sibling, the X5 Security -- discreetly look like normal vehicles, and it would take a trained eye to spot the armoured enhancements.
For the VR6 rating this means an armoured passenger cell built from high-performance steel, including sealed joints in critical areas to stop bullets or shrapnel. The glass is a security laminate about 3cm thick with an inner polycarbonate coating to prevent cracking, and the engine electronics are protected by ballistic-warding aramid mats.
But there's no point in warding off an attack if you can't get away, so under the bonnet is a 330kW twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine with drive going to all four wheels. They're shod with run-flat tyres, foiling any plans to puncture tem and stop your escape, and giving you a range of 150km -- easily enough to get well away from even the toughest supermarket carpark altercation.
The extra wardrobe brings extra weight and a higher centre of gravity, but BMW has adapted the chassis, electronic management and brake systems to cope -- and claims the Security models perform and handle similarly to normal X5s.
There are also optional LED flashing front lights and rear LED messaging board, and while we can all think of some uses for these, they're available only to official authorities.
The armoured X5s are already being used here and overseas by government departments, but are also being bought by private owners, BMW Australia says -- although they stop short of revealing how many are sold.
"It's quite low numbers -- it's quite a specialised area," BMW spokesperson Lenore Fletcher says. "They are used by governmental organisations around the world, but some of them do go into the private sector.
"Obviously the majority of people who buy those cars don't necessarily want us to talk about it -- they have high-security, high-profile clients and they need their privacy to be respected," she says.
Fletcher says that the handover process for the Security models goes well beyond the full-tank-and-carwash you'll get from a normal new car dealer.
"We have our own special vehicles division here in Australia who have the knowledge of the vehicles and are able to do a fairly comprehensive handover to the client," she says. "But on an international basis there are also specialised areas, like a security driving school with different levels of expertise -- because if you are going to buy one of the cars, you'll need to know how to operate them correctly."
Fletcher would not be drawn on the full specifics of the training, but said it covered a range of terrains and conditions -- including night-driving, rain, snow and ice -- all with a focus on a safe exit.
"The training is specifically designed to ensure the ongoing security of your passengers if you are in a situation that may compromise their security," she says. "It focuses on avoidance of accidents and intervention by other vehicles."
However she is unable to give an idea of what this level of vehicular confidence will cost you, saying that the price depends on individual specification. And while the adage is that if you have to ask, you can't afford it, we think that if you have good reason to be asking the price of an armoured BMW, you probably can afford it.
This reporter is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott