DUBAI // Meet the StarWalker, a 3.5-tonne, six-wheel-drive monster truck from Russia that bounds over even the most imposing of sand dunes like it was an anthill.
At Dh900,000 for a base model, the unique all-terrain diesel-powered vehicle is aiming to be a favourite among the super rich who are bored with their usual dune-bashing rides and want something a little more eye-catching.
Its giant 132cm-diameter tyres can be inflated and deflated at the touch of a button, making it easy for the driver to take on sand dunes that would defeat most other vehicles.
“It is designed with a specific purpose and that is to navigate and drive through some of the most inhospitable terrain you can think of,” said Kirill Vishensky, chief executive of Logis Middle East, which is bringing the truck to the UAE under the Bear brand.
“We have already had a lot of interest from people and are currently testing it in the desert to work out any issues so the final machine will be perfect.”
The truck’s normal habitat is the -30°C temperatures of Siberia and Kazakhstan, where it is the transport of choice for Nasa and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
“We use them to go to space capsules returning from missions and pick up astronauts and cosmonauts when they return to Earth. It’s a real workhorse in difficult terrain,” Mr Vishensky said.
The model that will be sold in the UAE, however, has had to undergo significant changes.
A new cooling system and air-conditioning unit replace the radiators used to heat the Russian model, as well as special filters to prevent sand from getting in.
The UAE version has been certified as an off-road vehicle by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology and Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority.
It can carry a load of about one tonne, has a GPS system, seats nine people including the driver, has a top speed of 70kph and comes in manual or automatic versions.
“This is the kind of vehicle for people who want to spend some time in the desert as the seats can be turned into beds,” said Mr Vishensky.
“It is fully customisable, so we can add leather seats, DVD players or, if you want to go hunting, we can install gun racks and falcon cages. In fact, we can customise it to almost any specification.
“It has an aluminium body, which makes it surprisingly lightweight and that means it can virtually float across rivers.
“For potential private buyers I would say it’s very attractive because we make only five trucks a month at the factory, so they will be in very limited numbers in the UAE.
“But the main attraction is actually how it feels to drive. It’s simple and easy to learn.”
The truck can even lose a wheel and still operate as normal and can also be driven with a flat tyre.
Petrovich Auto, the Siberian manufacturer, said the vehicle was also suitable for police and emergency service rescue, as well as pipeline and oil-installations work.
A smaller four-wheel-drive variant known as Mr Moon is also expected to be released in the UAE in the coming months.
Similar in shape to a Hummer, it will have tyres the same size as the StarWalker, but with prices starting at Dh400,000.
“From order to delivery will take three months,” said Alexander Bakulin, sales and marketing executive at Logis Middle East.
“It will take about a month to build the vehicle to the customer’s requirements and then two months to ship to the UAE.”
The company is initially focusing on the market in the UAE and Oman but could expand to the rest of the GCC depending on its success.
For details visit www.dob.ae.