"We wanted it to be as solid on water as the Land Cruiser is on land." That's Dutch Amfibious Transport co-founder Dirk-Jan de Jong talking about his company's heavy duty amphibious 4WD, the Amphibicruiser. Built around a Toyota Land Cruiser engine, it's a fully fledged on and offroad cruiser that can be driven up a river or out to sea with next to no training.
The idea of a vehicle that’s as useful on water as it is on land is hundreds of years old, and as relevant today in many parts of the world as it ever was. There’s a staggering number of modern amphibious vehicles on the market – keep an eye out for Mike Hanlon’s upcoming roundup to see just how many different approaches there are to this one problem.
The Amphibicruiser doesn’t go for James Bond-style sporty glamor like the Gibbs Aquada that Richard Branson broke the English Channel crossing record in. And it doesn’t go for outright top speed like the Watercar Panther, which belts along at a frankly scary 45 mph (72 km/h) on the water.
Instead, the Amphibicruiser is focused on rock-solid reliability and down to earth practicality as a leisure or commercial vehicle. Built around a 4.2-liter Toyota Land Cruiser engine, it drives like a regular 4x4 on land, easily holding freeway speeds, but proceeds at a modest 8 mph (13 km/h) in the water after a press of a button sends power to the water jet instead of the wheels.
Built by Dutch Amfibious Transport (DAT), who is also responsible for the Amfibus that’s currently running “splashtours” around Rotterdam, the Amphibicruiser was originally designed and built to form a fleet of self-drive go-anywhere tourist vehicles for a safari park in Asia. Recognizing the rugged practicality of the platform, DAT then developed it into a series of production models which started delivery in October 2013.
"The Amphicruiser is not only the most popular vehicle we make, but it’s the easiest to implement in any situation,” DAT co-founder Dirk-Jan de Jong told us. "The big buses that we build are 25,000 kilo (55,000 lb) vehicles, so you need a little bit of infrastructure to run them. The Amphicruiser is something that you can run anywhere, it has a lot of purposes, not only recreationally. We have a lot of enquiries for it, there’s a lot going to Dubai. They like it because it’s based on the Land Cruiser and they like the Toyota spec vehicles. It’s an easy market for us.”
To look at it, the Amphibicruiser doesn’t give much away. It looks like… well, like a brick outhouse 4WD, the kind that soccer moms don’t drive. The doors are at a regular height, kept waterproof by inflatable seals, and the stainless steel body shape is all business.
It’s also designed to be extremely easy to get along with – the steering and controls work more or less the same on water as they do on land, so with minimal instruction just about anybody can take the wheel and get the Amphibicruiser in and out of the water. All you need is a sloped bank that’s not too steep…and a trust fund.
The starting price for this hand-built machine is €130,000 (US$180,000) for a 2-door soft top, and goes all the way up to €180,000 (US$248,700) for a 4-door, fully equipped SUV.
DAT sees this as primarily a professional, heavy duty fleet vehicle, albeit one with some great recreational possibilities. The ability to cross most bodies of water would open up vast possibilities to campers and fishermen, even if they’d need deep pockets.
De Jong feels that the market for these unique multi-mode vehicles is just about to mature, saying, “the complexity of the technologies made it difficult to combine them 10 years ago. I think the time for the amphibious vehicle is now."