2018 USSV Rhino GX
By Dan Scanlan
O.K., I’ll answer the two questions I heard a lot as I drive the US Specialty Vehicles Rhino GX around the posh environs of Amelia Island during the 23rd annual concours there.
One, it’s not bulletproof – that requires another $10,000 of work and adds about 2,000 more pounds to its almost 10,000-pound weight.And no, it’s not a SWAT team vehicle, although it sure looks like a Lenco BearCat, that favorite urban assault vehicle of local sheriff’s offices. This product of USSV in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. can be described as a more macho alternative to a Lincoln Navigator of Cadillac Escalade that has massive off-road ability along with movie star impact. And as many said when they learned I had driven this 225-inch-long/96-inch-wide/88-inch tall luxo-beast in traffic teeming with every other kind of exotic car, “People notice you and get out of the way!”
- Rhino regal – US Specialty Vehicles makes this monster truck in three distinctly military shades – Stealth Black, Tactical Green or Desert Sand. You can get those in a gloss or a slightly more matte finish textured Line-X paint, basically a protective bedliner coating, like ours. But trust me, the angular black doesn’t make this truck a shrinking violet.
So, who gets one, I asked spokesman Alex Echevarria. “Somebody who wants one of the ultimate SUV, and something very, very unique. Our owners, in general, have the wealth to be able to afford one, so they can realistically buy what they want,” he said. “Our owners want something rugged, luxurious on the inside that they go anywhere with. ”USSV specializes in luxury sport utility vehicles, starting with its G. Patton SUV for the China market in 2012, then with this GX in 2015, and its smaller XT brother. The Rhino GX starts with a new Ford F450 Super Duty Duellie pickup chassis and its dashboard as they remold the rest. There are only about 20 in the U.S. The only Ford pieces visible when transformation is complete are SuperDuty’s stacked headlights and side mirrors. Everything else is USSV’s. 18-gauge double-walled steel with a full roll cage inside. A black mesh grille gets a rhino badge dead center between big headlights and auxiliary LED driving lights. Below, a huge black step bumper with tow hooks and lower air dam, fog lights tucked in the corners. The composite hood, which stands almost head high, gets twin power bulges. The squared-off composite fenders can be unbolted “These are easy to replace. If someone is going off road, they can come off,” Echevarria said.
The Ford windshield stays, but a light bar lives atop it on the Rhino GX’s raised roofline high above my head. You need the knurled steel grab handles bolted into the upper edges and the doors’ indented steps to help you see the top. Or maybe you armed security force can ride, ummm, shotgun and hang off the faceted side panels? More LED spotlights are added to the roof’s side panels, as well as two more rear-facing units, giving you the ability to light the world all around you in those tense situations at the Frosty Freeze drive-thru.
The flanks get faceted doors, a slim running board allowing normal ascent into the cabin, USSV keeping the SuperDuty door handles because they look “tough,” Echevarria said. Waist gunner-like side windows live in unusual angled frames that make them look like they are flat-pane bulletproof, to keep with the military ethos of the Rhino. The massive tailgate lives high over a big bumper with swing-away spare tire and two more tow hooks.
The Rhino gallops on knobbly 38-inch Toyo Open Country M/T tires on special one-piece forged 10-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels machined and painted both sides, reversible for a deep-dish or flush look on the rear, where duellie rubber was on the Ford. The whole thing looks solid and well made, with precise body seams. Two USSV Rhino GX’s sat on display all weekend in front of the posh Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, flanked by luxurious and expensive new Rolls-Royces, Alfa Romeos and classic Ferraris as new McLarens, Mercedes-AMGs and Porsches bubbled by. Yet the Rhinos were surrounded like the exotic animals they were.
- Rhino relax – Ascending the running board, aided by the Ford grab handle still attached to the Alcantara suede-lined headliner, placed us in familiar surroundings reworked with luxury.
USSV kept the familiar Ford SuperDuty dashboard from the 2016 model, but slathered it in aromatic two-tone black and tan Nappa leather with dual stitching along the dashtop, center console and armrest, Woodgrain accents the Ford air vents dash center and outer edges, while the 100-mph/5,000-rpm gauge package remains factory standard, as does manual tilt/telescoping steering wheel done in two-tone leather with an oval USSV center badge. There’s a 3-person Ford bench seat up front with wide fold-down center armrest covering the middle perch, the driver’s side comfortable, with multiple power settings. The center armrest compartment cover gets an embossed USSV rhino badge.
USSV deletes Ford’s navigation/stereo for a larger high-end Alpine head unit that also offers digital engine gauges as well as audio and info settings. Thankfully, it also has a backup camera and parking sensors since the rear and side windows are a bit restricted in view when reversing,. FYI –rear passenger windows appear locked in place. Below, Ford’s standard climate control panel, with four auxiliary switches to fire up the exterior lighting. Overhead, tucked into the suede, a Liquid Spring ride and height control panel to set suspension in “Sport,” “Normal” or “Comfort,” as well as adjust ride height from a load-happy “Low” to two settings of “High. ”USSV raised the roofline, and that’s evident when you open the back doors. There’s an extra step built into the raised floor over the perforated steel running board to aid access to the higher floor. Then you see the throne room back there. Twin leather bucket seats with huge legroom live atop lush black carpet, facing a dual-level billet aluminum and woodgrain shelf with machined metal cup holders and rear a/c controls. The lower shelf gets LED illumination for its 12-volt outlets. The door caps are done in wood and polished alloy. The seats have full power adjustment, albeit with familiar Ford switches. The double steps and grab handle make it easy to ascend, although my head did brush the upper door sill as I climbed in. Once there, tons of headroom due to the raised roof, the rear thrones higher for a better view of the kingdom outside through the angle-cut window openings. Overhead, an Alpine video screen among the suede headliner, framed by front and center sunroofs.
“We had some NBA players back there, very tall guys, and they were comfortable,” Echevarria said. This Rhino also had twin third-row seats that fold and flip for extra space. We didn’t try them, but they looked strictly kid-size, with slim luggage room behind.
- Rhino roar – With a Ford chassis underneath, it was no surprise to learn the Rhino GX gets a choice of Blue Oval powerplants – a 6.8-liter gasoline V-10 with 385 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, or our tester’s 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel V-8 with 440 hp and an elephantine 860 lb-ft of torque, either with a heavy-duty five-speed automatic.
Our very young 200-mile-old Rhino rumbled to life with an easy loping idle, then moved off easily. Pulling out of hotel forecourt filled with exotics and milling crowd made me notice how tight the Rhino/Ford’s turning radius was. Soon clear of the McLarens and meandering, we hit the road and applied some throttle. The acceleration was leisurely but constant, the Rhino moving out faster as revs built and turbo kicked in with a characteristic whistle. With no place to safely test a 0 to 60 mph time run, we estimate 17 seconds. It doesn’t feel slow, just powerful and purposeful in acceleration, passing power decent after the turbo spooled up, the automatic easily shifting up or down as needed.
An unladen Ford SuperDuty pickup can have a harsh edge to its ride. But along with Ford’s twin-coil Monobeam front suspension with Bilstein shocks up front comes a Liquid Spring Technologies’ Compressible Liquid Adaptive Suspension System instead of the truck’s standard rear suspension. With the load-leveling, anti-sway suspension, even the extra heft of the Rhino’s steel body and luxury saw it literally plow over any imperfection. Like a high-grade luxury car, it monitors the road and driver’s actions and firms or softens as needed. Plus you can dial in settings place of the truck’s conventional rear-suspension setup.
We tried them all on a short ride over straight roads as well as a grass and sand parking lot. The ride in “Comfort” was plush and nice for a 10,000-pound SUV, a plush ride over the rutted sand as well. We tapped up to “Normal, and again found it comfortable and fairly responsive for a heavy rig in what amounted to suburban rush hour traffic. “Sport” tightened the ride up a bit more, lots of buffering still there aided by the earth-dampening weight of the body and luxury. The Rhino was pretty quiet at speed, no body squeaks and a slight tire tread hum no surprise due to the Toyo’s deep tread. The Rhino can handle up to 12,000 pounds of stuff in tow. The power steering was a bit over-boosted, but very precise, with a super-tight turning radius that made parking and maneuvering fine. The Ford SuperDuty’s 4-wheel vented disc with heavy duty calipers slowed the big guy down pretty well with good pedal feel and control. As for fuel mileage, probably 10 mpg or less, with a 40-gallon fuel tank.
- Rhino resources – A Rhino GX with turbodiesel engine is $250,950. That comes with everything we had except the Line-X paint, an extra $10,000, making the final price $263,945 with destination fee.
There is nothing else really like it, so bottom line – if you want it and can afford it, become the ruler of your stretch of road, or at least look like it.
Just The Facts:
- 2018 Rhino GX Specifications
- Vehicle type – full-size 6-passenger ultra-luxury four-wheel-drive SUV
- Base price – $250,950 ($263,945 as tested)
- Engine type – Turbo-diesel V-8
- Displacement – 6.7-liter
- Horsepower (net) – 440 hp
- Torque – 860 lb-ft
- Transmission–5-speed automatic
- Wheelbase – 140.8 inches
- Overall length – 225 inches w/o spare tire
- Overall width – 96 inches
- Height – 88 inches
- Weight – almost 10,000 lbs.
- Fuel capacity – 40 gallons