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Poaching Rhinos – Rhino GX

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RECOIL Rode the Rhino GX Hard, Put it Away Wet, and Were Admittedly Swooning Afterward

When given a chance to get behind the wheel of a recent entry into the exotic vehicle market, we'll be honest — we had low expectations, because luxury SUVs are a strange breed. They ride the line between practicality and bling, but often sacrifice the former for lots of the latter — maybe too much.

Remember the Lamborghini LM002? Seemed like a good idea at the time, but we think the one belonging to Uday Hussein that the U.S. military blew up probably had a bigger audience than the 328 that were produced. How about the Hummer? After years of mixed reviews, a struggling economy, and GM's failure to sell the brand, it too went the way of the LaserDisc.

Here's the rub — we walked away from our experience remembering why someone might buy a Cabot Black Diamond Deluxe 1911 over a much cheaper version. It's cool, they can afford it, and they want to belong to that elite group who can say they have one. We know you guys are out there too, so perhaps you should look at the Rhino GX instead of that Unimog you might be eyeballing. Your sh*t-eating grin might look like ours after driving it.

We came across the Rhino GX made by U.S. Specialty Vehicles (USSV) while at the 2015 SEMA Show, and since its California home base was close to the RECOIL HQ, we hit up the owners about getting a chance to drive this behemoth for ourselves. The company started out building limos, and their Chinese clientele requested a prototype of a larger SUV to fill the void left by the Hummer — still in huge demand over there. USSV created a version called the G Patton, and it became an overseas sensation. Next stop, the American market.

First impressions? It's big. To give you an idea, a new Escalade is about 7,000 pounds and change, while the Rhino weighs in around 10,000, but it's duty rated for a 14,000-pound load. A new Escalade is 80.5 inches wide by 74.4 inches high, with a 116-inch wheelbase. The Rhino GX is 96 by 88 inches with a 140.8-inch wheelbase. It's built on a Ford F-450 Super Duty chassis offered with either Ford's 6.8L V-10 or 6.7L diesel V-8 and a five-speed automatic. All are four-wheel drive, and the gas version gets around 8 to 10 mpg, with diesel being slightly better — all from a 40-gallon tank. We assume if you can afford the Rhino GX, gas mileage isn't a major concern of yours.

The previous leaf-spring setup is ditched in favor of a three-mode, self-leveling hydraulic system and solid twin-coil monobeam Bilstein shocks in front. While hauling arse down the interstate, it was a smoother and quieter ride than we expected with such meaty tires. The interior is hella spacious and comfy with eight-way seats that are Ford frames reshaped and upholstered in leather by USSV. You can even have a third row of seats as one of the options they offer. Front and rear cameras, Alpine electronics, exotic wood accents, telescopic side mirrors, a Securilock Passive Anti-Theft system, and a litany of other high-tech doodads round out the electronics, but a host of other options are available.

The body is virtually all proprietary dual-layer, 20-gauge steel. You'll feel how thick it is when you tap it with your knuckle and compare that sound (or lack thereof) to the panels on standard cars and trucks. B6 body armor can be outsourced, and we're told would add another 1,800 pounds without encroaching on interior space. The hood, fender flares, and rear bumper are fiberglass. Although this one is black, you can pick from a few other matte colors, with gloss becoming available soon.

As the pictures show, we were given the chance to open it up a bit on some steep inclines and do some donuts. It'd rained the day before, so the ground was nice and muddy. The rep from USSV told us to “have fun with it.” We weren't sure he knew what he was telling us, as we fully intended to put the wood to it. That's just what we did, to the point of getting it stuck in the mud. We removed the wheelcaps, put the front hubs into 4WD mode, and crawled out of it as easily as we got into it. The other company rep who accompanied us while we drove around like joyriding teenagers even decided to make a quick exit before we continued. We think we may have frightened her a bit.

Any time we publish something that's priced higher than someone's means to buy it, we get grief from some readers. But many of those who say that something's “too expensive” do so only if they can't afford it, rather than if said item's cost exceeds its true value. We RECOIL guys don't exactly have money falling out of our arses either, so we understand the need for gear that's not exclusive to the Forbes 500 tax bracket. However ….

Our initial expectation was that we'd be invited to drive the Rhino politely on some surface streets, very carefully photograph it in the mud to make it look tough, and then be quickly pointed the way back to our office. Well, we were wrong and slogged a $200,000 truck through the muck and some off-road trails without any performance issues or resistance from the staff. Any company who stands behind a vehicle this expensive with that much confidence, well … try requesting those same test conditions next time you're kicking tires on a new 4×4. They'll laugh you off the lot before they allow you to do what USSV cordially gave us the chance to do. There's something to be said for that — it embodies the spirit of American-made vehicles.

Rhino GX

Make: U.S. Specialty Vehicles
Year: Current Model
Engine: 6.8L V-10
Drivetrain: 4WD five-speed automatic

1. Body

Make: U.S. Specialty Vehicles
Model: dual-layer 20-gauge steel

2. Tires

Make: Mickey Thompson
Model: 38×15.5R20 Baja MTZ Radial

3. Wheels

Make: 20×10 custom
Model: 10-lug cast aluminum

4. Roof Lights

Make: Tuff LED Lights
Model: Square LED Work Light — 5-inch 40-Watt

5. Motor

Make: Ford
Model: 6.8L V-10

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