Got a big family? Carry a lot of gear? Planning to knock over a small Central American country?
You need a Rhino GX, a California-built behemoth that retails for about $200,000 and is ready to rumble.
Called the “General Patton” when it’s sold in overseas markets, the GX is a 9,000-pound urban assault vehicle.
The beast begins its life in a Rancho Cucamonga factory operated by US Specialty Vehicles, as a Ford F450 Super Duty dual-axle pickup.
USSV strips it down, removes an axle and adds a 20-gauge steel body, hydraulic suspension system and another set of doors.
Under the hood is a 6.9-liter V-10 Ford engine that makes 385 horsepower and 405 pound feet of torque. Not enough? You can also get it with a 6.7-liter V-8 diesel that bumps that up to 440 hp and 860 pound-feet. Towing capacity is said to be 14,000 pounds.
The combination rolls down the road on 20-inch rims and massive 38-inch Mickey Thompson radial tires, and is surprisingly quiet. Comfortable at high speeds on the highway, it’s also a gentle ride on rough unpaved surfaces.
On an afternoon spin around the rugged dirt roads in the Rowher Flat OHV park near Santa Clarita, the Rhino GX trundled up and down some steep inclines with agility, and trotted over pot holes, ruts and bumps as if they weren’t there.
That’s not just the tires. The Rhino GX features a self-leveling suspension system USSV designed especially for this vehicle. This keeps the Rhino’s feet on the ground and its passenger compartment level and steady.
And what a compartment! Containing several cows’ worth of leather wrapped around the seats, sidewalls and steering wheel, and a generous sampling of dark wood accents, the Rhino GX interior is plush.
Noise-deadening materials and that suspension system keep the hostile exterior out of the passenger cabin. I was impressed by the silence inside the Rhino GX, especially when I noticed the model I was driving already had 10,500 miles on the odometer. Despite that, I heard nary a squeak, rattle or hum coming from the vehicle around me.
Most of the Rhinos turned out in Rancho Cucamonga are shipped to China, where the company’s owner — Tang Qingjie, who also goes by Tim Tang — was doing good business with a line of limousines and hearses. The Chinese-born engineer, who has also worked in the Detroit automotive industry, decided to build something for customers who were pining for the discontinued Hummer. USSV made 65 vehicles right away, to satisfy the first wave of orders.
A staff of 600 people now work in an 88,000-square-foot warehouse where the Rhinos are made, on a schedule that takes 60 to 90 days per vehicle, depending on options. Another 100 employees were to be added by the end of the year, the company said.
Increasing numbers are being sold here, the company said, and they’re likely to become more visible, as the company moves forward on plans to begin offering a more affordable Rhino. The Rhino XT, based on a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, will be smaller than the GX and cost about half as much.
The Rhino GX starts at $194,000 for the gasoline version and $204,000 for the diesel. Three trim levels — Select, Premium and Executive — offer a variety of options, from tow packages to entertainment systems to a personalized satellite receiver, that push the cost higher.
The Premium version, which includes a third row of seating, costs $229,000 in gas or $239,000 in diesel.
But if you insist, you can go higher and spend $305,000 for a gas-powered Executive, or $315,00 for that version in diesel.
And if you want one in China, you’ll have to pay even more. Due to import taxes, the company said, the basic MSRP is well over $500,000 there.
(You’ll also need to set aside some money for fuel. The Rhinos haven’t been tested by the EPA, but the producers say the gasoline version gets an average of about 10 miles per gallon.)
The Rhinos can even be sent to a special after-market company to be armor-plated. But, as Rhino sales representative Ernie Salazar said, “Most people don’t have that level of problem.”