Few would argue against the idea that the Jeep Wrangler remains one of the most off-road-capable 4x4s on the planet it roams. California-based aftermarket builder US Specialty Vehicles sees some room for improvement in the way the Wrangler expresses its intentions, though. It's slapped a rugged, military-style body kit on the four-door Wrangler Unlimited and upgraded the interior into a warm, supple space. The result is the Rhino XT, the all-terrain SUV reinvented.
If you look closely, you can spot the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited hiding below USSV's kit, but to the untrained eye, the Rhino XT is virtually unrecognizable as a Wrangler. It looks more like a Toyota FJ Cruiser with big, angular body kit. In particular, the grille/headlight surround and gently arched roof look like an homage to the discontinued FJ. That roof is a removable hard top, maintaining the Wrangler's ability to delight passengers with spring breezes and splashy stream crossings.
Beyond those simple cosmetic updates, USSV designers have gotten a bit angry and aggro, giving the XT a highly aggressive look with massive, riveted flared fenders, rugged bumpers, reinforced FRP body panels, and designer tow hooks. The 35-in tires on/off-road tires around 20 x 10-in aluminum wheels add to the tough, angry look, and a redesigned heavy-duty roll cage helps keep it all together.
The Rhino XT rides extra-rugged on the outside but comfy and sophisticated inside. The interior package includes USSV-badged premium leather seats, a "European style" dashboard, leather-trimmed door panels, 3D-look digital instrument panel, Alpine navigation system, back-up camera view, chrome trim and leather-wrapped steering wheel, among other enhancements.
The Rhino XT is strictly a cosmetic package, and the mechanicals remain stock, which means the 285-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, Trac-Lok differential rear axle and 3.73 axle ratio. It also features electronic stability control, roll mitigation, and front and rear sway bars.
November has been a big month for the Rhino XT. USSV debuted it at the SEMA Show, opened up reservations, and is currently showing it again at the LA Auto Show. Complete vehicle pricing starts at US$75,445.
The Rhino XT definitely gives the Wrangler a tough alternative look, but we can't help but feel that the package should include some extra power or capability to go along with its muscular body kit, or at least be based on a higher-spec Wrangler like the Rubicon. As it is, it seems like an awful lot of bark without the matching bite.
USSV has another interesting creation on display in LA, the Rhino GX. The shop makes the extra-large, military-style 4x4 SUV out of the Ford F-450 Super Duty chassis. Powered by Ford's 362-hp 6.8-liter V10 engine, this "rugged road warrior" transports up to seven inside a tough shell built from a framed construction of 20-gauge cold steel and composite. The hexagonal windows, riveted fenders and off-road lights finish off the menacing design.
USSV fills the inside of that burly body with three rows of power seating and dresses it in premium leather, wood veneers and other high-end materials. It's a combination of large, hammering V10 off-roading and luxury interior lounging that would be pretty shocking if we didn't peek in on the wild world of aftermarket truck building regularly.
The Rhino GX starts at $165,095 and quickly jumps above $200,000 with options.