2019 SsangYong Rhino XL Review - Rhino goes Large


SsangYong has introduced its beefier Rhino XL with added length to help it better compete with the big boys of the ute market. We measure it up

Words: Kyle Cassidy   |   Photos Tom Gasnier
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Your starter for ten this month; which species of Rhinoceros is the largest? Those knowledgeable on the Rhinocerotidae family will answer the white rhino, at least among the extant species, but the correct answer is the sub-species from South Korea, the SsangYong Rhino, and in particular, the new XL.

While a male white rhino can measure just over four metres in length, SsangYong’s new Rhino XL variant stretches the tape measure out to 5405mm overall. With the stretch, the Rhino XL becomes the biggest in the class. Only just though, but hey, every millimetre counts when you’re comparing length, and it means SsangYong has both a short- and long- wheelbase ute to please a wider range of customers. SsangYong sees the XL as more a working rig while the SWB Rhino is aimed at those who use a ute’s capability occasionally.

The XL is seen as being better able to compete with the big boys like Ranger, Hilux and Colorado as it has a more comparable payload and tray length, though still holds its ground when it comes to value. Prices range from $32,188 for the petrol-powered 2WD up to $52,313 for the top SPR version. That sees the XL commanding a $2000 premium over the SWB equivalent.

While the regular Rhino isn’t exactly small at 5095mm in length, its tray is significantly shorter than the rest. So the XL gets a much larger box on the back, and also a stretch of wheelbase to accommodate it. They’ve added 110mm of steel to the ladder chassis (the wheelbase now out to 3210mm), and the XL is 310mm longer overall. There are no changes in the cab dimensions; the extra length is given over to the tray area alone. And so the quoted tray length numbers go from 1300mm to 1610 for the XL.

Other than the wheelbase stretch, the other fundamental difference between the Rhino and the XL version are the rear springs, the XL riding on a leaf sprung rear in place of the shorter Rhino’s coils and panhard rod arrangement. The change means the XL can accommodate a bigger load, the payload stated at 1060kg, up from just 850 for the shortbed version while the towing capacity is a similar 3500kg.

The other point we noted about the XL was that its rough road ride was better than that of the regular Rhino; it’s not so fazed by those corrugations.

We brought a Holden Colorado along for a comparison of size. It’s 5361mm overall, so there’s not much in it for length, but it’s tray measures 1484mm long, so is 126mm shorter than the XL’s. The bed on a Colorado Spacecab, or cab and a half, is 1790mm long, so you’re kind of splitting the difference with the XL; you’re still getting double cab convenience but with a slightly longer tray than the norm.

And it’s not as if the Rhino has skimped on cabin space, there being just as much leg room in the back of the SsangYong as in the Holden, while the seating position is more comfortable thanks to a better recline of the seat back. Pity about that lack of five proper seat belts, and on this Sport model you only get two airbags in total.

A few other notable aspects of the XL: the tray depth is greater at 571mm versus 466mm for the Colorado, meaning you’ll fit more fill/dirt/scoria on the back, and the lower load height eases the heavy lifting. Those keen eyed among you will note the lower load height relates directly to the Rhino’s lesser ground clearance, but more on that in a minute. The effort required to lift the tailgate is lessened by a helper spring in the Rhino; it’s noticeably lighter, while it also remotely locks off the key fob.

All XLs, including the SPR, run on a 17-inch wheel and tyre package for payload and towing duties. This is the best combination for the regular Rhino too, we find the ride too fidgety in the SPR with its 20-inch rims.

So how does this go on leaf springs? Not too bad, to be fair. There’s still the usual full chassis shimmy but not too much in the way of bucking and rolling. Generally speaking, the longer the wheelbase the better the ride, and the XL’s unladen progress is okay for a ute, no better or worse than the regular Rhino on its coils. It’s not too stiff in the rear as the five-leaf arrangement has the usual progressive rate set-up, compressing with a load so the unladen ride is not as stiff. The other point we noted about the XL was that its rough road ride was better than that of the regular Rhino; it’s not so fazed by those corrugations.

There’s talk in Australia of a localised suspension tune, which is said to be in the development phase between the factory and SsangYong Oz. Local distributor, Great Lake Motor Distributors, says it’s not too interested in this however as its customers aren’t complaining about the ride quality of the Rhino.

But GLMD is certainly interested in a proposed lift kit, which is also part of the development. While we quite like the fact you don’t have to leap up into the Rhino cab, with its good access height, you can see that when it is lined up next to the Colorado, it does ride lower. And with the longer wheelbase, the XL rampover angle is lessened, so for those wanting more off-road ability, a fix is coming.

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Is the Colorado worth the extra you might ask? The Z71 is $64,990, making it more than $10k dearer than the top Rhino SPR, and $20k dearer than the $44,838 Sport model pictured. However, the Sport is probably comparable to the $58,990 LT. Still, the Rhino holds a value advantage with similar capabilities and features.

However, Colorado is a better drive, with a more resolved ride, the rear more compliant over bumps, especially those in a corner. With electric assistance, the steering is easier at parking speeds too. The Holden also has more grunt, and puts it to the ground more effectively with its torsen LSD. The Rhino however is much quieter in operation thanks to its hushed diesel, the Colorado coarse in comparison.

Both have a dab of turbolag from idle, but get up to speed well in traffic. However, with a greater capacity and more torque, the Colorado pulls with added authority. While this elongated Rhino looks big, we didn’t find it to be a handful in the confines of the city. Sure, the XL has a larger turning circle than the regular Rhino (12.2m vs 11.4), but it’s only slightly larger than the Colorado. There’s a good reversing camera on the Sport model and so we found it no problem to negotiate non-ute tasks like dropping the kids off and getting the groceries.

The XL version took a bit longer than expected to arrive here and SsangYong New Zealand is stymied somewhat by a lack of supply for its most popular variant, that being the diesel Sport auto. Annual sales of Rhino are around the 350 mark at present, though SsangYong NZ is hoping a better supply from next month on will help.

Also assisting in a sales sense is the presence of a new GLMD-owned dealership in Christchurch, a change of dealer in Rotorua and new premises in Auckland at Albany later in the year. And now with greater capacity for work, expect to see more Rhinos on the charge soon.

The Stats

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Model SsangYong Rhino XL Sport   Price $44,838

Engine 2157cc, IL4, TDI, 133kW/420Nm

Transmission 6-speed auto, switchable 4x4

Vitals 10.91sec 0-100km/h, 8.9L/100km, 233g/km, 2191kg

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