Pepper spray for the school run? The weaponised SUV set to terrify America’s streets

The extreme features of the Rezvani Vengeance – including electrified door handles and blinding strobe lights – are wholly in tune with lethal trends in the US market

In southern California, parking lot warfare just got real. Not content with their supersized pickup trucks and child-killing SUVs, America’s road warriors can now go full military apocalypse, with the arrival of the Rezvani Vengeance.

While its competitors offer heated seats and optional roof-racks, this souped-up SUV boasts bulletproof glass, blinding strobe lights, electrified doorhandles, and wing mirrors that can shoot pepper spray – handy for putting those pesky cyclists in their place.

“Vengeance is yours,” trumpets the website, which details how the car can release a dense smoke screen to confuse people following you, as well as detect electromagnetic pulses from nuclear weapons. Always handy for the supermarket run.

Picking up the kids from school? You can announce your arrival through the car’s booming intercom system. Or why not just drive straight through the gates? The vehicle’s hefty steel ram bumpers and military-grade tyres would make mincemeat of any parking barrier – and dispatch the headteacher while they’re at it.

One thing oddly missing from the Vengeance (priced from $285,000, rising to $499,000 with all the extras) is a rear windscreen, because of course that would be unsafe. Instead, drivers are treated to a live video rear-view mirror and a front camera overlaid with “augmented reality”. Perhaps it shows an imaginary zombie army for you to mow down on your way to the mall.

Who needs a rear windscreen? … the Rezvani Vengeance SUV
Who needs a rear windscreen? … the Rezvani Vengeance SUV. Photograph: Rezvani Motors

Styled like an Elon Musk fever dream, its great bulk sculpted with clunking facets, the Vengeance is the latest heady concoction to emerge from Irvine, California-based Rezvani Motors. The company was founded in 2014 by Ferris Rezvani, whose father was an F4 Phantom fighter pilot in the Iranian air force. Unable to become a pilot himself for various health reasons, Rezvani Jr decided to start a car company to “create the same high-speed thrill of flying on the ground”. It seems he is keen to indulge in a bit of military cosplay too. The company’s first car design was named Beast, followed by one called Tank, of which the Vengeance is conceived as a more mainstream “little brother”.

Which brings us to the most frightening thing about this weaponised monster of an SUV: that it is aimed not at military personnel, but at everyday soccer moms. A viral TikTok video, made by family car reviewer @mobile_mama, shows a mom regaling her followers with the delights of the pepper spray mirrors – “my favourite” – while showing off the bulletproof vests, helmets and gas masks that come with the car. “Your kids will love that it was styled by a video-game designer,” she chirrups. “Is the Rezvani Vengeance the safest vehicle for you and your kiddos or what?” Just as long as you don’t accidentally pepper-spray them in the face.

This steroidal tank might seem like an anomalous extreme, but the truth is it represents the broader rise of the average US consumer vehicle into a supercharged killing machine. With its added tactical weaponry and paranoid styling, at least the Vengeance is honest about it.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers behind the wheel of an SUV are two to three times more likely to kill a pedestrian in a collision than when driving a regular car. A study in Michigan found that, at 20-39 mph, 30% of SUV crashes resulted in a pedestrian fatality, compared with 23% of car crashes. While, at 40mph or above, 100% of SUV crashes resulted in a pedestrian death, compared with 54% of car crashes.

It comes down to simple physics: SUVs are more lethal due to their enormous weight, much taller front ends, and poorer visibility. While a regular car generally strikes a pedestrian’s legs, throwing them on to the bonnet, an SUV strikes their upper torso, or head, and then crushes them under the wheels.

Following the American love for supersizing everything, from Big Macs to McMansions, it is no surprise that the sale of ever bigger, ever heavier cars has mushroomed. Some reports show that 80% of all car sales in the US are now SUVs or pickup trucks. When I visited the Ford factory in Detroit in 2019, they proudly told me that the company had stopped manufacturing compact cars altogether in the US.

It is no coincidence that the rise in SUV sales comes with an alarming rise in the number of pedestrians being killed on the roads. According to a Governors Highway Safety Association report, pedestrian fatalities have rocketed by 54% over the last decade. Cars might have grown safer for the people inside them, but not for walkers, cyclists or bikers. It is, as the New York Times put it, an exceptionally American problem. While other comparably developed countries have seen traffic fatalities falling in recent years, the US is alone in seeing an increase – even during the pandemic.

SUVs are killing us in another way too, as some of the world’s worst polluters. It was recently found that they are the second biggest cause of the global rise in carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade, eclipsing all shipping, aviation, heavy industry and even trucks. If all SUV drivers banded together to form their own country – the Republic of Vengeance? – it would rank as the seventh largest emitter in the world.

Still, wrapped inside their body armour, protected by dazzling lights and thick smoke screens, with their gas masks at the ready, at least the kiddos will be safe on their way home from school.


Oliver Wainwright

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The $500m Shed: inside New York's quilted handbag on wheels
This puffed-up cultural citadel was meant to be an endlessly evolving, telescopic arts complex. But the glistening billionaires’ playground rising up beside it had other plans

Oliver Wainwright

05, Apr, 2019 @1:13 PM

Article image
The 'spaces between buildings' – Seoul's first architecture biennale
From Zaha Hadid’s bulbous plaza to a ‘library’ of flora planted across a skygarden, the South Korean capital is using its architecture festival to look to the future – and atone for the costly sins of the past

Oliver Wainwright

01, Nov, 2017 @5:00 PM

Article image
The world's best building? A remote Brazilian school made out of wood
This year’s Royal Institute of British Architects prize goes to the timber and mud-brick Children Village, which doesn’t need air-con even in 45 degree heat

Oliver Wainwright

21, Nov, 2018 @12:01 AM

Article image
Work begins on the world's first 3D-printed house
Zero waste, lower transport costs and recyclable materials – is 3D-printing the future of housebuilding? Dutch architects are putting the process to the test for the first time in Amsterdam

Oliver Wainwright in Amsterdam

28, Mar, 2014 @4:27 PM

Article image
Is Frank Gehry really the right person to revitalise the Los Angeles river?
The 51-mile concrete gutter housing the LA river – more famous as a dystopian film backdrop than a body of water – is finally due for a facelift. Should it be redesigned by locals who’ve campaigned for years – or by starchitect Gehry?

Oliver Wainwright in Los Angeles

23, Oct, 2015 @9:00 AM

Article image
Chicago Architecture Biennial secures the city's place as a mecca for building buffs
With the police stations of tomorrow and $9,000 extendable homes, Chicago’s first Biennial is a diverse pick’n’mix of architecture today. But why won’t it engage with the city in a more meaningful way?

Oliver Wainwright in Chicago

05, Oct, 2015 @1:36 PM

Article image
Serpentine pavilion 2017: a shimmering African canopy spreads out over Kensington Gardens
Inspired by a tree used as a meeting place in his native village of Gando, architect Francis Kéré has brought a piece of Burkina Faso to London – a deceptively simple roof that seems to float above the greenery

Oliver Wainwright

20, Jun, 2017 @2:39 PM

Article image
'Already iconic': David Adjaye's black history museum wins design of the year
The British architect and four practices triumph for their bold addition to the Washington DC Mall, inspired by African sculpture and chronicling slave history. Is it a worthy winner?

Oliver Wainwright

25, Jan, 2018 @10:25 PM

Article image
Beneath the veneer: our unbending fascination with plywood
From army planes to pharaohs’ coffins, the V&A’s eye-opening show tells the astonishing story of this age-old yet perennially modern material

Oliver Wainwright

12, Jul, 2017 @3:35 PM

Article image
Serpentine pavilion 2016: Bjarke Ingels' pyramid for the Minecraft generation
Is it a wall? Is it a cave? Actually, this year’s pavilion started life as shelves – but it has gawp-factor by the bucketload

Oliver Wainwright

07, Jun, 2016 @3:39 PM