Argo goes upscale
Argo has been in the off-road market longer than any of today’s ATV and UTV producers. The amphibious machines have been in consumer hands since 1967 when the first Argo six-wheeled vehicle was completed.
While modern ATVs look much evolved from the early days and Sport-specific UTVs are a relatively new phenomenon, a modern day Argo looks much the same as the first one did in 1967. The machines themselves are better in every conceivable way, but the look has stayed remarkably consistent.
While Argos have long been sought after by hunters, outdoorsmen and first responders, for 2016 Argo is looking to reach a group it has historically struggled to attract – recreational riders. Argo is hoping the new LX Series will do just that.
Put an LX Series Argo beside any other and it stands out in several ways. Styling is sharper and more modern on the LX Series, which is available in striking colors like Cranberry Wine, Crimson Shadow, Silver Shadow, Sunset Orange and Royal Nautica. On the surface there is nothing drab about an Argo LX XTV (Argo’s term).
Perhaps the most interesting visual feature of the LX Series is beadlock wheels, which are quite striking in person. At first glance, beadlock wheels on an Argo seem misplaced. We’re used to seeing beadlocks on performance ATVs and UTVs being pushed to the limits, not on an eight-wheeled amphibious vehicle. But there is a method to Argo’s madness.
Because Argos lack a traditional suspension system or shock absorbers of any kind, the only thing cushioning the ride are the tires. If you’ve ridden a slightly older Argo you’ll know the ride can be pretty stiff and jarring when travelling with a little speed. Argo figured the best way to solve this was to lower the tire pressure. Unfortunately, traditional wheels couldn’t keep the tires in place with really low pressure. This is where the beadlock wheels come in.
Argo used the beadlock wheels to drop the tire pressure down to 1.5 to 2.0 psi. The difference in comfort is significant, as the tires are able to compress around obstacles rather than bounce over them. Compared to other Argo models, the LX Series ride is considerably more comfortable and we spent far less time being bounced and jostled around. We wouldn’t say it rides just like a machine with shock absorbers, but we’re not sure the average person would know there weren’t any shocks at all. We’d call that a success.
Climb inside the Argo LX and you’re greeted by more comfortable and supportive seating than you’d find in older Argos. These seats are designed to better hold onto the rider when dealing with rough terrain. Like the beadlock wheels with low tire pressure, the new seats are all about rider comfort.
While it won’t offer riders any physical comfort, all Argo LX models come outfitted with a Jensen 4-channel 40-watt sound system with front and rear speakers. This marine-grade system offers Bluetooth streaming from your mobile devices or a hard connection via a USB digital port.
Another difference from Argos of yore is an expanded digital dash. No longer a spartan layout, the Argo LX displays speedometer, tachometer, odometer, voltmeter, hour meter, engine temp, oil pressure, parking brake and check engine lights.
Speaking of lights, a new interior lighting package offers extra illumination front and rear.
Other features include an improved front passenger grab bar (we found it much more comfortable to hold than non-LX Series Argos), front brushguard, larger 25-inch tires, a faster by 25% top speed of 25 mph, 900 lbs of rear cargo capacity and front-mount 3,500-pound Warn winch.
For those that want to take their Argo LX to the next level, Argo offers an optional outboard motor for faster water crossing, LED headlamps, floodlights and fog lamps, track kits, snow plows, amphibious trailers, windshields and more.
What’s The Same?
Like all Argos, LX models feature power to all wheels (8×8 or 6×6) that comes from a Kohler 747cc liquid-cooled V-Twin engine.
Unlike an ATV or UTV, the front wheels of an Argo do not turn left and right. Instead, turning the handlebar causes the wheels on one side to simply slow down. This gives the Argo a tighter turning radius than any machine we’ve ever used.
Of course, Argo LX machines still float and can be driven across deep water. Moving the Argo through the water are its bulbous tires, which look like they’ve been installed backwards. But it’s that backwards-facing tread that gives the Argo its propulsion in the water.
If you’ve never driven an Argo, it takes some getting used to. You are much better off not thinking of an Argo like an ATV or UTV. It’s a different beast altogether.
The steering, like we mentioned above, is completely different than any other off-road vehicle. Even though you can’t go incredibly fast in an Argo, if you yank the bars at top speed, the Argo will turn in a big hurry. We found it a little difficult to get used to handling the Argo when cruising around north of 20 mph, but with time we became more comfortable with it. At slower speeds, the Argo has essentially no turning radius – it can just spin. That can come in handy when handling in tight spaces.
For a machine with no shocks, the ride was surprisingly nice. Though not as smooth as a good Utility ATV, it was a much more comfortable ride than we were expecting and miles better than other models in the Argo lineup.
It’s also incredibly cool to ride the Argo across the water. You don’t go terribly fast (just a few miles per hour), but we crossed a small lake in Texas many times just for the joy of it. It should be noted that we found water riding much better with one rider in the back and one in the front. With just a driver, the front end dips a fair bit; however, the optional outboard motor would likely solve that problem.
To test the Argo’s abilities, we decided to climb out of the water onto a steep bank. Though the bank was covered in soft grass, the Argo gamely fought its way up and over. Impressive.
The Argo was also able to climb over an assortment of rocks and steps that we’d think twice about trying in a traditional ATV. This thing just goes. We did run into a bit of trouble trying to climb over an old tractor tire, which started sliding before catching an edge and shooting straight up – along with the Argo. Fortunately all it took was taking our hand off the twist throttle and we backed down slowly and safely. Just a little reminder that these are big powerful machines that demand a driver’s respect.
This was our first time in an Argo and we came away impressed. Quite frankly, it was way more fun to drive than we expected. It may only go 25 mph, but that seems awfully quick and plenty exciting when you are behind the bars.
With an MSRP starting at US$27,295 ($19,145 for 6×6) for the LX Series, it will be interesting to see if Argo can reach the recreational buyer. Deep pockets are required for this model, though you can get into a less-comfortable 6×6 Frontier EFI model for $11,595.
Argo will readily admit that its machines are not well suited for typical ATV trails. It is banking on people who own land that is hard to reach in other machines or at least access to public land that can be legally explored off-trail.
At this point Argo is selling around 2,000 or so units a year, which is small compared to the major ATV manufacturers. But the goal is to triple sales in the very near future. To do that, Argo is working to expand its dealer network so more consumers have a chance to see an Argo in a showroom. Tripling sales seems like an awfully big goal, but when you think of it as selling just 4,000 more units it sounds much more reasonable. The Argo LX seems like a good start and we are expecting to see more interesting offerings from Argo soon.