2008 ATV roundup
Here’s an idea of what to look for from the major OEMs for the new model year
Story by Gary Gustafson, Dec. 07, 2007
ATV and UTV technology continues to progress, and the 2008 model year is no exception. All of the major manufacturers are focusing on innovation with their new machines. Here is a rundown of some of the best new iron from each brand.
For those who just can’t get enough power, Arctic Cat introduces the Thundercat 1000 H2 EFI. Designed and manufactured by Arctic Cat, the brand new ‘H2’ engine is a V-Twin Hemi, SOHC, liquid cooled, 950cc, Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) four stroke. The motor is built to deliver massive torque and serious, arm-stretching power. Arctic Cat announced that its intent with the Thundercat is to build an ATV that is the fastest corner-to-corner, period. Arctic’s EFI is designed to deliver consistent performance in all conditions and temperatures automatically. Instant cold starting, optimized performance regardless of elevation or temperature and better fuel mileage are the biggest benefits applied to the Thundercat. The Duramatic automatic transmission has a maintenance-free belt and improved cooling. The suspension is race-bred with additional ‘ride-in,’ which means the Thundercat H2 will squat approximately two inches when the rider sits on it, while maintaining a class leading 12 inches of ground clearance and 10 inches of suspension travel. The package inspires confidence in aggressive cornering and high-speed handling. The wheelbase has been lengthened by two inches for optimized cornering and handling. Push-button four-wheel-drive, a locking front differential and re-designed Speedracks are all standard. To cap off the entire package, the new Thundercat rolls on 12-inch aluminum wheels wrapped with 25-inch Maxxis tires specifically designed for the ATV.
At the other end of the cost spectrum is another new model from the folks in Thief River Falls, Minn. The 400 4x4 has an oil-cooled, 366cc power plant that the company designed and built in-house. This bike has all the features of premium-priced models with a cvt transmission, 25-inch tires, double-wishbone independent suspension front and rear and a trademark 12-inch of ground clearance that permits about 10 iches of suspension travel. The 400 also has a surprising 6.5-gallon fuel tank and a 1,050-lb towing rating.
Arctic Cat’s sport-utility lineup is filled out with big IRS 4x4s juiced by 500cc, 650cc and 700cc engines. Arctic developed its TRV lineup for those who want to ride their ATV 2-up, saddle-style—or—have hauling duties that require a cargo box. The TRVs can come with 493cc, 641 or a 695cc power plant. All three models come with a rear second-passenger seat that can be folded down to make use of the rear rack or to add on a cargo box for three-way versatility. The TRVs have comfortable passenger foot rests that keeps the passengers feet away from the driver. A big 6.5-gallon gas tank holds fuel for working or playing all day. In the pure sport class, Arctic has a 250 DVX and a 400 DVX available.
Can-Am’s innovative ATVs are turning a lot of heads. A good case in point is the 2008 650 Outlander XT. The XT’s Rotax 4-stroke is probably the most powerful engine in its class, driving a rubber-belt cvt that cranks out white-knuckle acceleration. The XT also has Can-Ams Visco-Lok front end providing extra traction automatically. Big 26-inch tires contribute to the 12 inches of rated ground clearance. The SST frame is Can Am’s way of providing solid support with a simplistic design that helps in skidding over obstacles. This excellent package makes it easier to clear rocks and ruts while riding. Can-Am ATVs have an industry-leading DESS anti-theft system that is one of the OEM’s trademark technologies. Its unique TTI trailing-arm suspensions are a relative of the bump soakers found on its top-selling snowmobiles. Other potent engine packages in the Outlander lineup are in their 400 and 650 models. These quads can also come with XT kits that have a 3,000-lb winch and hand guards as standard equipment.
Can-Am’s answer for the pure sport classes are its DS models. Like the Outlanders, the DSs are notable for their unique design and their outstanding engine performance. The DS 450 X has a 449cc, single-cylinder fuel-injected mill that really rocks. A five-speed manual transmission keeps the pilot in control and chain drive helps keep the bike light. The ALTEC pyramidal frame is designed for maximum abuse to weight ratio. Kayaba piggy-back shocks both in the front and the rear have three-way adjustment for compression, rebound and spring pre-tension. There are 20-inch ITP Holeshot tires in front and 21-inch version of the same skins in back. Nerf bars, an aluminum front bumper, handlebar riser, trick graphics and other bling also come with the X package. A DS 250 and youth models with DS graphics comprise the rest of the DS family.
Can-Am’s Renegades couple engine power and a sporty attitude with four-wheel drive for maximum trail domination. If you like your fresh air at 50mph and up, a Can-Am ATV may be right for you.
ATV sales leader Honda attacks the big-bore pure sport market in 2008 with the TRX700XX. The newest, baddest TRX is powered by a 686cc PGM fuel-injected, single-cylinder engine. PGM is a fuel injection design exclusive to Honda’s powersports products and monitors a host of variables. Among the conditions monitored are engine RPM, throttle position, intake-port pressure, engine-coolant temperature, intake-air temperature and atmospheric pressure. As operating conditions change, the fuel-delivery is being recalculated many times per second to ensure optimal performance and remarkably crisp throttle response over a wide operating range. The TRX700XX has other strong features such as a heavy-duty clutch, independent rear suspension—yes you read that right—with a plush 9.3 inches of travel, double wishbone front suspension with 10.5 inches of travel, and adjustable reservoir shocks all the way around. Honda took great pains to center the rear chain drive, thus enabling the IRS and more suspension travel. Trail-friendly features such as a reverse gear, counterbalanced engine and a comfortable seat will help make this one a hit with every day riders. Like all Hondas, the fit and finish are superb. The 700 joins Honda’s legendary pure sport lineup that includes other favorites such as the 450R, 400EX, 300EX and the 250EX as well as a youth version.
On the sport-utility side, Honda has been doing a very good job of providing advanced technology that is useful and reliable. The updated Foreman lineup is an example. Honda’s Foreman 4x4 ES with power steering is powered by a carbureted 475cc 4-stroke, air-cooled engine. Of course, the engine is mounted longitudinally, one of Honda’s hallmark features. This flagship Foreman comes with electric shifting for the manual transmission and also with Electric Power Steering (EPS). The EPS effect is most noticeable in the twisties when steering fatigue can make a riders arm muscles burn. Honda keeps the Foreman package compact and simple with a 4.1-gallon fuel tank and dual-shock swingarm rear suspension.
The Rincon is positioned at the top of Big Red’s sport-utility lineup. The Rincon has a PGM fuel-injected 675cc, liquid-cooled single-cylinder ponying up a three-speed automatic torque-converter transmission that does not use a rubber belt. Honda is still the only ATV manufacturer that has integral GPS and the Rincon can be purchased with the manually-operated GPScape trail-marking system. Disk brakes and double-wishbone suspension are standard in both the front and rear. The Rincon has 10 inches of ground clearance and comes in red or camouflage color options. Completing Honda’s extensive sport-utility lineup are their Recons with 229ccs, Ranchers in the 400 and 450cc classes, and a 500-class Rubicon.
Kawasaki dropped a K-bomb called the KFX450 on the pure sport class. The green bullet’s engine is fuel-injected and 449ccs. Some trick racing technology that Kawasaki integrated includes a titanium exhaust header, custom aluminum frame, svelte 2.6-gallon fuel tank and a track-ready suspension. Twenty one-inch tires spin on the front double a-arms and 20-inch tires turn on the rear axle. There are disk brakes all around. The dry weight is stated to be a lean and mean 364 lbs. Kawi’s foray into the 450 pure sport class is getting acclaim in many circles and adds to the hyper-competitiveness of this segment.
Kawasaki also feeds the addiction of power junkies with its Brute Force sport-utility models, which can be purchased with a V-twin 633cc or a 749cc V-twin four-stroke engine. They are also one of the last big-bore ATVs that can still be purchased with a rear swing arm or independent rear suspension. A rubber-belt cvt and low-high transmission puts the power to the ground through drive shafts. Four-wheel drive controlled with a handlebar switch is standard, so is a manually-operated locking differential. The towing capacity is rated at a hefty 1,250 lbs, and these units are ready for winch wiring with plastic conduit already installed. Team Green kept mud runners in mind by locating the air intakes as high as possible. Kawasaki equips these machines with its innovative fluid-shear rear brake, disk brakes are in the front, and there is full-body skid protection underneath. The digital instrumentation is easy to read.
Kawasaki also offers the 360 Prairie for off-roaders who want ease of operation and a low price tag.
Kymco is a large Asian manufacturer of scooters, motorbikes and ATVs. It has the North American ATV market in its crosshairs, and the MXU 500 is proof. The 500 is powered by a liquid-cooled, 499cc Dual Overhead Cam four-stroke engine. It has a 4.5-gallon gas tank and runs on 25-inch tires. Disk brakes apply binder action to both the front and rear wheels. The solid-axle rear end helps to contribute to reliability and the double A-Arm front end helps add ride comfort. Push-button four-wheel-drive with a locking front differential is standard. The MXU has a very good 10.2 inches of ground clearance and an impressive towing capacity of 1,000 lbs. Kymco’s rig has a CVT transmission with low and high gear available. The quad comes with shaft drive. Kymco also offers MXU 300, 250 and 150 sport-utility models. On the sport side, Kymco has the Mongoose 300 and 250, as well as some youth models.
The 300 to 400cc class of ATV has always been very popular with riders who want a quad that can get them and their gear from point A to point B. Polaris stood this segment on its ear two years ago with the release of the well-equipped and low-priced Hawkeye 300. Polaris decided to do away with the Hawkeye name for 2008, but is continuing its march into the 300cc to 400cc class with a Sportsman 400 HO that is built on the original Hawkeye platform. The 400 HO has all the advantages of the Hawkeye, including a low retail cost, Independent Rear Suspension similar to the one pioneered for Polaris by design great Jeff Bennett, full instrumentation, true All-Wheel-Drive and watertight storage. The 400 HO’s ace in the hole is a much stronger engine than the one on the 300 Hawkeye. The liquid-cooled, 455cc single-cylinder power plant draws in air through a 34mm Mikuni carburetor. The plush suspension allows seven inches of travel in the front and eight inches of travel in the back. The rubber-belt, continuously variable transmission (cvt) has forward, reverse and neutral gears. The cvt also couples engine braking to the rear two wheels to make downhill riding safer. A simple handlebar switch lets the rider easily engage the drive shafts to the front wheels for true all-wheel-drive when the going gets tough. The Sportsman allows optimal winch mounting and there is enough room under the fenders to up-size the 24” tires to more trophy-sized meats. Red, green and Mossy Oak color options are available for the 400 HO. Polaris has smooth-riding, fuel injected 4x4 Sportsman ATVs in the 800cc, 700cc, 600 and 500cc classes too.
Polaris has progressed from being non-existent in the pure sport market to scoring podiums with its competitive Outlaw family. The 450 MXR is the company’s hottest ticket yet—448ccs of carbureted KTM power take the MXR to warp speed with what Polaris claims is the fastest stock acceleration available in the industry. The transmission has five-speeds with reverse and is clutched manually. Maxxis Razr tires and Fox reservoir shocks provide great performance. The front dual a-arms have 10 inches of travel and the monoshock rear swingarm moves 11 inches to soften landings. Two Outlaw 525 models offer great acceleration, oodles of suspension travel and they can be purchased with IRS or a swing arm.
Polaris has an extensive offering of two-up models. Its 500 and 800 EFI Touring models have a back seat that carries a passenger in style, or the seat can be folded down to maximize rear rack space. Their 700 and 500 X2 rigs also have a back seat, but come with a cargo box that is enabled when the seat is folded down. Polaris has lots of youth and entry-level models, too.
Suzuki—the company that was “first on four wheels”—is capitalizing on the success of its King Quad name by adding two more quads under this moniker. The two new models for 2008 are the King Quad 400 and the King Quad 750. The new 750 (actually 722ccs) is the largest ATV engine Suzuki has ever produced. This new power plant is a bored-out version of their award-winning 700 motor. The latest, biggest King retains and refines the features that have made other King Quads well accepted. There is a well-calibrated Independent Rear Suspension, a locking front differential, and a maintenance-free fluid-shear wet brake on the back end. Aggressive-tread 25-inch tires provide traction for a wide range of terrain. The highly functional steel-tube racks have a heavy black powder coating for extra durability. There is a spot in the back for a ball hitch to pull a trailer. Suzuki’s King Quad models have earned a reputation for having bulletproof, exceptionally smooth engines. The 750 should be no exception. Suzuki plasma-spray coats the engine cylinder to help dissipate heat and prolong engine life. The engine is counter-balanced to reduce vibration, and canted at 48 degrees to lower the seat height and improve the ATV’s stability. The 750 exhales through a stainless steel exhaust pipe and the exhaust cadence is sweet. The award-winning King Quad 450, the King Quad 700, Eiger 400 and the Ozark 250 make up the rest of Suzuki’s sport-utility lineup.
Suzuki’s Quadracer 450R continues to shake up the racing world. The fuel-injected 450cc engine has been race-refined for a lower center of gravity, has an SCEM-coated cylinder to dissipate heat, and includes a magnesium cylinder head, clutch cover, and magneto cover for reduced weight. The handlebars are rubber-mounted. The bike has a wide, low-slung stance. Double a-arms on the front end carry Dunlop racing meats. Fully-adjustable Kayaba reservoir shocks can be tuned as needed for the track and rider. There is another Kayaba shock with multiple adjustments on the swing arm. Suzuki did not leave much to racers’ imaginations with this awesome package. Suzuki also has Quadsport Z400 and Z250 sport models and youth editions, too.
At number 2 in North American market share, Yamaha has seriously added to its cachet with off-roaders in the past few years. Bill Balance’s domination of the GNCC circuit aboard a YFZ450 certainly helps. For 2008 the YFZ is still a leader in the pure sport class. Among the race-bred innovations on the 450 are: a lightweight chassis contributing to a super 350 Lb. dry weight, five titanium valves per cylinder on a liquid-cooled 449cc engine, magnesium cylinder head cover and right-side crankcase cover, a cam chain tensioner and oil pump that are especially designed for small size and light weight and ignition coils that are integrated into the spark plug caps. Joining the venerable YFZ in Yamaha’s sport ATV lineup is another powerhouse, the Raptor 700. The 700 is powered by a fuel-injected 686cc four-stroke engine. It has an aluminum swingarm in back that has 10.1 inches of travel and dual a-arms in the front that move 9.1 inches. There are disk brakes all around and the Raptor has a 2.9-gallon fuel tank. Further sport quads in the Yamaha stable are the Raptor 250 and 350. The Wolverine 350 and Wolverine 450 are 4x4 quads that are more sport than utility-oriented.
Yamaha added Electric Power Steering (EPS) to several of their Grizzly 700 FI models for 2008. This feature works so well that riders will be doing double-takes to see if their front differential is really engaged. Speaking of locking front differentials, Yamaha ATVs are the only ATVs with a push-button locking front differential—other brands have systems that are mechanically engaged. The fuel-injected 700 twin in the Grizzly 700 has a compression ratio of 9.2:1 and has proven itself as a strong workhorse on both their Grizzly ATVs and their Rhino UTVs. The Grizzly has an easy to use high-low-reverse cvt transmission that keeps constant belt tension to prevent burning belts. Double-wishbone independent suspension at all four corners provides a smooth ride. Hydraulic disk brakes put stopping power to the 25-inch tires.
The Grizzly 450 is now tricked out with most of the same premium features as its big brother. The 450 has a couple of goodies all to itself though including a 2-inch rear receiver hitch for true utility applications and a wet brake in back to eliminate the need for maintenance in this area. As with the bigger Grizzly there is nice digital instrumentation and 10.8 inches of ground clearance. The Grizzly 660 survives another year in the Yamaha lineup, there is also a Grizzly 350 and 400, a Big Bear 250 and a Big Bear 400 that is aimed at the mud crowd with manual transmission and ITP tires. Yamaha has models for the young’uns as well.