Newest Suzuki handles like a King
Power steering is the latest “must have” in the ATV industry. This type of stuff seems to all go in phases. First it was IRS that swept the industry. Then it was bigger and bigger engines. Then came fuel injection. Now, it’s power steering. You may think that power steering on an ATV is just a sales gimmick, or at least a complex add-on that could cost a fortune to fix down the road. Well, like fuel injection, once you try an ATV with power steering you’ll be sold on its benefits.
For 2009, the Suzuki KingQuad 500 comes with electric power steering as a standard option. Although the system may be new to ATVs, it is based on the electric power steering that’s been on Suzuki cars and SUVs for years. Basically the unit senses torque loads at both ends of the steering – input from the handlebar and the resistance from the tires. As expected, the unit senses the amount of effort needed to twist the handlebars, thus allowing more power from the unit at slower speeds and less at higher speeds. But at the other end it works as a steering stabilizer by eliminating the instant input from the tires when they smack a rock at speed. So basically, whether riding slow or ramming stumps at speed, the steering operates much the same as if you could all of a sudden bench press the ATV.
One of the additional benefits from the new power steering is that the KingQuad gets a revised front geometry – something that is a huge help in rectifying the previous KingQuad’s steering ails. Without going into too much detail, Suzuki has added several degrees more caster. Caster is the angle of the steering pivot point. In the simplest form, the more caster, the more likely the ATV will track straight. The less caster, the easier it is to change directions – intended or not.
We found that the increased caster did indeed make the new King handle better, especially when fitted with more aggressive tires. Where the standard King could become a real handful to steer on steep and rocky downhills, or on severely rutted trails, the EPS model doesn’t even break a sweat. And with the EPS working as a stabilizer we more than once ran back over a trail just to make sure we actually hit the ruts and rocks!
We also found that unlike some of the other power steering systems out there, the Suzuki EPS is very progressive in action. It’s not over-powered at slow speeds, but provides that all-important ‘feel’ that keeps you in touch with the machine.
Climbing on the KingQuad, the first thing you’ll notice is the great, T-shaped seat that’s wide enough at the back to fully pad your posterior while narrowing enough at the front to allow for easy body movement to control the ATV in difficult or fast situations. Directly in front of you is a great gauge pod that houses a complete array of digital information. In the center is the speedometer and below that is your choice of the odometer or one of two trip odometers selectable using the small black button to the left.
Just below that display is a choice between a clock or engine hour meter. To the right side of that is the six-segment fuel level gauge. On the left side is the drive selector indicator for High, Low, and Reverse with the 2WD/4WD system indicator just above it. Across the top are additional warning lights for the locker engagement, as well as lights for the water temp, EFI and EPS.
The 2WD/4WD/locker selector is located on the right handlebar and operates with a single button for switching between 2WD and 4WD and then a flip of the switch for locking in the front differential. It’s absolutely the best system we’ve ever used. We love to blast around the trails in 4WD rather than 2WD. This gives us greater control by providing better steering and even better braking. Then with just a simple flip of the switch, we’ve got all four wheels churning through the muck with ultimate four-wheel traction.
At the heart of the KingQuad 500 is a new high-tech 493cc, single cylinder, fuel-injected and liquid-cooled 4-stroke engine that’s now on par with its bigger brother, the 750 in its smoothness of operation. In an effort to lower the Suzuki’s center of gravity, the engine has the cylinder tilted forward at a 48-degree angle keeping the upper mass of the engine as low as possible. Another important factor in lowering the center of gravity is the location of 4.6-gallon fuel tank, positioned down below the seat.
The belt-drive CVT transmission is a fairly typical unit notable by its taller than normal gearing. The taller gearing helps the KingQuad to run at a lower rpm at a given speed and helps make the engine and transmission one of the smoothest running of any ATV. Some testers thought that the taller gearing required more use of the low range, but then I suppose that’s why it’s there!
Rather than the more typical park position in the transmission, Suzuki has chosen to use the traditional parking brake located on the left front handlebar. We much prefer the parking brake rather than having to use park for those times you need to quickly step off the ATV to check a fence-line, or even when out on the trail to just stop for a minute to mess with the GPS or check the map.
The brakes are a separate lever, two-brake system, with the front pair of discs operated by the right handlebar lever and the rear brakes being a sealed, wet-plate unit operated by either the left front handlebar lever or the foot pedal.
The suspension is independent at all four corners. Up front are a pair of tubular A-arms with five-setting pre-load adjustable shocks that provide 6.7 inches of travel. In the rear, the KingQuad uses a unique set-up for its arms with lower A-arms and a single upper locator arm. The rear shocks are also adjustable with five preload settings and have a total travel of 7.7 inches. While none of these measurements are remarkable, the suspension works better than the numbers would suggest.
The only drawback we found to the handling of the KingQuad are the whimpy 25” Maxxis tires that come stock on the machine. The thin and rounded tires do more to aggravate the handling than help it, rolling over too much in the corners, and far too easy to puncture by the smallest sticks or rocks. The good news is that at least the stock wheels are aluminum and provide a great platform to mount a set of radials with a bit more aggressive tread. This addition alone will make the handling of the new KingQuad so precise that you might actually think you’re on a sport quad.
The new KingQuad looks great, but those sporty looks hurt it in the utility department with both the front and rear racks being smaller than optimal for carrying real loads. Even though the racks are small, they can still carry the weight, with the front rack’s load capacity being 66 pounds and the rear rack at 132 pounds.
The KingQuad is rated to tow 992 pounds on level terrain and 400 pounds in uneven and difficult conditions. While the power of the 500 can tow that weight, we found that it was actually the short wheelbase that limited the towing. Towing anything more than 400 pounds really caused the King to wallow around in the rough stuff.
Like most of the newer ATVs, the maintenance on the King 500 is hindered some by the plastic bodywork that covers the ATV. Accessing the air filter is fairly simple, just needing the removal of the seat and then the cover in front of the seat to remove it for cleaning. Checking the oil level requires the removal of three plastic fasteners and the plastic cover on the lower left side of the engine. This added amount of trouble just may prove to be enough to keep a lot of folks like me from checking the oil as often as we should. Assuming the check stick must be located behind a plastic panel, at least Suzuki could have made it a snap-off panel like is found on the Yamaha Grizzly.
The battery and the electrical fuses are located under the seat. Unfortunately, the battery hold-down blocks the positive battery terminal, thus requiring its removal to hook up a battery charger. I suppose that’s all the more reason to buy a float-type charger and hook up the electrical plug in adaptor.
The rear brake can be easily adjusted using the same wingnut style system found on most drum brakes. Two separate wingnuts allow the play at both the hand lever and the foot pedal to be adjusted separately.
The newest KingQuad, the 500 is much more capable of wearing the name KingQuad proudly as now, like the 750, it’s got one of the smoothest engines and one of the slickest transmissions to be found. Where the old 450 was a bit slow and more than a bit rough, the new 500 is simply a less-powerful 750. Unless you plan on carrying heavy loads up into the highest elevations the 500 may very well be more than powerful enough for your needs.
With the addition of power steering, Suzuki has conquered the final frontier of greatness – remarkable handling. The power steering as well as the revised steering geometry combine to make the newest KingQuad as good as any ATV out there – whether that be sliding around the fast fire roads or picking along a tight and rugged trail.