At a time when many companies are either downsizing or halting any new product developments in an effort to reduce costs, Yamaha Motor Corp has been busy making sure that it continues to offer its consumers a wide variety of products that encompass all skill levels when it comes to its sport quad lineup. As a matter of fact, nobody in the industry has a Sport ATV lineup as deep as Yamaha’s. This market dominance is obvious in places like Glamis, Calif. – where sport quads are the name of the game when it comes to dune ruding.
When the beginning of each new year rolls around, journalists from a wide variety of ATV outlets eagerly check and recheck their email inboxes in anticipation of Yamaha’s annual Special Edition ATV rollout that has taken place in Glamis for the past 10 years. What began as a unique way to get the media excited about its new editions has turned into quite the tradition, and 2012 is no exception to the history books.
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Having been the lucky recipient of just such an e-mail, I found myself once again heading west from Phoenix to my all-time favorite sand playground a mere three hours away. The best part was that it was Tuesday morning, and while everyone else was heading into their offices for work, I was headed off to a different kind of office. One that was much sandier… and much more fun!
Though 2012 is just days old, Polaris has jumped out of the gate running. We’ve already seen the new Ranger RZR XP 4 900 (expect a review and video in the coming days) and now Polaris has introduced a new batch of 2012 limited edition ATVs and UTVs.
In August Polaris unveiled a whopping 24 limited edition models, so we logically thought we wouldn’t see anything else until the 2013 LE vehicles rolled off the assembly line. Of course, Polaris always likes to surprise us and this was no exception. With 17 additional LE models, Polaris is now offering more than 40 variations to its already vast ATV and UTV lineup.
All the new units will be available in dealerships in February, so you won’t have long to wait if you see something you like.
Additional features on the limited edition model include:
* Blue Fire automotive-style paint with Blue Fire painted front fang
On the heels of the re-release of the bargain-priced YFZ450, Yamaha has given the price-conscious Utility ATV enthusiast something to cheer about with the introduction of the brand new 2012 Yamaha Grizzly 300 2WD, which retails for $4,099.
According to Yamaha, this new light Utility ATV has a smooth and powerful engine and is the only model in its class with a fully automatic dual range transmission.
The Grizzly 300 is powered by a 287cc single overhead cam four stroke engine. Yamaha says its liquid cooling is engineered to provide precise temperature control and long engine life even in extreme environments. At the center of its lightweight and durable chassis is a powerplant with a 32mm carburetor that is designed to deliver smooth power.
So your child is beasting the yard up on the mini quad and looks like a giant ogre riding a praying mantis every time he shifts his weight gently to the rear. We’d say it’s at that time you would need to consider a new larger scale, rider friendly ATV. Honda’s 2011 TRX250X has plenty of room for the growing sprout in your family. As long as he is 16 or older, according to Honda, this is a great step up in riding growth.
Since the sporty yet less race-inspired 250cc world came to life many changes have been engineered into the machines that make them friendly to younger and less experienced riders. The Honda TRX250X is no different. These machines serve to get a rider, who has confidence enough to move up in ATV size, a good platform to continue to inspire them to ride more. And even if some inexperienced adults in the family feel the need to start riding they too can use the Honda TRX250X to get a new life outdoors on a roll.
Polaris always seems to be pretty busy this time of year. It was just a short time ago that the Minnesota-based manufacturer released its 2012 ATV and Ranger Lineup. We attended the 2012 model introduction in Northern Ontario, Canada and had an opportunity to inspect the latest and greatest Polaris models.
Two brand new vehicles have already been released for 2012 – the Ranger Diesel Crew and Ranger RZR 570 – and many of the remaining machines saw performance or storage updates as well. It seems that Polaris is always trying to improve its product.
Of course, some consumers want to take things to next level with unique ATV accessories and parts and Polaris is a willing partner as its 2012 Limited Edition ATVs and Rangers attest. The 2012 Limited Edition Lineup includes a whopping 24 machines – six ATV models, nine Ranger models and nine RZR models.
Additional features on the limited edition model include:
* Photo-realistic Polaris Pursuit Camo
Only Polaris could unveil an off-road lineup with one new machine and 19 updated models and leave you thinking it was a fairly quiet year, but that’s exactly what happened with its 2012 ATV and Ranger lineup.
Polaris has been so active in recent years building completely new machines and giving others almost total overhauls that its 2012 lineup seems to lack the punch we’ve come to expect. But if you sit back and think about it, that’s pretty much the definition of being spoiled. It’s like Polaris is our parents and we’re a bunch of whiny kids unhappy that all we got for our birthday was a brand new bike when last year we got a pony, an X-box and a trip to the Super Bowl. Quick, somebody call the authorities and report this appalling case of neglect!
Editor’s Note: Mere moments after publishing this article, Polaris threw us a curveball by unveiled yet another new machine – the trail-capable Ranger RZR 570. You can read all about it here.
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Ranger Crew Diesel
For 2012 the only completely new machine is the Ranger Crew Diesel – the second diesel model and third multi-passenger model in the Polaris family.
As it seems to do every year, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) has unloaded a bundle of new goodies for 2012 Can-Am off-road lineup.
In an industry that craves power, BRP has doled it out in spades by bringing the potent engine from the Commander 1000 UTV to the ATV family in the form of the 2012 Can-Am Renegade 1000. The Canadian manufacturer also gave the Renegade 1000 and Renegade 800R a completely retooled chassis for the upcoming model year.
If Utility 4×4 ATVs are your thing, you can read about the 2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 and 800R here.
BRP didn’t touch the 71 horsepower, 799cc, V-Twin engine of the Renegade 800R, so we’ll jump right into the ridiculously powerful mill of the new Renegade 1000. According to BRP, the 80-degree, 976cc, fuel-injected V-Twin produces an industry-leading 82 horsepower.
It seems like the folks at Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) must never go to sleep. Every year BRP’s Can-Am family of off-road vehicles offers major changes and pushes new technologies. The 2012 model year is no different – Can-Am has come out with its guns blazing once again.
Can-Am got a taste of 1000cc power with the introduction of the Commander 1000 UTV in 2011 and decided it was time to move that outrageous mill to its ATV lineup. Not merely satisfied with throwing the engine into the familiar Outlander body, Can-Am gave the new Outlander 1000 and Outlander 800R a ground-up redesign.
If Sport 4×4 ATVs are more your thing, you can read about the 2012 Can-Am Renegade 1000 and 800R here.
While the Outlander 800R uses the same 71-horsepower, 800cc, V-Twin engine it has for the last few years, the Outlander 1000 is a different story altogether. According to BRP, the 80-degree, 976cc, V-Twin produces an industry-leading 82 horsepower – 17% more power than any competitive ATV.
The ATV rumor mill has long been speculating that Honda would release a new TRX450R in 2012 and the rumors are true…sort of. While Honda did indeed include the TRX450R in its new model lineup for the first time since 2009, the 2012 version remains very much the same machine it has been since it was first introduced in the 2004 model year.
We combed over the specs data and talked to American Honda and found out that the 2012 TRX450R is exactly the same as the 2009 model. The only difference we could see is that the kick start model is not available in 2012.
Honda even kept the TRX450R in the same clothes – a white plastic and orange frame combination that we’re quite fond of. Red and Black options are not available (at least so far) in 2012.
Arctic Cat has begun the unveiling process for its 2012 family of ATVs and side-by-sides by revealing two new models and more than a dozen machines returning to the fleet unchanged from 2011.
The key for Arctic Cat in 2012 seems to be option packages – namely the GT and LTD packages. Any ATV or side-by-side with the GT option package comes with painted bodywork, aluminum wheels and electronic power steering. The LTD package features all of that plus heavy-duty front and rear bumpers and a 3,000-pound winch.
These option packages are all about creating choices for consumers. A good example of this is the new for 2012 Arctic Cat 700i MudPro LTD. Now consumers can choose between the base 700i MudPro (returning from 2011) and the LTD version (the bumpers, winch and power steering should be a huge help for the mud riders out there). This seems like a great way to update your lineup without having to do a major redesign or eliminate an existing machine from the fleet. The 700i MudPro LTD is available in Green or Orange painted bodywork and features massive 28-inch Zilla tires mounted to 14-inch aluminum wheels.
Yamaha has been busy expanding and refining its ATV lineup over the past few years, offering consumers a fleet of new and improved machines. While its recently unveiled 2012 model lineup doesn’t feature any completely new ATVs (at least not yet), Yamaha has made some significant changes – most notably where the machines are being built.
Coming to America
Yamaha’s flagship Utility ATV, the Grizzly 700 (along with the Grizzly 550) is now being assembled in the United States at the Newnan, Ga. factory. You can read more about Yamaha’s expanded U.S. ATV production here, but the gist is that Yamaha is hoping to transfer the majority of its worldwide ATV manufacturing to the United States by 2013.
Introduced back in 2006 (for the 2007 model year), Yamaha’s Grizzly 700 hit the market as the first ATV offering power steering. Since then it has won a ton of big bore shootouts and set the standard for its class in many ways.
Last year we tested the Grizzly 550. We were blown away by what a capable all around machine the 550 was, especially when it came to having fun out on the trail. The Grizzly 550 was based on, and is virtually identical to its slightly older sibling, the Grizzly 700. The only real difference between the two machines is a bit more displacement and power for the 700. We loved the sporty and nimble handing of the 550, and knew that more power would only up the fun factor, so we decided to grab a 2011 Grizzly 700 and revisit what makes this ATV so popular with so many riders.
So, you are considering purchasing a new 4×4 ATV, but maybe you haven’t settled on which particular model catches your interest. Since financing is difficult to come by and people are being more frugal with their money, chances are the machine you choose will be based on a combination of its intended use and your budget.
Most of the manufacturers offer a few entry-level models with lower retail prices, usually accompanied by smaller displacement engines, less features, and smaller-sized chassis. If you are a smaller rider in need of a compact ATV, the smaller chassis may not be an issue; however, if you want a more capable full-sized machine, your options are pretty limited. You know the saying “You get what you pay for.” Well, in our opinion, there is one particular machine on the market for which that saying doesn’t hold water – the 2011 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O.
Not to be confused with Polaris’s Sportsman XP machines, the Sportsman 500 is part of the Polaris Value Line of 4×4 ATVs, along with the Sportsman 400 and Sportsman 800. Built in the USA, the Value Line is based on Polaris’ previous generation of machines, offering proven designs at prices that rival machines being produced in China and Taiwan.
The Honda Foreman started out as a 350cc four-stroke in 1987. For 2012, the fifth-generation FourTrax Foreman has more features than ever and a more rugged look, too. At the press launch held in South Carolina, American Honda’s Kevin Aschenbach called the design changes important and said the Foreman has always been a hard-working ATV that is ready to roll up its sleeves and do anything you point it at. For 2012, Honda says its popular 4×4 can do even more. And the manufacturer still offers four different versions of the Foreman to accommodate almost every type of end user. The Foreman development team addressed three critical areas (appearance, power and comfort) during the redesign.
This Foreman is also significant because it was designed and built in the US, and came off the line at Honda’s Timmonsville, South Carolina, production facility. In fact, we got to tour the facility and take part in the official “Line Off” ceremony for this machine. Let’s take a closer look at the redesigned Foreman.
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2012 Foreman Highlights
• All-new liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine
• Higher compression ratio
• New fuel injection system features a 36mm throttle body
• All-new rear suspension system combines a new steel swingarm with a single rear shock absorber (6.9 inches of travel)
• New, larger dual front hydraulic disc brakes
• New multi-function LCD digital meter
• New body styling with a tough, rugged and more aggressive look featuring large oversized fenders front and rear for exceptional mud and splash protection.
• New tires
• Foreman 4×4 foot – $6,899
• Foreman ES 4×4 – $7,099
• Foreman 4×4 foot with EPS – $7,499
• Foreman ES 4×4 with EPS – $7,699
Riding the constant ups and downs of today’s ATV market has left many companies stalling out in the area of development and redesign. There are, however, a couple of manufacturers who are steadily improving their lineups with refinement.
Kawasaki is no stranger to the crazy world we live in and the constant decisions it takes to keep the company afloat. Kawasaki has consistently grown over the tough times and the 2012 model year is no exception.
The Brute Force 750 has been Kawasaki’s flagship ATV for a number of years. Kawasaki chose to give it a serious overhaul for 2012, including the addition of power steering. When we were asked to roam the wilderness of Medford, Ore. on this new and improved Brute we had to say “Oh yes!”
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In 2012 the masterminds behind Kawasaki’s massive Brute changed many things around. The engine seemed to get a really good makeover, but before we get that far let’s look at a creature comfort that most other sport utilities already had on the rack. For 2012 Kawasaki came to the game with power steering! Yes, you read it right. Better late than never and for most that means refinement or perfection before installation. Kawasaki has installed power steering on select 2012 Brute Force 750i 4X4s and this unit should appease the masses.
As a longtime ATV rider and racer, there are few places we’d rather play than in the seemingly limitless off-road Mecca that is the Imperial Sand Dunes, otherwise known as Glamis. As luck would have it, Yamaha invited us down to Glamis for its annual Raptor 700R and YFZ450R Special Edition press event.
If you’ve ever ridden the Raptor 700R or the YFZ450R you’d know that these are already two of the industry’s best sport quads. Yamaha, however, aims to give its customers who want stand out from the crowd a little bit more without having to hit up the aftermarket. This is where the Special Edition models come in. Yamaha outfits these units with cool graphics and some GYTR accessories which completely set them apart from their non-SE siblings.
2011 Yamaha YFZ450R SE
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We were recently invited out to sunny Southern California to test ride the new 2011 Yamaha Raptor 700R. Of course, if you are familiar with the Yamaha line, you already know that the Raptor 700 is one of the meanest ATVs out there. With its 686cc fuel-injected liquid cooled engine and fully adjustable piggyback shocks we knew were in for a good time playing in the sand of the legendary Imperial Sand Dunes – better known as Glamis!
The 2011 Yamaha Raptor 700R is available in a variety of color schemes; Team Yamaha Blue and White, Red and White, as well as Black Metallic for the Raptor 700R SE model we will be reviewing shortly. Aggressive styling can be seen in the sharp front hood,which not only drives air into its large radiator but it also holds the digital instrument panel. A quick toggle through the digital display reveals a speedometer, dual trip meters, odometer, clock and engine warning indicators, plus neutral and reverse indicators which all come in handy out on the trail. As an added bonus it’s back-lit, so you can see it while out night riding. Multi-reflector 30-watt Krypton headlights are also integrated into the front end to illuminate your path.
For 2012 Honda’s FourTrax Foreman line of 4×4 ATVs boasts a brand-new engine plus a re-engineered chassis featuring a new single-shock rear-suspension system.
Now equipped with an all-new and sophisticated liquid-cooled 475cc single-cylinder OHV four-stroke engine, the Foreman also features a new fuel injection system with 36mm throttle body for improved throttle response, consistent performance at high altitude, and hassle-free cold-weather starting.
The rear suspension system is lighter than before, thanks to a new design centered around a single shock for increased comfort, precision and work capabilities. Also, Honda says a shorter wheelbase aids handling and helps produce a tighter turning radius.
Instead of merely dropping a power steering unit into the Brute Force, Kawasaki decided to give its flagship ATV major facelift. Besides electronic power steering (EPS), the 2010 Brute Force 750 also features a more-powerful V-Twin engine, new double-wishbone front suspension, six-spoke cast alloy wheels and new bodywork.
The hallmark of the upgrades to the Brute Force 750 is the electronic power steering (EPS). Every ATV we’ve ridden with EPS does a good job of enhancing handling and improving ride comfort – especially at slower speeds. Like other EPS systems, Kawasaki says its system offers greater assistance at slow speeds or when stopped and less when as vehicle speed increases.
What do you get when you combine utility features and dual passenger seating? The answer is the Polaris Sportsman X2 550. The base Sportsman models are already well known for their utility abilities so when Polaris went ahead and added a utility cargo bed it increased the appeal of the X2 as a work machine.
That durable plastic molded box on a steel frame is the focal point of the machine when you first look at it. It’s also the centre of attention when it comes time to do some work or riding.
The bed features a single handle release on its rear truck style tailgate; with this down it makes loading the bed simple and allows you to fit in oversized items. The rear box is dump capable and features release handles on either side of the box at the tops of the rear fenders.
ATV.com and Yamaha are teaming up to give away a 2011 Yamaha Raptor 125 to one of our readers. This is the first in a four-part series on the newest Raptor. In future articles we’ll compare it to another 125cc sport quad and add a host of bolt-on items to make this machine even more fun and functional. Click here for the more information on the Yamaha Raptor 125 Contest.
A few months back we traveled to Ventura, Calif., home of Ventura County Speedway to test the all new 2011 Yamaha Raptor 125. Yamaha built this ATV to provide a fun and affordable machine for beginners to learn on and provide a stepping stone for riders who had outgrown their mini quads, yet weren’t large or experienced enough for the Raptor 250.
Reining in the fleet is not something that Arctic Cat is concerned with during today’s economic standing. The engineers and marketing staff of the Minnesota-based company has found a new demographic to “share its passion” and nothing is going to stop it. Arriving in Dallas, Texas we found that not only would we be looking at a new machine, but three totally new Cats! So after breakfast and a short briefing off into the wilds of Texas we clambered and into the stony gate of Rocky Ridge ATV park where the fun began.
Having three new ATVs to show, the guys at Arctic Cat quickly gathered us under a large professional-style race rig tent and with just a few words, like don’t ride in the lake and don’t climb Bubba’s biggest baddest hill on the back of the block, we had been given the go ahead to steal away into the hills for a couple day’s of testing and discovery.
The Yamaha Raptor 250 took the ATV world by storm when it was introduced for the 2008 model year. While the rest of the industry seemed focused on producing high-performance 450cc sport quads and big bore utility machines, Yamaha threw a curveball by offering the industry’s first true sport-specific 250cc ATV.
It turns out that demand for an affordable, light, sporty ATV was very high and the Raptor 250 quickly became a top seller for Yamaha. The ATV press almost universally loved it and ATV.com built one up and gave it away to a lucky reader. So successful was the Raptor 250 that for 2011 Yamaha based a brand new entry-level machine off of the platform – the Raptor 125.
While recreational riders flocked to the easy-to-ride Raptor 250, it also proved to be an attractive option for racers. A quick trip to the ATV aftermarket and you could turn the Raptor 250 into a woods racer or a motocross killer. Yamaha clearly noticed the trend and for 2011 decided to offer up an even sportier model – the Raptor 250R.
Arctic Cat has been pretty busy when it comes to its 2011 ATV lineup. Back in May Arctic Cat revealed its early release model ATVs and Prowlers, highlighted by the brand new Prowler HDX 700, as well as an updated Prowler 550 XT. On the ATV side, we saw updates to the 450, 550, 700, TRV 550 GT, and TRV 700 GT.
A few months later Arctic Cat released 11 other new and updated off-road machines, including two power-steering equipped Prowlers – the XTX 700 EPS and XTX 1000 EPS. Power steering was also added to the big 1000 LTD ATV, as well as the utility-focused TBX 700 LTD.
Just when it looked like Arctic Cat was done introducing new and updated ATVs and UTVs for 2011 the Minnesota-based manufacturer unveiled three new models – the 350 and 425 4x4s, as well as the XC450i crossover. We’ll have reviews of all three of these newly release ATVs in the coming weeks, but in the meantime let’s take a brief look at the newest Cats.
Polaris calls the 2011 Sportsman 850 Touring model its most powerful, and the industry’s most comfortable, two-rider ATV. That may seem like a bold statement, but when you factor in the amount of changes (at least 10) for the New Year, it may be more fact than fluff. We didn’t compare the 850 Touring model to other two-ups in the market to validate that claim, but we did get some valuable seat time on the reconfigured, purpose-built machine.
Before we get too far into this review, we must point out that the 850 may be designed for two riders, but it’s also a very competent and comfortable single-rider machine. And for 2011, Polaris engineers made some key changes to its design to make it even more capable (and versatile) for both one and two riders. Here’s a closer look at the 2011 changes.
Several years ago seven ATV manufacturers had 450cc class machines on the market. With the unexpected economic slow down, many ATV manufacturers were left holding the bag and are still trying to move those models. Kawasaki is one of the remaining three offering current model (2011) 450cc sport ATVs and Team Green deserves recognition for that. The KFX remains mostly unchanged over the past five years, minus only a few updates including improved water resistance for the wiring harness. We know the machine is reliable and performs well, so we can live without any major updates. We are simply happy that Kawasaki is helping keep the 450cc class alive!
Last year we put Kawasaki’s 2010 KFX450R through its paces at the Badlands Off-Road Park in Attica, Ind. and were impressed with its prowess for both track and trail. Unfortunately we didn’t get much track time on the machine due to the monsoon that went through on our day of testing and the day prior. This year we decided to see how the KFX would perform in a real track test so we loaded up our brand new 2011 test unit and headed to Horseshoe Bend MX located in Walton, Ky. The facility features two motocross tracks with lots of elevation changes and jumps of various sizes. The facility also has a sweet rail loop and an extremely rad BMX track.
Over the last two years, Polaris has made significant changes to 90 percent of its ATV lineup. One of those models to benefit from the changes is the new, larger 2011 Sportsman 400 H.O. The mid-bore utility quad lost its official mid-size stature and received similar upgrades as the Sportsman 500 H.O. The newly resized 4×4 is more attractive, tougher and more affordable than ever.
We rode the latest version of the Sportsman 400 H.O. at a private ranch in Montana as part of the 2011 Polaris press event. The Sportsman didn’t blow us away, but we enjoyed our seat time and understand why Polaris chose to improve it. Polaris said its customers get “a hell of a value out of this machine.” Let’s closely examine this new bargain 4×4.
New For 2011
• Lower Price: $5,599 (This may just be the biggest feat in the ATV industry; reducing a machine’s cost despite a redesign)
• New front end configuration
• Stronger chassis rigidity
• Improved full-size ergonomics (more like the new Sportsman 500 H.O.)
• Better sight lines for operator (chassis and front rack changes)
• Radiator raised up and angled back
• More efficient drivetrain (addition of low range and park)
• Quieter CVT
• Lock & Ride front and rear racks
• Sportsman XP-styled bumper headlights
• Lowered winch mount
Yamaha is known for being innovative and willing to introduce something completely new to the ATV world. With the Raptor 250, Yamaha opened up opportunities for riders new to sport ATVs and proved to be a huge success. Now Yamaha has taken another step in luring new riders to the sport with the all-new Raptor 125.
The Raptor 125 was designed to be the perfect machine to make the transition from moving up from a 90cc ATV. Yamaha felt that the jump from 90cc to 250cc was significant and decided to do what no other major manufacturer had tried – build a true entry-level sport quad. Not only did Yamaha design the Raptor 125 for those wanting to make an easier transition from a 90cc machine, Yamaha also noticed that the majority of the ATV’s in the range of 90cc-250cc were being built with questionable quality by off-shore companies.
While there are some import ATVs that have good parts availability, often times it’s difficult to find parts if and when something breaks. If a part does break on one of these imports the consumer may be stuck with little more than a push toy. Yamaha wanted to make a product for this segment that not only has the quality we’ve come to expect from a major manufacturer, but also the dealer network and parts availability the consumer needs.
Kawasaki‘s KFX700 is a very unique sport ATV. Part drag racer and part easy-going cruiser, the KFX is the ATV for the trail rider who likes to ride fast with the least amount of work.
Part utility machine, the KFX700 borrows its engine and shaft drive rear end from Kawasaki’s Brute Force line of 4×4 sport Utility machines. The engine received a number of changes to increase its sporting performance. From there the machine received an all new chassis and front end with dual A-arms instead of the McPherson struts found on the Brute Force utility quads.
The V-Twin engine displaces 697cc. Each cylinder features four valves actuated by single overhead cams. The engine is fed its diet of air and fuel by dual Keihin 32mm carburetors and spent fuel is channeled out by dual headers into a single large steel bodied spark arrested silencer.
Power and style is the message the new Can-Am Outlander 800 XT-P left us with. It didn’t take our group any time at all to get this impression from the XT-P during our test ride.
Style starts from the ground up on the Can-Am with the cast aluminum rims and yellow plastic inlays contrasting the deep black fascia that make the machine look sharp. This coloring choice compliments the aggressive looking racking and body moldings.
The XT-P has a bold graphics package of yellow and black that wraps the gas tank and runs up the mud flaps. The combination of matte and shiny black plastics give the XT-P dynamic lines. Despite the work on the styling this ATV wasn’t only designed for looks, it was built with performance in mind.
Powering the XT-P is the Rotax V-Twin 799.9 cc EFI engine. Can-am claims that this is the most powerful 800cc motor in the industry, churning out a claimed 71 hp. On a back road in Northern Ontario we got a chance to see just what 800cc of raw power felt like. We punched the throttle wide open and when the speedometer read 58 mph we had a distinct “Holy-crap” moment.
Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. has announced its 2011 YFZ450R and YFZ450X, completing its sport ATV line-up for the coming year. Yamaha’s high-revving YFZ450R and 450X are specifically designed for pure performance and get new color and graphics in 2011.
Both the YFZ450R and X feature long-travel adjustable suspension, a no-weld aluminum with steel hybrid frame, and a powerful fuel injected engine. These two ATVs have a lot in common, but their subtle differences have a major impact on their performance in different riding situations.
The YFZ450R is a motocross-ready ATV at 48.8 inches wide. It is also set up for wide-open trails, desert terrain and sand dunes. The YFZ450X is tweaked to be a tight-trail machine at 46.1 inches wide and optimized suspension settings.
“Yamaha started the high-performance 450 sport ATV class with the original YFZ450, and we continue to dominate this class with the best options no matter where you race or ride,” says Mike Martinez, Yamaha ATV and Side-by-Side Vehicle Group general manager. “Yamaha has the strongest sport ATV line-up because of our ability to constantly push performance to new levels while maintaining a customer focus and durability in our products that’s superior to anything else in the industry.”
Leaping into a land of tight trails, multiple elevation changes and over 90,000 acres of pristine forest made me excited to be in the world of ATV journalism. The test of machine and man would also be the challenge set forth by our friends at Yamaha Motor Corporation in the Capitol State Forest and with the new Yamaha Grizzly 450 EPS as our valiant steed it was sure to be a great adventure.
For the model year 2011 Yamaha has added not just a revamped version of an old puddle buster, but also a totally new and fine-tuned version in the small displacement utility line up. Getting the most bang for your buck these days counts and the new Grizzly 450 4X4 EPS could possibly be the best overall performer for the discerning consumer.
Getting a facelift was not in the plans for the Grizzly 450. What lies beneath the plastic clothing was what really counted and in traditional Yamaha fashion that’s where the focus was. With a new frame, redesigned braking and the ever-popular power steering finally making its debut in the Grizzly 450 this was going to be an interesting ride.
Polaris has been pretty busy in recent weeks, having released its 2011 ATV and Ranger lineup on July 27. We attended the 2011 model introduction and had a chance to check out a handful of new vehicles and a mountain of updated existing models.
A new Ranger Diesel was the most surprising addition for 2011, but Polaris also unveiled a redesigned Ranger 500 in a mid-size chassis, as well as a mid-size multi-passenger Ranger Crew 500. A host of changes were also much of the Ranger and Sportsman families.
With all that out of the way, Polaris now sees fit to show off its 2011 Limited Edition ATVs and Rangers. The Limited Edition lineup includes a whopping 11 Ranger models and four Sportsman ATV models.
Additional features on the limited edition model include:
* Orange Madness automotive-style paint
Back in May Arctic Cat gave us a little teaser of what was to come from the Minnesota-based manufacturer in 2011 when it revealed its early release model ATVs and Prowlers. Highlights include the brand new Prowler HDX 700, as well as an updated Prowler 550 XT. On the ATV side, we saw updates to the 450, 550, 700, TRV 550 GT, and TRV 700 GT.
After devouring the appetizer, we now get to enjoy the main course as Arctic Cat has unveiled the rest of its 2011 models. As expected, electronic power steering continues to make its way through the Arctic Lineup, but Cat also offers a host of other changes as it attempts to fill any holes in the lineup and gain market share.
Prowler XTX 700 EPS
As the first side-by-side in history to complete and win the grueling Baja 1000, the Prowler XTX 700 holds a special place in Arctic Cat lineup. For 2011 the sport-inspired XTX receives a fairly major overhaul.
New for 2011 is a Baja racing-inspired ROPS certified round tube canopy, Electronic Power Steering (EPS), new steering wheel, digital gauge with seat best indicator light, and heavy-duty 14-in. aluminum wheels.
We’ve ridden the Honda FourTrax Rincon 4×4 in several different settings and most recently in Moab, Utah, or what some call the off-road capital of the world. Although we stuck mostly to the La Sal Mountains and didn’t ride on the famous red rock formations, we still scored plenty of seat time on Honda’s flagship utility quad and learned more about its functions, makeup and abilities.
We rode a mix of trails from dry, dusty hard-pack climbs and descents with tight turns and off-camber water bars and rain ruts to full-throttle straightaways. At this elevation and in this terrain, we put the Honda’s electronic fuel injection, suspension and power to the test. We even found some snow and rocky sections to challenge the machine’s 4×4 skills.
Here’s a closer look at the 2010 Honda Rincon 4×4 as tested by ATV.com.
Already boasting perhaps the most complete ATV lineup in the industry, Yamaha has upped the ante in 2011 with two new machines – the Grizzly 450 with Electric Power Steering (EPS) and the Raptor 125 sport quad.
“The new Grizzly 450 EPS is a mid-level machine with top-of-the-line features that excels in trail riding and utility functions. The Raptor 125 is the first in its class from a major ATV manufacturer with true sport performancee,” says Mike Martinez, Yamaha’s general manager of ATV and Side-by-Side operations. “These two models give customers a couple of great new options within Yamaha’s 2011 line. It’s the superior functionality and performance in both of these ATVs, along with Yamaha’s known durability and reliability, that provide the high value our customers expect.”
Grizzly 450 EPS
The Grizzly 450 is not exactly an unfamiliar name in Yamaha’s lineup, but it did get a major overhaul for 2011, including the addition of Electric Power Steering. According to Yamaha, the EPS system features new ECU mapping designed specifically for the Grizzly 450. If it’s anything like the EPS on the Grizzly 550 and Grizzly 700, users won’t be disappointed. Greatly reduced steering effort is a hallmark on Yamaha’s EPS system, which makes for a less taxing ride, especially over the nastier terrain. If you hit a rock at the wrong angle you don’t feel nearly as much kickback, with saves your arms and shoulders untold strain over a long day. As soon as we tried Yamaha’s EPS we never wanted to go back to the old days again. It’s that good.
Kawasaki has unveiled its lineup of 2011 ATVs and UTVs. Outside of new colors and price changes it pretty much mirrors the 2010 lineup. However, it should be noted that in the past two years Kawasaki has introduced new or updated models later in the year (September/October) so Team Green may not be done with its 2011 lineup just yet.
We’ll tackle what we do know for sure first, but at the end of this article we’ll speculate a little on what we may see (or at least what we’d like to see) from Kawasaki in the near future.
2011 ATV Lineup
Anchoring Kawasaki’s ATV lineup is the always impressive Brute Force 750 4x4i ($8,849). We reviewed the 2010 version in January so we won’t go into too much detail, but this unit features one of our favorite ATV powerplants – Kawasaki’s liquid-cooled, 90-degree, fuel injected, 749cc V-Twin. Other highlights include dual A-arm front suspension, fully independent dual A-arm rear suspension, and an impressive 1,250 pounds of towing capacity. For 2011 the Brute Force 750 4x4i is available in Dark Royal Red, Woodsman Green, and painted Metallic Ruby Red.
To help whet our appetites for its full 2011 ATV and Prowler lineup, Arctic Cat has released a handful of early release models.
The brand new performance utility Prowler HDX 700 and revamped Prowler 550 XT highlight certainly piqued our interest, while the rest of the early release models offer mostly new colors and modest changes from 2010.
Prowler HDX 700
All new for 2010 is the Arctic Cat Prowler HDX 700 side-by-side.
Setting the HDX 700 apart from the performance utility side-by-side competition is a huge 85-inch wheelbase that provides a whopping 1,500 of payload capacity.
Other features include a new 2-in-1 cargo box with multiple tie-down spots that can hold 1,000 pounds. According to Arctic Cat, the box is wide enough to hold a wooden pallet. If you need to haul something a little wider, the sides of the box can be detached to create a flatbed.
In the cab you’ll find a 40/20/40 sculpted seat that can carry three adults. The dashboard houses a digital gauge package with an all-new dash-mounted shifter.
Since Honda is planning to launch a new FourTrax Foreman in 2011, we figured it was high time to tell you a little about the current model.
The 2010 Honda FourTrax Foreman 4×4 is one of Honda’s premiere ATVs and for good reason. Honda hasn’t made any significant updates to the unit in a number of years, but it’s still a very popular machine and one we see regularly out on the trails. Also, you can expect to find plenty of them at a great price once the new 2011 version hits dealerships.
We can say with confidence that the units currently available at dealers are impressive. We quickly understood when trying out the FourTrax Foreman 4×4 why Honda hasn’t made any recent upgrades…if something isn’t broken, there’s no need to fix it.
The ForeTrax Foreman 4×4 is known as Honda’s “Workhorse ATV,” but we found out it plays just as hard as it works. On the test drive, we tried out a few attachments to test the strength and work capabilities of this machine, including pulling a trailer full of wood and removing some downed trees from the old logging road leading into the riding area. We never heard a whimper of complaint from Big Red’s middleweight utility quad.
Power Steering is one of the greatest innovations in the ATV industry. Don’t describe it as trivial, because it’s significant. You want proof? Since this engineering concept entered the market on the Yamaha Grizzly 700, every major ATV manufacturer (sans Kymco and Kawasaki) has since incorporated this trendy and sensible technology. Arctic Cat is the latest maker to add the equipment to its four-wheelers. Six of its 2010 4×4 models now benefit from the upgrade.
Arctic Cat knows the addition of its Variable Assisted Power Steering system not only improves the handling but that it is also the most complete in the industry. While we won’t call it industry leading just yet, we must say it’s definitely an improvement. Power steering may benefit the Arctic Cat platform more than any other brand. We say that because we’ve never ridden such a comfortable or capable Arctic Cat.
We know what the skeptics have said, “I don’t need power steering on an ATV.” Before we tried it, we felt the same way. However, after you ride a wheeler with Electronic Power Steering, you instantly get it. Some people may still say it’s a gimmick or an unnecessary expense, but we strongly disagree. All the EPS models offer more control, improved handling and reduce rider fatigue. In our book, that’s no gimmick.
Yamaha recently invited us down to Southern California for a fun filled weekend of riding the 2010 YFZ450R and Raptor 700R special editions. The trip consisted of three days riding in the biggest and most infamous dunes in the United States – the Imperial Sand Dunes – better known as Glamis.
As always, Yamaha came up with unique styling of each special edition model that set these units apart from their base model brothers. Both the YFZ and the Raptor received facelifts including plastic, graphics and accessories to become special editions.
The YFZ450R SE is dressed up in a number of ways. First, Yamaha chose to go with a new color plastic called Midnight Blue. Although it’s not the familiar Yamaha blue, we were happy with the looks of the Midnight blue and the effect of the contrasting blues of the plastic, seat, and frame. The 2010 YFZ SE also features a black GYTR front bumper and heel guards. These not only look good, but they also help protect you from obstacles along the way. On the rear, a black swing arm and a wave brake rotor were installed. This wave rotor helps eliminate brake fading that may occur when breaking heavily under hard riding conditions.
A lot has changed since Honda first introduced the Rubicon in 2000. It was an industry leader at the time and its 499cc mill was the most powerful in Honda’s lineup. These days the Rubicon is classified as a middleweight utility ATV. Though it hasn’t received a significant facelift in a few years, ATV.com asked me to see how Honda’s onetime flagship stacks up to the competition in 2010.
It didn’t take long for the Honda FourTrax Foreman Rubicon to make an impression. It impressed right out of the gate with its power and quick take off. It responded without hesitation as soon as I hit the gas and then kept going until it reached my limit. The exclusive Hondamatic transmission delivered smooth operation from start to finish. The 499cc engine held its own at every turn and up every hill. I was also impressed with the way the Rubicon handled some of the rougher trails I tackled.
Can-Am continues to refine its line of Outlander ATVs with several new features highlighting the 2009 Outlander MAX 800R EFI XT. These include even more power, revised steering geometry, and a better skid plate to protect the underside of the ATV.
Climbing on the Outlander MAX, even with another person on board is surprisingly easy. The seat is comfortable and the distance to the handlebars and footpegs is just about perfect. The second seat sits slightly higher with raised foot platforms and passenger grips to hold onto. This allows plenty of room for the passenger to move around and not interfere with the operator. We’ve ridden a lot of 2-seat Can-Ams over the years and seen a great variety in rider sizes without hearing a complaint about the passenger affecting the control of the ATV.
Like many upper-end ATVs, the Outlander has a great gauge pod that houses the digital speedometer with a bar tachometer that scrolls across the top. Also on the gauge are the fuel gauge, gear selection, 4WD operation light, and several engine function lights. The odometer, two trip odometers, trip timer, hour meter and digital tachometer are all selectable one at a time via a small black button. To keep from accidentally leaving the key on and running the battery down, the Outlander has an auto shut-off system that automatically turns all the electrics off after 15 minutes of non use.