Back in the early 1990s Polaris recognized a growing number of riders were buying utility machines with no intention of using them for work. With good splash protection and the flexibility of four wheel drive, utility machines offered these riders the ability to get out and ride year round regardless of weather. Unfortunately, riding a utility 4×4 meant dealing with a much heavier machine with considerably less suspension travel than its sport ATV siblings. To remedy this, Polaris set out to build a powerful sport-oriented machine with the flexibility of four wheel drive and less weight.
In 1995 Polaris released the Scrambler 400 4×4. The 2-stroke machine was incredibly powerful for the time, only rivaled in motor performance by the brutally fast Yamaha Banshee sport quad. The Scrambler also featured sport tuned suspension with a generous amount of wheel travel. Without heavy steel racks, the machine was also lighter than comparably displaced utility machines.
Using its successful Grizzly 660 as a starting point, Yamaha improved it by redesigning the frame, enhancing rider comfort and introducing electronic power steering. The end result is the top-performing Grizzly 700 FI Auto 4×4 EPS.
Though the new Yamaha Grizzly has a lot in common with its predecessor, it is essentially a new ATV and it has a lot of minor, yet significant, changes that make it exceptional. When you ride it, it feels like a brand new machine. The edition we tested comes with outdoor graphics, making it ideal for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.
The engine is based on the popular Yamaha Raptor 700 motor. Sharing the same bore and stroke (102.0 x 84.0) and displacement (686cc) as the Raptor, this liquid cooled, single-overhead, fuel-injected engine ensures that those who ride it are going to have some fun. This engine is tuned in order to have more power from low rpm, which is crucial for technical trail riding. An electric start gets the engine firing, but is not equipped with any alternative method so you have to make sure to keep the battery in excellent condition.
For 2009 the Honda FourTrax Rancher AT comes to the market with changes that distinguish it from earlier versions – yet it maintains much of what makes this an already popular choice in the midsize ATV category.
The first key change is a fully independent suspension front and now rear as well. Also added to the Rancher package are Electric Power Steering (EPS) and some new grippy disc brake shoes.
This Rancher uses the standard 420cc engine in a single-cylinder four-stroke package. The liquid-cooled motor is longitudinally mounted in the frame, providing a simple and efficient drive system as the output shaft is inline with the prop-shafts.
Seeing as we are just entering the new year, ATV.com has decided to take a look back at the last 12 months to see all the new sport ATVs that have been released. We’ve already tackled utility quads and we’ll check out the latest side-by-sides in the near future.
Though the economy is struggling, ATV manufacturers did not shy away from introducing new innovations to the sport quad market in 2008. Yamaha and Suzuki made major renovations to some familiar machines, while KTM and Can-Am introduced some race-specific models. Polaris’ Outlaw family has a new look and shed some weight, while Arctic Cat has gone in a different direction. Even Honda stepped up to the plate with something completely different…sort of.
2009 Yamaha YFZ450R
As we gear up for the new year, ATV.com has decided to look back at all the new utility ATVs that have been released for the 2009 model year. We will also be looking at sport ATVs and side-by-sides in the coming weeks.
Even with a sagging economy, we saw no shortage of updated and completely new ATVs the past 12 months. Nobody did more, in fact, than the two American-based manufacturers – Arctic Cat and Polaris. Both companies made a variety of utility quads, as well as some very interesting and industry-changing side-by-sides.
As for the Japanese builders, Honda gave a major facelift to its popular Rancher, while Yamaha and Suzuki each introduced a brand new 500-class ATV. Korean-based Kymco also made a splash with a solid lightweight quad.
2009 Honda FourTrax Rancher AT
Suzuki answered both the needs of average trail riders and competitive racers in one swift move with the introduction of the Z400 in 2002. With its innovative water-cooled 4-stroke engine, lightweight design, and aggressive styling, the Z could be easily modified into a competitive machine.
Whether racing motocross or trails it was the machine to have. Team Suzuki rider ‘Digger’ Doug Gust proved this to be true by winning the ATVA Pro Class two years in a row, making the Z400 the first 4-stoke ATV to bring home a championship. The Z400 continued to lead the sport class for many years before finding itself outdated. With numerous other factories, including Suzuki, manufacturing bigger displacement machines, it became harder to keep up with the new 450cc ATVs that were born and raised on the track. Despite Suzuki’s addition of the R450 to its family of sport ATVs, the Z400 remained a contender in its own class.
Though 2008 is not yet behind us, Kymco USA has already revealed an ATV for the 2010 model year at the Long Beach Cycle World International Motorcycle Show.
The 2010 MXU 500 IRS is Kymco’s largest and most powerful ATV to date. Powered by a liquid-cooled 4-stroke, DOHC 498cc engine, the MXU 500 IRS has its sights set on the popular 500cc middleweight class.
Along with its new engine, Kymco’s latest creation features shift-on-the-fly 4×4 traction and independent rear suspension. The CVT automatic transmission has forward, neutral, reverse, park, low and high gear with a front differential lock that, according to Kymco, will ‘get you in, out or over any trail conditions.’
When we had our ‘impressions’ ride of the new 2009 Polaris Sportsman XP earlier in the year down in southeastern Minnesota, it was obvious that the ‘XP’ models were significant improvements over the previous best-selling Polaris Sportsman 4-wheelers.
Your riding and adventuring, however, are extremely limited at a media introduction. There are watchful eyes making certain that you don’t seriously abuse their early pilot run of ATVs. It is explained that that these pre-production offerings are not finalized. Close, but not final. Okay, we buy that program, but we figured out a program of our own that will let us give the all-new Sportsman XP models a good workout. From the mid-summer introduction we jump to mid-October and our test plan.
The race element in Can-Am’s lineup is being pushed to the forefront with the introduction of the revamped DS 450 model. I had a chance to ride a pre-production unit at a test track in Texas this summer and where this bike shines is in its ability to be competitive right out of the dealer’s showroom.
This Can-Am attribute is important for two reasons – one that’s obvious, the other less so, yet equally important to the business as a whole. When a race bike can go from the crate to the track in the same day it encourages those riders who want to race for fun to do it. This in turn means that a Sunday’s worth of fun doesn’t require a week’s worth of wrenching (not everyone is hard-core) and that leads into the second point – more and more riders will start getting involved in organized racing just for the thrill of it.
For ’09 the DS450 is available as an MX or XC model. The first version lends itself to a straight motocross style track setup while the XC package is tuned to take the uneven abuse of cross-country racing.
Don’t be fooled by Yamaha’s new YFZ450R. Though it sounds basically the same as the venerable YFZ450 in name, this quad is an entirely different animal altogether. Yamaha didn’t just tweak the YFZ450 here and there and throw on the ‘R’. Instead the slate was wiped completely clean and a new machine was built from the ground up, including a new engine, new frame and new motocross-wide chassis.
When putting this quad together, Yamaha had to figure out who was going to buy it. According to the company’s research, 50% of its customers say racing technology was their main influence for purchasing the YFZ450. However, only 15% actually race the quads on motocross tracks. Ultimately, Yamaha decided it needed to build an affordable vehicle that would appeal to the average customer that wanted the latest racing technology but wasn’t going to race, as well as the hard-core customer that wanted a machine that could be easily modified in order to compete on the track. This was no small task, but Yamaha came up with some interesting solutions.
There are a lot of reasons to build, design and maintain your own private motocross practice track. First and foremost, it gives you, your young racers and your friends an opportunity to practice close to home without paying $20 or more per person – plus gas in your truck – for a day of riding. And it gives you the perfect excuse to buy some accessories for your utility quad and spend some time behind the bars of your workhorse.
But before you push that starter button there are two primary factors to consider: Have you got the land? Do you have access to heavy machinery? If you’re starting from scratch you’re going to need, at minimum, a small bobcat, skid steer or dozer.
Dirt is less of a concern because depending upon the size of your property you can dig a small pond or scrape the lot to compile enough dirt for jump faces, landings, berms and other obstacles.
Polaris has made major changes to its 2009 ATV and Ranger lineup. ATV.com has already looked at the brand new Sportsman XP lineup and the new Ranger HD and redesigned Ranger XP. Now it’s time to explore Polaris’ 2009 sports-oriented quads – the Outlaw line and an offshoot of last year’s much-talked about Ranger RZR.
The Ranger RZR set the side-by-side industry on its ear in 2008. Not only was it the fastest stock vehicle in its class, but it was also trail capable, thanks to its 50-inch width. It was hands down the sportiest side-by-side ever released by a major manufacturer and Polaris had trouble keeping up with the demand.
The aftermarket, as expected, sunk its teeth into the RZR almost immediately, finding ways to make it faster, tougher and more stable. Many consumers spent thousands of dollars to upgrade the RZR, changing it from a trail-oriented machine to a desert racer, dune blaster and everything else imaginable.
Kymco’s new MXU 400 proved to be a capable trail rider, able to handle tight, technical climbs and anything else you’d expect from an entry-level middleweight quad.
The MXU 400 we are reviewing was released in Europe in 2008. The MXU 375, which is very close to the same vehicle, is part of the 2009 lineup in the United States.
Kymco has made great improvements to its ATV class since the beginning of the decade. Starting with the MXR, Kymco ATVs have been growing in displacement and quality. In 2007, Kymco introduced its first midsize 4×4 with the MXU 500, which was a big step for the company.
Though the MXU 400 shares a lot of similarities with its big brother, they feel completely different on the trail.
Have you ever had a little brother that looked up to you? Who liked to follow in your footsteps since the day he was born? Think of the Yamaha Raptor 250 as the little brother who placed his foot, every stride and every step he ever made, right in yours. Now imagine that little brother had that ability to learn from the mistakes that you made. Born with many family traits like tremendous power, precise handling and intimidating looks, the 2009 Yamaha Raptor 250 had a head start from day one.
Yamaha first welcomed the Raptor 250 into this world in 2008 after the death of its closest cousin, the Yamaha Blaster. It may have been the coughing that got the best of him (EPA regulations). With quite a reputation to live up to, the first thing Yamaha looked at when designing the Raptor 250 was the engine. Because of ever increasing regulations on emissions, 2-stroke engines were out of the question, so Yamaha decided to go with an existing engine from its motorcycle family.
Can-Am’s Outlander series offers a wide variation of engine sizes – all of which also support a ‘Max’ model (the two-rider versions).
These are built on a longer frame specially designed to carry the weight of two riders. A stretched axle placement makes it stable under load – particularly while going uphill. The design gives passengers dedicated footrests and comfortable, solid handholds. The slightly elevated seating position also offers clear forward vision over the drivers shoulder. The passenger’s backrest is also designed to move with the motion of the quad, for added comfort.
For example look at the 500 MAX set in the middle of these 2009 offerings (400 to 800R), a market position where this Quad can offer all the features and comforts of the more powerful Max models but at a lower price, thanks to its 500cc engine. But, the 500 is far from anemic; I’d ridden all the models, particularly where the intent is recreational riding with a passenger, and the 500 is more than adequate.
Can-Am has announced the release of its 2009 DS 450 EFI ATV, complete with two new racing-specific packages.
Returning for 2009 is the 2009 Can-Am DS 450 EFI ATV. The base model gets updates and two models, the DS 450 X mx and DS 450 X xc models, also join the line-up.
“Can-Am now boasts the most race-ready 450 sport ATV line in the industry,” Can-Am says in a release. “All models get power from a proven Rotax engine. And the ultra-light weight comes from cutting-edge computer design and the most revolutionary thinking in the sport ATV world.”
“By releasing the DS 450 X mx and xc, we redefine the factory and amateur ATV racer relationship,” says Yves Leduc, vice-president and general manager, Can-Am division. “The DS 450 continues to evolve and the base model was the perfect starting point for the two most race-ready sport packages in the industry.”
Base DS 450 EFI
As the father of two boys who were born with wheels where their toes should be, I clearly understand the importance of diligent, responsible parenting.
With one son riding his bicycle without training wheels at the ripe old age of three and the other riding a toy electric quad around the backyard track by himself before he could even walk; I know the safety of my children is up to me. What I teach them now will be with them for the rest of their lives. It’s not like a video game where you can simply hit reset when you crash.
Every year off-road recreation becomes more popular as I see more families choosing to spend time in the dunes, desert and trails with their kids riding ATVs, dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles. The use of ATVs in the United States has been steadily increasing over the last decade according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) annual report. As these numbers increase it becomes more important to keep our kids safe while riding ATVs, and to educate them about environmental impact and responsibility.
A virtually all-new Polaris Sportsman hits the trail for 2009. While a quick glance may have you thinking the 2009 Sportsman doesn’t look all that different, you will be right — and very wrong. There is a new XP series that carries over the look and feel of the previous generation Sportsman that has been an all-time best seller for the Minnesota-based powersports manufacturer. Upon closer inspection you will see major differences between the new Xtreme Performance models and Polaris’ ‘value’ models.
Let’s not even get into the powertrain for now. Just check out where you’ll be conducting business aboard this new-for-2009 Sportsman XP series. Your ‘office’ is narrower and your foot room is greater. You can see the base of the engine looks a bit different as well. That’s because the all-new Polaris Sportsman XP powerplants have been turned about and canted to give you that revised seating position.
Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) is a brand name that is mostly associated with snowmobiles – and if you don’t happen to live in Canada or the northern United States you’d be forgiven if you thought of Bombardier as just a builder of trains and planes. But then the company started building ATVs (about ten years ago now) and, in doing so, discovered that many potential ATV consumers had never heard of Bombardier. So? Well, in a nutshell that explains the creation of the Can-Am brand two years ago and the dropping of all Bombardier references in the company’s effort to establish itself as a competitive ATV builder.
The Can-Am Renegade is the result – a blend of sport and utility machine and also the new face of this Can-Am brand. This race inspired ATV is meant to encompass the ‘something-for-everyone’ image that the new company aspires to – as long as what you aspire to is going fast. The new 2009 ‘R’ edition just reinforces that direction.
There is a new 500-class utility quad on the market and it’s a real bear – a Grizzly, to be precise.
ATV.com got a chance to spend some time on the brand new 2009 Yamaha Grizzly 550 FI EPS in the beautiful San Bernardino National Forest and there is an awful lot to like about Yamaha’s latest off-road creation.
As mentioned in the 2009 Yamaha ATVs: First Look article, the Grizzly 550 fills what Yamaha considered a pretty big hole in its utility quad lineup between the Grizzly 450 IRS and the Grizzly 700 FI.
The Grizzly 550 shares a lot in common with its big brother. Yamaha isn’t shy about mentioning that the Grizzly 700 FI is the top selling big bore utility ATV, and it is a great machine to try and emulate. The chassis for the 550 is based on the 700, and most of the features and styling are also borrowed Yamaha’s flagship utility ATV.
It seems these days that manufactures are stepping up more than ever to deliver more powerful ATVs, giving consumers the ability to simply buy quads that are ready to race right out of the crate.
Manufactures like Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and, most recently, KTM are all offering sport ATVs that claim to be race ready. They do this by adding more horse power, cutting down on weight and adding features like extended A-arms, aftermarket handlebars and more aggressive tires.
As good as these modern-day race quads are, there is no shortage of changes consumers can make to enhance the thrill of a factory-based machine. We decided to modify and build up one of the originators of the ‘out of the box race ATVs’ – the Yamaha YFZ450.
Can-am, a new name that takes its origin from a vintage dirt bike that turned heads in the 1970s, is a company dedicated to racing. This direction, though, doesn’t stop it from recognizing that the utility market is bigger than the racing one and probably always will be. That’s where the Outlander series of ATVs comes in.
Can-Am’s entry-level utility quad is the Outlander 400 EFI. It is powered by a 400cc Rotax V-twin engine, which the company claims is the most powerful in its class. The engine is electronically fuel injected, which means there is no choke and starting is aided by a computer that precisely mixes the right amount of gas and air based on altitude and air temperature. While this system is not particularly unique in and of itself, in the 400cc market it is. In large part this is because Can-am’s engines have to do duty in various chassis styles. Also, the demands of racing are a bit higher than those of the trail rider or sportsman. This bleed-over of technology is a bonus at this end of the price ladder.
For 2009 the base Outlander remains largely unchanged, except for new decals and revised colours. Also, the skid plate is now a high-density polyethylene, which is actually an improvement. As much as I like steel under me I’ve learned that the polyethylene is tough, weighs less and, oddly, it’s slippery – meaning it slides off rocks rather than grates and sticks like steel does.
Suzuki has redesigned its race-bred QuadSport Z400 for 2009 with several features from its big brother, the QuadRacer LT-R450.
Key among the new features is Suzuki’s fuel-injection system, which has a 36mm throttle body and a 12-hole injector.
Also new is the Engine Control Unit, equipped with a 16-bit CPU and a 96-kilobyte ROM unit. According to Suzuki, the system is programmed to offer improved traction, by selecting the optimum injection volume, injection timing and ignition timing based on throttle position, engine rpm and other data.
The Z400 also features new styling, including sharp fenders, overall slim design and removable headlight, all based off the R450.
KYMCO USA of Spartanburg, SC introduced a pair of new off-road vehicles for 2009 at its first annual dealer meeting.
Both the UXV 500 and MXU 375, according to KYMCO, are designed to appeal directly to consumers who are more closely considering the pocketbook when purchasing a new ATV or UTV.
With the UXV 500, KYMCO made the leap into the burgeoning side-by-side market. The vehicle, which will have a base MSRP of just under $8,000, is powered by a 498.5cc 4-stroke DOHC liquid-cooled engine that pumps out 33 horsepower and has a towing capacity of 1,200 pounds. You can also carry an additional 420 pounds in the cargo bed.
“The UXV 500 brings the side-by-side utility everyone wants into a price range that everyone can afford,” says Bruce Ramsey, KYMCO USA sales and marketing vice president. “When we unveiled it at our annual dealer meeting, it truly impressed the crowd. The UXV is definitely one of the best received products KYMCO has ever released.”
As we rode the latest 2008 Polaris Sportsman 500 EFI X2 through rain-swollen trails on a wet day in central Minnesota, we couldn’t help but admire how far Polaris ATVs have come since the first 1980s prototypes. Like the first 1986 Trail Boss production models, the 2008 X2 shares features that changed ATV industry.
Until Polaris came along, ATVs sported motocross type foot-shift transmissions and foot pegs. Not only was Polaris’ first Trail Boss a new product for the Minnesota-based company, it was a new concept for the ATV industry.
Two decades ago Polaris fought to get attention for its unique vision of ATVing, cajoling ATV writers to ride its product. The vehicle made the rounds of farm shows and sports shows. While it was a ‘different’ ATV, history would list the 1986 Polaris Trail Boss as a groundbreaking vehicle. Instead of foot pegs, the Trail Boss featured floorboards with ample room for farmers wearing work boots. The engine was a proven reliable 250cc 2-stroke that Polaris used in its snowmobiles and Textron used in EZ-Go golf carts. It was a versatile motor that worked well with Polaris’ constantly variable transmission. This offshoot of a snowmobile drive system was dubbed the PVT – Polaris Variable Transmission.
2008 may very well be remembered as the Year of the Kaw for much of the ATV racing and sport community as Kawasaki’s new 2008 KFX450R quad attacks the 450cc class ATV arena with tested two-wheeled championship winning engine technology. All this is wrapped in a nicely packaged yet attractively priced race-ready quad.
Straight out of the box, the KFX450R is a serious threat to the rest of the racing competition because of its state of the art race technology combined with proven reliability and power. Designed and engineered to race, this late comer to an already competitive class of ATV racing has made clear its intention to be taken seriously.
The KFX450R is not just for racing either. Its super light weight and precision handling make it a dream to ride, and Kawasaki gives you the stability and control you’ll need to own the trail like no other quad before it. It clearly gives new meaning to the term ‘point and shoot’ when you come out of a corner and nail the throttle.
Kawasaki has given its entire Mule line of side-by-side utility vehicles a face lift for 2009.
The entire 10-vehicle family, from the compact 2WD Mule 600 to the flagship 4010 Mule Trans 4X4 Diesel, has all received upgrades for the new model year.
Kawasaki’s new 4000 Series Mules replace the previous generation 3000 Series and each features new truck-like styling and digital fuel injection (DFI). On each of the 4010s, Kawasaki has also included electric power steering (EPS).
The 300 class is the price point and power level at which many adult ATV buyers make their first purchase. Some riders never choose to buy anything bigger and brand loyalty starts to grow with the first purchase, so the quality of an OEM’s offering at this level is critical.
In model year 2006 Polaris released an all-new ATV called the Hawkeye. The Hawkeye initiated Polaris’ head-long charge into the 300cc market commanded by Honda. In typical Polaris fashion, the Hawkeye came with an independent rear suspension, rubber-belt CVT, clever styling, all-wheel drive and single lever hydraulic-disc brakes. Another critical asset was the price tag. Without a low sticker price, Polaris would’ve stood no chance at growing its sales in this market. Delivering all of the high-end features that the Hawkeye had at a competitive price was a coup for Team Polaris.
Polaris eliminated the Hawkeye name for 2008 to expand its Sportsman lineup. But the company is continuing its march into the 300-400cc class with a Sportsman 400 H.O. that is built on the original Hawkeye platform. The 400 H.O. has all the features and advantages of the Hawkeye, including a low retail cost of $5,599.
Suzuki has completed the re-vamping of its sport-utility ATV lineup with the 2008 KingQuad 400.
The 400-class of sport-utes seems to have lost its marketing luster in comparison to other, higher-powered segments. It is undeniable that most OEM development dollars are being poured into bigger-bore and sportier ATVs and UTVs. In fact, Suzuki’s smallest KingQuad gets much of its design heritage from the Eiger – Suzuki’s elder 400cc sport-utility model. However, 400s are still very popular with consumers and this is an arena that Suzuki needs to stay competitive in.
Have they done it? Join me on a trip through the snow-covered forests of Northern Minnesota and see.
Nuts and Bolts
The facts indicate that Suzuki’s aim with the new 400 is:
- Leverage the marketing cachet of the resurgent KingQuad brand.
- Invest development dollars only where they really count.
- Keep the retail cost down.
It’s been a while since Honda has introduced a completely new ATV. Like most of you, ATV.com heard rumblings about a new big bore sport quad with independent rear suspension a while ago, so when Honda invited us to test out its brand new TRX700XX we jumped at the chance.
After hopping on a flight to Las Vegas, Honda drove ATV.com and some other media types about two hours southwest to the Dumont Dunes, which are about 30 miles north of Baker, Calif.
Far from being just a beefed up version of the very successful TRX450, Honda’s new machine is brand spanking new from the ground up. People are going to want to make comparisons to Yamaha’s Raptor 700 or the Polaris Outlaw 525, but this is a unique ATV and it’s difficult to pigeonhole it into one category or class.
At first glance, this seems like a vehicle that could appeal to a lot of people, thanks to some unique features that we’ll go over in detail shortly. Honda, however, surprised us a little when it said the key target group for the 700XX is utility quad owners who are looking for more sport.
Trying to keep up with the powerful machines from the major manufacturers, QLINK Motor of Grapevine, Tex. has beefed up its ATV line with the Rodeo 700.
Before the release of the Rodeo 700, QLINK’s biggest quad was the mid-size 387cc Rodeo 400. With so many big-bore machines available on the market from the likes of Polaris, Honda, Yamaha and the other major players, the folks at QLINK decided it was time to up the ante.
“We’re trying to get out there and compete with the bigger guys,” QLINK service manager Brian Luce told ATV.com.
That’s a fairly lofty goal, and though QLINK may be challenged to put itself on even footing with those manufacturers, the Rodeo 700 is a significant step ahead of what the vast majority of other Chinese and Taiwanese companies have released. For the most part, Chinese manufacturers are producing lower-powered machines with a ceiling between 300cc and 500cc.
Besides the size of the engine, another advantage QLINK may have over a lot of the smaller imports is product support. Some consumers have reservations about buying an ATV built in China, but the company is doing its best to quell those worries.
With warehouses in Dallas and Edwardsville, Pa., QLINK says it has 98% parts availability. If a Rodeo 700 owner has a problem and needs a part replaced, the company says once the part is ordered it will be shipped out that same day or the next day. Depending on where in the US the consumer lives, the part should arrive within two to five days.
Like it so carefully does in all its business areas, Honda makes every move in the ATV market deliberate, calculated and intended to strengthen its position as the ATV sales leader.
Historically, Big Red’s success has been based on its overwhelming market strength in the 300cc to 500cc engine classes. In the 1990s, several quad builders decided they could not surpass Honda solely by competing head-to-head in the company’s strongest market. Instead, these competitors—notably Polaris and later Yamaha–decided to forge new opportunities by building ATVs with larger-displacement mills, automatic transmissions and independent rear suspensions.
In typical Honda fashion, Big Red bided it’s time before firing back with the release of its first big-bore, IRS ‘Rincon’ in model year 2003. In model year 2006, Honda increased the Rincon’s displacement and added electronic fuel injection. The 2008 version continues to have Honda’s most powerful engine, along with a plethora of innovative features delivering reliable high-technology performance.
Utility all terrain vehicles, or UTVs, are continuing to gain more and more popularity among enthusiasts—and manufacturers have taken notice.
Of the seven major ATV OEMs, Yamaha, Polaris, Arctic Cat and Kawasaki have already entered the UTV market with high-powered side-by-side models, and Honda is just about ready with its Big Red slated as a 2009 model year release. That leaves just Suzuki and Can-Am, and you can bet that they’re already at the drawing table.
Many consumers, however, seem to be looking for more than just the stock units the manufacturers are providing.
ATV.com attended a recent industry trade show in Indianapolis, and the amount of aftermarket accessories and modifications available for UTVs was staggering. As far as we could tell, if there was anything at all you wanted to change about the appearance and in some cases even the functionality of your UTV, you could find it here. From something as small as a shifter knob to an entire body kit that would make it pretty much impossible to tell what the original vehicle was from the outside.
As interesting and useful as many of these items are, the thought of spending a lot of money on accessories for a vehicle you just spent thousands of dollars on doesn’t always make a lot of sense. Why spend the time and money changing the look and feel of a vehicle you spent so much time and money picking out?
This year marks Suzuki’s 25th anniversary of producing the industry’s first ATVs, having begun making these machines when ATCs, otherwise known as three-wheelers, still dominated the off-road market. Suzuki is rightfully proud of being the ‘First on Four Wheels,’ and the company is celebrating by expanding its King Quad lineup.
At the top of the food chain is the 2008 KingQuad 750. While many ATV ride reviews take place in temperate conditions, we ran the newest KingQuad smack dab in the middle of a northern Minnesota cold snap.
Looking to increase market share and broaden the appeal of its popular Ranger series of side-by-side UTVs, Polaris announced new choices in this growing subset of the ATV market. There will be five Limited Edition Rangers, including a spiffed up version of its Ranger Crew model. While overall ATV sales have slowed, the market for Rangers has grown as Polaris has been adept at finding new niches to encourage sales.
The hot-rod Ranger RZR tapped into an entirely new segment of sports side-by-side models. Low and lean with ample power, the RZR set Polaris apart from the competition by creating a unique sports machine that takes the side-by-side concept off the farm and into the world of trail sports riding.
With this hot rod model in the line-up and with special offerings of Limited Edition models this past season, Polaris engineers and designers realized that consumers were hungry for more than ‘me-too’ ATVs and Rangers. As we head into 2008, Polaris expands its ‘limited’ collection with five decked out Rangers specially suited to the leaders of the pack—not the followers.
As overall ATV quad sales have slowed, side-by-side or UTV sales have increased. One reason is that side-by-sides allow riders to bring along a friend so they can sit beside you, not behind you, hanging on.
Four of these new Polaris Limited Edition Rangers are thematic expansions of the Ranger Series 700 line. You’ll find a Polaris-engineered and built motor displacing 683cc and scavenging fuel via an efficient electronic fuel injection system that is designed to maximize the range of the nine US gallon fuel tank. Delivering 40 horsepower the liquid-cooled engine can propel the base Ranger XP upwards of 50 miles per hour.
Ranger XP Baseline
The four Limited Edition versions are based on Polaris’ popular 700cc Ranger XP but customized in four unique ways—Orange Crush; an update of last year’s limited but popular Midnight Red; Black Metallic; and a deep woods Mossy Oak Browning edition. The fifth Limited Edition is a Turbo Silver version of the six-passenger Ranger Crew. All versions share the new-for-2008 hand-operated parking brake with shift interlock and increased towing capacity.
Here’s what’s specific to each new 2008 Limited Edition Ranger model.
2008 RANGER XP, Painted Orange Crush Rally
Quality deer management is all the rage among white tail deer hunters. Providing highly nutritious forage for deer will increase their antler size, help them survive high-stress conditions and hopefully help you fill the trophy space on your wall.
Even a small food plot only a half-acre in size can noticeably improve deer hunting. ATV accessory manufacturers have caught on to this booming market and there are more ATV and UTV implements available today than ever before. Food plot packages are available for small, medium and large food plot acreages—some are ‘one-pass’ designs that can make putting in a plot a snap. Here is a selection of some makes and models on the market.Quadivator
The Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area in southern California is a great place to test the true grit of Yamaha’s big bore Raptor Sport ATV. Sand dunes are a completely different terrain than riding on a track or in the trails and conditions can vary greatly from day to day, requiring versatility and dependability.
The South Dunes of the ISDRA provided ideal conditions for what is one of the best sport class quads we’ve tested to date, as the Yamaha Raptor played king of the hill at Gordon Wells’ Test Hill. It went almost entirely unchallenged when it competed against other stock quads of all sizes. It also made quick work of just about every other ATV it ran against at the sand drags above Dune Buggy Flats. The biggest challenges seemed to come from some slightly modified 450cc race based quads.
Kawasaki is making a hard push into sport ATV racing, and the KFX450R is designed to make it as easy as possible for the average rider.
The company says its racing quad doesn’t require extensive modifications to compete on the track and has been designed to include everything riders need to win races.
“This is race-ready right out of the box,” Kawasaki’s Jeff Quilty told ATV.com.
Powered by a 449cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke engine, the KFX450R produces more torque in the low and medium rpm ranges to improve hole-shot acceleration. The use of fuel injection helps ensure that the engine’s performance remains consistent, and Kawasaki says it is virtually unaffected by changes in temperature or altitude. The machine also comes with the only reverse gear in its class.
In 2001, Can-Am engineers were asked to build the lightest racing quad possible without sacrificing power. After six years of work, they responded with the DS 450 EFI.
Can-Am claims the DS 450 EFI has the lowest weight, lowest unsprung weight, most mass centralization and the highest power in its class. To achieve this, the frame, engine and suspension have been completely redesigned.
One of the key features of the lightweight aluminum frame is that it has no welds. Frame components are held together with aluminum fasteners called lock-bolts—the same technology used to attach the wings of an Airbus A380 aircraft. Can-Am says its new frame weighs 5.3 pounds less than the nearest competitor.
In recent years, a new engine class has developed in the sport utility ATV market. The 450cc class is where features and cost are supposed to find their best balance. Suzuki has targeted this segment with its King Quad 450—the ‘little brother’ to the King Quad 700, with many of the same amenities but a smaller engine and a lower price tag. When Suzuki developed the 450, the company took the opportunity to redesign the chassis and suspension. In doing so, it improved upon an already very good design and raised the bar for this class.
Just the facts
The King is powered by a 454cc, single overhead cam, single cylinder, liquid-cooled 4-stroke fuel-injected engine, which turns a rubber v-belt CVT transmission that has an exclusive engine-braking design. The CVT powers a low-high gearbox that in turn transmits power to the drive shafts. The King is equipped with independent suspension at all four corners and adjustable springs with five pre-load settings. There is a rear sway bar. Push-button four-wheel-drive capability is standard along with an easy to use locking differential switch. The 2007 450 King has the same 30 Watt, bumper-mounted headlights as the 700 King Quad, but does not have the 700’s 40-watt handlebar-mounted headlight. The engine starts with a push of the button on the left hand control, and will not start unless the ATV is in neutral or in a forward gear with the front brake being applied. The 450 is equipped with an LCD display in a size that seems to have become a standard for most Japanese ATV manufacturers.
ATV.com recently headed to the hills of northern California to test the 2008 Polaris Sportsman 800 EFI HO, on a guided ride with the Glende Polaris dealership in Chico, Calif.
The terrain was a mixture of relatively smooth fire trails and rocky, technical climbs and descents with plenty of fallen trees thrown in for good measure—an adequate test for any ATV.
The Sportsman 800 is built like a tank and tips the scales at a hefty 770 pounds, which is more than 50 pounds heavier than Arctic Cat’s 950cc Thundercat 4X4. Polaris says the added heft is the result of designing a rugged vehicle that can take a beating.
Though the ruggedness and durability add considerable weight, it’s a compromise Polaris was willing to make because the ride is smooth and the handling good so that you don’t really feel the additional pounds.
Honda has taken a significant step in 2008 with the introduction of its TRX700XX.
Powered by a 686cc SOHC liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 4-stroke engine, the TRX700XX is Honda’s biggest sport ATV ever, but it certainly isn’t an industry first. The fact that it has independent rear suspension is how Honda plans to make a splash.
“You’re not really going to find an independent rear suspension in a big-bore sport class anywhere else,” Nick Smirniw of Honda Canada told ATV.com. “One of the limitations with sport ATVs typically is that the chain, because they are generally using a motorcycle engine, is off-set to one side, which means that you couldn’t actually put an IRS system in place.”
With the chain off-set to one side, the arms would be different sizes, which would lead to poor stability. To resolve this issue, Honda centered the chain drive, which allows for equal-length arms.
Thanks to the independent rear suspension, Honda says the TRX700XX is more agile than other big-bore sport ATV machines. It also has an impressive 10.5 inches of ground clearance.
Polaris ignited the big-bore ATV wars in the mid-1990s with the release of the Sportsman 500. At the time, the long-travel independent rear suspension, big-bore (for the time) 4-stroke engine, full floorboards and other features were revolutionary. The success of this initial 500 began a tidal wave of ATVs with large displacement mills and automatic transmissions that is still cresting throughout the industry. Polaris continues its tradition of innovation with its Sportsman 500 EFI.
Polaris successfully integrated fuel injection into the tried-and-true Fuji 500 HO powerplant in the 2006 model year. The 500 mill still provides good power, and any mechanical issues should have been eliminated long ago. Polaris wrings out every last drop from the 500 in the powerband. Low-end and mid-range are both good but not spectacular. On the top end, this Polaris pulls away from the Honda Rubicon and the Arctic Cat 500 Auto, under a comparison test. I was not able to analyze cold starting, but the fuel injection seemed flawless at all speeds. Polaris is due to redesign its engines for this class—the question is not if, but when, we will see it happen. For now, the 500 EFI is still a solid package and provides plenty of power for all types of trail riding and utility usage.
For those looking for an ATV that is ready to race right out of the box, Suzuki offers its Quadracer R450.
Suzuki says the concept of the Quadracer R450 is unique, in that the consumer doesn’t have to bolt on a laundry list of aftermarket parts before being able to compete on the racetrack.
When it comes to racing pedigree, it’s hard to argue with Suzuki’s success. Three of the top four finishers on the 2007 WPSA SuperQuad Pro 450 final standings rode Suzuki ATVs, including Doug Gust.
Gust, who won the WPSA SuperQuad Pro 450 class in 2006 and finished fourth in 2007, worked with a team us Suzuki engineers to come up with the R450.
ATV.com wanted to see what the sporty machine could do in person, and Wayne Wilkes of Columbia PowerSports Center in Columbia, SC facilitated a ride. Wilkes took us to Carolina Adventure World in Fairfield County, SC and we hit the ATV trails for a little while to warm up.
On a surprisingly hot November day, ATV.com visited Carolina Adventure World to test out the Suzuki KingQuad 450.
After meeting Columbia PowerSports Center owner Wayne Wilkes at his store in Columbia, SC, we hit the road with three 2007 KingQuads in tow. The 2007 models are mechanically identical to the 2008 vehicles—the only difference being that 2007 was the last model year Suzuki offered the KingQuad in black.
After about a 45 minute drive north, we reached Carolina Adventure World in Fairfield County, SC. It is a privately owned facility with 100 miles of ATV trails and plenty of other things to do. But we were there to ride.
With Wilkes leading the way, we hopped on the quads and drove towards the trails. All the trails were well marked and we started off on some of the easier routes to get used to the vehicles.
Arctic Cat designs its sport-utility ATVs with hunters in mind—it’s just that simple. The affinity is a natural one, because the company’s design center is located in rural northwestern Minnesota, and they often test their vehicles in the wild and scenic Beltrami Island State Forest. The team at Cat will steal the hearts of many sportsmen with the tremendous hunting capability built into its 700 EFI 4×4. Using this vehicle as a platform, I constructed a concept hunting-quad showcasing some of the best Arctic Cat iron, while also adding a handful of non-Arctic Cat hunting accessories.
Under the seat