The Avenger leads Argo’s 2007 lineup
There is something in an off-roader’s soul that yearns for the freedom of crossing land without limits. An ATV satisfies this need by carrying us down trails with power and speed that we could never achieve on our own. Our desire to subdue nature is sated with a feeling of accomplishment when the combination of our skills and the capable bike under us prove sufficient to go over, around or through seemingly impossible obstacles. ATVs are like an intravenous of adrenaline when we are riding them on ‘terra firma. But when we arrive at a body of water we are abruptly confronted with the limits of these machines, and the yearning to go continually onward wells up in us again.
In their 40-plus year history, Argos have been continually evolving to enable riders of all kinds in all places to surmount this challenge. Leading the way for Argo is the Avenger models. I had the opportunity to test Argo’s carbureted Avenger for an extended period. During this test I discovered that Argos have a certain set of strengths that make them unique, and because of that it is difficult to categorize them in comparison to other ATVs. Their ability to travel on land, water or ice gives them functionality roughly equivalent to a hovercraft. Their utilitarian off-road design philosophy is reminiscent of the original Jeep. At the same time, with their low operating speeds they are not going to win any drag races with ATVs. But one thing is for certain—on trail-less, varying terrain types interlaced with aquatic habitat the Argo leaves most other vehicles behind.
Argos are engineered and built in New Hamburg, Ont. by Ontario Drive and Gear (ODG), which has been producing the Argo line of vehicles for more than 40 years. Figuratively speaking, while most ATV design engineers have to keep one foot on and one foot off of the trail, the Argo’s designers jumped off of the trail with both feet as far as they could. Then they kept on going with the design even across water and muskeg. With satisfied customers in challenging conditions all over the world, they have gained plenty of experience at designing a reliable transportation system. A 674cc, 26-HP Kohler V-Twin 4-stroke carbureted engine powered the Avenger I tested. The company has also recently released an EFI version that delivers 31 horsepower. The Avenger has a belt-driven CVT transmission delivering power through a gearbox with low and high gear.
The most obvious factor that makes the Argo special is its amphibious design. Argos do not have a body, they have a hull. The entire drivetrain is enclosed within the bottom of the hull with the engine in front. Multiple, chain-driven output shafts (one for each of the eight wheels) pass through bearing carriers that are sealed to the hull. Within each bearing carrier is a greasable bearing and a double seal on the outside to keep moisture out. The drivetrain is located very low in the hull, making for great stability. For water crossings, the Avenger is rated to safely float 750 pounds, including the driver. As with all of Argo’s models, the Avenger’s eight wheels all drive simultaneously. The wheels working in unison also serve as a propeller in water and outboard motors up to 9.9 horsepower can also be mounted to the back as an accessory.
Fit and finish on the Avenger is good. While I did not measure fuel consumption, it never struck me as being excessive, and the fuel tank seems sufficient at just less than eight gallons. The dashboard has an hourmeter, voltmeter and engine temperature gauges as standard instrumentation. A single lever on the handlebar activates hydraulic disk brakes and there is a twist-grip throttle. The Avenger has handlebar-controlled skid steering. The model I drove was equipped with ODG’s rubber track kit. I measured the Avengers ground clearance to the lowest part of the hull at 12.25 inches. In years past ground clearance was a complaint from some Argo owners, but the Avengers is competitive with any stock ATV made. Removing the tracks reduces about one inch of clearance. The unit I drove was also equipped with an accessory soft-top cab (which I left down) and their accessory 3,000-lb Superwinch X2. The winch is pinned in place and can be quickly removed and attached to the fore or aft end of the vehicle as needed.
Aesop’s Fables included a story about the tortoise and the hare. In his tale, the tortoise’s steady, methodical traveling style ended up being superior to the hare’s—who operated in fits and starts and was bypassed by the tortoise at a critical juncture of the race. The way the Argo works brings this fable to mind. If you need to access wild country where no trails are available, you will truly enjoy the freedom of driving an Argo. The top speed on the Avenger with tracks would be perhaps 16 mph, but this remains relatively constant even when you leave the trail and head cross-country. With no tracks installed, Argo claims an additional 3-4 mph of speed is possible. This may not sound fast, but it is a lot faster than being stuck as basically any stock ATV could be due to high centering or tire wedging. Its top speed in the water without tracks is in the lower single mph—again not fast, but when it is compared to vehicles that cannot function as a boat, it’s lightning-quick. Picture the tortoise passing the hare while it ‘sleeps’ as the hare did in the fable, and you get the idea. Argo does not recommend crossing large bodies of water with the track kit installed, because tracks propel the vehicle much more slowly than the tires alone will.
Starting the Avenger’s engine is simple and reliable. For example, after being parked outside in 20 degree Fahrenheit weather with a stiff northwest wind, the engine started instantly when using the choke. The bench seat is comfortably soft. Driving the Avenger is confidence inspiring. There is no question from the moment you twist the throttle that the burly Argo can dominate nearly any terrain. Driving through brush and mud was effortless. On ice the wide track profile and flotation capability instill a feeling of security. The drivetrain is geared very low and the pulling power is impressive. While it’s possible to get any vehicle stuck, with the Argo this would usually be the result of an improper driving technique rather than the vehicle itself. With the track kit on, the Avenger is nearly unstoppable.
The Argo relentlessly churned through any territory I took it to. The suspension, or lack thereof, is still sufficient for the speeds it travels. The weight distribution felt very stable in both off-camber and hill-climbing situations. The thrill of an Argo is in conquering rugged country, not going fast. The machine’s steering and maneuvering shines through most in the worst possible terrain. A transformation in your enjoyment of the ride occurs when you enter, say, hummock-dotted lowlands. Where a 4-wheeled vehicle’s steering would be severely restricted and the chassis would be getting high-centered, the Avenger floats over this terrain because of its long, multiple wheelbase. By my own calculations of gross vehicle weight (about 1,500 pounds) divided by track area (92-inch track contact length by 18 inches wide by two tracks), the pressure on the ground is a meager 1/2 pounds per square inch. ODG says that with tires alone the psi on the ground is only 2.1. When crossing mud-bottomed creeks, the multiple wheels and high ground clearance allow it to travel without dragging or bottoming out in the silt. In nasty terrain types like these, the Argo’s maneuvering feels—dare I say—almost nimble. Having experienced being stuck again and again while trying to cross a floating bog, it is very enjoyable to drive over them with the ease that the Avenger does. A reality check here—the Argo is chiefly made for crossing terrain without trails. A rider should not expect to get much fun out of it on trails or roads—unless you are using its substantial hauling capability.
The smooth bottomed hull makes it easier to slide over obstacles and the Kohler engine delivers very predictable linear power. Steering effort is minimal because the driver is not physically turning the wheels, you are just actuating one of 2 brakes. When the handlebar is turned, the brake disk on the side you are turning towards is activated and slows the wheels on that side. The wheels on the opposite side move ahead and turn the vehicle towards the side that is being stopped. The end result, at least with tracks, is a steering technique that can only be described as a gentle ‘coaxing’. Since the brakes are constantly in use when steering, an electric cooling fan blows on the brake disks to keep them cool and to prevent brake fade. The brake discs are also slotted for extra heat dissipation.
There is a cavernous compartment in the back of the Avenger , which measures 31 inches wide by 45 inches long and 22 inches deep. Bench seats are on opposite sides of the storage area. Depending on the terrain being crossed, you could carry as many as six people plus gear wherever you wanted to go. If crossing deep water, the weight would have to be diminished to be less than the 750-lb stability limit.
Many hunting outfitters have at least one Argo. Wayne Bass of Steep Rock River Outfitters in Manitoba uses his year-round for everything from bear hunting to ice fishing.
“My Argo lets me cross early-season ice with confidence to get bear-bait containers in place,” he says. “When I need to use the Argo, I am very glad I’ve got it, because nothing else would work in its place.”
The Argo would work very well for a landowner who wants to have access to any point on his land, any time of year. It’s suitable for everything from hauling building materials for hunting stands to duck hunting, and everything in between. In certain states, you may have legal issues with utilizing its ability to traverse wetlands. Many of these regulations should not apply to the Argo based upon my experience. An Argo with or without tracks puts less pressure on the ground than a human walking, and its low gearing nearly eliminates the possibility of ‘roosting’ rooted vegetation into the air. These factors, plus the high ground clearance make for very low environmental impact.
If you plan to use an Avenger with tracks, I recommend you plan to have a trailer to haul it as well. An Avenger with tracks will not fit within the walls of a pickup box. Argo says all of its models with tires alone will fit inside a full-size box. Some versions require the tailgate to be down.
An Argo definitely fills a special need for those who need to cross terrain without limits. There is a wide range of models and prices available, and all have the trademark amphibious capability. The old Aesop’s Fable has the tortoise outrunning the hare over the long haul. If you like high-speed trail-riding, Argos aren’t for you. But if you need to access the nastiest, most varied country imaginable, the Argo will get you there steadily and surely.