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A UTV with Innovative Features
"Honda stepped up to the plate with the Pioneer,” says Dave Mowitz, Executive Editor at Successful Farming magazine. “It certainly performs as well as anything on the sports utility market. Thumbs up to the Pioneer’s operator platform.”
With the launch of the Pioneer, Honda introduces one of the few UTVs available with an automatic transmission. Ultimate UTV Evaluation’s ag engineer is a fan of this feature. “I love the electronically controlled automatic transmission and torque convertor; it accurately makes shifts up and down, and based on the brake inputs, it provides good engine braking on downhill sections,” says John Lumkes, ag engineering professor at Purdue University. “There aren’t CVT belts to wear out, and the driveline is all shaft-driven. Engineering wise, this has the potential for great reliability and low maintenance.”
Evaluator Mick Frazier says, “The automatic transmission makes driving very smooth and easy. Also, the optional rear seats are a great addition.”
The Honda Pioneer 700-4 has the standard two front seats, but it also has two seats that fold out of the cargo box. “This is a very impressive machine,” says Tom Meredith, evaluator at Little Goose Ranch. “I like the features, especially the extra set of seats in the back.
“The Pioneer’s carrying capability and the loaded handling characteristics are very good,” adds Meredith. “Maneuverability is good, with a tight turning radius, good power, and overall, a very pleasant ride.”
Beyond the automatic transmission and four seats, Lumkes also touches on a few other noteworthy characteristics. “Honda uses a manual rack-and-pinion steering system as opposed to the power steering systems found in many of the other UTVs, yet it manages to maintain a light steering feel,” says Lumkes. “A simple rack-and-pinion mechanism is very light, reliable, and requires low maintenance.”
One thing Lumkes looks for in UTVs is how the various design trade-offs are managed, including cost and performance. “The rear drive system is unique because it is a simple gear set locked differential and not the user selectable locked/unlocked differentials found in the other machines,” explains Lumkes. “I’m sure this saves cost and keeps the Honda price-competitive with the other machines even with the new features. There are performance trade-offs with a locked differential in the rear. This is especially true for heavy payloads, slow-speed sharp turns on turf or pavement, pushing into the corners, and tire wear.”
Evaluators rated each machine on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 as the best rating) on 12 performance criteria. The machines were evaluated unloaded and loaded by each evaluator.