Ultimate All-Terrain Test

Agriculture.com Staff 01/31/2008 @ 12:00pm

When it comes to all-terrain vehicles (ATV), you want a machine that's going to be able to handle the varying terrain on your farm or ranch - a machine that can handle jobs both big and small.

And what better way to learn how well an ATV performs than to put it to the test. For an entire week, editors from Successful Farming magazine and its sister publication, Living the Country Life magazine, rode with a team of evaluators and engineers through the mountains and in the fields of the Little Goose Ranch near Sheridan, Wyoming. The goal was to deliver performance information in an agricultural-style evaluation.

Even though the 400-cc models continue to be the popular choice in the ag market, 600-cc machines are steadily gaining ground. With that in mind, manufacturers were invited to send machines with a 400-cc or larger engine. Machines from five manufacturers - Arctic Cat, Honda, Polaris, Suzuki, and Yamaha - were put through their paces.

A variety of trails on the Little Goose Ranch were selected to reflect similar conditions found in agriculture. Vehicles were exposed to flat fields, rolling rangeland, and narrow mountainous pathways. Rain on one day of testing provided riders a chance to see how vehicles performed in mud.

Once each vehicle was ridden, team members completed a 12-question evaluation form. Based on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best) each vehicle was ranked and the scores were tabulated.

Machines were evaluated on everything from steering responsiveness and maneuverability to overall rider comfort. What rose to the top as most important features were power and maneuverability. And riders had plenty to say about each machine's ability to tackle the terrain.

"The Suzuki Eiger 400 4×4's maneuverability is great. It turned easily and was a nice ride,” comments rider Justin McKenzie.

Rider Bill Hornaday likes how the Polaris Sportsman 500 EFI X2 handled and says, "This machine steers well even on slippery hills. It maneuvers very, very nicely."

In addition, evaluators were asked to point out best and worst features of machines. Power steering, metal racks, and adjustable shocks to accommodate varying cargo weight rated among the highest as favorites.

"I prefer metal racks rather than plastic. Metal is much more durable," comments engineer Craig Knight.

Among the least liked features were lack of engine braking and machines with only one hand brake.

"I dislike that there's no hand brake on the right-hand side," says rider Chad Bradshaw.

The team of engineers tested draft on each of the machines.

For complete scores, riders' notes, video comments, and manufacturer specifications for all vehicles, click on the Ultimate All-Terrain Test link below.

When it comes to all-terrain vehicles (ATV), you want a machine that's going to be able to handle the varying terrain on your farm or ranch - a machine that can handle jobs both big and small.

Engine: 695 cc, DOHC, four stroke.

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