I’ve made no bones about the fact that I love the King Quad. I loved it from the first ride. It had everything I needed – 2wd, 4wd, and 4wd with a front locker. It had a great gauge package. But best of all it was smooth – the engine was incredibly smooth for a big single. And to help in the smoothness department the KQ had a higher ratio transmission that allowed the engine to turn at a lower rpm – something an old guy that liked to short-shift when cruising really appreciated! Of course it still had its Achilles heel, a far too steep of a front caster that caused some steering and handling problems – especially when fitted with better tires.
That caster and handling problem was all fixed with the addition of power steering – not so much as the EPS itself makes it handle better, but the powered steering made it possible for the Suzuki engineers to add in a proper amount of caster!
As the King Quad competitors improved, another feature of the KQ became more apparent – it didn’t have a parking brake in the transmission, but stuck with a simple parking brake on the handlebars. I like this set-up for a couple of reasons. First, when shifting into reverse you never have to try to keep from hitting park inadvertently. And second, sometimes when working or even stopping along the trail it’s easier to simply leave the machine in drive and set the parking brake to keep it from rolling while you reset the GPS, look at the map, or check a fencepost.
I’ve also had a long love affair with 2-seat ATVs. For years I struggled with which one I liked more, the Can Am Outlander 650 or the Sportsman Touring. Both had some advantages and some disadvantages. But with the introduction of the 2011 XP Touring I was able to make a decision. The new Touring with its ADC now goes down hills without trying to swap ends. It now allows me to quickly remove the second seat and have a stable single seat machine with plenty of rear rack space. And as a tourer, the Touring is without competition in the plush, comfortable department.
It’s so good that I can almost overlook the things I don’t like – a single brake lever, the park position in the transmission, and the 4wd system that keeps me from choosing what I want it to do.
But life is more than about handlebars. Being a guy that got his first car (a Meyers Manx of course) at 14, I’ve always had an affinity for holding a steering wheel. I longed for a side by side for years before they came out, even going so far as to be designing a side by side ‘buggy’ out of a Kawasaki Prairie.
So I was excited when Yamaha brought out the Rhino, but I fell in love when I saw the RZR for the first time. Like a lovesick teenager I can remember that first look even today – a great looking, powerful, and 50” wide machine! And I soon found out it was relatively quiet (as compared to the existing Rhino) and handled incredible!
And yes, I’m constantly driven crazy by some of the glaring problems I find with the RZR. Every machine needs a parking brake, something that used to be called an emergency brake because it was a separate ‘mechanical’ system that could be used to stop a vehicle if the primary braking system failed! It would be a tremendous comfort to have a lever to pull when heading down some fast, twisting trail in case a brake line gets ripped and you no longer have a brake fluid to operate the hydraulic system. I won’t even mention how good a nice lever at the right side of the seat is for helping set of a machine for tight corners ;-)
Then there’s the fact that the RZR still sends all of its engine braking to the rear wheels – something that can be extremely irritating on some of those steep, rocky trails I love to explore. That’s something that could be easily fixed with the addition of the ADC system like’s found on the Touring!
But even with those glaring problems the RZR does what no other side-by-side buggy can do – go on the 50” ATV trails. And do it in comfort and with the ability to carry enough camping equipment for the two passengers! So until something better comes along, the RZR is one of my favorite off road rigs. The proof of this can be found in the fact that there has been a RZR sitting in my garage every single day since they came out! The only other machines that can say that are the Suzuki King Quad and the Kawasaki Prairie!
But, my life is more than just riding for fun – living on 20 acres requires something for work – something to haul wood and hay, and tow the rough-cut mower. And living in a small town where things like this are still possible, it’s nice to have something to run to the Post Office, or to the small general store. We’ve used Kawasaki Mules for this for many, many years, with everything from Diesels to Crewcabs sitting here over the years.
It was only recently and as a fluke while at a Polaris new-model introduction that I got to use an electric UTV, the Ranger EV. You guessed it, I fell in love. While certainly not quiet the machine of choice for exploring the trails, thanks to the inability to actually carry any spare volts along in case you run out, it works perfectly around the farm or ranch. Quiet is good in many ways. You don’t upset animals, and in fact actually can here them while you drive by. Perhaps the most noticeable advantage I’ve found to the EV’s quiet operation is when towing stuff – especially something like the rough-cut mower. With no engine sound coming from the EV, you can now more easily hear if the mower is running okay or bogging down, or if you’re dragging it across the field with the blade stopped ;-)
But wait, there’s more! I have one more need. I need something to haul people around – more than just one! For this I need a crewcab something or another. I’ve tried the Mule Transcab. While it’s quiet and good for around the farm or town, it struggles horribly out on the trails. The RZR 4-seater is just too difficult for easy entrance and exit. The Ranger is too big and wide, so big in fact you might as well be driving a Jeep around. But like Goldilocks I’ve found the crewcab that’s ‘just right’, the Ranger 500!
Yeah, it’s still long, but it’s pretty hard to have a good 4-seater without adding some un-wanted length. Where the 500 Crew shines is that it is narrow enough to fit on many of the trails and it has the suspension to get over them without beating all the passengers to death. And the 500cc EFI engine has adequate power to even climb up the mountain trails with a full load of people on board.
Now here’s where I say that like every Polaris, the crew is not without some glaring faults that if I were the Product Manager that I’d fix. There’s no parking brake what so ever! And, well, that’s it I think. Wow! I think I just amazed myself – I can only find one fault! I better go for a ride and make sure that’s right.
Don’t get me wrong now, there are a lot of good machines out there and something I like to point out to everyone that asks me which ATV is best for them. And maybe that’s exactly what I’ll talk about in the next blog. It’ll help me update the FAQ page on the website.
But for now, you know exactly what I beg the PR folks to allow me keep sitting outside my office ;-)
|Just in case you wondered what a Meyers Manx was ;-)|
God Bless -