I'm seriously considering adding on to my two-car garage to make it a three-car model. Not that it has ever had two cars in it, mind you. The tight confines of my suburbia tract home have always had a fuel-thirsty 4x4 pickup or SUV parked on one side, an econo car on the other.
The urge for a bigger garage is driven by the mere conclusion that having one ATV at my beck-and-call isn't going to cut it any more than being limited to either a pickup or a car. One just can't do it all. I really need two: a single-rider ATV and one of the new side-by-side UTV models.
But if I really had to choose between an ATV or UTV, I'd have to go with a side-by-side. The newest offerings are more functional, nimble and rider-friendly than a single-rider quad.
For example, you can safely and comfortably bring along a friend or family member on the hunt, while keeping gear and game secured in the bed. And they can navigate most ATV trails with ease—especially the 4x4 models. Of course, when the hunting seasons are still a ways off, a side-by-side can be used for a wide variety of chores, from working food plots and hauling firewood to hauling bags of potting soil across the yard or bags of feed from the driveway to the barn.
Best of all, side-by-sides are no more difficult to operate than a golf cart, so anyone the least bit intimidated by ATVs will find these new machines enjoyable to ride and drive.
So, when you decide a new side-by-side should take up residence in your garage, here's a quick summary of models to look for as dealers make way for the 2008s that will be arriving this fall.
ARCTIC CAT'S PROWLER XT 650 H1 ($9,499 MSRP) is a rugged, versatile, 4x4 UTV. Not only is the styling really cool inside and out, but this side-by-side can tow 1,500 pounds on the hitch and carry 600 pounds in the bed. The Prowler is a strong off-road performer, with more than 12.5 inches of ground clearance and 10 inches of suspension travel at both ends of its fully independent suspension. Add in the power from the 641cc four-stroke engine, the choice of 2wd/4wd and a big 8.2-gallon fuel tank, and you have a buggy that can cover a lot of rugged ground in relative ease and comfort.
The BUSH HOG TRAIL HUNTER 440 ($8,999 MSRP) is a hearty, well-designed, Honda-powered side-by-side that seats three across the bench-style seat. The Trail Hunter brings a whole new perspective to the name brand that used to be equated only to mowers and implements. It features all-wheel-drive, a CVT (continuously variable transmission) transmission, 1,150 pounds of towing capacity and 750 pounds of load capacity. The Trail Hunter is equipped with a four-wheel independent, coil-over-shock suspension and a rear-locking differential, giving it a lot of off-road traction and a ride quality that ranks with the best.
CLUB CAR'S XRT 1550 ($9,400 gas engine; $10,750 diesel MSRP) is built for more than just fairway travel. It features automotive-inspired styling, two- or four-passenger seating and a sophisticated all-wheel-drive traction system that continually senses driving conditions and automatically engages and disengages all-wheel-drive without requiring the driver to stop, shift gears, push buttons or lock differentials. The XRT 1550 can carry 800 pounds (standard suspension) or 1,050 pounds (heavy duty suspension) in the bed. Options abound with choices of bench or bucket seats, standard or heavy-duty suspension, mud or all terrain tires and Honda gas or Kubota diesel engines. They even offer an upscale SE model with additional bells and whistles.
HUSQVARNA'S HUV4421DXP ($12,399 MSRP) is one of the few UTVs powered by a 20-hp Kubota Diesel engine. It's built stout with 25-inch mud tires, heavy-duty brush guard, power-tilt bed capacity up to 1,050 pounds, steel front skid, belly pan, rear differential guard and sealed CVT. There's not much in the way of suspension, but the chassis is built with frame rails crafted from welded and boxed corrosion-resistant aircraft grade aluminum. The Kubota engine's great low-end torque coupled with the sealed CVT has no problem moving the agile 4x4—or anything attached to its 2-inch receiver hitch.
The NEW JOHN DEERE TRAILGATOR HPX 4X4'S ($9,899 MSRP) power comes from a 617cc liquid-cooled Kawasaki V-twin engine routed through a CVT transmission with high and low range. The 4x4 system has On-Demand “auto locking” front differential operated by a switch on the dash. Its suspension utilizes McPherson Struts in the front and coil over shocks in the rear. This trail version of the Gator comes standard with high-performance all-terrain tires, front bumper, 12v DC outlet, cup holders, glove box, hour meter, fuel gauge, storage compartment, olive drab color scheme, brush guard and full clutch enclosure.
Both the KAWASAKI MULE 610 4X4 ($6,699 MSRP) and the MULE 3010 TRANS4X4 ($9,599 MSRP) are highly recognized side-by-sides. Kawasaki started this whole multi-rider “utility” phenomenon back in 1988. The Mule 610 4x4, powered by a 401cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine, is a reliable hunter's workhorse. The 2007 model features curved body panels, redesigned hood and grille and a large-diameter steel tube frame that give it a clean, modern look, while automotive-type controls and gear selectors are now located on the newly styled dashboard.
The 3010 TRANS4X4 takes the Mule name a step further by bringing UTVs a bit closer to the old Jeep. The 3010 Trans4X4 can carry four riders, or the back seats can be dropped to extend the bed floor to haul more stuff instead of people. Kawasaki's new convertible UTV has a cargo capacity of 400 pounds in four-passenger guise, and 800 pounds with the cargo bed extended forward. Plus, with an optional towing hitch, the new Trans4X4 can tow up to 1,200 pounds. Power comes from a 617cc liquid-cooled Kawasaki V-twin engine routed through a CVT transmission. Ground clearance is a scant 7 inches and the wheelbase a rather long 85 inches. That combo, along with limited suspension travel, inhibits the Trans4X4's backwoods prowess, but keeps it in the game as a hunting camp mule.
KUBOTA'S RTV900 ($11,999 MSRP) comes from tractor-tough tradition and boasts a diesel engine, three-range Variable Hydro Transmission (VHT), wet-disc brakes and a hydraulic bed-lift system. Payload is 1,653 pounds and towing capacity is 1,300 pounds. The 4x4 system has a locking differential and 25-inch ATV tires are standard on the recreation model, which also sports a camo paint job. The Kubota has a top speed of 25 mph, and with diesel power it can pull its weight around any hunting camp better than most.
LAND PRIDE'S 4400 TREKKER ST ($8,695 MSRP) line of light utility vehicles is designed to move people and a limited amount of gear or cargo comfortably and safely over rough or difficult off-road terrain. The wide 56-inch stance of the 4x4 ST model is designed to carry three passengers on the bench seat and 900 pounds of cargo in its 15.9 cubic-foot capacity dumping cargo box, for a total payload capacity of 1,300 pounds. Coupled with a 614cc, 20 hp Honda V-twin four-stroke engine, this makes the ST series Trekkers a strong and stable workhorse for ranches, farms and construction sites—and a good side-by-side for use around hunting camps.
The POLARIS RANGER RZR ($9,999 MSRP), LIMITED EDITION RANGER XP ($10,999 MSRP) and BROWNING EDITION RANGER ($12,099 MSRP) show function, style and innovation. The all-new RZR is one of the most innovative, quickest and agile of the 4x4 side-by-sides. It can tow 1,500 pounds while providing a lot of fun away from work. The RZR is a very capable four-wheel-drive UTV with a low center of gravity that helps make it an ideal go-anywhere off-road vehicle. It's built on a rugged chassis with fully independent suspension and is powered by an electronically fuel-injected 52 hp, 760cc Polaris four-stroke twin-cylinder engine. The little bed behind the two-person cab can carry 300 pounds. Best of all, it fits in the bed of a pickup or anywhere else a quad with a 50-inch-wide footprint can.
Then there's the RANGER XP, MOSSY OAK HUNTER EDITION. This 4x4 model is powered by a 700cc EFI engine, giving it a top speed of 50 mph. The RANGER XP's EFI four-stroke engine, coupled with Independent Rear Suspension (IRS), will ensure a great hunt regardless of what Mother Nature throws your way. Features on this limited edition model include New Mossy Oak Break-Up camo finish (hood, dash, rims, decals), no-shine wrinkle black paint (cab frame, bumpers, grill) and a set of high-profile Carlisle PXT Off Road tires for superior traction in deep mud.
However, nothing says hunting in the Polaris line more than the RANGER XP, MOSSY OAK BROWNING EDITION. Couple extreme off-road performance with a premier firearms manufacturer and presto, you have an excellent hunting machine. Along with the standard 700cc EFI engine and the same features as the standard hunting edition mentioned above, the Browning model adds a custom stitched black/brown/marsh green deluxe seat, Browning logos (hood and custom seat), a 4.0 Warn Winch and dual gun scabbard with Lock and Ride mount.
The YAMAHA RHINO 660 4X4 ($7,499 MSRP) and the new RHINO 450 4X4 ($6,699 MSRP) are the two best buys in this segment of side-by-side UTV offerings. Both of these models are the same physical size and carry two occupants in bucket-style seats behind a dash and controls that look more akin to a vehicle than UTV. The Rhino 660 is powered by the same 660cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine that's found in the Grizzly 660, while the Rhino 450 gets the smaller 421cc engine found in the Grizzly 450. Both sport 7.9-gallon fuel tanks and more than a foot of ground clearance. In addition to the new model Rhino, Yamaha has added a stamped cargo bed (lighter and a much cleaner, more professional look), high-traction Maxxis tires and a cargo bed latch on both sides of the bed for easy access to load, game or gear.