Every year when we prepare our latest Buyer's Guide to ATVs and UTVs we think the various machines offered by major manufacturers can't possibly get any better — and every year manufacturers continue to up the ante. The 2017 ATV & UTV Buyer's Guide includes machines that perform better, do more, go farther, and are more comfortable to use. This year's Buyer's Guide goes beyond the classic categories that ATVs and UTVs have historically fallen under — utility, recreational, and performance — to include new Rec/Utility or Utility/Rec machines. As outdoor enthusiasts, we all want the best value for our money. In 2017, you can find that value with each of these machines.
For 2017, Polaris pulled out all the stops and hit us with some simply amazing new machines. If you want a Polaris and have been waiting for just the right one, now is the time.
The Ranger XP 1000 is the biggest, baddest Ranger to come from Polaris yet. With 80 horsepower and a 999cc twin-cylinder Northstar engine, the Ranger has the power to do anything you can imagine. New for this year is how you control that power. Polaris came out with a digital Tri-mode throttle control system that has three modes. Work mode is, as the name implies, a lower speed but allows you to take advantage of the engine's massive amount of torque.
Normal mode is right in the middle with a power curve that is broad and usable. Performance mode really opens up the engine and gives you access to the horsepower right off the bat.
The GENERAL 1000, already a favorite since its introduction last year, gets the addition of a Hunter's Edition with camo and gun scabbards. Also, new for 2017 is the General 4. The four-seater has the most comfortable rear passenger seating of any multi-passenger UTV. Another addition to the General lineup is the new Ride Command version. This special edition machine takes the features of the Deluxe Edition General — with upgraded shocks, stereo speakers, and more — and adds Polaris's Ride Command, a seven inch, glove touch control screen that has a built-in GPS receiver, complete digital readout, and connected front and rear cameras for backing up and tackling close obstacles. You can connect with friends through a smartphone app to track your friends' locations in real time. You can also wirelessly connect to GoPro cameras and control them via remote.
The SPORTSMAN XP 1000 also received the Tri-mode throttle system as well as a cosmetic makeover that at first glance seemed just that — cosmetic. However, the shape of the front end provides better sight lines for the rider. The racks have been reinforced. They even added a cup-holder. Additional plastic bodyworks channel air from the front of the machine to the engine. They not only enhance cooling, but also go further to protect your feet from the engine's heat.
The Sportsman is available with a new digital readout that allows you to connect your phone to the display where it shows your incoming text messages. On the mechanical side, the biggest news are the curved A-Arms from the suspension. This adds ground clearance, bumping it up to 11.5 inches.
If you grew up around the '80s, chances are you had, or wanted, a Honda ATC three-wheeler. Three-wheelers are gone, but Honda has kept on producing high-quality, innovative machines that go a different route than many others.
The 2017 Honda Pioneer 1000 LE is powered by a 999cc Honda twin-cylinder engine, and it has something very different from other vehicles. While most rely on a CVT-belt transmission, the Honda uses a dual-clutch system. Not only does this eliminate the belt, but also offers the added advantage that you can select your gears. This is a key reason why we dig the Honda.
You have six forward gears to play with, in both high and low range. Want to absolutely crawl down a hill and not have to touch the brakes? Drop the Pioneer into low and put it in first gear. We had the maximum amount of towing weight behind the Honda, 2,000 pounds, and could cruise down a long, steep hill at 1 to 2 mph! The LE models come with Honda's all new I-4WD system, technology they borrowed from their automotive cousins. It lets you have all the advantages of a locked differential, but you can still steer and drive normally, sensing which wheels are spinning and directing power to where the traction is.
With all the push toward having a bigger, more powerful engine in your ATV, some might be surprised at how great the 2017 Honda FourTrax Rubicon 4X4 is. After all, it is only (emphasis on the sarcasm there) a 500-class machine.
With the same dual clutch transmission type of system found in the Pioneer, the Rubicon doesn't feel like a 500. In fact, you can do anything with it that you could do with a 700 or bigger. And capable? If you don't know the Rubicon Trail, where the machine gets its namesake from, it is one of the toughest trails on the globe.
To conquer it, you'd need power and dependability, along with a rock-solid 4-wheel drive system with locking differentials.
The Honda has all of that. If you're looking for a machine that is nimble on the trail, comfortable for a long trip back into those hard-to-reach places, and durable with Honda's amazing quality, the Rubicon is something to look at.
Minnesota-based Arctic Cat is on the verge of some major changes. It was recently announced that they are in the process of being acquired by Textron, the same company that owns E-Z-GO golf carts, Learjet, and Bell Helicopters. This seems to have energized the company to innovate.
For the adventure-minded among us — and, really, who isn't? — there is the Wildcat Sport SE. Need a machine that can haul you over rocks; through tight, twisty trails; and up the side of a mountain and back down? The Wildcat Sport is it. Trust us — we know from experience, having driven one from the desert floor up into sheep territory in Utah. It comes with a 700-class twin-cylinder four-stroke engine that has plenty of oomph. Where Arctic Cat really shines is suspension, and the Wildcat Sport SE is no exception.
Loaded with King remote reservoir shocks with over 12 inches of travel at each corner, the Wildcat floats over even the roughest terrain. The SE also comes with a 3,000-pound winch with synthetic rope in case you get into too much trouble or need a helping hand in hauling out your animal. A cargo area with 300 pounds of capacity is there to haul enough gear for spike camp, and there is additional sealed storage under the hood. Need to haul more equipment? The Wildcat has a two-inch receiver hitch and 1,500 pounds of towing capacity.
Yamaha built a reputation for making some of the most dependable, reliable machines on the market. Their durability is legendary, and you'll find a Yamaha holds its value. They helped revolutionize the market years ago and continue to put out machines with that durability combined with great handling and comfort.
It's not new by any means, but the Yamaha Viking EPS is still worth a look. Yamaha wouldn't keep it around if it wasn't competitive with other machines in its class, and much of what makes the Wolverine a favorite of ours can be found in the Viking. You'll find great handling and outstanding driver comfort in the Viking.
With a big 686cc single-cylinder engine, you've got torque for days and enough power to tackle any trail. The durability and reliability of the Yamaha are what sets it apart. To get a Viking to break down on the trail takes some serious misuse and neglect, and even then, you're probably still going to keep on trucking.