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CFMOTO X5: The crazy part is that it doesn’t have to be this inexpensive

 
(4/11/2012)


After a while, we stopped trying to explain the CFMOTO X5. It’s the type of machine that generates lots and lots of questions fromother riders. But, no one seems to understand the answers, which, for the record, all seem perfectly clear to us.

Answer one: “It’s made by CFMOTO.”

Answer two: “CFMOTO.”

Answer three: “No, it’s not from Canada.”

Answer four: “CFMOTO!” If they got past the name, they might start asking what kind of wheels it had and maybe what kind of winch it had. The answer was still the same: “CFMOTO.” If they actually got around to asking how much extra those parts cost, the next answer seemed to confuse if not irritate them: “Nothing.”

So we gave up. A few days into the test, we just said it was Canadian. People seemed to like that. Up front, though, we should get the basics out of the way. The X5 is a 493cc 4x4 with fuel injection and independent suspension.

It’s made by a company called CFMOTO. Yes, CFMOTO. It’smanufactured in mainland China. Now, before you roll your eyes and say something rude, a few words about mainland China might be appropriate: BMW, Yamaha, Apple. High-quality products are coming from all over Asia these days. The historical problems in the ATV world stemfromhere-today-gone-tomorrow distributors, wobbly dealer networks and poor customer support. In CFMOTO’s case, the U.S. distributor is owned and operated by the factory, which solves many of those problems. They aren’t sold under any other names, there’s a factory warranty and there’s an ample supply of parts in this country. In short, CFMOTO is legit.

ENTER THE X5
 

The X5 will probably become the company’s bread-and-butter utility quad. It’s fuel injected, and, as of right now, it’s EPA and CARB homologated in all 50 states. That’s no small matter, as it took over a year to jump through all of the bureaucratic hoops in California alone. Dealers are expected to get their firstmodels as you read this. The motor is an overhead-cam, four-valve, liquid-cooled four-stroke.

It’s connected to a continuously variable transmission with high and low ranges, plus reverse that can be selected through a stick shift. Fourwheel drive is attained at the push of a button. All of this is fairly standard stuff for a modern ATV. Where the X5 starts to separate itself is in its standard-equipment package. It comes with automotive-style paint. It comes with handguards. It comes with an aluminum skid plate, bumpers, aluminum wheels, CST tires, and, to top it all off, it comes with a 1500-pound winch. There is no such thing as a “strippo” X5. If you don’t want all that stuff, they make you take it anyway. And finally, the real punch line is the price. A new X5 sells for $5499. Let that sink in for a moment. A basemodel Can-Am or Suzuki 500 is $7799. A stripped Polaris Scrambler is $6399.

Kymco is the only legitimate ATV maker offering four-wheel-drive products in the same price range. The base-model (carbureted) MXU500 was reduced $800 for 2012 and now sells for the same price as the X5, $5499. CFMOTO does offer one option for the X5: passenger accommodations.  That, of course, makes the X5 into an entirely different machine, with a longer chassis, and it carries a price of $6999.

START IT UP
 

A walk-around of the X5 leaves anyone impressed with the fit and finish. It looks like a premium machine from Japan or North America. There are no gaps in the bodywork, no mismatched parts and no ill-fitting pieces—that accounts for the confused questions from on-lookers.

People expect it to be a Honda or a Can-Am with a stolen or missing emblem. You rarely see this kind of finish work on a quad from China. The wheels are especially nice. If you purchased them at a shop, they would be around $100 apiece. It starts easily, even when it’s cold. There’s a recoil starter on the motor for backup (we pulled it, it worked). The instrument panel comes alive with the motor, showing fuel level, rpm, speed, time and a variety of digi-data. It’s not quite iPad-level technology, but it’s very high tech by ATV standards.

Our X5 test unit had been run extensively on an emissions dyno for months before we got it, so it was essentially a high-time motor with a low-time chassis. It still started easily, felt tight and had very little engine noise. The transmission shift lever was very stiff at first—we’re guessing that it wasn’t shifted from forward to reverse often on the dyno—but all the other controls worked well. The shift to four-wheel drive is accomplished with a right-thumb button and couldn’t be easier. The thumb throttle has light action, and the brakes are strong and have independent controls for front and rear with a separate rear brake pedal on the right floorboard.

We took the X5 straight to our favorite ugly, rocky trail on our first adventure. It produces about as much power as a 500-class utility quad should. The factory rates the motor at 35 horsepower, which seems altogether accurate once you get underway. But, the initial power delivery is a bit sleepy. This has nothing to do with the motor, which is actually very responsive. It’s just that the clutch doesn’t engage immediately, requiring a little run-up. And when it does engage, it’s somewhat soft. The people at CFMOTO are aware of this and say a productionline fix is already in progress.

Once you get beyond that initial delay, the X5 pulls hard and will climb over anything you have the nerve to tackle. Ground clearance is excellent, and the underside of the machine is smooth and relatively free of hang-up points. The X5’s independent suspension is clearly set up on the active side—that is, the spring and damping rates are softish to suck up small rocks and impacts well. That gives the quad a plush ride at rockcrawling speed. At faster speed, the cushy suspension gives you some dive on braking and roll-in turns (even with a small swaybar)—it‘s simply a trade-off. Also, the steering is somewhat heavy.We need to admit that in the age of electric power steering,  we have become somewhat soft and lazy. EPS is the one area where high-dollar quads still have a technological edge on CFMOTO for now. But you also need to keep the big picture in focus; power-steering ATVs in the 500 class generally push the $9000 mark.

And that brings us to the winch, which is also something you see on $9000 quads. Clearly, this isn’t a top-ofthe-line Warn. But, it works flawlessly. What is its real-world weight capacity?

We never reached the stall point, but the quad had no trouble pulling its own weight up a tree, just for kicks. In the past, the most common failure we’ve seen with inexpensive winches is at the clasp that holds the hook. In this case, that wasn’t an issue.

THE BIG PICTURE
Overall, we’re astounded by how much you get for your $5499 with the X5. We can nitpick the steering and the clutch, but overall, the quad still lands on the plus side of the ledger in a big way. The finish and workmanship are as good as anything available.

We had no mechanical issues, and if we had, we’re confident that the company’s U.S. infrastructure is solid enough to back up the one-year warranty. We see the X5 as a logical and inevitable step in the emergence of mainland Asia as a major force in the ATV market. And during these lean economic times, gettingmore for less means you win the game.

 


 


Topic: Tests

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WARNING: Much of the action de­pict­­ed in this magazine is potentially dan­gerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced ex­­perts or professionals. Do not at­tempt to duplicate any stunts that are be­­yond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear.
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