ARCTIC CAT 1000i GT ($11,999)
Once known as the Thundercat, the 1000i GT is the flagship of the Arctic Cat recreation line. It has a massive V-twin motor turning a CV transmission with on-the-fly 4WD and diff-lock. It’s only available in the GT version, which means it has power steering, aluminum wheels, Maxxis Bighorn tires and automotive-style paint—all standard.
ARCTIC CAT MUDPRO 1000i LTD ($14,299)
Two years ago, the guys at Arctic Cat had the idea to make a factory competition machine for the mud-slingers. The result was the MudPro line. The MudPro 1000i has a snorkel intake, power steering, an extended chassis and 28-inch Maxxis Zilla tires on aluminum rims. It comes with a 3000-pound winch, in case you go a little too deep.
1000XT ($10,449)
The horsepower wars continue, and the new Can-Am Outlander 1000 appears to be the new king. It’s an all-new ATV with an 82-horsepower, V-twin, Rotax motor. The chassis is built around what Can-Am calls the Surrounding Spar Technology (SST) G2 frame. The XT version adds power steering, a winch and a long list of other features.
CAN-AM RENEGADE 1000 ($10,799)
We don’t know if the Renegade belongs in the sports section or the 4×4 section; it’s clearly both. The new 1000 has a 976cc V-twin and Can-Am’s next-generation SST chassis. Like the Outlander, the Renegade is new from the ground up with many of the same features, but the Renegade is stripped of racks and designed for fun.
CAN-AM RENEGADE 1000 X xc ($13,299)
Can-Am’s X xc version of the Renegade has power steering, plus a long list of features that usually are reserved for the aftermarket. The suspension is top grade, with Fox Podium Racing shocks all the way around. The wheels are 12-inch aluminum beadlocks, the handlebars are upgraded and it has an aluminum skid plate.
850 H.O. EPS ($8799/$9999)
The big twin-cylinder Sportsman received a new airbox and new throttle bodies for 2012. That results in a claimed 20 percent increase in power off the line. The SOHC, liquid-cooled motor still features dual balance shafts. The Sportsman has on-demand 4WD and Active Descent Control. The ESP model has upgraded wheels in addition to power steering.
CAN-AM OUTLANDER 800R X mr ($13,149)
Mud is a way of life for some, and the X mr line indulges that obsession in a big way. The 800R X mr has a relocated radiator, a snorkel system, 14-inch wheels, 30-inch Gorilla Axle Silverback tires, a secondary footrest location and wind deflectors. It also has upgraded bars, racks and other goodies, plus all the new stuff that the standard 800R gets for 2012.
800R XT ($9899)
When the 1000 was added to the line, the 800 was been dethroned at the top of Can-Am‘s line, but it still has many of the same features. That includes a new frame, redesigned suspension, a new airbox, a larger radiator and a new exhaust. The XT package gives you power steering and a BRP 3000-pound winch among other upgrades.
CAN-AM RENEGADE 800R ($9899)
For the sport-oriented 4×4 rider, there’s the Renegade, which is essentially an Outlander that is stripped and ready for combat. Like most of the big Can-Ams, the 800R gets a new chassis this year. The frame, suspension geometry and airbox have all been redesigned. The motor itself is essentially the same 71-horsepower V-twin, made by Rotax in Austria.
CAN-AM RENEGADE 800R X xc ($12,399)
We loved the last version of the Renegade X xc that we tested and are still amazed at how such a big, powerful ATV can handle so well. The X xc is a premium version that has power steering, Fox Shox and big, 12-inch aluminum beadlock wheels. The tires are 25-inch ITP hotshots. The 2012 Renegade also got the new chassis upgrades.
500 H.O. ($7400/$6199)
Polaris has what it calls a “value line” of ATVs, in addition to the more expensive “premium line.” The 800 and 500 are the mainstays of this less expensive group. Both get upgrades this year, including more integrated storage space, totaling 6.5 gallons in volume. Both sell for considerably less than the 850 and 550, but are not available with power steering.
More wheels means more of everything. Not only does the Big Boss have six-wheel drive, but it has six hydraulic brakes. It has the market cornered on traction. Like the “value” models, the 6×6 has a 21 percent increase in front-storage space. It also has 800 pounds of rear dump-box capacity. The 6×6 uses the same motor as the 800 H.O.
750EPS ($9299/$9999)
Kawasaki joined the power-steering world this year with its own version of EPS, which is speed sensitive. The standard Brute Force is still available and is anything but standard. It has a power V-twin motor, on-the-fly 4WD with diff-lock and new styling. This year’s model also gets a larger radiator and bigger racks.
Suzuki’s 750 stands out among utility quads because it has a single cylinder that displaces 722cc. That’s a really, really big piston. Accordingly, the KingQuad is very torquey; it’s smooth as well. The big motor has a CV transmission with on-the-fly 4WD. The power-steering model is otherwise identical to the standard edition.
ARCTIC CAT MUDPRO 700i ($10,299)
The 695cc version of the MudPro 1000 has all the same features for deep-mud diving. It has the snorkel, winch, Maxxis Zilla tires and slop-loving attitude wrapped around a V-twin motor with an upgraded CV transmission. The 4WD selector is on the fly, and so is the diff-lock. And it looks very serious.
ARCTIC CAT 700i ($8899)
This is the base model for the V-twin 700 ‘Cat. It has a similar motor to the 1000, with a CV transmission and on-the-fly 4WD and diff-lock. You can get the 700 in two upscale packages. The GT sells for $900 more and comes with aluminum wheels, power steering, a winch and real paint. The LTD gets more good stuff, including a 3000-pound winch for $10,599.

ARCTIC CAT TBX700i GT ($10,299)
The TBX is a luxury machine with a real utility mission. What sets it apart is the tilting cargo box, which can carry 300 pounds. It also has side cargo compartments and a front steel Speedrack. It comes in the GT trim, which means it has power steering, aluminum rims and automotive-style paint in Tungsten Metallic.

If you’ve ever been on a work site that has a mixture of gas-burning machines and diesel equipment, you know how frustrating that can be. Arctic Cat has a quad that can help you keep everything running on the same fuel. It has a 686cc, in-line, twin-cylinder motor with a Duramatic transmission that allows on-the-fly 4WD.

700 EPS ($8899/$9499)
Yamaha’s Grizzly has a motor that isn’t that different from that of the sporty Raptor 700. The main differences are the CV transmission and, of course, the entire chassis. The Griz’ has independent suspension all the way around and a reputation for being indestructible. The 2012 model has upgraded shocks and tires, along with easier access to the oil filler.

This is Honda’s utility flagship. It has a longitudinally-oriented motor with a real automatic transmission—no belts, just distinct, automotive-like shifts. The pushrod motor is 675cc in displacement and very torquey. The independent suspension moves 7 inches in front and 8 in the rear. Oddly, Honda doesn’t offer the Rincon with power steering.

650XT ($8599/$10,099)
The centerpiece of the Can-Am 650 is the Rotax 80-degree V-twin, which is said to produce 60 horsepower. The chassis features BRP’s trailing-arm rear suspension and dual-wishbone independent front. The Outlander features a security system, which makes the quad very difficult to steal. The XT package adds a winch and power steering.

The Brute Force 650 spawned the big Kawasaki 750 a number of years ago and remains in the line as a lower-priced alternative. It sells for less that the 750, but has a very similar V-twin motor. You get twin carburetors instead of electronic fuel injection, and there’s no power-steering option, but the 650 is still a premium machine at a good price.

CF Moto is an Asian company that has really set itself apart from the others that flooded the market in recent years. Quality, warranty and customer-service issues are all good. The X6 and X5 have the same IRS chassis with 593cc and 493cc motors, respectively. A winch and aluminum wheels come on both models as standard equipment.

ARCTIC CAT 550i ($7799)
The 550 ‘Cat is built around a liquid-cooled, four-valve, single-cylinder motor with an automatic CV transmission and on-the-fly 4WD. The base models comes in black and green, while the GT gets several painted colors, along with power steering and aluminum wheels for $8899. The LTD gets more goodies, including a 3000-pound winch for $9499.

550 EPS ($7699/$8699)
Polaris uses a big single-cylinder powerplant for the 550. This year it has changes to the EFI system that allow a lower-idle rpm for smoother engagement. It has the same basic chassis as the 850, as well as many features. The EPS version has more than power steering; it has upgraded wheels and tires, plus automotive-style paint.

550 EPS ($7999/$8699)
The Grizzly 550 actually displaces 558cc. It has a three-position drive selector that lets you choose between two-wheel drive, limited-slip four-wheel drive and fully locked front diff. The power-steering version, which was the first in the industry, is $700 more. There are a number of other options in colors and wheels that let you upgrade in the showroom.

500XT ($7799/$9299)
The smaller Can-Am Outlanders didn’t get as many changes as the 800 and 1000, but more importantly, the price is unchanged. The 500 still has a Rotax V-twin motor that produces over 40 horsepower. The chassis uses MacPherson strut in the front and a trailing-arm rear suspension. The XT version has many upgrades, including power steering and a winch.

CAN-AM RENEGADE 500 ($8049)
The Renegade 500 isn’t just a stripped Outlander 500; it has its own frame with double A-arm front suspension. Like the larger Renegades, it is designed with sport 4×4 riding in mind, and it features Motion Control shocks and ITP tires on 12-inch aluminum wheels. The Renegade 500 isn’t offered in XT trim or with power steering.

The Rubicon was once the technological gem in Honda’s lineup, with its liquid-cooled motor and automatic/ push-button transmission. It has double A-arms in front and a swingarm, straight-axle rear end with twin, parallel shocks. Now it’s the only big Honda without fuel injection. You can get it with power steering for $8499.

For 2012, the Foreman got a big technological boost in the motor department. It now has a liquid-cooled, EFI, 475cc motor and encroaches on the more expensive Rubicon’s turf. The Foreman also has swingarm rear suspension. You can get it with a manual gearbox or with push-button shifting (add $200) or with power steering (add $600).

MXU 500i ($5499/$6999)
The good news is that Kymco has a fuel-injected version of its well-priced 499cc utility quad. The great news is that the carbureted version is still for sale, and the price has gone down. Last year it was a deal at $6299; now, for $800 less, it’s just incredible. The injected version is available in an LE version, with a winch and other upgrades for $7799.

The Scrambler is one of those “tween” models; it’s a four-wheel-drive quad that is called a sport model. We’ll buy that, but it still goes in the 4WD section, even if it‘s one of the few that doesn‘t have racks. The motor is liquid-cooled, and it’s hooked up to a CV transmission. The rear axle is straight, and it has MacPherson struts in front.

We put a lot of time on our 2011 KingQuad 500, and it was flawless. The single-cylinder motor is strong and worry-free. It has fully independent suspension with double A-arms all the way around. Suzuki offers the exact same quad in power steering for only $400 more, which is well worth it. A camo model sells for $300 more than that.

ARCTIC CAT 450i ($6999)
Arctic Cat’s 443cc, single-cylinder powerplant comes wrapped in the same basic chassis as the bigger Arctic Cats, with independent, double A-arm suspension all the way around. It’s also available in a GT edition, which gives you electronic power steering, aluminum wheels and automotive-style paint at a cost of $8099.

ARCTIC CAT XC450i ($6999)
Arctic Cat is exploring the sportier avenues in the 4WD world with this new model. It’s a 450i without the racks and with completely new bodywork. It still has the liquid-cooled, four-valve motor and its CV transmission. Four-wheel drive is brought on-line with the flip of a thumb switch.

KYMCO MXU 450i ($5899)
The fuel-injected 450 is a new size and model for Kymco. It has a 443cc, liquid-cooled motor that is rated at 33 horsepower. It has on-demand 4WD, a CV transmission and all the same features as the MXU 500. The LE edition (shown) sells for $6699 and includes alloy wheels, a cargo box, handguards, mirrors and other upgrades.

KYMCO MAXXER 450i ($6599)
Kymco now has a bigger version of its most celebrated sport model. The Maxxer is a four-wheel-drive machine made for going over rough stuff quickly. In addition to the bigger motor, the 450 gets fuel injection and a digital fuel gauge. The Maxxer’s new motor is rated at 33 horsepower.

450 EPS ($6899/$7499)
Recently, the Grizzly 450 has gone on a weight-reduction plan, losing almost 20 pounds. It still has a 421cc, liquid-cooled motor and fully independent suspension. Yamaha makes it very clear that this is an American product, assembled in its Georgia facility. There are a number of options available at the dealer, including power steering.

ARCTIC CAT 425i ($5999)
Even though the new 425 has the same 443cc motor as the Arctic Cat 450, it was given a different model name to show that it’s essentially a new machine for ATV riders on a tighter budget. The suspension, tires and other parts have been resourced to set the price $1000 below the 450. There’s an 425i SE model that splits the two prices at $6499.

The Honda Rancher line is a family of quads that mostly share a 420cc motor. The base model has an automatic clutch and a manual gearbox. The AT has a twin-clutch automatic transmission and independent rear suspension for $6999. There’s also a push-button shifting option, as well as power steering. There’s even a model with a 475cc motor.

400XT ($6799/$7849)
The Outlander 400 is priced well; in fact, it carries the same price as last year’s model. It’s still based around the Rotax single-cylinder motor. The front suspension is handled by MacPherson struts, while the rear has torsional trailing arms. The XT version has lots of extras, including a 3000-pound winch, power steering, upgraded wheels and bumpers.

The Sportsman 400 has the best price in the Polaris “value line.” The motor actually displaces 455cc, so the price is about $1000 less than anything with the same-size motor. Like the 800 and 500, it gets more integrated storage capacity, bringing the total volume up to 6.5 gallons. It has on-demand 4WD and a 1225-pound towing capacity.

400FSi ($6299/$6199)
The Suzuki 400 has a solid, reliable, 376cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled motor. It has dual A-arms in front and a straight axle connected to two parallel shocks in the rear. There are two different transmissions available. The ASi has a CV transmission, and the FSi has an automatic clutch with a manual transmission. Both are available in camo for $400 more.

YAMAHA BIG BEAR 400 ($6599)
This was the original Yamaha 4×4 and the first “bear” in the lineup. Much has changed since that first version, such as the addition of independent suspension, but the Big Bear still has a carbureted, 386cc, air-cooled engine with an automatic clutch and a manual gearbox. It’s reliable and proven and assembled in the U.S.

KYMCO MXU 375 ($5399)
The MXU 375 is a no-frills utility quad. It has an old-fashion Keihin carburetor and an air-cooled, single-overhead-cam motor. We have had good experiences with Kymco’s quality. In fact, many of BMW’s and Husqvarna’s motorcycle motors are actually manufactured by Kymco in Taiwan.

KYMCO MAXXER 375 ($5749)
Even though Kymco has a new Maxxer 450, the original version is still around and sells for $850 less. It has a carbureted, air-cooled motor that is rated at 26 horsepower. The suspension is independent all the way around, with dual A-arms and adjustable shocks with dual-rate springs. We raced the Maxxer at cross-country events with satisfactory results.
The Prairie 360 is a no-frills four-wheel-drive ATV that gets the job done. It has an air-cooled, two-valve motor fed by a Keihin carburetor. Four-wheel-drive mode has variable-slip front-differential control. The front suspension is through MacPherson struts, and the rear has a single shock with a straight axle and swingarm.
ARCTIC CAT 350 ($5499)
The 350 is a great value in the Arctic Cat line. It’s a four-wheel-drive quad with a CV transmission and fully independent suspension through double A-arms all the way around. It weighs under 600 pounds and still has a towing capacity of 1050 pounds. The racks can carry 225 pounds, and the price for it all is right.

350 4X4 IRS ($5599/$6299)
The 350 is the most affordable four-wheel-drive Grizzly in Yamaha’s line. There are several versions to choose from, but all have the air-cooled, 348cc motor. You can have either a straight-axle rear end or fully independent suspension. You can also get the straight-axle version in two-wheel drive for $4999.