2012 UTV Buyer’s Guide

Forget the wild stock market swings, ignore the Occupy Wall Street crowds—business is booming. More specifically, the UTV industry is going full speed ahead with new models, technological innovations and aggressive marketing. Last year recorded the biggest sales number so far in the short history of side-by-side models, and that spawned a bounty in choices for the consumer.

Last year’s sensational Polaris XP 900 is back, along with the new Arctic Cat Wildcat. Kawasaki has a new four-seat Teryx, and there’s even a mid-size RZR. Here are the highlights of the four-wheel-drive UTVs offered for 2012, listed in order of base-model price.


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ARCTIC CAT WILDCAT 1000 ($16,599)
The Wildcat 1000i is the center attraction for 2012. Arctic Cat has trumped the new “extreme performance” category with a Razor-style side-by-side that’s virtually all sport with the slightest hint of utility afforded by a small bed. Some 18 inches of suspension travel highlight the package, along with standard power steering and a 951cc, V-twin motor.

Polaris did its homework on this one. The RZR XP 900 hit the market in 2011 with mind-blowing performance. The centerpiece is the double-overhead-cam, twin-cylinder motor. The chassis is equally stunning with its Fox shocks and 14 inches of travel. The XP comes in two special editions that sell for $16,599 each.

ARCTIC CAT PROWLER 1000i XTZ ($15,599)
Even though the Wildcat is Arctic Cat’s new star, the big Prowler still has impressive credentials. The motor is a huge 90-degree V-twin with fuel injection, and the machine has a long list of standard features, like power steering, aluminum rims, gas shocks and LED lighting. The bed is full sized, and the towing capacity is 1500 pounds.

CAN-AM COMMANDER 1000X ($15,099)
The X version of Can-Am’s big Commander comes decked out for going fast. Fox Shox are standard, with a front sway bar, 12-inch aluminum beadlock wheels, Maxxis Bighorn tires, and a list that goes on and on. Under it all is an 85-horsepower Rotax V-twin motor. The Commander is sporty but maintains decent utility credentials with a large bed and hitch

CAN-AM COMMANDER 1000XT ($14,699)
Can-Am’s XT package starts off with a 976cc, 85-horsepower Commander, then adds a long list of extras that includes a 4000-pound Warn winch. The XT also gets 14-inch alloy wheels with Maxxis Bighorn tires, upgraded instruments and a lot more. There’s also a Limited version, which adds Fox Shock, GPS and more. Its price is $19,199.

POLARIS RANGER RZR 4 800 ($14,499)
Polaris was first to offer an ultra-high-performance model with four seats. The RZR 4 800 has an extended wheelbase and is a full 60.5 inches wide. The suspension is beefed up with Fox Podium shocks that produce 12 inches of travel all the way around. A limited-edition Robby Gordon models gets power steering and more for $17,599.

Polaris is exploring every corner of the UTV business. The four-seat niche and the diesel niche come together in a very specialized machine here. The Ranger Crew Diesel is essentially the 800 Crew chassis with an in-line, three-cylinder Yanmar diesel motor. It offers a 1-ton towing capacity with a half-ton in the bed.

The HDX is more utility-oriented than the other ’Cats, with a transformable rear cargo box. The bed has a half-ton capacity and sides that fold down to form a flatbed platform. It has great standard features like Fox coil-over shocks, a three-passenger seat, power steering and side storage compartments.

CAN-AM COMMANDER 800R XT ($13,399)
The platform for the 800XT is the 800cc, Rotax-V-twin-powered Commander, which produces 71 horsepower. The XT package is highlighted by a genuine Warn winch, rated at 4000 pounds. It also includes a heavy-duty front bumper, cargo-box rails, a front mud guard, 14-inch alloy wheels, 27-inch Maxxis Bighorn tires and upgraded gauges.

KAWASAKI TERYX4 750FI 4X4 ($13,399)
Kawasaki is the most aggressive of Japan’s UTV makers. The new Teryx4 is a four-person version of the V-twin-powered Teryx. In addition to the standard version, Kawasaki offers a power-steering Teryx4 for $14,399, and a Limited Edition that sells for $15,199. The LE has power steering, automotive paint and aluminum rims.

The Sport Edition of the Rhino 700 starts off with the same 686cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve motor as the standard Rhino, then adds a long list of bonuses. The suspension is upgraded with piggyback shocks, the wheels are cast aluminum, it has a sun top and front carry bar. The Rhinos are assembled in Newnan, Georgia.

Arctic Cat doesn’t skimp on standard equipment. The Prowler 700 comes with power steering, alloy wheels, automotive-style paint and tilt steering. Under it all is a 695cc, single-cylinder motor. Official accessories include things like a genuine Warn winch (not an Asian copy) and suspension high-back seats.

CAN-AM COMMANDER 1000 ($12,999)
Can-Am’s big Commander is powered by a Rotax V-twin that produces 85 horsepower. That much power and a full 10 inches of suspension travel automatically make the Can-Am very sporty, but it also keeps a grip on its utility mission, with a dual-level bed that can carry a total of 600 pounds and a hitch that can tow 1500 pounds.

There are a lot of very good reasons for a diesel-powered UTV, especially when used in an equipment yard or on a worksite. Chief among those is that it eliminates the hassle of having two types of fuel on hand. The Ranger Diesel is powered by a three-cylinder Yanmar motor that is isolation-mounted and built with fuel economy in mind.

POLARIS RANGER RZR S 800 ($12,699)
In the west, the “S” is a big hit. The additional width and suspension travel make it faster and better handling than the more trail-oriented, 50-inch-wide RZR models. For 2012 it gets subtle upgrades like a rattle-free passenger grab bar and a thicker skid plate. The LE versions have upgraded suspension, tires, rims, paint and seats with a price of $13,999.

This is the pack mule of the Polaris line. It has a number of utility-oriented features like the new engine braking system, which makes a fully loaded machine more controllable on steep downhills. It also has a massive dump box, self-leveling Nivomat shocks and electric power steering as standard equipment.

POLARIS RANGER 6X6 800 ($12,599)
Six-wheel drive is the new 4WD. The 6×6 is all about getting more work done, and it has 50 percent more wheels for that purpose. Each wheel gets its own independent suspension with up to 9.6 inches of travel. The bed capacity is the current record holder at 1250 pounds, and the towing capacity is a clean ton.

Take your friends along for some thrills. Take your enemies along for revenge. The Ranger Crew 800 is the most popular multi-passenger UTV on the market and is capable of carrying six very friendly people, not including any heavily sedated house pets you might secure in the bed, which can carry a half-ton. A power-steering version sells for $13,999.

CAN-AM COMMANDER 800R ($11,699)
This is the “base” model in Can-Am’s Commander line, but it’s not very basic. It has a 71-horsepower Rotax V-twin motor, 10 inches of suspension and 11 inches of ground clearance. Can-Am doesn’t offer power steering, but the steering ratio is a very quick 10.2:1. Below the tilt bed is a secret compartment that can carry 200 pounds.

HONDA BIG RED ($11,699)
Honda deliberately focused on the utility side of the UTV market with the Big Red. And even though most of the market is getting sportier, Big Red seems more focused on work than ever before. Last year it got a boost in payload, towing and bed capacity. It still has a nearly indestructible hydraulic transmission that has no belts to burn.

YAMAHA RHINO 700 FI ($11,499)
Here’s where it all began. The Rhino has evolved over the years since it founded the UTV world, but the market has evolved too. Now the Rhino seems much more utility-oriented than it once did, but only by comparison to the new crop of machines. The 686cc motor is a blood relative of the Raptor and Grizzly 700s.

JOHN DEERE GATOR XUV 825i ($11,399)
John Deere has the only three-cylinder gasoline motor in the UTV world. The big, 812cc, DOHC, in-line triple is fuel injected and produces 50 horsepower. Top speed is said to be 44 mph. The bed is massive, with a half-ton of capacity and 16.4 cubic feet of space. It converts to a flatbed platform in minutes.

It only makes sense that a company like John Deere would offer a diesel version of its top-of-the-line UTV. The XUV 855D has three cylinders, like its gasoline-powered twin, but has pushrod-driven overhead valves and produces 25 horsepower. Top speed is 32 mph. The 855D has the same large, convertible cargo box as the other big Deeres.

POLARIS RANGER XP 800 ($11,399)
The XP is the flagship of the Ranger line. This year it gets the benefit of the new engine braking system, which gives the operator more control during descents. It still features a 50-horsepower, pushrod motor, 2000-pound towing capacity and a 1000-pound bed capacity. The power-steering version costs $12,299. Limited editions are $12,999.

POLARIS RANGER RZR 800 ($11,299)
What continues to make this one of the most popular machines in the UTV world is its width—or lack of width. The RZR is 50 inches wide, making it safe and legal for many trail systems in the U.S. It’s still very strong with 50 horsepower. Several limited editions are available for $11,999, and a blue LE with power steering is $12,899.

There’s nothing quite like the EV. It has an electric motor, but it’s no golf cart. It has true all-wheel drive. It has the electric equivalent of 30 horsepower and can crack the 25-mph barrier. Polaris claims it has the longest range in its class, but we aren’t clear exactly what that range is. It can be recharged through any 110 outlet.

KAWASAKI TERYX 750FI 4X4 ($10,599)
Kawasaki has positioned the Teryx as half utility, half sport. The V-twin motor is powerful, but the bed is large and the towing capacity is 1300 pounds. A Sport version sells for $12,199 and includes lighter cast-aluminum wheels and upgraded suspension. An LE has a half windscreen, a roof and automotive-style paint. It starts at $11,399.

This is one of the most affordable four-seaters on the market. The Crew 500 has a slightly smaller chassis than the Crew 800 and includes a MacPherson strut front suspension. The 500 has a turf mode while in two-wheel drive, so the rear differential is unlocked and won’t tear up the grass. The Limited Edition has upgraded wheels, paint and seats for $10,999.

ARCTIC CAT PROWLER 550i XT ($10,999)
Arctic Cat’s “entry-level” UTV would be a premium model for many other companies. The 550 has a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled motor that isn’t far from that of a Wildcat with one cylinder removed. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels and real paint. Like all the bigger ‘Cats, the 550 has on-the-fly 4WD and diff-lock.

JOHN DEERE GATOR XUV 625i ($10,199)
The Gator XUV 625i is clearly designed with work efficiency in mind. The cargo box has 16.4 cubic feet of space with 20 tie-down hooks. The bed also has a factory-applied spray-in liner and power lift for its half-ton cargo capacity. Four-wheel drive is on demand, but the Gator also has a turf-friendly, unlocked, rear-differential mode.

Polaris came out with a new DOHC, 567cc motor this year to get the RZR under the $1000 mark. Like the 800, it is 50 inches wide, enabling access to many trail systems in the U.S. The 570 is also lighter than anything in its class, which gives it an excellent power-to-weight ratio. Polaris claims it reaches 35 mph in four seconds flat.

The Gator line has come a long way recently, with improved suspension and ground clearance. The S4 is the multi-passenger model in the line with two bench seats. The V-twin, air-cooled motor is carbureted and produces a modest 16 horsepower at 3800 rpm. Top speed is limited to 28 mph.

The Ranger 500 is a mid-sized UTV designed to fill a price-point position in the Polaris line; in other words, it’s inexpensive. But the 500 still has a fairly sophisticated liquid-cooled, OHC motor with fuel injection. It makes use of fairly simple MacPherson strut suspension. A Limited Edition version has many upgrades and is still only $9999.

CF MOTO Z6 ($8999)
We tested the Z6 in 2011 and came away impressed with the quality and finish. For 2012, most of our complaints were addressed with larger wheels and new steering geometry. The Z6 still comes with a winch and alloy wheels as standard equipment, along with an impressive list of creature comforts.

POLARIS RANGER 400 ($8299)
The Ranger 400 is a North American answer to increasing competition from Asia. It has most of the features of the premium Rangers at an incredible price. The motor is carbureted, but otherwise perfectly modern and produces 29 horsepower. The reduced overall size of the 400 allows it to be carried in the back of a pickup truck.

KYMCO UXV 500I ($8799)
Kymco is based in Taiwan, but makes products for some very big names, including Kawasaki and BMW. The UXV 500 got fuel injection this year for its DOHC, liquid-cooled motor. There are two versions; the SE comes with alloy wheels, a roof and windshield for $9329, and the LE adds a winch and more and sells for $10,199.

The mid-sized Gator XUV 550 will just barely fit into a full-size pickup truck. The V-twin motor produces 28.6 foot-pounds of torque and 16 horsepower, is air-cooled, breathes through a conventional carburetor and is capable of pushing the machine to 28 mph. The Gator’s price is excellent.

CF MOTO 600 UTV ($7999)
CF Moto offers incredible value. This year, the company’s rather basic utility UTV got upgraded with a new liquid-cooled, fuel-injected motor. What really makes it stand out is the long list of standard equipment. Every CF Moto UTV comes with a winch, alloy wheels, a roof and other goodies that make it a bargain.

KYMCO UXV 500 ($7699)
Kymco actually lowered the price of its standard UXV 500, from $8099 to $7699. With the fuel-injected version now in the line, the original carbureted model is offered as a budget model, but it still has surprisingly good quality. The DOHC motor is rated at 36 horsepower and has 7.5 inches of suspension travel all the way around.

This is the only 4×2 we included in this guide for a very good reason—it’s truly one of a kind. This is a machine built for kids, but it’s the real thing—not a toy. It has 5 inches of suspension travel, hydraulic disc brakes and bucket seats with three-point harnesses. The 170 is designed for operators over the age of 12 and is scaled appropriately. An adjustable throttle stop allows parents to control the performance of the 169cc motor.

Arctic Cat    www.arctic-cat.com,
(218) 681-9851
Can-Am    www.canamoffroad.com,
(715) 848-4957
CF Moto    www.cfmoto-us.com,
(888) 823-6686
Honda    www.powersports.honda.com
(310) 783-2000
John Deere    www.deere.com
Kawasaki    www.kawasaki.com
(949) 770-0400
Kymco    www.kymcousa.com        (888) 235-3417
Polaris    www.polarisindustries.com
(888) 704-5290
Yamaha    www.yamaha-motor.com
(714) 761-7300

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