q Despite what the title says, this contest is not between Can-Am, Polaris and Yamaha; it’s a comparison of options and features for these mid-sized machines. In the past decade, a trend developed where manufacturers are now building machines fully equipped with the kinds of parts you would normally purchase down the road from aftermarket companies. Those parts include, aggressive tires, billet aluminum wheels, winches and bumpers. And now with the availability of power steering, this is another feature a customer has to consider.
The Can-Am in this test is the smallest machine. What it lacks in engine size it makes up for in accessories. Called an Outlander XT, this machine features a few products that an average customer might add to a machine after they buy it. Those parts include a winch, hand guards, bumpers, and wheels and a tire set. Can-Am charges an extra $1050 for the XT package over their base model Outlander. On the street, you would pay that price for the tires and wheels alone. The 3000-pound winch would set you back another $400-$600, and the bumpers and hand guards cost another $300—that’s if you did all of the installations yourself. The Outlander 400XT sells for $7849. All Can-Am utility machines come standard with other features, like automatic shut-off, a coded and keyed security system, and much more. On other 4X4 brands, the names Special Edition or Limited Edition is where you would find some of these extras.
The Suzuki is a bare-bones machine and is priced at $7699. It has standard wheels and tires, no power steering and just basic amenities. The King Quad 500 does offer standard equipment, such as convenient mounting tabs on the frame for a winch mounting plate. Plus, it comes standard with a routing tube that runs from the front of the machine to the battery compartment for battery cables that supply power to the winch. The Suzuki 500 uses the same chassis as the KQ 750. Most of the other manufacturers believe in this philosophy. They take a popular, good-working chassis and throw a larger- or smaller-sized engine in it. The rest of the machine is exactly the same. It’s a good way to save development time and assembly-line space and money.
Power steering is all the rage these days and for good reason. Yamaha’s Grizzly 450 will represent the power steering-equipped 4X4s out there, and it is the smallest CVT-equipped machine available with power steering. Like the other two machines in this test, this Grizzly has independent rear suspension and a liquid-cooled engine. Yamaha sells this power steering-equipped Grizzly 450 for an even $7500. The Grizzly without EPS goes for $600 less. The aluminum wheels on our test unit adds an additional $300, so the Grizzly test version retails for $7800. The other manufacturers charge between $300 and $1000 extra for a machine with power steering over one without. Over half of the 4X4 models made today from the top manufacturers are available with or without power steering. There is no widely available power-steering system available from the aftermarket segment yet.The Limited Edition Suzuki sells for an extra $300.
TORTURE TEST RIDE
To realize the value of the extra equipment featured (or not featured) on these machines, we had to put the three units through one of our tough trail rides. Before we started the engines, we took a closer look at some of the differences between these machines. What catches our eye on many ATVs are flashy aluminum wheels that can add appeal to your machine even when it’s parked. So, if you are considering a set of shiny billet wheels, there is one thing you need to consider: if the wheel has a sharp edge around the circumference, near where it meets the tire, you might be in for hidden trouble. This sharp edge can cause a flat if you land hard off of a jump, hit a sharp ledge or even slam a big, smooth rock. Luckily, the billet wheels that Yamaha and Can-Am installed on these test units have a safe, rounded edge. The standard spun aluminum wheels on the Suzuki have a nice rounded edge as well.
When we started these machines in 20-degree temperature, they fired up quickly. The Suzuki and Can-Am feature electronic fuel injection, while the Grizzly only uses a carburetor. The difference between having, or not having, EFI rarely becomes an issue in our testing. It’s one of those features that does its job without much fanfare. The biggest asset we have found when using EFI is when we are on a trail ride that takes us from a low-starting altitude to a higher one (near 10,000 feet in elevation). This test did not show any major differences, however, the EFI machines had slightly crisper throttle responses.
Two features of Can-Am’s XT package were very useful during our days of testing. Since this was a winter ride, the full-coverage hand guards provided needed wind deflection during all of our testing. Furthermore, the hand guards provided durable protection against the brush, tree branches and other debris we encountered on the tighter trails of our test loop.
The 3000-pound winch mounted on the front of the Outlander also became useful when we encountered a tree that had fallen during a recent snowstorm. When we encountered the trail blockage, we quickly unspooled the winch line, hooked it around the debris and pulled it out of the way. The Can-Am XT’s winch not only comes with a handlebar-mounted rocker switch to operate the winch, there is also a corded remote-operated switch that can be used off of the machine.
About halfway though our ride, the EPS-equipped Grizzly suddenly became the machine of choice for our testers. It wasn’t until a rider would hop from the Grizzly to a non-EPS-equipped machine when they noticed what a great thing they had. On any brand utility quad, the difference when using EPS (for the better) was night and day. Yamaha, Honda and Polaris have the best front-steering and EPS combo, while Can-Am’s and Suzuki’s front end are still a little twitchy even with EPS. It’s has been almost four years since Yamaha first added EPS to an ATV, and we would not buy a new 4×4 machine—any brand—without out it. Even if your budget dictates you have to go down in chassis or engine size, do so, because it’s that good.
We know the bare-bones approach is what many have to consider. So if shiny wheels and aggressive mud tires are not topping your wishlist, the initial savings at the dealership will at least get you riding—and that should be your number one priority. You can always add accessories later, if you have to. If those parts are on your must-have list, a XT package from Can-Am or SE package from another brand is well worth it.
For our riding style and trail type, we would definitely choose a quad with EPS. And if the sale included a winch installed at the dealer, we would pay for it. Aftermarket hand guards are inexpensive and easy to install down the road. No matter what quad you buy, we are happy because we want to see you out on the trail. q
Outlander 400 XT Suzuki King Quad 500 Yamaha Grizzly 450
Engine type SOHC, liquid-cooled, SOHC, liquid-cooled, 4-valve, SOHC, liquid-cooled,
4-valve 4-stroke 4-valve, 4-stroke 4-valve, 4-stroke
Displacement 400cc 493cc 421cc
Fuel system EFI EFI Carburetor
Starting Electric w/ recoil backup Electric Electric
Transmission Fully-auto CVT Fully-auto CVT Fully-auto CVT
Final drive Shaft Shaft Shaft
Front MacPherson struts w/ 7″ Dual A-arms w/ 7.1″ Dual A-arm w/ 6.3″
Rear Single independent Single I-beam and single Dual A-arm w/ 7.1″
trailing arm w/ 8″ A-arm w/ 7.9″
Front 25×8-12 25×8-12 25×8-12
Rear 25×11-12 25×10-12 25×10-12
Front Two inboard hydraulic discs Dual discs Dual discs
Rear Inboard hydraulic disc. Multi-plate wet disc Multi-plate wet disc
Length/width/height 86″/46″/45″ 83.3″/47.6″/50.6″ 78.5″/43″/44.1″
Wheelbase 49″ 50.6″ 48.5″
Seat height 35″ 36.2″ 33.1″
Ground clearance 9.3″ 10.2″ 10.8″
Claimed weight 630 lb (std. pkg. dry) 672 lb (curb) 620 lb (curb)
Fuel capacity 4.3 gal 4.6 gal 4 gal