ATV TEST: 2020 HONDA FOREMAN RUBICON
The Deluxe edition By the staff of Dirt Wheels, Photos by Kevin Wing
Here is a fun fact: the recreational utility ATV market is still Honda’s bread and butter in the four-wheel category. When Honda had multiple sport quad models on dealer floors, the ranch-style performers easily had double or more sales. Honda 4x4s have a reputation for being the most durable and long-lasting in the business, which obviously helps sales. People purchase 4×4 ATVs for work and recreational performance and enjoyment. It is quick and easy to swing a leg over a quad. Some can tow and easily navigate trails and ranches. Toss tools or a hay bale or two on the cargo racks, and you can’t beat the ease of use.
Honda recently sent us on an excursion to the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tuscon, Arizona, to test the top-of-the-line 2020 Foreman Rubicon 4×4 Deluxe. This version includes the automatic dual-clutched transmission and electronic power steering as standard features for a starting price of $9,899. Honda provided the 2020 models with some upgrades, and that includes more power!
MORE MEANS MORE
This year saw some healthy improvements for Big Red’s utility ATV lineup. A few of them, including the Foreman, gained a larger 518cc engine (up from 475cc last year). The extra displacement comes from a larger cylinder and piston that provides a touch more horsepower and some added torque down low. The engine remains a single-cylinder that is liquid-cooled and electronically fuel-injected.
Honda is the only major manufacturer that produces ATVs and UTVs with longitudinally mounted engines. They calculated that the less angles going from the crankshaft to the transmission, and out to the differentials, means reduced friction in the powertrain and more engine power reaching the ground efficiently. They achieved the longitudinal mounting while still retaining a reasonably low center of gravity.
This Rubicon utilizes an automatic, 5-speed, dual-clutch transmission that has an electronic shifter setup. You can toggle between automatic shifting, where the electronic brain controls gear changes, or switch to EPS mode where you choose gears on your own. The left handlebar holds the thumb-operated push-button shifter housing. If you like foot-shifting, you can purchase a Rubicon with an auto clutch and foot shifting, but a dual-clutch transmission means you still won’t have a clutch lever to pull with either Foreman Rubicon transmission option.
The gearbox comes with high and low gearing selections. If the terrain gets sloppy or you need to utilize the 1,322-pound towing capacity, you’ll have to stop in your tracks to switch to low gear with a lever on the side of the Honda’s 3.9-gallon gas tank. There is a speed override push button so you can get unstuck from the deep mud you figured would be a hoot ’n’ holler to plow into.
The method for selecting reverse was revised for certain Honda models in 2020. Older versions required you to switch gear to neutral, pull in the reverse lever, while simultaneously pulling in the brake lever and switching gears with your thumb into reverse. The upgraded version provides an easier-to-operate reverse lever that you can shift directly from drive to reverse, skipping neutral. This system makes switching into reverse much quicker and easier for plow work, or backing out of a bad trail situation.
Honda has yet to transfer their i4WD technology from the Talon and Pioneer 1000s over to their ATVs. The TraxLok two- and four-wheel-drive modes, with a front-locking differential, are more than enough traction options for the Foreman. The thumb-throttle housing allows you to change between options on the fly.
We like to stay with 4×4 ATVs that come with two comforts: electronic power steering and independent rear suspension. The 2020 Honda Fourtrax Foreman Rubicon comes standard with both options, but if you want to cut costs and performance, the Foreman line will nix the EPS, but IRS will remain. The suspension system up front utilizes a double-wishbone design with spring preload-adjustable shocks that offer a reasonable 7.28 inches of travel. The rear has a similar setup with 8.46 inches of wheel travel.
The Rubicon Deluxe comes with 190mm hydraulic disc brakes up front, controlled via a lever on the right side of the handlebar. Keep in mind that if 4×4 is engaged, the rear wheels will also slow if the front brakes are depressed and same goes for the rear brake. Rear braking is controlled by a foot lever that is tied into a hand-operated lever on the left of the handlebar. A single 170mm hydraulic disc brake slows momentum of the rear wheels. Honda provides 25-inch-tall Maxxis tires that are wrapped around stylish contrast-cut cast-aluminum wheels.
2020 sees some nice upgrades on the Foreman Rubicon lineup. Honda focused on customer requests during the design process. This led to wider front driveshaft guards. Customers kept damaging the CV boots on the spindle side of the front axles due to a lack of protection, so Honda made a fix.
New graphics, a cool Matte Green Metallic color scheme and an updated front grill grace the Rubicon for 2020. If you prefer sneaky Honda Phantom Camo color scheme, it is the only other color option for the Deluxe. Another quality update for the Foreman and other Honda ATVs is newly designed front and rear cargo racks. Honda’s Pro-Connect system makes latching the accessory line to the racks quick and simple with no tools needed. The surface area of the racks is more flat as well, and you can still strap aftermarket equipment to them easily. A new 1.9-liter cargo box was designed into the middle of the front rack, but it cannot be accessed if you have cargo on the rack.
The front rack can hold up to 99 pounds, while the rear will support a max of 187 pounds. It is good practice to up the spring preload if you weigh the racks down. Honda retained the original cargo containers, which includes a rear-mounted container and a small fender-mounted option.
TIME TO RIDE
The Foreman Rubicon Deluxe is Honda’s top-tier ATV model, and like the rest of the fleet it is very well-built with an impeccable fit and finish right down to the painted plastics. The cockpit is focused on comfort. It has thick seat foam and a slender profile in between the knees and legs. The hand controls and handlebar position are focused for calm riding, but the 4×4 system and sprightly new engine say otherwise.
We could feel more torque and horsepower out of the 518cc powerplant, but it isn’t as strong as we were hoping for. If Honda ever decides to bring out an all-new Rincon with features similar to their Foreman line, then we would be grateful for it in more open terrain. In the tight stuff, the Rubicon is easily controllable and formidable. Low gearing allows the Foreman to easily haul and is a handy tool around the ranch.
The suspension is smooth and comfortable, thanks in part to the IRS setup, and EPS is a welcome addition. Honda’s Foreman turns easily, but takes some body English to keep all four wheels on the dirt with fast-paced maneuvers. Braking is strong and has a linear feel to it.
The real pickle with this machine is its transmission. We appreciate the shift-ability of the Foreman’s transmission, but the automatic mode needs some more tuning to match our riding habits. It can downshift when you don’t want it to and not upshift when you want. On the plus side, you can switch gears yourself while in automatic mode, or just operate the Rubicon in manual mode. If all four wheels leave the ground, it will shift down in the air, and that makes for interesting landings, and it does similar things while under hard braking for corners.
Honda’s 2020 Foreman Rubicon Deluxe is undoubtedly a very well-built, durable and rugged machine. If you want to hit the trails, haul game from the hunt or utilize it as a ranch tool, you won’t be disappointed in its performance. The larger engine is very welcome, and the new cargo rack system is a big improvement.
Go to www.powersports.honda.com to check out Honda’s entire ATV and UTV lineup, or drive to your local Honda dealer to see them in person
2020 HONDA FOREMAN RUBICON 4X4 AUTOMATIC DCT EPS DELUXE
Engine OHV, longitudinally mounted, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single-cylinder
Bore x stroke 92.0mm x 71.5mm
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 3.9 gal.
Transmission Automatic, shift-able 5-speed dual-clutch
Final drive Shaft
Front Dual A-arms w/ 7.28”
Rear Dual A-arms w/ 8.46”
Front Dual hydraulic discs
Rear Single hydraulic disc
Ground clearance 9.4”
Curb weight 722 lb.
Front 99 lb.
Rear 187 lb.
Towing capacity 1322 lb.
Colors Honda Phantom Camo, Matte Green Metallic