Honda’s tried-and-true Foreman has earned its reputation as an ultra-reliable, seasoned workhorse. Available with a conventional manual-shift system or the ever-popular Electric Shift Program (ESP) that provides convenient push-button shifting, both systems feature five speeds with reverse and are mated to a liquid-cooled, 475cc OHV engine, with EFI delivering plenty of power and good throttle response. In keeping up with the competition, the labor-loving Foreman even received Electronic Power Steering (EPS) as an option a few years back. Non-EPS-equipped Foremans are still available as well.
When Honda decided to redesign and update the Foreman for 2014, they started with in-depth customer surveys looking for current Foreman owners’ feedback. “What would you change about your Foreman?” This was the key question, and the majority answered, “Nothing.” Although this is a great answer, Honda’s goal with the new Foreman is to keep its current customer base happy, but also to reach into and appeal to a broader ATV market. The Foreman as we know it is a great ranch, farm and hunting machine, and it will definitely still get you anywhere you want to go. It’s just not the plushest, most comfortable or fun option for recreation.
When surveying the Foreman customer base, the vast majority were farmers and ranchers. In order to please a larger market, Honda’s development team also spent a lot of effort finding out what was important to the recreational ATV customer. Honda’s goal for the new Foreman was to strive for the best possible handling and comfort without taking away from the true working characteristics of the Foreman, like its impressive rack and towing capacity. The more aggressive utility ATV riders and mudders also wanted a diff-lock option.
What isn’t? The 2014 Foreman is completely redesigned from the ground up. Honda developed a completely new double-cradle steel frame that wraps around the engine. According to Honda, it is 20 percent stiffer to give more precise handling and even increase load-handling characteristics, all while cutting 5 pounds off of last year’s chassis design. The new chassis also features redesigned front and rear suspension components and new adjustable shocks that give the new Foreman 7.3 inches of travel at each end.
At the rear end, the Foreman gets a new enclosed-axle-type swingarm to further enhance chassis strength and rigidity. This new design features a sturdy, heavy-duty sleeve over the rear axle, which allows the swingarm to support more of the rear-wheel loads. This new swingarm design also relocates the sealed mechanical drum brake into the right rear wheel for protection and greater ground clearance.
The new 2014 Foreman is also the first Honda ATV to feature a selectable, locking front differential. This Foreman can still be ridden in 2WD or 4WD with its torque-sensing front differential, as well as the option to switch into a fully locked front end when conditions get ugly.
Capping off the Foreman is an all-new look. The new aggressively styled bodywork is designed as much for performance as it is for looks. The new body features more mud protection and ease of maintenance. For example, a one-piece tank/side cover is removed without tools to access air intake, electrical components, engine and fuel tank.
WHAT DO YOU GET?
You still get the workhorse all Foremans are known for. In fact, rack-hauling capacities have been bumped up 33 percent to a total of 264 pounds, but now it just handles better and is more comfortable to ride. A stellar 475cc longitudinally placed engine takes advantage of direct driveshaft alignment versus conventional setups that bleed horsepower. Options for ESP or conventional manual shifting and even fuel injection with new mapping for 2014 are more assets of the machine. The Foreman’s new mapping takes feedback from an oxygen sensor to improve power delivery, throttle response, emissions and fuel economy. The new Foreman also features a super-heavy-duty clutch to handle the increased towing capacity, and the tougher-plastic CV boots improve long-term durability.
WE LIKE DIFF-LOCK
Honda has been the lone holdout when it came to offering a locking front diff. In average riding or working situations, we agree that it might not be 100 percent necessary, but we don’t test for machines for average-type trails. We like to push machines through less-than-optimal conditions and gnarlier-than-average terrain. We think this accelerates a true test on a machine, and we also believe that many of our readers might push their 4×4 ATVs into similar situations, whether intentionally or by chance.
In these extremely technical, rocky or slippery situations, a manual-locking front differential has proven to be an asset in every occasion. We’ve complained about the lack of it in past Honda tests, and now they have it. Whether it had anything to do with our editors griping or not, the only important thing is that it’s here and it works well. The new system still features the TraxLok 2WD/4WD option, and now when in 4WD, you simply flip a switch with your thumb to activate a locked differential mode. This gives equal power to both front wheels, effectively locking them together for maximum traction.
When riding in differential lock, speeds are limited to 20 mph with an optional speed override mode. When conditions get extremely tough, such as in deep mud that allows excessive wheelspin, you can hold down the starter button, which doubles as a speed override button, allowing for higher wheel speeds that just might be what keeps you from getting out the winch.
SUSPENSION AND RIDE COMFORT
The new Foreman is noticeably more comfortable to ride than older models. The .8-inch-thicker seat foam is a nice touch, and the new suspension is a little plusher and still has great bottoming resistance for a utility. As for overall trail comfort, you are still riding a straight-axle utility quad, so suspension is definitely improved, but the ride is not as plush as some of the IRS machines out there. There are positives and negatives about both IRS and solid rear-axle designs, but a lot of that mostly comes down to personal preference. Common situations include drifting corners, which is always more predictable, and entertaining on a solid axle, and a rocky trail is usually smoother with IRS.
Upgrades were made to the digital meter by adding functions like a clock, a coolant temperature warning gauge, a maintenance reminder, and a differential-lock indicator. The twin-headlight system was upgraded to dual 35-watt lights with a more focused light distribution pattern, and the top-assist light now has its own switch. The option to shut the top light off is quite useful when carrying a full load on the front rack. The previous model operated with the main headlights and would reflect off the front rack load and back at the rider. The AC generator was also boosted to 481 watts, a 16-percent increase that leaves even more electrical power available for any accessories you might desire. Speaking of accessories, Honda has released another 17 Foreman-specific accessories to help make ownership, working and riding as pleasant and efficient as possible.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE?
The new Foreman, when combined with Honda’s legendary reliability, will still be a tough act to follow for the workforce or utilitarian market. With the new refinements to the suspension, chassis, EPS and body, it’s going to make a name for itself in the all-around, multi-use ATV market as well. It is still a straight-axle machine, which helps keep weight and cost down, but it’s actually very comfortable to ride, and reasonably peppy for a 500-class machine.
The new Foreman has achieved its goal. It is still the Foreman that ranchers and farmers have been buying for years, yet it will do a better job of satisfying the need for weekend recreation when it’s not hard at work. Enthusiasts that find enjoyment in conquering incredibly nasty and challenging terrain will now have the added advantage of diff-lock. This in itself should prove a selling point for a whole market segment of potential Foreman owners. The new Foreman’s more aggressive styling should also help entice those looking for an all-around machine versus the stereotypical ranch quad look of years past.
2014 HONDA FOREMAN 500 4X4
Engine OHV, liquid-cooled,
Bore and stroke 92mm x 71.5mm
Fuel system 36mm EFI
Fuel capacity 3.9 gal.
Starting Electric with optional
Transmission Five-speed auto or
manual ESP w/ reverse
Final drive Shaft
Front Dual A-arms w/7.3″
Rear Swingarm w/ single shock/7.3″
Front Dual hydraulic discs
Rear Sealed mechanical drum
Seat height 34.2″
Ground clearance 7.5″
Curb weight 630 lb./646 lb. (EPS)
Colors Red, olive, blue, camo