Suzuki KingQuad vs. Polaris Sportsman: Shootout

KINGQUAD
Classic ATV philosopher Tsing Song said, “A quad can’t cross the same stream twice.” We have no idea what that actually means, but it might say something about how no two rides, destinations or quads are the same. That’s especially true in the middleweight utility quad market, which is a mix of machines from different parts of the world. The destination might be the same, but you can get there in a multitude of different ways. The Polaris Sportsman 570 and the Suzuki KingQuad 500 are perfect examples. They might seem similar, but you couldn’t have two more different machines in construction, design or philosophy.

PHILOSOPHIES
Both machines are world products, but they reflect philosophies from their respective points of origin. Suzuki is a Japanese company, going back to 1902, but the KingQuad line is assembled in Rome, Georgia, from parts that arrive from everywhere. The frame and bodywork are American, the motor is Japanese and many components arrive from other locations in Asia. The thought pro cess behind the Suzuki goes back to the first four-wheel ATV back in 1983. It was a product of Suzuki’s motorcycle division and still shows some two-wheeler thinking in controls, rider position and construction. The motor is a single-overhead-cam, liquid-cooled four-valver. The KingQuad has four-wheel independent suspension using double A-arms all the way around.

Polaris is an American company, and the motor is made in Wisconsin. Assembly and chassis construction for Polaris products now comes out of several different plants, including ones in Wisconsin, Iowa and Monterrey, Mexico. But the thinking behind the Sportsman is distinctly American and comes from Polaris’ roots in snowmobiles and the company’s proximity to the U.S. automotive industry. The Sportsman is kind of car-ish, with its unified brakes and MacPherson-strut front suspension. The engine starts with the key like a car, and even the stick shift is on the right like a car. The 570 motor is a breakthrough for Polaris. It’s a high-tech motor, with fuel injection, double-overhead cams and four valves, but it’s used in several of the company’s more affordable vehicles. What’s most interesting about these two machines is that they seem to have learned from each other. The Suzuki has a belt-and-pulley-style CV transmission, which is a feature that comes directly from the snowmobile world. And the Polaris motor looks like something that would power a Japanese motorcycle.

WALK AROUND
Polaris actually has two mid-sized 4x4s. The 570 is the more price-conscious of the two. The 550 EPS, which has a larger chassis, double-A-arm front suspension and a longitudinally oriented motor, carries a price of $8699. The 570 starts at $6499. The power steering version we tested is $7299. Ours also was the camo model, which adds another $400. The Suzuki, on the other hand, starts at $7899, then goes up to $8599 for power steering. Don’t get the idea that Suzuki is out of line with that price, either. Both the Yamaha Grizzly 550 EPS and the Honda Rubicon are priced at $8699.

Clearly, Polaris is rocking the boat with this kind of pricing, and it will probably cut deeply into the sales of the company’s own products, as well as every other 500-class 4×4 on the market.

Setting that issue aside, it’s clear that the Suzuki has some more expensive touches. The luggage racks, for example, are steel on the Suzuki and plastic on the Polaris. The MacPherson-strut suspension on the Polaris is generally considered less expensive to produce than the double A-arms on the front of the KingQuad. Most significantly, Suzuki is lighter by about 70 pounds.

On the other hand, the Polaris has some features the Suzuki doesn’t offer. In front, that plastic rack conceals a large storage bin. There’s also a rear storage compartment on the 570, whereas the Suzuki only has one small cubby. The Polaris transmission has a Park position that Suzuki doesn’t offer. Both machines have bumper-mounted headlights for night riding, but the Polaris also has a handlebar-mounted headlight. That’s handy because you can point it more easily if you’re not moving. Finally, the Polaris has a 1 1/4-inch receiver for towing, whereas the Suzuki simply offers a tongue with a hole to mount a ball.

PERFORMANCE SWEEPSTAKES
On the trail, both quads perform stunningly well. In this age of mega quads, 500-class horsepower might sound a little tame, but in truth, both have more than enough. Steep hills are no issue, and top speed is in the high 50-mph range. Which is more powerful? It’s a close call, but the Polaris does have a 70cc displacement advantage. Some of that advantage is eaten up by the 570’s additional weight, but on flat ground, it will out-pull the Suzuki by a few lengths. Most of the power advantage is at the low end of the scale. The 570 motor is the same one that is used to power the RZR 570, so it’s considerably overbuilt for pushing around a little 700-pound quad.

Overall, handling is a more complicated call. The Suzuki uses its weight advantage well in tight canyons and extreme conditions. It responds to body English and feels more manageable when you have to climb big rocks and deal with off-camber hillsides. In demanding situations, the Suzuki also gives its rider more self-determination. The front and rear brakes can be operated independently, and there’s a manual front differential lock. The Polaris, on the other hand, is more fun at speed. It has more weight bias on the front wheels, and that makes it easy to turn. Our test unit was equipped with power steering, so there was no issue with heavy steering at any speed; it simply went where you pointed it. The rear would step out predictably and smoothly.

The Suzuki’s power steering is welcome for a different reason. The KingQuad has a light front end, and it can be busy without the damping effect that EPS provides. With power steering, the front end is more secure in straight lines. In turns, the Suzuki requires the rider to lean forward to make the front bite. The rear tires, on the other hand, always find good traction, and that makes speedway- style slides more difficult. For long days of riding, comfort is the big factor. The Suzuki has the edge here. The seat is thick and has a T shape to allow the rider to sit off-center when the situation demands. The KingQuad also vibrates and rattles less.

END OF THE DAY
When you have two quads that are this closely matched, most comparisons have a lot of “yeah, but…”; such as, “Yeah, the Polaris is more powerful, but the Suzuki is lighter,” and so forth. We can “yeah, but…” the Suzuki KingQuad 500 and the Polaris Sportsman 570 all day. When it gets late, though, all the arguing in the world can’t change the fact that the Sportsman is $1300 less expensive. Like we said, Polaris is rocking the boat with this kind of pricing. We like that kind of rock.

SUZUKI POLARIS
KINGQUAD 500 AXi SPORTSMAN 570

Engine type………………493cc liquid-cooled OHC…….567cc liquid-cooled DOHC
4-stroke single 4-stroke single
Bore x stroke……………..87.5mm x 82.0mm………………..9mm+73bmm
Fuel system……………….Fuel injection……………………….Fuel injection
Fuel capacity …………..4.6 gal…………………………………..4.5 gal.
Starting system…………Electric…………………………………Electric
Final drive………………..Shafts……………………………………Shafts
Suspension/wheel travel:
Front………………………..Independent double-…………..MacPherson strut/8.2″
wishbone; 6.7″
Rear………………………..Independent double-…………..Independent double-
wishbone/7.7″ wishbone/9.5″
Tires:
Front………………………..25×8-12………………………………….25×8-12
Rear………………………..25×10-12………………………………..25×10-12
Brakes:
Front………………………..Dual hydraulic disc……………..Dual hydraulic disc
Rear………………………..Sealed oil-bathed multi-disc .Dual hydraulic disc
on driveshaft
Wheelbase………………..50.6″………………………………………50.5″
Ground clearance …10.2″……………………………………….11″
Seat height……………….36.2″………………………………………33.8″
Total rack capacity …199 lb…………………………………….270 lb.
Towing capacity……….990 lb……………………………………1225 lb.
Curb weight……………..661 lb……………………………………702 lb.
Color…………………………Terra Green, Flame Red……..Flame Red, camo
Price………………………….$8599 ……………………………………$7299 ($7699, camo)