By Joe Kosch
This may be the best time to be a UTV enthusiast, but for people interested but unfamiliar with the activity, I know the huge selection of different UTV models is confusing. The only self-explanatory UTV categories are youth machines and utility UTVs. Sport and recreation machines, the kind most enthusiasts buy, vary so much that I think some clarification is in order.
“Recreation” is a broad, vague category that includes a wide range of models from utility-focused machines, like Polaris Rangers and Can-Am Defenders, to sport utility models like the Yamaha RMAX, Polaris General and Can-Am Commander, which some manufacturers call “crossovers.” Most sport utility recreation machines have the power and suspension of a sport machine—think 100 horsepower and as much as 17 inches of suspension travel, and the large cargo dump bed and upright seating common on utility UTVs. Recreation machines also come in a huge range of widths, from the very compact 50-inch-wide Honda Pioneer 500 and 520 to big rigs, like Massimo’s 70-inch-wide 1000X, and plenty of 60- and 64-inch-wide machines in between. Manufacturers don’t do a great job of making it clear what models do what, but Dirt Wheels and DirtWheelsMag.com explain it well in our tests, buyers’ guides and other articles.
The many subcategories of sport models is enough to make a beginner’s head spin. At the top of the performance food chain you have 64-, 68-, 72- and 74-inch-wide sport models like the Polaris RZR Pro R, Turbo R and Pro XP, Can-Am X3, Yamaha YXZ1000R, Honda Talon, Kawasaki KRX 1000 and others. With these high-performance models, you can get up to 225 horsepower and over 20 inches of suspension travel, depending on how you care to measure it. These are the machines with the most sophisticated, whoop-eating suspension and dune-climbing power, but you’ll need to have a trailer and a truck capable of pulling it to transport them. Most of these cars are available in two- and four-seat models, and the four-seaters don’t just hold more thrill seekers, some drivers prefer them for their longer wheelbases, which offer additional high-speed stability.
Price range: $15,000–$45,000.
Sixty-inch-wide UTVs like some Can-Am Maverick Sport models, the Polaris RZR Trail S 900, 1000 and others typically offer 12 to 13 inches of suspension travel, and, on some manufacturers’ machines, more than 100 horsepower. This category of machine has a balance of stability, suspension performance and power that many woods riders and racers love. Some of these vehicles are also available with four seats. Some 60-inch-wide UTVs can fit in some full-size pickup beds, but most four-seat models won’t. Avoid letting the machine’s weight rest on the tailgate if you like your tailgate in usable condition.
Price range: $12,000–$21,000.
Fifty-inch-wide “Trail” sport UTVs include everything from CFMoto’s 500 Trail to the 1000cc Can-Am Trail and Polaris Trail. Most of these machines have around 10 inches of suspension travel. These are fun, affordable go-anywhere vehicles with two seats, extremely nimble handling and the ability to use most trails, along with convenient full-size pickup portability. They also have considerably lower prices than wider, longer-travel UTVs.
Price range: $9499–$19,000
Knowing what category of UTV you want is a great step towards having the best possible time with your machine. Knowing how all those UTVs actually work is just as important, which is why we test so many machines in Dirt Wheels. Seeing all the new choices in the many manufacturers’ 2022 lineups, I can’t wait to help you with that part.