WIDE OPEN: HALO UTVS?

By Joe Kosch

This Evolution Powersports Can-Am has dropped weight and boosted power to over 300 horses. Will we ever see production models like it?

The term “halo car” is well-known in the automotive world. It refers to a vehicle made to draw attention to a brand, usually with over-the-top performance, styling, technology, and features. These machines get people talking and cast the glow of an impressive performance image on all the vehicles in the lineup.

Halo cars usually have enormous prices to go along with their incredible performance, and that only adds to their mystique. Usually, the absurd prices don’t come close to covering the true cost of developing and manufacturing halo vehicles, but manufacturers don’t care. These cars are image vehicles, marketing tools, and ways for manufacturers to show off.

The car world has many examples, like the 949-horsepower Ferrari LaFerrari, a car so remarkable it’s still stunning six years after its introduction.

At a starting price of 1.4 million dollars, it makes other Ferraris seem like economy cars. There’s also the Acura NSX, the 840-horsepower Dodge Demon, and many others.

In the motorcycle industry, Kawasaki has the 300-horsepower, supercharged H2R motorcycle, a $55,000 road bike so outrageous it’s not street-legal.

I’d like to see something just as insane from UTV manufacturers. It could be argued that UTV lineups have their share of halo models already, but I don’t think they’re quite at halo level.

Can-Am’s wild new Maverick X3 X rs with Smart Shox is amazing, but it’s just one in a whole family of X3 Turbo RR models with 195 horsepower,  and just 23 horsepower ahead of the slightly less crazy X3 Turbo R models.

Polaris has its 181-horsepower RZR Pro XP, but that’s not in a different performance area code than the 168-horsepower RZR Turbo S.

Real, eye-opening halo cars have absurd power, sometimes twice what is typical in a common production performance model. That means we’re talking about a 400-horsepower UTV here or 300 at the minimum for true halo-level shock value.

If that sounds crazy or unrealistic from an engineering standpoint, let me remind you how many 1000cc street bikes produce over 150 horsepower. Honda’s 999cc CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP makes 214 horsepower and, no, there’s no turbo.

These aren’t low-production, track-only racing models that need frequent engine rebuilds and a team of mechanics following them around. They’re bikes you can ride to work every day that can go 50,000 miles with no problem. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Ducati have had them for years.

Of course, a UTV with 300 or 400 horsepower would need a chassis and suspension at a level above what we see on stock machines now, but that would all add to the excitement that would surround the machine.

It would be neat if a halo UTV could meet existing UTV requirements, but it might not. It may have to be a non-off-road-legal, closed-course machine. That could be a problem for some public lands, but the vehicle could be used at private riding areas and on private land.

Absurd power isn’t the only way to stop performance-minded UTVers in their tracks and grab the attention of the whole UTV industry.

A truly different kind of high-performance sport UTV might make the whole motorsports world stop and take notice. What kind? A super-lightweight vehicle. Of course, it would be exotic and expensive. The frame might be Chromoly steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, or maybe a combination of all three.

Everything would have to be designed to be as light as possible—the seats, the engine, the pedals, the bodywork, the tires and wheels, even the lug nuts. 

If a vehicle could be made that would be half the weight of a current UTV, it would better than making it twice as powerful.

As vehicle designers and engineers say, horsepower makes your machine faster on the straights, while lightweight makes it faster everywhere.

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