Off-Road Review 2011

After three seasons of less than stellar consumer activity, the ATV industry has begun to rebound from a quiet economy. The 2011 model year has proven to be busy, with some manufacturers bringing a large number of new models to market. While side-by-sides are the largest growth segment, the 2011 line-up offers plenty of choices in traditional four-wheelers. Power steering continues to be the most popular new technology. As North American manufacturers' pricing has gotten more competitive against the yen, and rebates abound, this year may be one of the best times to pick up a new ride.
ATVs
Arctic Cat TRV 550 GT (EPS)

The 550 GT model features Arctic Cat's new electronic power steering system, which makes smooth work of a long day on the trail. Two adult riders can comfortably fit on this two-up seat system with a cushioned back for legal trail riding. A pin-pull removal system quickly transforms it to a single-rider machine. The fully independent suspension uses zero-maintenance bushings, and the drive shafts are sealed. A full-length plastic skid plate keeps the undercarriage safe. The suspension has five-way pre-load adjustable front and rear shocks. The bike sits high, with 11 inches of ground clearance, and the rear sports a convenient 2-inch receiver. The locker will keep you moving in brutal terrain. And if you prefer glint in your paint, you can get a Cat in Copper Metallic. (arctic-cat.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 764 lb.
Suspension Travel (front/rear): 10 in./10 in.
Transmission: Automatic CVT with EBS
Engine: SOHC, single cylinder,4-valve, EFI liquid cooled
Displacement: 545cc
Price: $9,549
Can-Am Outlander 800r X MR
Taking cues from the mud-racing circuit, the Outlander has all the modifications needed to take an exceptionally deep dip. The radiator has been relocated above the front rack, and a snorkel has been installed at the highest point of the machine. It comes equipped with 30-inch Gorilla Axle Silverback tires geared to combat the conditions ATV riders encounter. The bike is finished with a fully independent tunable suspension, and Can-Am's nearly unstoppable Visco Lok four-wheel-drive system. Even with all these modifications, you're still sitting on one of the fastest stock bikes on the planet. If mud and water are part of your hunt, this bike is completely bayou-ready. (can-amatv.brp.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 669 lb.
Suspension Travel: (front/rear): 8 in./9 in.
Transmission: CTV w/engine braking
Engine: SOHC, V-twin, 8-valve, EFI, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 799.9cc
Price: $13,099
Honda FourTrax Rincon
Honda's largest utility ATV returns with its 675cc engine upgraded with fuel injection. The transmission is super smooth and very car-like, benefiting from a hydraulic torque converter. The suspension is fully independent and comfortably rider-friendly, in part due to the lightweight forged aluminum suspension components. Disc brakes are standard front and rear. The bike is classic Honda, with flawless shifting and impressive intuitive design. Not flashy, but highly functional. You can get it in Red, Olive and Natural Gear Camouflage. (powersports.honda.com) Specs:
Curb Weight: 648 lb.
Suspension Travel: (front/rear): 6.9 in./8.0 in.
Transmission: Auto 3-speed w/shaft drive
Engine: OHV, single cylinder,4-valve, EFI, liquid cooled
Displacement: 765cc
Price: $8,799
Polaris Sportsman 500
A hot seller since 1996, this machine received a substantial facelift for 2011, and today it's more popular than ever. A new locking rack system, fenders and a relocated radiator will keep you drier and mud-free. The slightly raised seating position also improves the driver's trail sightlines. The bike comes standard with disc brakes, a superb riding independent suspension, and a torque-y 493cc battle-tested engine. Back in 2000 this bike was $7,000. Today, with major improvements, it's selling for $1,000 less. (polarisindustries.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 696 lb.
Suspension Travel: (front/rear): 8.2 in./9.5 in.
Transmission: Automatic PVT/ Shaft
Engine: OHV, single cylinder,4-valve, carburetor, liquid cooled
Displacement: 498cc
Price: $5,999
Suzuki King Quad 750 Axi Power Steering
The welcome addition of power steering is a highlight of the King Quad line for 2011. While other changes are minimal, this strong and highly technical trail bike has excellent engine braking with a fully engaging differential locker to overcome the worst trail nightmares. The big-bore, liquid-cooled DOHC 722cc engine facilitates abundant amounts of torque, especially in the low- to mid-rpm range. The fully independent suspension is built into a high-tensile steel frame. The 2011 King Quads come with new wrinkle-paint finish on the racks and front bumper for increased durability and scratch resistance. (suzukicycles.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 665 lb.
Suspension Travel: (front/rear): 7.9 in./7.9 in.
Transmission: Automatic CVT w/ Shaft front
Engine: DOHC, single cylinder, 4-valve, EFI, liquid cooled
Displacement: 722cc
Price: $9,449
Yamaha Grizzly 450 EPS 4x4
Utilizing plenty of DNA from its larger Grizzly cousin, this unit delivers high-end features in a mid-level engine platform. The bike offers electric power steering; four-wheel independent suspension; a powerful, fuel-efficient, liquid-cooled engine; Yamaha's Ultramatic transmission; and one of the most efficient lockers and downhill braking systems in the industry. Stopping is improved. With an all-new rear sealed disc system inside the gear housing, the brakes are impervious to outside elements. A great bike that's highly trail-capable is now much easier on your shoulders. (yamaha-motor.com) Specs:
Curb Weight: 620 lb.
Suspension Travel: (front/rear): 6.3 in./7.1 in.
Transmission: Yamaha Ultramatic w/engine braking
Engine: SOHC, single cylinder, 4-valve, carburetor, liquid cooled
Displacement: 421cc
Price: $7,499
UTVs
Arctic Cat Prowler 700HDX
An all-new design from the ground up, the 2011 Prowler 700 HDX uses an 85-inch wheelbase that provides excellent ride comfort with a monster 1,500-pound payload. The 2-in-1 cargo box has multiple tie-down options, and can even deal with a full-size wooden pallet. With its detachable walls, the box can transform to a flatbed in minutes.
While at idle, and before the machine even starts to move, the new variable assist electronic power steering gives assistance. When the vehicle's locker is engaged, this steering assist makes it far easier to move the wheel, a particularly valuable feature when you've got a loaded cargo box or are navigating nasty obstacles. (arctic-cat.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 1,363 lb.
Passengers: 3
Towing Capacity: 2,000 lb.
Ground Clearance: 10 in.
Transmission: CVT Auto w/EBS
Engine: SOHC, single cylinder,4-valve, EFI liquid-cooled
Displacement: 695cc
Price: $13,499
Bobcat 3400 4x4 Diesel
With tons of torque and the ability to haul 1,100 pounds, this diesel utilizes a 24.8-hp engine that sips fuel. Consistent in the Bobcat line, the bed dumps and the seats have comfortable three-point harness seat belts. An automatic glow plug and fuel injection make starting this engine a snap, even in freezing temperatures. Built with one-piece molded construction, this tilt box simplifies hauling with the single-latch tailgate and handy tie-downs. Bobcat offers an impressive array of attachments--from buckets to plows--that can come in handy on a farm or a hunting lease. (bobcat.com) Specs:
Operating Weight: 1,610 lb.
Passengers: 2
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lb.
Ground Clearance: 9.5 in
Transmission: Auto PVT/Shaft
Engine: Diesel, EFI, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 903cc
Price: $12,109
Can-Am Commander 1000x
If speed is what you crave, the new Commander 1000x will satisfy your appetite with its new Rotax 85hp v-twin. This machine is the fastest and most powerful in its class. Fed by dual injectors, the liquid-cooled, single-overhead-cam engine has four valves per cylinder. The smart throttle-body accelerator smoothes operation, even when your foot is bouncing on the gas pedal. Can-Am's Visco-Lok four-wheel-drive system will engage all the wheels instantly, as needed. The double rear platform cargo box uses an upper and a lower bed with an independent tailgate. The carrying capacity is 400 pounds in the upper, 200 pounds in the lower. (can-amatv.brp.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 1,287 lb.
Passengers: 2
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lb.
Ground Clearance: 11 in.
Transmission: CTV Auto
Engine: SOHC, V-twin, 8-valve, EFI, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 976cc
Price: $14,299
Kawasaki Mule 610 XC
Able to fit into the bed of a full-size pickup truck, the new Teryx-like Mule 610 can handle a variety of hauling tasks. With selectable four-wheel-drive and large 26-inch radial tires, the Mule's wider track will enable you to climb over craggy obstacles with confidence. Thoughtful standard skid plates, combined with a strong frame and undercarriage design, will keep the drive train safe. The XC utilizes a grippy material on the seat and in the bed, keeping you and miscellaneous items from sliding around. The agile sport steering wheel is borrowed from the high-performance Teryx. The drive system allows selectable two- and four-wheel-drive modes, along with a Dual-Mode differential locker to keep the Mule climbing. Dual cup holders will keep your favorite beverages in place. A large glove box and a 12-gallon storage area under the hood provide ample extra storage. (kawasaki.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 1,051 lb.
Passengers: 2
Ground Clearance: 8.1 in.
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lb.
Transmission: CVT Auto w/shaft drive
Engine: OHV, single cylinder, 2-valve, carburetor, fan-cooled
Displacement: 401cc
Price: $7,799
John Deere Gator XUV 825i
Joining the faster, more performance-oriented crowd, John Deere recently unleashed its hottest Gator utility vehicle to date. Designed for the hunting, fishing and sports driver, the 2011 XUV 825i is a significant departure from past vehicles, which have had a more agricultural bent. This Deere is quick off the line, boasting a stout 50 horses delivered by an 815cc, liquid-cooled, inline 3-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams and EFI. The motor can deliver a serious dose of low-end torque while taking on steep grades, even with heavy payloads. Built by the Chinese auto manufacturer Chery International, the engine reaches a top speed of 44 mph. The new front and rear independent suspension system is smooth, offers less body roll and allows improved side-hill stability with or without cargo. A new disc braking system allows for less fading on steep hills. The unit can haul 1,400 pounds or tow 1,500. The composite cargo box has removable sides. (johndeere.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 1,630 lb.
Passengers: 2
Ground Clearance: 11 in.
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lb.
Transmission: CVT Auto
Engine: DOHC, 3-cylinder in-line, 12 valve, EFI, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 812cc
Price: $11,200
Polaris Ranger Crew 500
With the new Ranger Crew 500, Polaris has entered the value-priced, four-passenger vehicle segment. This hard-working, smooth-riding UTV squeezes out as much room as possible for a UTV. The 498cc EFI 32-horsepower engine delivers a top speed of 44 mph, with full instrumentation, and can still fit in the back of a pickup truck. All this combines with features like on-demand true all-wheel drive with VersaTrac; independent rear suspension; heavy-duty front-end protection; high ground clearance; and the longest suspension travel in the mid-size class. It will even tow 1,000 pounds. (polarisindustries.com) Specs:
Dry Weight: 1,495 lb.
Passengers: 4
Ground Clearance: 10 in.
Towing Capacity: 1,250 lb.
Transmission: Auto PVT/Shaft
Engine: OHV, single cylinder,4-valve, EFI, liquid cooled
Displacement: 498cc
Price: $9,999
Go Anywhere
If you want access to isolated wilderness areas that would swallow your traditional ATV or UTV, consider installing a Litefoot track conversion system from Mattrack. In places like Alaska, Minnesota, Louisiana and much of swampy Canada, these track kits allow bike owners to traverse areas that previously were nearly impossible to navigate. The tracks convert a utility vehicle into an absolutely unstoppable trail-, swamp- and snow-eating machine. Depending on the model vehicle you're looking to enhance, the systems average about $3,700. With a little practice, they can take about an hour to install. The result? A ride that is smooth, and far less jarring. If snow is part of the mix, the tracks can even eliminate the need for a snow machine. (litefootatv.com)
Big Trucks Stage a Big Comeback
By: Drew Hardin What a difference a year makes. Many automakers are emerging from last year's financial struggles with fresh products and high hopes for economic recovery. Those hopes are best illustrated by the number of new full-size truck offerings--the mainstay of both outdoors enthusiasts and tradesmen, who just might find business strong enough this year to invest in some new rolling stock. Because so much of what's new for the 2011 model year is in the full-size category, that's our emphasis in this year's guide. As in previous guides, our focus is 4x4 pickups, given their practicality for outdoorsmen. However, 4x4s generally have lower payload and tow capacities than 2WD models, and their prices are typically higher.
Chevrolet/GMC
The Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD 2500 (three-quarter-ton) and 3500 (one-ton) trucks have been redesigned for 2011 from the ground up--literally. Even the wheels are new for the model year. The trucks ride on new, fully boxed frames, which contribute to higher tow and payload capacities while also dampening the noise and vibration transmitted to the cab. A new 6.6L Duramax turbodiesel V-8 delivers significantly more horsepower and torque than the previous diesel, but also returns better fuel economy, says GM. The diesel power train is now equipped with an exhaust brake that uses engine compression to slow the vehicle, taking some of the burden off the wheel brakes. For those who want plush accommodations in their haulers, GMC has introduced the high-end Denali trim level to its crew-cab 2500 and 3500 HDs, and the whole HD family is available with electronic options ranging from USB and Bluetooth connectivity to Wi-Fi. Yes, we have checked email from the back seat of a Denali at highway speeds, and it works. With all the attention paid to the HD trucks, GM made minimal changes to the 1500 (half-ton) pickups. GM still offers the only hybrid pickup on the market, as well as three V-8 options and a V-6. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4x4
Engines: 4.3L V-6, 4.8L V-8, 5.3L V-8, 6.0L V-8 gas/electric hybrid, 6.2L V-8
Max. Payload: 1,928 lb.
Max. Tow Capacity: 10,400 lb.
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 9.0 in.
Base Price: $24,090 (1500 WT 4x4)
Ford
Like GM, Ford has new heavy-duty pickups this year, and, like GM, Ford's new Super Duty trucks are available with a new turbodiesel--the 6.7L Power Stroke V-8. The two brands waged an old-fashioned horsepower war during the run-up to their trucks' introductions, but Ford won the battle when it tuned the Power Stroke to produce 400 horsepower (beating the Duramax's 397) and 800 foot-pounds of peak torque (compared to GM's 765). That earns Ford not just bragging rights but also higher payload and towing capacities to edge out its cross-town rival. Mindful of all that towing capacity, Ford incorporated an exhaust brake into the new Power Stroke, and the diesel power train also has power take-off capability to drive auxiliary equipment. The gasoline engine available in the Super Duty is new, too: The 6.2L V-8 is also used in the SVT Raptor, but tuned to a work-truck-like 385hp and 405 foot-pounds of torque. Speaking of the Raptor, the F-150 from Ford's SVT hot-rodding division is now available in two body styles--SuperCab and SuperCrew, with four full-size doors. The 6.2L V-8 produces 411hp and 434 foot-pounds of torque in light-duty trim, and that engine is now the only one available in the desert-race-ready pickup. As of press time, Ford is keeping other F-150 changes close to the chest, pending the introduction of other new models in early 2011. We do know that there will be four engine options in the F-150, ranging from the fuel-efficient 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 (which will deliver the performance of a V-8, says Ford) to a standard 3.7L, 300hp V-6, a 5.0L, 360 hp V-8 and the 6.2L V-8 mentioned above. Ford F-150 4x4
Engines: 3.5L V-6, 3.7L V-6, 5.0L V-8, 6.2L V-8
Max. Payload: 2,860 lb.
Max. Tow Capacity: 11,300 lb.
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 8.5 in.
Base Price: $26,785 (F-150 XL 4x4 regular cab)
Nissan
Nissan is expending considerable effort on its automotive line, including the launch of the all-electric Leaf sedan, so there are minimal changes to its truck products. The full-size Titan is still available in two body styles--King Cab and Crew Cab--and three bed lengths, and power is provided by the 5.6L, 317hp Endurance V-8. Trim level names have been changed: the mid-level SE trim is now called SV, while the high-end LE is now SL. Hardcore off-roaders will want the Pro-4X package, which includes Rancho shocks, lower gear ratios, skid plates and an electric locking rear differential. Nissan Titan King Cab 4x4
Engine: 5.6L V-8
Max. Payload: 2,016 lb.
Max. Tow Capacity: 9,400 lb.
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 10.2 in.
Base Price: $29,670 (S King Cab 4x4)
Ram
Chrysler underwent a reorganization in the wake of its purchase by Fiat that separated Ram trucks from the Dodge division. It's a marketing decision that really only affects the badging on the trucks and what we call them in stories like this. Of greater interest is the new Outdoorsman trim level available across the Ram full-size pickup line. Designed to appeal to hunters, fishermen, boaters and other outdoors enthusiasts, it bundles together convenience, off-roading and towing options--a Class IV hitch, skid plates, power folding mirrors, premium interior equipment, all-terrain tires, limited-slip rear differentials and more--in a package that replaces the TRX trim level. With hunters and fishermen in mind, Chrysler's Mopar accessories division has developed the RamBox Holster, a special rack that holds scoped rifles, shotguns or fishing rods in the RamBox bedside storage areas that are available on crew-cab half-ton pickups. Spray-in bed liners are a new option available for all full-size Ram trucks, as are new Garmin navigation systems. An integrated trailer brake control is now standard equipment on most of the three-quarter- and one-ton heavy-duty models, and trailer brake control information is displayed in the Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC), now standard on all HD models. Ram 1500 4x4
Engines: 4.7L V-8, 5.7L Hemi V-8
Max. Payload: 1,610 lb.
Max. Tow Capacity: 10,450 lb.
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 8.6 in.
Base Price: $25,965 (1500 4x4 regular cab)
Toyota
Toyota is putting most of its engineering efforts into the car side of the business this year, but there are a few key changes to the 2011 Tundra. The output of the base 4.0L V-6 engine has increased from 236hp to 270, and peak torque is up from 266 foot-pounds to 278, due to the variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i)--technology the V-6 now shares with the Tundra's 4.6L and 5.7L V-8 engines. Toyota has also made its trailer sway control system standard across the Tundra line. This system uses Toyota's vehicle stability control to counteract the forces acting on the truck's handling during trailer sway. Toyota Tundra 4x4
Engines: 4.0L V-6, 4.6L V-8,
5.7L V-8
Max. Payload: 2,020 lb.
Max. Tow Capacity: 10,100 lb.
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 10.4 in.
Base Price: $29,130 (5.7L regular cab 4x4)
Compact Trucks
Thinking about buying a small domestic pickup? Act soon. Industry insiders predict the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger and Ram Dakota will most likely cease production within the next model year or two. While these trucks used to be significantly smaller - and less expensive - than their full-size counterparts, lately they've gotten bigger, more powerful and more fully equipped, elevating their prices. Many buyers are opting for a real half-ton pickup. If you're waiting for the Mahindra compact diesel pickup, prepare to wait some more. As of this writing, its Indian manufacturer, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., has severed ties with the company it hired to distribute the truck in the U.S.
Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon
Among the few compact trucks with an available V-8, Z71 is the off-road suspension package of choice; OnStar 9.0 is new for the model year. Regular-, extended- and crew-cab bodies available. Available Engines: 2.9L I-4, 3.7L I-5, 5.3L V-8
Max. Payload: 1,403 lb.
Max. Tow Capacity: 6,000 lb.
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 10.2 in.
Base Price: $20,490 (WT 4x4)
Nissan Frontier King Cab 4x4
Updated in 2009, the 2011 trim level and model changes include new S crew-cab and Pro-4X crew-cab versions. King- and crew-cab bodies available. Engine: 4.0L V-6
Max. Payload: 1,399 lb.
Max. Tow Capacity: 6,300 lb.
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 8.9 in.
Base Price: $24,220 (SV King Cab 4x4)
Ram Dakota 4x4
Considered a midsize truck by its maker, Dakota offers V-8 power and best-in-class tow capacity; antilock brakes and side-curtain airbags are now standard. Extended- and crew-cab bodies available. Engine: 3.7L V-6, 4.7L V-8
Max. Payload: 1,630 lb.
Max. Tow Capacity: 7,050 lb.
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 7.9 in.
Base Price: $28,100 (ST extended cab 4WD)
Suzuki Equator
A lightly restyled and rebadged Nissan Frontier, the Equator shares the Nissan's V-6 engine and its payload and tow capacities. Extended- and crew-cab bodies available. Engine: 4.0L V-6
Max. Payload: 1,380 lb. (est.)
Max. Tow Capacity: 6,100 lb. (est.)
Min. 4x4 Ground Clearance: 8.9 in.
Base Price: $25,500 (est.) (Crew Cab Sport 4x4)

OL reviews the newest ATVs, UTVs and pickup trucks that will get you to your hunting or fishing spot and back again. Looks like it might be time to trade in that old pickup.