Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) have come to mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, the UTV is a vehicle to check their fences and maintain food plots. For others, they are an all-in-one cargo, game and people-hauler for hunting trips on public land. Another dimension is emerging in the UTV world, and that is the high-performance element. Several manufacturers now have UTV-like vehicles that can be loads of fun as trail-riding rigs when hunting seasons aren't open. Hang on tight, here's a look at the new iron.
Arctic Cat's Prowler UTVs have been turning a lot of heads, and the 2008 models should be their best yet. Cat's Prowler XTX 700 H1 LE leads their lineup. An Arctic-designed 695cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder 4-stroke powers this Prowler. The company has invested millions of dollars in advanced design and assembly technologies, and this package shows it. The transmission is a rubber-belt high-low-reverse cvt with engine-braking built in. The Prowler is equipped to be a serious terrain conqueror. It is equipped with push-button four-wheel-drive and a locking front differential. The 26" tires, stunning 12.5" of ground clearance and independent double-wishbone suspension at all four-corners (with a sway bar on the back) will inspire confidence in a wide variety of conditions. Another feature that the Prowler boasts of is an 8.2 gallon fuel tank. The big Cat has a towing capacity of 1,500 Lbs. To top it all off, Arctic has some of the most advanced noise-reduction technology in the industry, and they used it to help the Prowler deliver all of this power and performance quietly. Other Prowler models in Arctic Cat's lineup include the model that started it all for them--the 650 4x4 Automatic, the 650 XT 4x4 Auto, and the 650 XT 4x4 Auto M4 in wetlands camouflage. Visit your local dealer or log on to www.arcticcat.com  to learn more about Arctic Cat's ATVs and UTVs.
2008 Artic Cat Prowler XTX 700 H1
Bad Boy Buggies
Bad Boy Buggies has carved out a unique niche with their approach to UTVs. The Bad Boy "SUV" is not powered by a gas engine; it is propelled by two 15.4 horsepower DC electric motors that combine to provide about 31 horsepower-equivalent to a 400cc+ 4-stroke engine. The electric operation makes the Buggy exceptionally quiet and some believe that this extra-quiet drive system helps them be more successful. Another advantage of the electric drive train is that changes in elevation do not affect it. Gas powered engines on the other hand, can lose power at higher elevations due to the lower density of oxygen in the air, unless they are electronically fuel injected or the carburetor is re-jetted. Automatic four-wheel-drive is standard. Bad Boy Buggies have 22" tires front and rear, and drum brakes. They come with some useful features including a windshield and roof, storage baskets in front and on top, and an integrated battery charger. The Buggies are attractively wrapped in Mossy Oak Break-Up or Realtree Hardwoods camouflage. Visit www.badboybuggies.com  for more information.
Bad Boy Buggy
ARGO has carved out a niche worldwide with their rugged amphibious UTVs. The ARGO Avenger, Jim Shockey special edition, is ARGO's latest model for serious off-roaders. The new Jim Shockey Model Limited Edition is powered by a 31 hp 748 cc electronic fuel-injected Kohler LH 775 engine. The Avenger has a load capacity of 1150 lbs and can tow up to 1800 lbs. All this power is matched by a commitment to respecting the environment with low emission rates that meet both EPA and CARB standards. A winch assembly featuring a heavy- duty X-3 (4000lb) winch with wireless hand held remote is standard, along with a front brush guard and 2 integrated 55W Fog Lights. Making this rig even more custom are Jim Shockey Signature Series Badges, a Garmin GPS MAP 60Cx plus US & Canadian Topographical Map CD's. Eight 25" Rawhide III Tires enable traction in extreme terrain with their aggressive tread pattern and lug size, and their excellent approach and departure angles allow for easy travel over obstacles. The pressure that these tires put on the ground is comparable in psi to a human footprint. The fuel injection system is calibrated to operate reliably in all types of weather and at all altitudes. Other standard features on this incredible water-capable Special Edition include a 12 Volt Electric Bilge Pump featuring a 500 GPH capacity, rear handrails for passengers, a bracket for installing an outboard motor up to 9.9hp, front and rear receiver winch mounts, and a utility rack providing a convenient place to carry a rifle or shotgun. Topping it all off, a special Jim Shockey signature embroidered jacket, plus numerous Jim Shockey hunting DVDs and books are included as a bonus package. This ARGO was designed with Jim Shockey's personal input. There is also a standard (if such a term applies) Avenger with a 750cc fuel-injected engine, and an Avenger with a 700cc carbureted power plant.
2008 ARGO Avenger Jim Shockey special edition
The Frontier series of ARGOs ranges from an 8-wheel drive with a 650cc engine to a six-wheel drive with a 480cc mill. Check out all of ARGO's amphibious vehicles at www.argoatv.com .
ATV sales leader Honda has taken a long time to enter the fast-growing UTV market. But the 2008 Big Red MUV (Multi-use Vehicle) should be worth the wait. Honda's UTV entry is laden with some of Honda's best technology. For example, the Big Red is powered by a PGM fuel-injected 675cc 4-stroke, liquid-cooled engine. PGM is a fuel injection design exclusive to Honda's powersports products and monitors a host of variables. As operating conditions change, the fuel-delivery is being recalculated many times per second to ensure optimal performance and remarkably crisp throttle response over a wide operating range. Among the conditions monitored are engine RPM, throttle position, intake-port pressure, engine-coolant temperature, intake-air temperature and atmospheric pressure. What it all boils down to is that the Big Red should have plenty of get-up-and-go for hunters. The engine power is delivered through an automatic transmission that is electronically programmable to operate in three user-selected drive modes including a utility mode that should be perfect for pulling food plot implements or other chores. An independent double-wishbone suspension at all four corners will help deliver a smooth ride. Honda put a lot of design effort into ergonomics with the Big Red. The bucket seat backs are adjustable to help hunters of all sizes to sit comfortably, and the seats have a patented rubber mounting system to isolate riders from shock and vibration. The cargo box can be tilted to offload feed or other materials. Currently, the Big Red is slated for a summer 2008 release, with details such as price still pending. Interestingly, Honda often refers to many patented technologies being applied to their "MUV", so even more surprising features may eventually become known. Honda's home on the web is www.powersports.honda.com .
2008 Honda Big Red MUV (multi-use vehicle)
John Deere was one of the pioneers in the UTV market with their Gator models. Deere now faces tough competition in this class and they are firing back with higher-performance UTVs than ever before. For 2008, Deere rolls out the Gator XUV 620i. The 620i is ponied-up by a Kawasaki-made twin-cylinder 617cc 4-stroke power plant. The Gator has a top speed of about 30 mph, and Deere says that the package is tuned for optimal acceleration to get to that speed. The rubber-belt cvt is designed to prolong belt life. The cvt spools a low/high/reverse transmission that connects to the axles via drive shafts. Both the rated payload and towing capacity are very respectable with the payload at about 1,400 Lbs (including passengers) and a towing rating of 1,298 Lbs. A nifty design bonus is the ability to add a two-inch receiver hitch to the front end in addition to the stock two-inch hitch on the back end. Another unusual feature on the Gator XUVs is the capability to lock and unlock both the front and rear differentials. Unlocking the rear differential greatly minimizes turf damage when turning. Buyers can choose between mud-capable Carlisle AT 489 or turf-friendly Carlisle All Trail tires. Most top-notch UTVs now offer independent rear suspension and the XUV lineup is no exception. Deere also offers a Great Outdoors version of the XUV 620i that includes a 3,000 Lb. winch with ten foot of cable for remote operation, a roof, rear screen and half windshield, front and rear receiver hitches, and extra lighting on top. There is also an XUV 850D that is powered by an 854cc Yanmar diesel.
John Deere Gator XUV 620i
Another UTV line from Deere--the Gator HPXs--have rugged construction, sharp looks and cargo boxes that are rated for carrying 1,000 Lbs. The HPX 4x4 has a 617cc engine and the HPX 4x4 Diesel has an 854cc Yanmar diesel. Also in the Deere stable are their "traditional" Gators offering value-priced options for UTV shoppers. Visit www.deere.com  or your local Deere dealer to dig deeper into the Gator lineup.
The Kawasaki Mule was one of the original utility UTVs and is still a best seller. But Kawasaki needed an entry into the Recreational UTV segment that is now the fastest growing portion of the entire ATV/UTV industry. Enter the Teryx. Kawasaki must have hired an ATV Consultant for this design, because it has features that will leave hunters drooling. The Teryx has the same high-powered 749cc V-Twin four-stroke engine found on Kawasaki's Brute Force ATV. A rubber-belt cvt and low-high transmission puts the power to the ground. The Teryx was designed with a narrower body width than the Mule to enable trail riding and for easier off-road maneuvering. The towing capacity is 1200 pounds, and the cargo bed is rated to safely carry 500 pounds. Kawasaki's "RUV" (Recreational Utility Vehicle) has a locking front differential and aggressive-tread 26" Maxxis tires providing sure-footed four-wheel-drive traction. One feature that makes the Teryx a standout is it's true ROPS (Roll-Over Protection Standard)-certified cab. This is a government safety standard that many UTVs do not meet. Adjustable-pressure shock absorbers can be quickly adapted for extra-rough terrain or extra-heavy loads. Kawasaki equips this machine with their innovative fluid-shear rear brake, disk brakes are in the front, and there is full-body skid protection underneath. One special edition of the Teryx--the NRA Outdoors Edition-has body work, rims and hardtop that are all thoroughly coated with Realtree APG HD camouflage.
2008 Kawasaki Teryx NRA Outdoors Edition
Kawasaki's Mule 600 is a less expensive solution that still offers side-by-side seating and a cargo bed with a 400 Lb. capacity. Powered by a 401cc engine, the Mule 600 has a McPherson strut front suspension and a solid-axle rear end. The Mule lineup also includes a couple of models with double-bench seating including the versatile Mule 3010 Trans4x4 which has a rear bench seat that can be folded down to expand the volume of the cargo bed. A couple of diesel-engine models are offered for fleet use. All of the 4x4 models have locking differential capability. Visit www.kawasaki.com  or see your local dealer to see all the 2008 models that Kawasaki has to offer.
Polaris' Ranger Rzr, better known as the Razor, has shaken the UTV market to its foundations. The undeniable market impact of the Razor is comparable to the revolution that Yamaha started with the Rhino a couple of years ago. The Razor's great acceleration, very low center of gravity, and edgy styling have created an entirely new UTV niche. The Razor has a Polaris-designed 760cc fuel-injected twin cylinder engine that creates palpable g-force. Polaris harnesses the power of this engine with the cvt-style transmission that they introduced to the ATV industry in the 1980s. The Razor sports 10" of ground clearance and switchable all-wheel-drive for getting through nasty terrain. There is independent suspension in the front, and an independent suspension with a sway bar soaks up trail chatter in the back. The Razor also has some very good utility features including a cargo box with a number of tie-down points and a 300 pound payload. The towing capacity is 1,500 Lbs. With a top speed of 55 miles per hour, bucket seats and three-point restraints, the fun capacity is almost unlimited.
2008 Polaris Ranger Rzr
Other highlights in Polaris' extensive Ranger platform include the Ranger XP that is powered by a 683cc fuel-injected two-cylinder mill. The XP has a 2,000 Lb. towing capacity and a top speed of 50 mph. There is bench seating with room for three and the rear differential can be unlocked for easy, low-impact turning on grass. Polaris' Ranger Crew has two bench seats, and Ranger 500s are lower in price but still have a long list of standard features. To learn more about Ranger UTVs visit www.polarisind.com .
Yamaha ignited the UTV market with the release of the Rhino, and these models have quickly grown to be among the industry leaders in sales. For 2008, Yamaha has released a Rhino 700 FI Auto, Ducks Unlimited Edition for hunters. The fuel-injected 700 twin with a compression ratio of 9.2:1 has already proven itself as a strong workhorse on both their Grizzly ATVs and their Rhino UTVs. The Rhino has an easy to use cvt transmission with low and high gear. Double-wishbone independent suspension at all four corners provides a smooth ride. Hydraulic disk brakes put stopping power to the 25" tires. A 7.9-gallon gas tank should allow any hunter to drive all day. Towing capacity rating is related to braking performance more than to pulling performance, but the towing capacity is a very good 1212 Lbs. The Ducks Unlimited Edition Rhino's bodywork is coated with Advantage Max-4 High Definition camouflage and there is also a windshield and sun top installed as standard equipment. Camouflage-coated bodywork typically shows scratches far less easily than monochrome-colored plastic does, which helps with resell value.
2008 Yamaha Rhino 700 FI Auto DU Edition
Yamaha has other Rhinos powered with the potent 686cc "fuely" (fuel injected engine). For example, the Rhino 700 FI Sport Edition features piggyback shocks, cast aluminum rims and a sun top. Two Rhino models come with carbureted 421cc single-cylinder power plants but still have an outstanding 12.1" of ground clearance and a respectable 1,100 Lb. towing capacity. Last but not least, the marketing buzz that Yamaha has generated with the Rhino has resulted in a plethora of aftermarket add-ons for customization to each rider's needs. Find out more about Yamaha's UTVs and ATVs at www.yamaha-motor.com .
Gary Gustafson was formerly employed in the engineering departments of Polaris and Arctic Cat. An avid hunter and outdoorsman, he is now President of G-Force Consulting and lives with his wife and 5 kids in Northern Minnesota.