bed could require a downshift to prep
for the opposite bank. Downshifting
the manual shift is smooth, but the
ES’ downshifts loaded the suspension
when we didn’t want that.
The DCT is more pronounced in
auto mode. It might choose to downshift while setting up for a turn and
load the tires with no warning for the
pilot. As a result, our favorite transmission option was the manual-shift
model. We had a lot of fun on the
base 2WD unit, and the front end did
feel a little lighter without the front
diff, but our favorite model was the
Rancher 4x4 EPS. Honda has made
the front end very light-steering
while riding in 4WD, but the EPS is
still a very nice option to have. It isn’t
a must, but we like it.
A new digital meter is found on all but
the base 2WD model. It is highly informative and easy to read. Our favorite
feature is the maintenance reminder
that cues to oil-change time.
On the Rancher ES models, these buttons shift the five-speed up and down
and into reverse. On the Ranchers with
the DCT, they perform the same function in ES mode, but in automatic, the
buttons give you drive, neutral and
There are a lot of new things at the front
of the 2014 Rancher chassis. The shocks
feature improved damping and a 1/2-
inch more travel. The steering knuckle
has a sealed bearing for added longevity, and on models with EPS, the steering
unit has three mounting points rather
than the two on previous models.
While we would have appreciated more
rear brake for the west, Honda’s sealed
rear drum works well, and for 2014 it is
moved from the center of the rear axle
to the side to offer it more protection
and aid ground clearance.
When the conditions were faster, the
new Rancher exhibited inspiring stability. The riding position is roomy while
standing and cushy while seated
thanks to a seat with 20mm-deeper
Anything we came across in the Ohio woods was game for the Rancher. Rocks,
roots, mud, water and even downed trees failed to upset the new chassis and sus-
pension. Ground clearance is very good for a straight-axle quad.