actuated overhead valves, while the
others have overhead camshafts. The
$8100, 558cc Grizzly, the $8200 549cc
Sportsman and the $7600, 493cc King
Quad have one cam and four valves.
All four engines are electric starting,
have liquid cooling and feature electronic fuel injection.
In this EFI size race, the Polaris has
largest throttle body at 42mm with the
Yamaha having a 40mm opening.
The King Quad EFI unit is 37mm in
size while Honda gives the 420
Rancher a gas saving 34mm EFI system. Our trails test results showed
that the larger throttle bodies did
mean slightly less fuel economy and
not always more power.
As far as power steering goes,
Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha use similar systems that monitor wheel-speed
and throttle position to calculate the
amount of steering assist to give to the
handlebars. These systems only work
while the machine is moving.
The electronic power steering on
the Polaris Sportsman works immediately when you turn the key on (the
engine doesn’t even have to be running). This is a big plus when you are
starting and stopping in real tight terrain or need to turn the bars before
you start moving.
Three of the machines in this contest have standard CVT automatic
transmissions while the Honda has a
unique gear driven five-speed that
can be shifted manually (via push
button control or driven in auto
mode). This transmission has two
gear sets that reduce rpm drop and
power loss between shifts. You can
read a full evaluation of this machine
in the January 2009 issue.
A unique feature of the Polaris 550
engine and transmission combo is
that it is mounted perpendicular to
that of the Sportsman 500. This puts
the CVT cover at the rear of the
engine giving the rider a narrower
and more comfortable saddle area
than the old Sportsman. The Honda
engine is mounted in this fashion as
well. On the down side, accessing the
drive belt on the Polaris is much more
difficult than it is on the Suzuki or
All four chassis in this 4x4 test have
similar four-wheel independent sus-
pension systems. Up front, they use a
standard dual A-arm setup. The
Polaris Sportsman has the most trav-
el with nine inches and the Honda
has the least with 6. 3 inches. Yamaha
and Suzuki equip their midsized
machines with 7.1 and 6. 7 inches
Out back the Suzuki has an independent A-arm/single beam setup
that moves 6. 7 inches while the other
machines have standard dual A-arm
systems. Again, the Polaris has the
most suspension travel with 10. 25
inches and the Honda has the least
with 6. 3 inches. The rear suspension
of the Grizzly moves 9. 5 inches.
Each of these machines are very
capable of hauling heavy loads
around the job site or on the farm.
Polaris gives their front and rear
racks the largest load ratings with a
recommended limit of 120 pounds in
the front and 240 pounds out back.
Yamaha has 99-pound limit on the
front rack and 187-pounds on the
rear. Suzuki recommends a load limit
on the front and rear racks at 66 and
133 pounds respectively. Load sizes
are just as light on the Honda with 66
pounds in the front and 133 in the
Towing limits are again the largest
with the Sportsman with 1500 pounds,
1322 pounds on the Yamaha, 1000 on
the Suzuki and 850 pounds on the
Honda. Honda’s compact Rancher
Our shootout course took the four machines through rack-high mud. The Polaris Sportsman and Yamaha Grizzly did much better than the other two running through the muck. In fact, the Grizzly made it through in two wheel drive.