2016 Honda Rubicon DCT EPS Deluxe Test

Until recently, Honda’s 4×4 ATVs were known for composed handling, ruggedness, refinement and perfect ergonomics, but not for being loaded with features. The latest version of the Rubicon is available with all the extras today’s riders crave—a fully automatic transmission, independent rear suspension (IRS), power steering, a locking front differential and even cool-looking cast-aluminum wheels—so we got one to test to see how well it blends traditional Honda qualities with modern conveniences.

HOW DOES COST COMPARE?
The Rubicon starts at $7799—that’s for the foot-shift five-speed model without power steering. There are six versions, so you can choose the features and price level you like. If you want all the good stuff, like automatic transmission, power steering and cast aluminum wheels, the price climbs to $9599. Suzuki’s KingQuad 500 Power Steering starts at $8299. Yamaha’s Kodiak 700 EPS begins at $8199. The Polaris Sportsman 570 EPS is $8599.

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WHAT’S NEW?
Honda replaced the solid-axle Rubicon with an all-new IRS machine with a new engine and two transmission choices—a fully automatic, dual-clutch five-speed with low range and manual shift mode and a foot-shift five-speed with an automatic clutch in 2015—so new color choices are the only changes for 2016. This year the Rubicon Automatic Deluxe is available in white and the five-speed Deluxe comes in black. Other models are available in red, green and camo.

The push-rod, four-valve, 475cc engine is mounted with the crank in line with the driveshafts for more efficient power transfer to the wheels.
The push-rod, four-valve, 475cc engine is mounted with the crank in line with the driveshafts for more efficient power transfer to the wheels.

WHAT MAKES THE POWER?
A single-cylinder, 475cc, fuel-injected, four-valve, push-rod engine first seen in the Foreman 500. The push-rod top end cuts engine height compared to overhead-cam designs to reduce top-heaviness and keep the power plant compact. As Honda has done for years, the engine’s crank is in line with the frame and the output shafts to slim the machine’s midsection and make power transfer to the wheels as efficient as possible.

You can run the Rubicon in high or low range in automatic or manual shift mode. Manual shifting is done with the upshift and downshift buttons on the left handlebar pod.
You can run the Rubicon in high or low range in automatic or manual shift mode. Manual shifting is done with the upshift and downshift buttons on the left handlebar pod.

WHAT MAKES THE TRANSMISSION DIFFERENT?
The Rubicon’s dual-clutch transmission (DCT) can operate as an automatic or you can manually shift through its five speeds, and low range can be used in automatic and manual mode. There’s also no drive belt.

Like most automatic cars and trucks, you’ll feel the transmission up shift and downshift. Two shift programs time the shift points for cruising and sport riding depending on throttle position. There’s a manual shift lever in the tool kit if the electronics fail.

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HOW FAST IS IT?
It’s quick, but the latest 500–570class 4x4s are more powerful than ever, so we can’t say exactly how the Honda stacks up against other 2016s in its class until we get them together. The Rubicon accelerates well and can cruise faster than most riders will need to go.

HOW IS THE POWER ON THE TRAIL?
Fun and easy to manage, because the transmission lets you match the power delivery to the conditions and how you feel like riding. Manual shift mode gives you the most control, and you can choose low or drive range to provide the acceleration you want for tight trails or more open terrain. The Rubicon pulls well across a wide rev range, so it’s fun to pick a gear, feel the direct response of the manual transmission and let the engine pull. You can ride in low or drive in automatic mode too. Low works best for aggressive riding on tight trails. Drive is fine for all conditions, and it’s the best for relaxed riding.

Some 4x4 quads have more travel than the Honda, but few can match its smooth ride and precise, predictable handling.
Some 4×4 quads have more travel than the Honda, but few can match its smooth ride and precise, predictable handling.

HOW IS THE SUSPENSION?
Remarkably smooth. Like most larger 4×4 ATVs, the Honda has double A-arm suspension front and rear, and the Rubicon hasn’t got the most travel, but the ride is very plush. It’s not too soft, either; you can maintain a good, quick pace on rough terrain without overworking the suspension. Honda tells us they spent a ton of time making the Rubicon’s suspension, suspension bushings, frame, power steering and tires work together to deliver the ride quality they wanted. After riding it, we can say it was time well-spent.

The new-generation Rubicon’s independent rear suspension is smoother and offers far more ground clearance than the original solidaxle Rubicon.
The new-generation Rubicon’s independent rear suspension is smoother and offers far more ground clearance than the original solidaxle Rubicon.

HOW IS THE HANDLING?
Sure and easy. The Rubicon does what you tell it to do without excess body roll, top-heaviness or other bad handling habits, so you can relax when cornering or conquering steep or offcamber terrain. The Honda is slim and pretty light for a 4×4, which makes it easy to handle, and the power steering lightens the steering without taking away steering feel.

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HOW DOES IT HANDLE HILLS?
Confidently. If you’re used to the seamless operation of belt-type CVTs, the Rubicon’s shifting on hills takes some getting used to, but the Honda picks the proper gears for efficient climbing. If you like, you can shift manually too. The Rubicon’s stability and easy handling make steep climbs with bumps and turns feel less sketchy than on less well-planted machines, and the 4WD system provides all the traction you could ask for.

The natural engine braking the geared transmission provides and the strong brakes take the tense moments out of negotiating tough downhills. Skilled riders find the separate front and rear brake levers add a level of control you don’t get with linked, single-lever brakes.

The new-generation Rubicon has everything you expect in a modern 4x4 ATV, like independent rear suspension, 4WD with a locking front differential and power steering, with the composed handling and refinement Honda ATVs are known for.
The new-generation Rubicon has everything you expect in a modern 4×4 ATV, like independent rear suspension, 4WD with a locking front differential and power steering, with the composed handling and refinement Honda ATVs are known for.

HOW DOES IT DO IN WATER AND MUD?
Now that the Rubicon has independent rear suspension and front differential lock, it motors through muddy, rutted trails as well as most other 4x4s. The Honda’s 9.4 inches of ground clearance is less than some machines have, but it’s more than enough for most difficult crossings. With no drive belt to burn, break or get wet, the Rubicon offers a measure of invincibility in mud and water that machines with belt-type transmissions can’t.

Longitudinal engine mounting makes the Rubicon’s midsection slimmer than machines with transverse-mounted engines
Longitudinal engine mounting makes the Rubicon’s midsection slimmer than machines with transverse-mounted engines

HOW ARE THE DETAILS?
Very good. The Honda is outstandingly comfortable from the moment you get on it, and extra touches like the slim midsection and the seat’s perfect shape and firmness make the machine feel just as good after hours on the trail. The smooth feel of the controls and the third handlebar mounted headlight show great attention to detail too. Because the Rubicon’s transmission shifts, it’s less smooth than a belt-type CVT, and selecting reverse takes a second longer than some, but it offers more to riders who like to be involved with their machine’s power delivery.

WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?
The new-generation Rubicon is as well-equipped as any current sport utility 4×4, and it has the handling and refinement that has made Honda ATVs so popular. All that and its unique transmission set it apart for riders who want a more involved riding experience and don’t want to deal with drive belts.

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SPECS
HONDA RUBICON AUTOMATIC DCT EPSDELUXE
ENGINE/TRANSMISSION
Engine type ..Liquid-cooled, push-rod, 4-valve, 4-stroke
Displacement …475cc
Bore x stroke …92mm x 71.5mm
Compression ratio …9.5:1
Lubrication system …Wet sump
Fuel metering …36mm EFI
Starting/back-up …Electric/optional pull starter
Starting procedure …In neutral or any gear with brake engaged
Choke …NA
Air filter access …Remove seat and 4 clips on airbox lid
Transmission … Fully automatic, dual-range, five speed w/ manual shift mode & reverse
Reverse procedure …Pull rear brake lever and reverse lever, downshift from neutral
Drive system …Selectable 2WD/4WD w/ front diff-lock
Final drives f/r …Shaft/shaft
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES/WEIGHTS
Fuel capacity …3.9 gal. including 1.3 gal. reserve
Wheelbase …50.9”
Overall length/width/height …84.5”/47.4”/48.6”
Seat height …35.8”
Ground clearance …9.4”
Dry weight …677 lb.
Rack weight limits f/r …99 lb./187 lb.
Hitch …Yes
Towing limit …1322 lb
CHASSIS
Frame …Round steel tube
Suspension/wheel travel:
Front …Double A-arms with spring prel.-adj.
shocks /7.28”
Rear …Double A-arms with prel.-adj. shocks and sway bar/8.46”
Brakes/actuation:
Front …Hydraulic discs/right-hand lever
Rear …Hydraulic disc/left hand lever, right-foot pedal
Parking brake …Lever lock on left hand brake lever
Tires:
Front …25×8-12 Maxxis
Rear …25×10-12 Maxxis
ELECTRICAL
DC outlet …Waterproof automotive-style plug
Lighting:
Front …Two 27W grill-mounted headlights, single 50W handlebar-mounted headlight
Rear …Single tail/brake light
DETAILS
Instruments …Speedometer, odometer, trip odometer,
hour meter fuel gauge, clock
Colors …Red, camo
Recommended operator age …16
Suggested retail price …$9599
Contact …Honda, www.powersports.honda.com

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