REDISCOVERING RECREATION MACHINES

— Behind the Wheel, by Joe Kosch —

As a member of the staff of UTV Action, I’m supposed to have an impartial view of all the different types of UTVs. Well, readers, I have to admit, for a little while there, I was becoming pretty partial to high-performance sport machines. When you get to turn Can-Am’s Maverick X3 Turbo Rs loose in Mexico’s vast, open terrain, or put a Polaris XP Turbo Dynamix through its paces in the Nevada desert, it’s hard not to be seduced by their speed and performance.

I drove a lot of other vehicles in between those test sessions, but those long-travel, high-horsepower machines worked so well in wide-open conditions that I was distracted from the fact that other kinds of UTVs can deliver driving experiences that are just as great when you get them on trails where they work best.

It took the shootout we did between the Kawasaki Teryx and the Yamaha Wolverine to remind me how cool recreation machines really are. These two crossover-type machines are among the most sporty recreation rigs around, but it wasn’t just their performance that  won me over. Right off the bat, the narrower recreation machines let me ride some trails that are no-gos with UTVs that are 64 inches wide or wider. It wasn’t only the width of the recreation UTVs that helped; their shorter wheelbases made twisty, confined trails really fun to follow. Machines with wheelbases of 90 inches or more can feel pretty awkward on tight trails. The extra trails the recreation UTVs worked well on seemed to open up a whole new world of riding, even though some were familiar routes I hadn’t driven in a while.

Some of those paths took me to some of the toughest trails and climbs we test on, and the Teryx and Wolverine stunned me with how capable they are in challenging terrain.

When the 708cc Wolverine and 783cc Teryx took me up a couple soft, steep climbs that I used to think were 1000cc UTV territory, I became a bigger fan of these machines than I was already. I also got reacquainted with one of my favorite kinds of UTVing; tackling technical trails at lower speeds really can be just as much fun as ripping through open country at 50 or 60 mph.

As much as I like the sport seats and interiors of sport UTVs, I found myself really enjoying the comfortable, roomy seats and great visibility from the cabs of the recreation rigs. We had dry conditions during the shootout, but I’ve got plenty of seat time in the Wolverine and Teryx on wet, sloppy, puddle-filled trails, and they provide way more splash protection than most sport machines.

Did the recreation rigs make me forget how much I like high-performance sport machines? No. The Teryx and Wolverine accelerate well for their size, but once you experience the thrust of a 1000cc sport machine or a turbo, and the way you can steer them with the throttle, it’s hard not to get hooked for life. The suspension on the recreation machines in the shootout was impressively plush and capable, and with modifications by Shock Therapy, it became some of the most comfortable I’ve felt for moderate trail speeds. That said, the bump-eating magic of a sport machine with 16 inches of travel or more makes a whole different style of riding possible. Landings from small jumps are so soft on long-travel sport machines, it can be hard to tell if the machine has left the ground or not.

As great as high-performance sport machines are, they’re not the ultimate UTVs for every kind of riding or every UTV owner. That’s why we test such a wide variety of machines. Recreation UTVs aren’t just surprising performers. Compared to many high-end sport models, they’re also surprisingly affordable, so be sure to check out all the machines in the “Recreation/Utility UTV Buyer’s Guide” in this issue.

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