TESTING & COMPARING UTVs

— Wheel to wheel action out on the trails —

By Joe Kosch

We get to drive a lot of UTVs at UTV Action, often in some incredible locations and conditions, but for me, some of the most interesting and surprising driving experiences happen when we get machines together for comparisons, or, as we call them, “shootouts.” When time allows, we like to compare machines we’ve had on hand long enough to know well before the shootout begins. That way we’re as familiar as we can be with the machines’ features, characteristics and quirks. That understanding helps us know how to make the machines perform and feel their best, which makes for a better informed, fairer comparison.

Even with plenty of seat time in a pair or group of vehicles, I’m always surprised at how much stands out and how different the cars feel even when we’re just getting seated in the machines—what they’re like to get in and out of, the way the doors and belts work, the feel and position of the seats, the instruments, the steering wheels and so much more. We all spend time in the passenger seats, too, so we can share what we learn about passengers’ comfort, visibility, hand-holds and other features.

Nothing calls out the large and small differences in machines like taking them on the same trails, on the same day, back to back to back. As anyone who rides knows, rain or temperature can change the feel and difficulty of a trail in hours or even minutes, so we find you truly have to ride the same trail on the same day to compare machines accurately. If you feel like you really know a machine or a trail well, I think you’d be stunned how different that trail feels in another vehicle, even one you think you’re used to.

Just as two machines can feel drastically different on the same trail, drastically different driving conditions can make vehicles feel great or very out of place. Some machines perform well in specific conditions, like tight woods or open desert, and some are more versatile. That’s why we always take our test machines for rides in a variety of different conditions, often with test sessions at different locations. The Yamaha YXZ1000R SS SE’s longer-travel, more tunable suspension gives it a serious advantage over a machine like the Honda Talon 1000X in high-speed conditions. On tighter trails where speeds are lower, the Yamaha’s suspension edge means less, and the Honda’s stronger low and midrange power makes it more fun.

Occasionally, we learn some completely unexpected things during a shootout, like how our photographer and videographer felt the Kawasaki Teryx4 camera car’s suspension felt plusher on fire roads than the YXZ’s or the Talon’s. It is at a relaxed pace, and it’s worth knowing, because not every UTV driver drives aggressively.

One thing we’ve learned to expect doing shootouts is not everyone likes the results. Enthusiasts and UTV manufacturers have strong opinions about their machines, and we respect that, but we present the findings from our testing honestly. When one machine is better than another we say so, and some people don’t like it. Telling the truth about machines hasn’t made UTV Action popular with everyone, but it has made us popular with our readers since the first UTV became available. 

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