Utility ATVs have evolved over the years from basic workhorses to all-purpose vehicles. Now you can take an ATV to work to tackle tough chores around the back 40 during the week, and then take the same ATV into the backcountry for recreation on weekends. Honda has introduced two models that fit the all-purpose category: the '03 Honda Fourtrax Foreman Rubicon and the '03 Honda Fourtrax Rincon.
For the adventurer in all of us, the Rubicon and Rincon are well-suited to all types of terrain. During our test, we headed straight for the Hammer trails located in Johnson Valley, California, and easily rode up routes that had hard-core Jeeps struggling. You should have seen the drivers' faces when we motored past on our pair of Hondas without a single hint of tire spin - priceless!
Our first test ATV, the Rubicon, is a hefty, 600-pound gorilla. The added weight helped plant the full-time four-wheel-drive system in uneven and slippery terrain. The 500cc liquid-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke has tremendous low-end grunt and was able to maneuver up every rock-strewn trail we attempted. There are three different transmission settings to chose from: D1, D2, and ESP. D1 and D2 are shifted automatically, while ESP allows the rider to shift manually with the push of a button. With your left thumb, you can either click on the up arrow button for upshifts or down arrow button for downshifts. For superior climbing ease, shift into granny Low and let the low-end torque do its job. Both shift patterns worked flawlessly; there was never a lack of power in any gear.
To help keep the center of gravity low, the seat height on the Rubicon is only 33.9 inches. The 46.6-inch width and 50.9-inch wheelbase keep the Rubicon on its feet over the most extreme off-camber trail sections. Ground clearance is a very respectable 7.8 inches, with ample underbody armor. In fact, the entire underbody has a complete belly pan, with lower A-arm and rear swing arm rock guards. The foot wells were also well protected, allowing the rider to glide over rocks instead of hanging up on exposed foot pegs. The front and rear racks are perfect for securing camping, hunting, or fishing gear.
Our second test ATV is the "Baja 1000 Conquering" Rincon 650. For the 35th annual Baja 1000 race in Baja California, Mexico, Honda won the overall Pro ATV-class, as well as placing Third, both on near-stock Rincons. The Third place finisher, Doug Eichner, actually had to limp the last 40 miles to the finish with a broken left front spindle. The Rincon is one the easiest, most comfortable ATVs on the market. It not only performs like a durable utility quad, it can also win the Baja 1000.
The Rincon comes very close to the weight, width, and length dimensions of the Rubicon, but it actually feels about 100 pounds lighter. It has to be the additional 150ccs under the seat because this quad flat hauls!