The King is back

Barry Ash­ern­hurst im­pressed by the Suzuki’s 500AXi Kingquad

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Suzuki doesn’t brag about its Kingquad range of all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles (ATVs), and it doesn’t seem to ad­ver­tise much ei­ther, yet the 500 we tested would be on a par with any­thing from any global man­u­fac­turer. It’s a mid-size ma­chine so one of its most use­ful char­ac­ter­is­tics is ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity; it’ll get in and out of tight spots that would have a larger Po­laris Sports­man

570 back­ing and fill­ing. It han­dles nicely, steers ac­cu­rately and is small enough to fit in the back of a Toy­ota Hilux. It’s also to­tally un­in­tim­i­dat­ing. Out­stand­ing!

But one thing will hob­ble this like­able ATV: at $13,500, it’s too ex­pen­sive.

I don’t know how distrib­u­tors work out their re­tail pric­ing – maybe with the same voodoo magic they work out tow rat­ings – but the Honda 420 auto with power-steer­ing, a big seller in ru­ral areas, goes out the door for about $12,000. Re­tail pric­ing is up and down, I know that, and is sub­ject to var­i­ous cus­tomer in­cen­tives, which bounce around like rub­ber balls from The Re­ject Shop, but I can’t sit here on my big fat pump­kin and tell you that the Suzuki has $1,500-worth of stuff the Honda doesn’t have.

I spoke to a mo­tor­cy­cle dealer in a large coun­try town who sells both Honda and Suzuki. He told me that if the lat­est 500AXi sold for the same price as the Honda 420, he’d be sell­ing them faster than Suzuki could truck ’em in. “The Suzuki’s a great ma­chine,” he told me en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, and I agreed. “But at $13,500,” he added, “it’s way too ex­pen­sive and there’s bug­ger-all we can do about it.”

NOW THE GOOD NEWS

Kingquads are built in Rome, Ge­or­gia (USA), in the foothills of the Ap­palachian Moun­tains. Hill­billy coun­try, where lo­cals ad­mit they’re 20 years be­hind the rest of the coun­try and like it that way. Nev­er­the­less, their Suzukis were up­graded for the 2019 model year (and you can read more about that in the box op­po­site).

In me­chan­i­cal lay­out terms there’s noth­ing un­ex­pected. The mod­ern ATV is rigidly for­mu­laic. The over­head cam sin­gle is fu­elin­jected and canted for­ward to lower the over­all cen­tre of grav­ity. The tran­nie is the cus­tom­ary V-belt auto with a guard-mounted shifter. Push­ing the bar-mounted 4WD but­ton gives you three­wheel drive; en­gag­ing the diff lock gives you four-wheel drive. Sus­pen­sion at both ends is in­de­pen­dent, with dou­ble wish­bones and coil springs.

Stor­age space at the front com­prises a deep wa­ter­proof con­tainer with a round lid and looks like some­thing you’d see on an ocean­go­ing yacht. You can’t re­ally mis­take it for the fuel filler point, but ap­par­ently at least one man has. It might be ur­ban myth, but as the story goes, one irate land owner (I didn’t say farmer) de­manded that his dealer “come out here and fix this bloody new ma­chine” be­cause it wouldn’t start. When the dealer fi­nally ar­rived and in­spected the ma­chine, he found that the bark­ing-mad cus­tomer had pumped all the fuel into the front stor­age bin.

Two more small bins sit at the rear of the ma­chine. The owner’s

It goes where you point it, an ad­mirable trait in a ma­chine with low pres­sure knob­bies and a top speed of 100km/h.

man­ual, stashed in one of them, was still read­able after we cut sev­eral laps of the Bris­bane River, so these bins ap­pear to be more or less wa­ter­proof.

Large mud­guards help prevent gunk hit­ting you from the rear. They look a teensy bit gumby, but they work. There’s a square re­ceiver hitch on this model, and on ei­ther side of it a pair of placid look­ing, 25-inch (635mm) Carlisle knob­bies that are nowhere near as ag­gres­sive as the tyres Po­laris spec­i­fies for the lat­est Sports­man 570. That’s nei­ther good nor bad. Not ev­ery­one needs com­bat rub­ber. On the other hand, the Carlisles clogged quickly when dunked in a po­tent mix­ture of cow poo and mud, and, thus en­cum­bered, were un­able to get any grip at all on a big log we were try­ing to ride over.

Suzuki has a knack of mak­ing a quad (or road bike or dirt bike) feel in­stantly fa­mil­iar. Con­trols are ex­actly where they should be, or within a smidge of an ad­justable mil­lime­tre. The bars-seat-foot­pegs re­la­tion­ship is al­ways spot-on too, so there’s no need for lengthy fa­mil­iari­sa­tion. A Suzuki feels right as soon as you climb aboard. But the fac­tory still likes to fid­dle.

HAN­DLING

We were told the elec­tronic power-steer­ing has been tweaked, but we didn’t feel any­thing we didn’t feel the last time we tested one of these jig­gers. They might have added a “higher out­put elec­tronic power-steer­ing sys­tem”, but we no­ticed noth­ing un­usual about the steer­ing be­cause there was noth­ing un­usual to no­tice; the

Suzuki has a knack of mak­ing a quad (or road bike or dirt bike) feel in­stantly fa­mil­iar.

most sin­cere com­pli­ment we can come up with at short no­tice. Ride qual­ity is what you’d ex­pect in a mid-size quad: firm but not lumpy. The sig­na­ture T-seat is cer­tainly com­fort­able – who’d think that build­ing a seat that shape would make such a dif­fer­ence, but it does – al­though we wouldn’t call the over­all ride cushy. On rough ground that you’d ride sit­ting down on a Po­laris or CanAm, you’d ride stand­ing up on the Suzuki. That’s an ob­ser­va­tion not a crit­i­cism. And frankly, we know ATV users who any day of the week would swap cushi­ness for the di­rect han­dling of this Suzuki. It goes where you point it, an ad­mirable trait in a ma­chine with low pres­sure knob­bies and a top speed of 100km/h. Suzuki says the ge­om­e­try is set up with an un­der­steer bias, to make the ma­chine more ag­ile, but we couldn’t tell. It cer­tainly didn’t suf­fer the un­der­steer we’ve felt on other brands.

The quad’s size and sus­pen­sion lay­out en­able it to turn tight and hang on. On fast farm roads or tracks it’s not twitchy and in low speed sit­u­a­tions it changes di­rec­tion eas­ily. The en­gine gives you plenty of grunt, but is not throt­tle-sen­si­tive, so you won’t ex­pe­ri­ence sud­den bursts of ac­cel­er­a­tion when you don’t need them, a trait too com­mon in recre­ational ATVs forced into farm work.

The long and short of it is that we re­ally like the 500AXi. It’s al­ways more fun to write these sto­ries when a ma­chine has ob­vi­ous faults that shouldn’t ex­ist, like no power, lousy en­gine brak­ing, poor build qual­ity, or cup hold­ers that come out of the dash with the cup. But the Suzuki suf­fers none of these. It’s func­tional, non-in­tim­i­dat­ing, well made, easy to op­er­ate and has ex­cel­lent en­gine brak­ing.

In all things that make a real dif­fer­ence it’s a splen­did farm quad. If only they could do some­thing about the price.

1. Two of the three stor­age bins.2. Shocks are now gas-over-coils, and the ride fir­mish. Steer­ing and gen­eral han­dling are di­rect and we like that.3. Tyres are fairly pas­sive 30cm Carlisle ATs. The ra­di­a­tor gets de­cent pro­tec­tion and so do CV joints.

4 & 6. Ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and quiet­ness are two of this 500’s use­ful traits. It won’t scare any­one5. Push­ing the 4WD but­ton gives you three­wheel drive. En­gag­ing the diff locks gives you four

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