Rugged toys

by Michael O. Allen on April 17, 2008

Polaris Industries’ Ranger RZR

REINVENTING THE WHEEL_Stylish Off-Roaders By JONATHAN WELSH, April 17, 2008; Page D8

What It Is: A new group of small recreational utility vehicles are bringing horsepower and style to a previously dowdy segment of off-road driving. For years farmers and ranchers have used small two-seat utility vehicles to get around on their land. The machines, which fit somewhere between all-terrain vehicles and small off-road trucks, are hard-working but slow — about 15 miles an hour at most. Now a small group of companies are building faster, sportier models that appear better suited for racing across the Baja peninsula than hauling hay bales. Some of the new models can top 50 miles an hour and have shunned the plain, boxy styling of their predecessors. RUV sales represent a small but rapidly growing part of the overall utility-vehicle market and totaled about 80,000 units last year, up from 20,000 in 2005.

How to Get It: Kawasaki, a motorcycle maker also known for its lineup of utilitarian but unglamorous Mule work vehicles, recently rolled out the Teryx. The new machine is fast and looks almost like a sports car next to the Mules. Polaris Industries Inc. added the RZR (pronounced “razor”) to its range of Ranger utilities for 2008. Yamaha and Arctic Cat, known mainly for motorcycles and snowmobiles, respectively, added the speedy, sportier versions of their Rhino and Prowler vehicles.

Upside: Now you can take a friend for a fast ride across the range or along a forest trail more easily and comfortably than was possible with traditional ATVs, which have little passenger room. The new models have car-like features, such as the adjustable tilting steering wheel, disc brakes and digital dashboard gauges on the Arctic Cat Prowler XTX 700 H1 LE. Like older models, the new RUVs have pickup-truck style cargo beds and can tow small trailers.

Kawasaki’s Teryx 750

Downside: Extra power and speed are sure to get unwanted attention from environmentalists and others who frown on noise and potential landscape damage that motor vehicles bring to the forest and other natural areas. (Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are a target market.) RUVs’ larger size could make them harder to handle on trails and other tight spaces than smaller Downside: Extra power and speed are sure to get unwanted attention from environmentalists and others who frown on noise and potential landscape damage that motor vehicles bring to the forest and other natural areas. (Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are a target market.) RUVs’ larger size could make them harder to handle on trails and other tight spaces than smaller ATVs.

Cost: RUVs aren’t cheap. Prices range roughly from $9,799 for a basic version of the Kawasaki Teryx to $12,099 for the Yamaha Rhino 700 F1. Special editions are available, from the camouflage-colored Kawasaki Teryx NRA Outdoors model for $11,349 and the Ducks Unlimited version of Yamaha’s Rhino for $11,499.

Write to Jonathan Welsh at [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: