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Most four-wheelers work hard on the farm and ranch. Photo by More Content Now.

What’s new in four-wheelers

November 28, 2013 at 11:00 AM

More Content Now

High-octane, sports-specific all-terrain vehicles generate massive attention in off-road magazines, but the bread and butter of the industry are utilitarian four-wheelers (known as UTVs) that get the job done on the farm or ranch.

Sport quads flying 30 feet in the air get all the looks, but “the majority of the market is the working side, and the market is expanding rapidly,” said Rick Sosebee, an ATV/UTV vehicle industry editor and contributor to Outdoor Life magazine.

Yamaha did research and found that 66 percent of the side-by-side market is utility-based, meaning farming or hunting.

While your horse will get tired, utility vehicles can go all day. They’re indispensable tools for large properties.

“If you’ve got a couple hundred acres, you’ll use it to check fencing, haul food for animals, move employees around. Hunters and guides use them to transport game or get to areas where the trails are too tight for a pickup. Police use them for heavy rescue and reconnaissance and to get to hikers who get trapped up in mountain passes,” Sosebee said.

Similar to all-terrain vehicles, UTVs feature truck-like cabs that allow drivers to sit upright so you can take your spouse or dog along for the ride. There’s also enough bed space to tote a couple of chainsaws out to a work site and a load of logs back, plus generous towing capabilities.

What’s new in this ever-expanding market “is a power steering craze,” Sosebee said.

Power steering may be a costly $500 to $1,000 add-on, but it’s worth it if you drive in treacherous terrain or if you spend hours behind the wheel and you’d rather not feel the effort in your shoulders at the end of the day.

“Power steering just makes driving so much easier because when four-wheel drive diff (differential) lock kicks in, steering becomes tiresome and difficult,” Sosebee said.

One company that specializes in aftermarket power steering kits is, Sosebee said.

Another segment of the industry that’s exploding is “the plethora of accessories” available to elevate the riding experience, such as digital instrumentation clusters that display information such as operator ground speed, engine RPM and fuel level. Other upgrades include high-quality sound systems, heated cabs, 12V outlets for iPhones and MP3 players, glove boxes and storage spaces for gear. Additionally, there are winches, cab enclosures, gun mounts, drink holders, windshields and utility racks.

What’s new

Here are some of Sosebee’s top picks in UTVs:

In June, Yamaha revealed its first all-new side-by-side in nearly 10 years, the 2014 Viking 700. The 686cc liquid-cooled engine is Yamaha’s most powerful yet, and because it’s placed under the cargo bed, that means improved center of gravity and better handling. Also exciting are the three-passenger bucket seats that recline comfortably and have individual, three-point seatbelts.

The steel dumping cargo bed boasts a 600-pound capacity. Available with or without electric power steering. MSRP starts at $11,499.

The 2014 Honda Pioneer 700-4 is packed with innovation, style and performance. The most dramatic change is the industry’s first convertible rear seating setup. “The seats fold up from the bed/hauling area so you can use it as a two-seater or a four-seater, and the way it’s configured, the rear passengers are almost at the same height as the front. It makes for a very comfortable ride,” Sosebee said.

To get the job done, it features a 1,000-pound cargo capability and a 1,500-pound towing capability. MSRP starts at $11,699.

For families who enjoy the outdoors together, there’s the 2013 Kawasaki Teryx4 750 EPS, a sport-oriented, four-seat UTV that will get the work done but is also fun to ride. The 749cc V-twin engine quickly revs up to 50 mph, and safety isn’t an issue with a wrap-around steel roll cage, grab handles and three-point safety seat belts. Electric power steering comes standard. MSRP starting at $14,699.

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