The "Perfect" UTV?
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Comparisons at www.UTVGuide.net
In stock form, all the UTVs suffer from low ground clearance.
A key to being successful on trails like the Rubicon is ground clearance.
The Polaris RZR is about 2 inches lower than the Yamaha Rhino
and Arctic Cat Prowler.
tires and wheels are the easiest way to gain a bit of altitude, but a lift
kit is another way to get your UTV up in the air. The Ranger below has a
lift kit installed.
ride height would be a big plus.
Fox Racing Shox
both have air shocks that should make this a reality. We will have to see
how they perform in all types of terrain.
Minus: Polaris Ranger and Polaris RZR
Locking/Unlocking Differential (aka "Turf Saver")
Locking differentials are a
real necessity for a trail like the Rubicon. With an open differential, if
one tire loses traction, all power goes to the tire that is spinning. That
doesn’t help much when the spinning tire is in the air. With a locking
differential, if a tire loses traction, the other tire can still pull.
Thankfully, most of the UTVs come from the factory with some sort of locking
differential. However, the rear differential on the Yamaha Rhino and Arctic
Cat Prowler are always locked and cannot be unlocked (open). The downside to
a differential that isn’t open is poor turning radius. On a tight trail like
the Rubicon, you can turn your wheels all the way in one direction, but the
locked rear end will push the vehicle straight. On the Ranger and RZR, the
driver controls whether the rear differential is open or locked.
Minus: Yamaha Rhino, Polaris RZR & Arctic Cat Prowler
Plus: Polaris Ranger
Low Gear Ratio
Slow speed will help you
keep your vehicle in control when you are rock crawling, and the ability to
go slow is dictated gearing and how quickly the CVT engages. This is where
the Polaris vehicles do well. The lower low range in both the Polaris Ranger
and Polaris RZR gives them the ability to crawl up and over rocks, while the
Rhino needs to have a little momentum to climb.
injection also helps get your vehicle moving more smoothly in off-idle
Plus: Polaris Ranger and Polaris RZR
Low Center of Gravity
A low center of gravity translates directly to more
stability. The Polaris RZR is the only UTV that really addresses this with
how the engine is placed behind the seats. Unfortunately for the RZR, the
low center of gravity also means low ground clearance.
None of the UTVs on our run
had power steering, but everyone agreed that it would have been nice. A few
Utility ATVs already have power steering. Sure sees like a natural for
UTVs to be similarly equipped.
The stock Rhino exhaust tip
makes a downward turn and points the exhaust at the ground. On a trail
where you need to apply a good amount of throttle to climb up and over
rocks, but not go very fast an exhaust that points down means one thing –
DUST. Easy enough fix to cut off the downward portion of the tip, or to
install a different tip, but very obnoxious for anyone in or behind a Rhino
with a stock exhaust tip.
Off-road vehicle noise has also become a big issue in our National Forests.
A quiet exhaust makes the user experience more enjoyable on multiple-use
Minus: Yamaha Rhino
Common Axle Length
The possibility of a CV or axle giving up on the trail is pretty real. We had
three CVs break amongst our 14 UTVs on the
Rubicon Trail run. It would be great to be able to carry a spare axle with
CVs and boots all ready to install in case of a breakage. Unfortunately, none of
the UTVs have common length axles, so you would need to purchase and carry
multiple axles for each vehicle to handle all scenarios.
trips, all the UTVs have plenty of capacity for spare parts and an ice
chest. But if you are going to camp out on the trail, you need more
room for tent, sleeping bags, food, clothes, etc. The RZR is really the only
"sport" vehicle available in the side by side market, and the bed is a bit
Polaris RZR has a small bed with low side walls.
Yamaha Rhino has much more storage capacity
1. On the trailer - The Polaris RZR has a length of
102". This just so happens to be the maximum width of a trailer being
towed on the highway. The advantage here is you can stuff a Polaris RZR on
the trailer sideways and save a ton of room.
Plus: Polaris RZR
2. On the trails - Some trails have a maximum width
restriction. At 50" wide, the Polaris RZR is allowed on ATV trails.
Plus: Polaris RZR
3. Four seat conversion - If you are looking to add seats and a cage
in the bed for kids, it can be done with a Rhino, Ranger or Prowler.
No can do with a RZR.
Minus: Polaris RZR
Tires and Wheels
Larger tires are an
easy way to increase ground clearance. Most stock UTV's come with 25"
Traction is key to
being successful on trails like the Rubicon trail. Traction helps you crawl
up and over rocks without slipping and the easiest way to gain traction is
by lowering the air pressure in your tires. Lowering the air pressure will
cause the tire’s contact patch area to become larger. This will provide you
with better traction, floatation, control and a softer ride.
Lower air pressure in
your tires is great, but lowering the air pressure too much increases the
chance of popping a tire
bead which will in turn
cause the tire to deflate and possibly peel off the rim. The
solution to debeading is a beadlock wheel. Simply put, a
beadlock is a
mechanical fastening device that literally clamps the tire's
bead bundle onto the wheel rim using mechanical force rather than air
pressure. It holds the tire’s bead firmly in place even under extremely low
5 psi vs 20 psi
Aside from the
performance benefits that come with beadlock wheels, a beadlock also gives
you a little added assurance for when you are out on the trail. If you
suffer a flat tire and you do not have a spare, a beadlocked rim will help
hold the tire on the rim so you can limp your vehicle to a place where you
can get help.
For my Rhino, I chose a set of 26”
Maxxis Bighorns and
OMF Billet Center beadlock
wheels. On the Rubicon, I cringed many times as I watched a granite rock
deforming the sidewalls and scraping past the beadlock. But the tires and
wheels did their job well and I was very happy that I upgraded before the
When it comes to full size vehicles like Jeeps and Toyota trucks, wheel
travel is probably the most important feature on trails like the Rubicon and
Moab. But for UTVs, it really did not seem to make a difference. On our
UTV Rubicon run, we had a good mix of stock and long travel rigs. The other
features listed here all seemed to make a bigger impact that long travel vs.
stock. The one advantage that the long travel Rhinos did have was a plush
ride. My Rhino has a Mason
Motorsports +6" long travel kit with
46mm Elka Elite shocks,
and the ride is so much better than the 1998 Jeep Wrangler that I used to
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