Ridin’ Dirty: The 8 Best All-Terrain Vehicles

The All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and close cousin the Utility Vehicle (UTV) began their lives as clunky, awkward pieces of farm equipment which had about as much power as a Vespa. They were laughable things that no sportsman, outdoor enthusiast, or self-respecting person would let their daughter use. Now, next to dirtbikes, they are not only some of the most fun off-road touring vehicles available, but some of the most useful. You can lug game and equipment deep into the forest, take a trip up mountains or across beaches without ever getting your pristine hiking boots or water shoes dirty.

Short of living on the floating island of trash in the Pacific Ocean, there isn’t any locale that is too much of a challenge for an ATV or UTV. You can buy one adjacent to a dune buggy, or a 4×4 for scrambling over broken rocks. The sheer tonnage of innovation that goes into the average ATV is impressive. Throw a set of snow tires on them and head across icy tundra. Give them a tow package and drag a jet ski to your favorite hidden lake. There is little that one of the 8 best all-terrain vehicles can’t do.

Yamaha Raptor 700R SE

Yamaha Raptor 700R SE

Pro: Solid axle handling
Con: Darts a little on hard packed ground

Ridge Racer: As far as sport 4-wheelers go, there are few higher than the Raptor. You’ll get a whole heap of rev for bigger whoops out of the Raptor thanks to the 10.0:1 compression ratio. Though they’ve pumped as much power as they could into the ATV sport body, they’ve also managed to improve gas mileage for those longer-than-expected rides. You won’t see it, but the rear shock spring is a full 262mm in length, which improves comfort of your sweet tailbone, even when hitting rough bumps and taking the dune crests while redlining your RPMs. [Purchase: $8,800]

Honda FourTrax Rincon

Honda FourTrax Rincon

Pro: Independent rear suspension
Con: Only a 3-speed

Standard Issue: We confess, there isn’t anything “standard” about Honda’s flagship All-Terrain Vehicle, but it is the go-anywhere, do-anything choice for someone who might need a workhorse or a versatily quad for playing in the sand or woodlands. A liquid-cooled 675cc engine is just the beginning for this powerhouse. A catalytic converter and O2 sensor keep emissions down for cleaner running and superior gas-mileage, making lengthier jaunts possible. The inclusion of neodymium magnets (yes, just like those found in the best wireless speakers) makes better use of electric power for running accessories. [Purchase: $9,300]

Polaris Sportsman 570 SP

Polaris Sportsman 570 SP

Pro: Abundance of small storage spaces
Con: Single cylinder engine

Wanderer: Certainly, this offers everything the lone hunter could possibly want, with a gun scabbard, 2,500lbs. winch, work lights, headlights, and even hand warmers for cold nights running down game. Additional leg room and storage pockets secreted around the entire chassis allows you to pack in all of your gear for field dressing and cleaning a kill, but is also good for those just looking for a little adventure. Load up on energy bars or survival rations and do a little off-road car camping, sans the car. You won’t get tons of speed out of the 4-Stroke, single cylinder, but it also won’t cause too much noise. [Purchase: $9,400]

HuntVe Switchback

HuntVe Switchback

Pro: Low output green approach lights
Con: Tall profile

It’s Electric: Hybrid vehicles are cute, but no one would accuse them of being overpowered. The Switchback is an environmentally-friendly mix of hill-climbing guts and semi-electric technology. An electric generator backs up the 300cc gasoline engine for a broader overall range than you’ll get from any strictly fuel-driven ATV. Even in full 4WD mode, you can climb around without burning a drop of fossil fuels. Stealthy hunters who prefer to sneak up on their prey will notice the nigh-silent running that the electric mode offers. [Purchase: $9,600]

Kawasaki Brute Force 750 4x4i EPS

Kawasaki Brute Force 750 4x4i EPS

Pro: Front and rear independent suspension
Con: Loud engine noise

Arctic Survivor: Here’s your one man army choice for braving the worst elements during the harsh months. Go ahead, grab your winter gloves and strap on a plow to clear your driveway. The 749cc, 90-degree V-twin can handle it. To give you superior handling and better stability on turns, both the front and rear suspension are independent wishbones that reduce slipping and sliding on gravel as well as ice. Inclusion of the EPS (Electric Power Steering) took this model to new heights for functioning on rough terrain and being able to walk you out of whatever jams you get into. [Purchase: $10,000]

Arctic Cat Diesel 700 Super Duty

Arctic Cat Diesel 700 Super Duty

Pro: Full digital dashboard readout
Con: Limited front/rear loading capabilities

Ridin’ Dirty: Just because the All-Terrain Vehicle has been repurposed by sportsmen and pleasure riders doesn’t mean there aren’t some out there that still believe in working for a living. You can tow more than a thousand pounds with this because beneath its calm green exterior lurks a 686cc 2-stroke engine with solid torque and electronic 2/4 wheel drive with a differential lock. Built right in is a 3,000lbs. winch with 50-feet of cable for pulling stumps or saving inferior ATVs who have gone off the track. Climbs like a champ, but revs up for pleasure rides as well. [Purchase: $10,900]

Arctic Cat Wildcat X EPS

Arctic Cat Wildcat X EPS

Pro: Large cargo capacity
Con: Expensive

Trunk Space: Carrying a heavy load on the rear of most ATVs is a big problem, but not so with the beefy Wildcat X EPS. It has a 1-inch space differential between the front tires and the rear ones, meaning you have more girth in the back and can put up to 300 lbs. behind you. Fully adjustable double wishbone suspension at the front, both set and on the fly 4-wheel drive, a front differential lock, and an EBS (engine braking system) let it go anywhere and everywhere even when packed to the gills with gear in front and back. [Purchase: $18,800]

Can-Am Commander Max Limited

Can-Am Commander Max Limited

Pro: Most comfortable ride of any ATV
Con: Large and expensive

Bring the Kids: Not only is this a UTV-style ATV, but it’s so big (and costly) that it’s practically a sedan. A dual twin V-twin powertrain gives you plenty of pickup from the untamed 976cc engine. A full roof, windshield, and honest-to-god performance shocks makes this the smoothest, classiest ride in the woods. Just to add a little more luxury, the body has a 4-speaker sound system for disturbing wildlife (and your passengers) with your Taylor Swift discography. Tri-Mode DPS (Dynamic Power Steering) makes it responsive despite its size. [Purchase: $21,700]

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