Farm buggies may have increased in popularity over the past decade, but quad bikes still sell in their thousands each year to users who simply want a nippy vehicle to take them on their stock inspection rounds.
Since Farmers Weekly last took a close look at the machines available for farm and other utility applications, a good deal has changed, with the Farr- and Dalesman-branded quads having gone by the wayside and a number of newcomers introduced by the major manufacturers.
Added equipment, more fuel-efficient engines and wider availability of power steering are some of the common themes.
Alterra is the name for Arctic Cat’s latest machines and includes the mid-range 400 and 450 models, as well as the full-size 550 and 700 versions.
The smaller pair has restyled bodywork and steals the off-road ability of the bigger machines in the family.
The 366cc engine in the Alterra 400 has air and oil cooling, while the 433cc engine of the Alterra 450 is a liquid-cooled motor with radiator and fan.
Both have a CVT transmission, double A-arm suspension front and rear, and sit on the same 122cm wheelbase.
See also: The low-down on buying a second-hand ATV
The full-size Alterra 550 and 700 are claimed to be the manufacturer’s most capable off-road machines, featuring a new chassis, seating position and reduced handling effort.
A tighter turning circle and low centre of gravity also feature, while two- and four-wheel drive – plus the front diff lock – are selectable on the move using a right-hand electric thumb switch.
A revamped rack system uses a steel tube frame structure combined with an anti-slip material to form load-bearing platforms at the front and rear, which can be extended using snap-fit rails and other extensions.
Base versions come with painted steel wheels, while the XT gets aluminium rims, electric power steering and halogen headlamps incorporating a distinctive LED bar.
The UK arm of Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) started revamping its Can-Am range earlier this year with the introduction of the Outlander L-range.
The Rotax engines are bigger than before, with a 427cc single-cylinder replacing the old 400cc set-up and a 570cc V-twin replacing the outgoing 500cc block.
The newcomers also get updated five-step rear suspension to alter the ride characteristics and three different settings for power steering to adjust its resistance over different types of terrain.
A quick-attach accessory system can include a steel basket for the front and rear racks, a rear-mounted 45-litre plastic cargo box and a 13cm front rack extension.
For 2016, BRP is adding the Outlander L PRO specification for the 450 and 500 models, primarily for operators with serious off-road intent.
Key specification differences include shifting the engine air intake and the CVT transmission inlet and exhaust higher up to ensure consistent airflow when riding through wet and muddy conditions.
Like other models in the Outlander L range, the PRO version has double A-arm front suspension, but with increased preload and stiffer shock absorbers that are designed to improve handling, especially with the front rack loaded.
Independent rear suspension is to the same torsional trailing arm design that keeps the rear wheels more upright, and a front differential should help with traction.
Updates to Honda’s already extensive line-up of quads has seen electric power steering added to two of the top-spec models.
The power assistance system has new ECU mapping designed to improve steering response, reduce the effort needed to turn the handlebars at low speed and cushion the ride against kick-back from the front wheels.
The FA6 version of the Fourtrax 420 now has independent rear suspension that can handle a 44% increase in payload, 55% higher towing limit and greater load rack capacities.
It also features Honda’s dual-clutch transmission as the manufacturer continues to resist variator CVTs. The five-speed gearbox has high and low ranges in each to create a total of 10 speeds.
A smaller-engined Sportsman model has returned to the Polaris line-up for operators wanting a nippy work quad without the power and price of the bigger-engined machines.
The Sportsman ETX packs a 325cc engine developing 30hp, as opposed to the 567cc, 44hp engine of the Sportsman 570 models.
Fuel capacity is increased by 10% over its predecessor and there is 560W of charging power to run a range of accessories.
Independent rear suspension remains on the ETX model to provide long wheel travel and high ground clearance.
The same attributes apply to the Sportsman 570 versions, which now extend to a base model without power steering and a full-spec version that uses engine braking for hill descent control.
The UTE version has the same chassis and engine as the Sportsman 570, but differs in having a 186kg capacity tipping load box mounted over the rear wheels. It has a dropdown, removable tailboard and the central release mechanism can be operated from either side for manual tipping.
The Yamaha Grizzly 700 has fresh body styling and a new, more powerful 708cc engine. New models also get a front carry bar, as well as updated front and rear fenders and new storage compartments.
Class-leading off-road performance for a “big bore” quad is claimed for the larger motor, which is 20cc bigger than before.
A new injection system sees the updated engine deliver 9% more torque and 6% more power, with improved power and torque characteristics across the rev range.
A large-capacity radiator and higher-speed fan keeps engine temperature under control, and a new inlet design to ease engine starting when it’s cold.
LED headlights are also part of the upgrade package, along with a halogen light mounted centrally on the handlebars to help show the way during turns and act as a work lamp when the quad is stationary.
You also get better tyres to improve traction, while new steel wheels, forged steel hubs and larger ball joints for the rear shafts are also on the list of upgrades.
In addition to the new storage cubbies, the Grizzly 700’s rack-carrying ratings are increased 10kg in total to 50kg up front and 90kg at the rear.
Electric power steering, electrically selected two- and four-wheel drive and diff lock and two-piston calipers for the disc brakes front and rear also emphasise the high-tech, high-spec nature of the Grizzly package.