Can a six-wheeled ATV offer the best of both worlds between a standard quad and a farm buggy? Jos Jones takes a look at the two machines currently on the market.
When it comes down to choosing an ATV, they generally fall onto one of two camps – lightweight, nimble quads or load-lugging side-by-side buggies.
However, two manufacturers offer an alternative option: a six-wheel-drive halfway house.
See also: The low-down on buying a second-hand ATV
Both Polaris and Can-Am say you can have the best of all worlds with an extra axle.
If you want the carrying capacity of a buggy’s load bed with the stability and lightweight footprint of a quad, then a stretched chassis quad seems to be the perfect compromise.
Can-Am’s Outlander 6×6 and the Polaris Sportsman Big Boss 6×6 both have constant drive to the two rear axles and the ability to engage the front wheels at the flick of a switch (the latter’s system is automated when slip is detected).
While the Polaris can carry more on its front and rear racks (404kg as opposed to Can-Am’s 363kg), the Outlander has the edge for towing, capable of hauling a 750kg trailer while the Sportsman can handle just 680kg on the hitch.
CVT boxes with high and low ranges are common to both machines. Can-Am goes for a meaty V-twin 650cc block while Polaris sticks with a more modest 567cc single-cylinder.
Watch the video of the ATVs in action and read the full report below.
Clearly, the V-twin makes the Canadian Can-Am the more powerful of the two. Its 650cc twin-pot Rotax engine pumps out 62hp and gives a low burble like a Harley Davidson.
Its power is almost too much – just a touch of the throttle and it bolts like a startled hare. And this is the low power version – there is the option to upgrade to an 89hp 1,000cc motor.
Super-soft suspension makes the Outlander ideal for taking fragile loads across rough terrain, even at its eye-watering top speed of 52mph.
Its automatic locking front diff and power steering make it feel planted. However, tuck it into a corner even at low speeds and you’ll have to hang on as the body rolls.
The back tray is its party piece. As standard it comes with no sides to give a completely flat surface, which could prove handy for a pelleter.
If you need to load it up though, a long list of different options from log bars to a fully enclosed igloo are available. Where it gets clever is in its split-level load deck.
The double-decker cargo box is a little awkward to open and shut, but makes the load area a whole lot more usable. It gives an extra 70 litres of storage that can be accessed separately from the top.
You can load the back right up with logs or feed bags and still have room for a chainsaw or other equipment without having to balance it on the front rack or your knees.
Polaris Sportsman Big Boss
The Polaris single-cylinder 570cc engine puts out a more sensible 44hp but still gives plenty of oomph for the majority of tasks and 45mph should be quick enough for most.
The long gear selector is a blessing and a curse. The sheer length makes moving through the gear selections easier than the Can-Am, but with no physical detents, the dash has to be relied on to tell you what direction you’re about to go in and it can be questionable whether it’s actually engaged.
Electric power steering and much firmer suspension make it a feel light weight and a little bouncy but in the corners it’s much more stable than your standard ATV, even more so with a load of up to 340kg in the back.
Sides are standard on this 6×6 so you can shove anything in the back, while loads of fixing points, tie downs and factory options make it pretty handy. The front tray also folds up to reveal a further 25.5-litres of storage, albeit a bit of an odd shape.
The Big Boss comes with a bit more as standard. It can carry two people with extra foot-pegs and handles.
It also has an engine braking system called Active Decent Control (ADC) that can feel a little aggressive. However, it comes road-legal with mirrors, indicators and a horn.
So why have a 6×6?
Why would you take one of these stretched quads with their extra axle over a buggy with seats and a steering wheel or a standard ATV?
The key advantage of these 6x6s is that not only are they less likely to get stuck, but they tread so lightly you can’t see where they’ve been, even in the boggiest conditions and steepest terrain.
That could be a big bonus for work like slug pelleting and of course you get the extra carrying capacity to make a full day in the saddle a possibility.
They’re also more capable than standard ATVs on sharp gradients. You sit on rather than in them, straddling the seat as you would on a quad. That means you can shift your weight to either side to keep things pointed in the right direction.
They’re both very capable bits of kit that will go pretty much anywhere and carry a load while doing it, but in our eyes they’re built for slightly different operations.
The Polaris is the workhorse of the two. It has lots of tie-down points and the ability to carry a second person makes it a more commercial machine.
Everything on it is a bit bulkier and it could comfortably double-up as a recreational vehicle.
The Can-Am is more of a toy that you would have to justify to your wife. The huge amount of power is almost overwhelming and in a drag race it would thrash the Polaris, but the sloppy feeling through the corners would ultimately be a worry.
An ability to take a heavy load safely across a steep slope, doing little damage in the process will draw serious appeal for some, while the power-filled, tail-happy ride is a bonus.
But the biggest elephant in the room is the price. With both coming in at over £10,000 neither is a cheap run-around and they’re nearly double the money of some road-ready farm quads.
That sort of money could buy you a very tidy second-hand pick-up, a buggy, a brace of standard ATVs or even a brand new Dacia Duster.
|Polaris Sportsman Big Boss 6×6||CanAm Outlander 6×6|
|Engine||567cc single-cyl||650cc V-twin|
|Load bed capacity||362.8kg||318kg|
Likes and gripes
|Can-Am||750kg towing capacity||Body roll|
|Split level load deck||Excess power – fuel use?|
|Polaris||404kg cargo capacity||Lack of range selection detents|
|Road legal as standard||Overly aggressive engine-braking|