New entry rewrites rules

12 May 2000

New entry rewrites rules

What happens when a snowmobile and jet-ski giant

turns its hand to building ATVs? Things change,

Andrew Pearce discovers on a first-impression ride

SOMETIMES the established order needs a gentle kicking to make progress. Gentle is one thing, but Canadian company Bombardier is laying straight in with the big boots.

Its first entry into the ATV market – the £6299, 500cc Traxter – pulls convention apart. Away goes the usual mid-mounted tank, housed up front so the rider can step straight on board. The coolant radiator migrates to a home above the rear axle where its fed air by a fan and twin scoops, while lifting the seat lays bare a four stroke single tuned for low-revs pull.

Like Hondas 450 Foreman this powerplant sits with its crank in line with the frame (potentially minimising power loss) while the integral transmissions 10 x 5 gears are shifted by thumbswitch and hand lever. Plenty there to challenge normal thinking, but how does it ride?

Pretty easily. Wide footboards and open-frame design take you straight aboard, easing access for the less agile and bypassing any load or implement on the back rack. The seat is high but the riding position fine, thanks in part to wide bars which give plenty of leverage.

A shifter alongside the steering head works much like a cars autobox selector, usefully offering a park position (a first on an ATV) plus neutral, high/low ranges and reverse. Up on the bars a rocker switch lets you thumb clonkily through five speeds.

The motor will start in gear as long as the brakes are on – a digital readout showing the gear selected – and theres no jiggering about to find reverse, just haul on the rubbery and sometimes reluctant hand lever. Youll then go back at a speed corresponding to the forward gear just vacated, with an engine rpm limiter chopping rate to 15miles/hr maximum.

The rubber-mounted and water cooled Rotax motor woofs along quietly, producing a class-average 27hp and solid 22lbf ft torque. At 325kg the Traxter is substantially weightier than the opposition, and ridden solo its not as sharp on the throttle as other big-displacement ATVs: the feeling is that it will settle back and grunt a load along rather than sprint.

The neatly designed, chunky powertrain is set pretty much in the middle of the chassis and here tankless design brings another plus – pop one catch, lift the seat and all is revealed for service.

Revolution stops short at the suspension. Front wishbones, a rear swinging arm and four coil spring/dampers are an old act which, under Bombardiers direction, delivers a controlled ride on hard tracks.

Overall the Traxter has a sorted, balanced air; the open-front design and wide bars give plenty of scope for moving around during twisty bits, the steering stays light no matter whats under the front tyres and apart from some nervousness at speed, the whole thing feels stable and planted.

Bombardier claims the bikes automatic 100% locking front diff boosts grip without corrupting the steering, though traction wasnt an issue in the wet woodland test area. All-wheel drive is constant, while the brakes – two hydraulic discs at the front, one on the live rear axle – summon up fast stops once some muddy grit gets about the place.

Racks are standard and will need the optional perimeter bars, while up front a bigger-than-normal compartment gives covered storage. Towing capacity is 500kg.

A quick drive suggests that Bombardiers assault on ATV convention adds up to good sense. From its tucked-in exhaust to its easy service access, the Traxter is strong on farmer-friendly thinking, and is close to being right straight out of the box.

As yet theres only one engine capacity and pricing needs a careful eye – in a brave move for a newcomer, the Traxter is pitched £800 beyond Hondas electric shift TRX450ES. Were looking forward to putting the pair wheel-to-wheel later in the year. &#42

Above: Looking to make a splash in the 500 ATV market… Bombardiers Canadian-built Traxter.

Left: Air box uses two-stage filtration and a baffle. Carried over from Bombardiers Ski-Doo watercraft, it should keep the ocean at bay.

Rotax water-cooled four-stroke integrates closely with solenoid-shifted transmission, is laid bare on lifting the seat. Twin plugs fire simultaneously for cleaner low-speed running, claim the makers.

No tank, no problem getting your leg over. Open-front design makes hopping on easier when the rear rack is loaded.

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