Upgrades add more choice for fans of Suzuki

4 August 2000

Upgrades add more choice for fans of Suzuki

Suzuki launched a new 500

ATV at the Highland Show.

A trip in the hills gives

Andrew Pearce some first


UNTIL now Suzuki ATV enthusiasts have had things simple: Want the top gun in the range? Then buy the 500 Quadrunner.

But now its auto-transmission brother – the Quadmaster – has been launched.

Likely to be priced at £5399 (a £300 premium over the manual model) it is more than just the old 500 with variable belt transmission grafted on; four-wheel drive is now selectable and there are various minor upgrades to both versions.

First impressions are of a chunky, tight-packed piece of machinery with new full-length footboards, a stubby direction shifter in the tank and a 4WD selector sprouting to the left.

Closer inspection suggests more attention to detail wouldnt hurt. Body panel edges are sometimes untidy, wiring is exposed in places and the rear wheel arch extensions are flexible to the point of flimsiness. Time alone will tell if this is more than nitpicking.

The 493cc four-stroke singles 28hp is par for the class and goes through a two-range transmission. Despite showing only 16km on the clock, the test bike had plenty of steam in both gear sets. Vibration is low but noise (a mix of combustion knock and transmission whine) is high, despite the motors cooling water jacket.

The new Quadmatics transmission is a belt unit backed by an overrun system that delivers solid engine braking on slopes. Select a direction or range from the generally co-operative tank-top lever and scoot off, with no gearchanging hassle and fast, usually easy shifts into reverse. The only real sacrifices over the manual box are the loss of a second reversing range and the ability to fire up the engine in gear.

The engine spins relatively quickly at lower forward speeds and the transmission doesnt hunt, making easy the job of holding a steady target figure over changing terrain. But for rate-critical work the standard speedo is too small to read accurately and there is no calibrated option.

Low range runs out at 30kmh, top just beyond an indicated 95kmh. Apart from the engines extra width, which forces a wider riding stance, and the obvious loss of fixed ratios (only a worry on some jobs) there are no disadvantages to this box, apart, perhaps, from lower fuel consumption. Otherwise it is all pluses.

The new ability to take 2WD as required is also a boon. Maybe "as required" is a bit strong – the selector lever often hangs coming from 4WD – but once you have persuaded it into 2WD the already reasonable steering lightens still more, the turning circle tightens and this substantial 500 can be flicked about more like a 350.

Improvements here would be better shiftability, along with a lever gate or dash warning lamp for clearer indication of how many wheels are driving.

The disc brakes up front and single drum at the rear deliver strong, balanced stops. And the Quadmaster impresses in its ride. Current 500s have more ground clearance than the old version and an extra 30mm in the wheelbase, along with independent front wishbones, rate-adjustable coils and Suzukis Quadlink rear axle.

Together with a decently padded seat and good riding position these add up to comfort and solid directional stability. If anything the front end is too soft, though for this outing we didnt fiddle with the settings.

This supple undercarriage boosts the Quadmasters climbing ability on broken ground, as does a front limited slip diff which operates without grabbing. As with most other ATVs, the package would be even better for a centrifugal clutch which disengages at lower revs because it is possible to lose drive too readily when easing right back to pop over a ledge.

The move to automatic transmission brings a maintenance negative, the engine oil sight glass turns into a dipstick. Elsewhere service access is so-so. Room is tight around the spin-on oil filter and panelwork has to be unscrewed to reach the carb, spark plug and valve gear. Idle speed, though, is adjustable without disturbing any covers.

Is the Quadmaster a serious alternative to Suzukis manual-shift 500? On the strength of this brief drive, definitely and particulary so where work involves a lot of stop-start, jump on-off activity. Itll be available come October in fir green or passion red. &#42

Above: Choices, choices… An extra £300 adds automatic transmission and selectable 4WD to Suzukis 500. Right: Transmission belt cover forces a wider stance, but Quadmaster is still a comfortable ride.

Quadmaster puts stubby shift selector in tank top (1): Push down to move into reverse or low range, otherwise just push or pull. Instrumentation (2) and fuel gauge (3) are conventional. Left side lever (4) works 2WD-4WD shift. Lanyard (5) should attach to driver at one end, to kill switch at the other: cuts ignition if the two part company. New full footboards (6) help safety.

New with the Quadmaster: Moving to 2WD further eases already manageable steering and tightens turning circle. Lever tends to hang in 4WD after a period under load.

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