Park the latest Suzuki KingQuad 500 Axi next to a new Honda TRX520 FA6, and aside from the decals and badges, it’s hard to tell the two of them apart. The Suzuki KingQuad (KQ) has always been one of those ATVs you could arguably confuse with one of its competitors, so why would you consider buying a KingQuad instead of a Honda?
Honda dominates the market when it comes to putting farmers on quad bike seats, and for outright dependability there’s possibly nothing better. But what if you’re someone who wants a bit more than outright dependability from a working ATV?
The styling and image of the latest KingQuad 500Axi may make it difficult to pick out of the crowd, but don’t let that fool you. Underneath its tough plastic exterior there’s more to this ATV than meets the eye, starting with the engine.
The 500AXi is equipped with a 493cc single-cylinder, overhead cam, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled engine which is cantered forward 48° to lower the centre of gravity. This engine has a four-valve cylinder head with twin spark plugs, and it cranks out a healthy 39hp.
Directing this power to the wheels is a two-range QuadMatic TM belt-drive CVT transmission, which features an engine braking system for descending hills or pulling heavy loads. Suzuki tweaked the CVT to be more responsive by reducing roller weights and increasing the spring tension on the drive pulley.
Underneath, the frame has been beefed up with thicker main frame tubes and stronger suspension mounting points. Now that the frame is stronger, the 500 Axi can tow an impressive 600kg, carry 30kg on the front rack and hold 60kg on the rear.
In the braking department, the KQ features twin discs up front and a sealed and enclosed multi-disc brake disc system on rear axle, which is designed to give maximum ground clearance. Like its Honda nemesis, the Suzuki used all-round independent double wishbone suspension to give the tyres greater contact over rough terrain.
The Suzuki engine is the jewel in the KingQuad’s crown. It will start in any gear, so there’s no fumbling to find neutral. The engine fires immediately, quickly settling to a smooth idle, and from cold it soon reaches operating temperature.
Suzuki has tuned the 500Axi to produce plenty of torque at low rpm, which means you don’t need to use the engine’s full quota of ponies for pottering around. However, when you do need to giddy up, the engine delivers its power with seamless vigour.
Pin back the thumb throttle and the Suzuki launches off the line like a Navy fighter plane from a carrier deck. Flat-out is around 82kph (50mph), and with the CVT doing all the work it doesn’t take long to get there.
Having established the Suzuki can gallop along in a straight line, it is comforting to know this ATV can also handle the corners. Deliberately provoked by an experienced rider, it will respond to wide-open throttle inputs during high-speed cornering by gently lifting its inside front wheel off the ground, as the rear wheels power-slide through the apex of the turn.
In terms of smiles per mile, the KingQuad delivers its quota in spades. Guy Martin could have fun riding this quad bike, but it’s what the Suzuki is like to live with on a daily basis which is obviously more important. When it comes to feeding cattle or herding sheep on the side of a hill in the pouring rain, you need to know a working ATV can get the job done.
Where the Suzuki is concerned, practicality starts with operator comfort and the thickly padded T-seat design, which is both comfortable and supportive. Once seated, the handlebar position feels a little higher than some competitive quad bikes, but the advantage is you have more steering leverage when making tight manoeuvres or riding in challenging conditions.
The optional electric power steering is set up so it gets stiffer the faster you ride. In general use, the steering feels neutral and you’re hardly aware of its assistance. You only really know it’s there when you’re shunting around at low speeds. It is a well-designed system.
The instruments are easy to read, and the four-wheel-drive system is easy to operate. A handlebar-mounted push button instantaneously engages 2WD, 4WD or 4WD diff-lock mode. Hit the 4WD button and you’ll get three-wheel drive. Engage the diff-lock you get true four-wheel drive. It works well, and the Suzuki will handle just about anything you can throw at it when it comes to mud, ruts and slippery inclines.
The gear selector is mounted on the left hand fender. It moves freely through its dog-leg gate to select the required ratios, and unlike some competitive machines, there was never any need to start rocking the bike to get it in or out of gear. The park brake is a lock which clamps the left-hand brake lever to the handlebars, to activate the rear brake. It is simple to use, but requires two hands.
With a purpose-built ATV trailer in tow carrying 250kg of feed in bags, the Suzuki felt very composed both on and off-road. Even with weight on the drawbar, the design of the CVT ensures there is plenty of engine braking when it comes to descending grades, and there was none of the chronic understeer which can plague some ATVs when they are asked to corner with a load in tow.
The 500cc ATV market is the most competitive, and in a world where people increasingly demand greater value for their money, the new KingQuad 500Axi has great deal to offer. In truth, Honda might just have the edge on fit and finish, but Suzuki leads the way when it comes refinement, power and overall riding satisfaction. Perhaps that is why they named it the King Quad?
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