Double Play – New Models First Look

Double Play – New Models First Look

, , , , , , , , , of the most rock solid ATV lines in the Honda lineup just got better. For 2015, Honda is giving their Rubicon and Rancher models a major upgrade; they are reworking and fine tuning everything from the wheels to the seat.

Ultra-Reliable Rancher

It’s impossible to go wrong with Honda’s Rancher ATVs. They’re one of the best utility/recreational ATV lineups available, and while they might not have always offered the most horsepower, longest travel suspension, or the latest in technology in past models, they have always presented a total package that works extremely well. In fact, that could be said about the entire Honda ATV lineup. It’s the lovable, supremely rideable and reliable Rancher that is really our favorite and for 2015, the Rancher line just got a whole lot better and a whole lot bigger. For 2015 there are a whopping NINE different Rancher models to choose from. Highlights of the 2015 Honda Rancher models are:

  • 420cc, liquid cooled, fuel injected engine mounted longitudinally in chassis allows direct driveshaft alignment to both front and rear for maximum drivetrain efficiency
  • Overhead-valve design provides compact engine dimensions
  • Heavy-duty automatic clutch with a low-rpm engagement point for excellent low speed towing capability
  • Transmission available in fully automatic mode, or with Electric Shift Program (ESP) for easy shifts with the thumb button
  • New TraxLok 2WD/4WD selector lever, mounted on the left-front
  • New Fuel Injection mapping improves power delivery, throttle response, and fuel efficiency
  • AC generator output increased to 450 watts to power; more electrical accessories.
  • New bodywork for more room and increased splash protection
  • New one-piece panel removal for easier maintenance
  • 20mm (0.8 inch) thicker and softer seat foam increases comfort
  • New digital display with added functions
  • New dual-purpose reverse lever & parking brake makes it easier to engage reverse and set brake.
  • Optional Electric Power Steering (EPS) system recalibrated for better response and more precise feel
  • New Double cradle steel frame with more suspension travel, preload adjustable shocks, larger brakes, and new Independent Rear Suspension and revised front suspension
  • More towing capacity (848 lbs.) from rear hitch with steel cargo racks front and back.

Honda didn’t really call the 2015 Ranchers all-new models, but when your changes include a new, stiffer chassis for a more precise ride, longer suspension travel, better shocks, and changes to just about everything from the ground up, it’s an all-new machine! All of the changes to the Rancher models were really meant to meet two goals however; to increase its working capabilities, and increase rider comfort whether on the trail or the job

There is definitely something for everybody in the Honda Rancher lineup. The most basic model in the lineup is called the FourTrax Rancher and it features a 420cc liquid cooled, fuel injected engine mated to an automatic clutch with a foot shifted transmission. While this model only comes in 2wd, it still retains an excellent ride, unsurpassed reliability, and it’s perfectly at home herding cattle or exploring the trails. If you’re looking for reliability, comfort, and value this model is tough to beat.

At the top end of the Rancher lineup is the FourTrax Rancher 4×4 Automatic DCT IRS EPS. While the name is long, so are its list of features. A fully automatic transmission, electric power steering, and independent rear suspension make this model easy to ride but also extremely capable. It’s Honda’s DCT transmission though that really sets it apart.

Honda’s auto racing experience and technology often trickles down to their other product lines, and in this case , the Rancher ATVs with DCT get a clutch straight out of Formula 1 racing. It may be a long way from the circuit at Monaco to the trails of Montana, but the technology transfer works extremely well. Honda’s DCT transmission is really a dual clutch gem that makes all shifts much smoother and quicker. The way it works is: one clutch pack operates gears 1, 3, and 5, while the other operates gear sets 2, 4 and reverse. As one shift is made, the next gear set is automatically engaged as well, but the clutch pack driving that gear set is not activated until acted to do so. In essence, the engine anticipates your next move! The result is a very smooth shifting transmission with no deceleration or lag between gears; when not in fully automatic mode, it can also be operated with the familiar thumb operated Electric Shift

Honda is famous for their ergonomics and in this area all FourTrax Rancher models are excellent as well. Thanks to new bodywork the new Ranchers offer a little more room than previous models, and splash protection has been increased as well. We also like how Honda still offers a sturdy foot peg just above the well-drained floor boards, anchoring your feet but allowing your body to pivot as needed. All other controls are perfectly placed, and even the reverse mechanism has been upgraded for 2015, thankfully making the transition to reverse much easier. Whether on the trail or on work duty, the Honda FourTrax Rancher models are the total package.

2015 HONDA RANCHER QUICK SPECS – Model: TRX420FA5 / TRX420FA6 (with EPS)

Engine: 420cc liquid-cooled OHV semi-dry-sump longitudinally mounted single-cylinder four-stroke with EFI – 32mm Throttle Body – Electric Start with optional auxiliary recoil

Transmission: Automatic Clutch with ESP (Electric Shift) five-speed with Reverse

Driveline: Direct front and rear driveshaft’s with TraxLok® and torque-sensing front differential

Suspension: Front – Dual A-Arm; 7.3 inches travel, Rear – Independent dual-arm; 8.5 inches travel

Brakes: Front – Dual hydraulic 190mm discs, Rear – Single hydraulic 170mm disc

Tires: Front: 24 x 8-12, Rear: 24 x 10-11

L x W x H: 84.6 x 47.4 x 46.8 inches

Ground Clrnc: 9.2 inches

Turn Radius: 11.5 feet

Fuel Capacity: 3.9 gallons, including 1.3-gallon reserve

Colors: Red, Orange, Honda Phantom Camo®

Curb Weight: 672 pounds (TRX420FA5) / 686 pounds (TRX420FA6) – ready to ride.

MSRP for the Rancher lines starts at $5199.

Foreman on the Job

Honda didn’t stop with just the Rancher lineup when it came to major updates for 2015. The FourTrax Foreman Rubicon models got plenty of love also, and there are now six different Rubicon models to pick from.

All Rubicon models start 2015 with a new chassis designed to be more rigid which translates into a more precise ride. Dual A-arms are used up front, but at the rear the new Rubicon’s get independent rear suspension. This is a significant improvement over previous models; Honda went to IRS after extensive customer research indicated it was a major buying point that customers wanted. With the new chassis also comes new, more aggressive looking bodywork, but besides looking great it is also built to perform. We like how the side panels can be removed to expose the engine for easier maintenance tasks and thorough cleanup. When perched on top of the seat, the Rubicon feels comfortable and once again, Honda has nailed the ergonomics. The addition of a center headlight pod is a nice touch and extremely handy at night. It turns with the bars to light up whichever direction you are

The Foreman Rubicon models share many common features – a 475cc liquid cooled, EFI equipped engine, the same bodywork, identical towing and load carrying capabilities, etc, but there is a major difference in the transmissions available. While base units get an auto-clutch and a super reliable foot operated manual transmission, three Rubicon models come with Honda’s dual-clutch transmission. This is the same type of clutch setup as in the Rancher, which also carries the adaptive learning Cruise or Sport mode that monitors the way you drive and makes adjustments according. In reality, it changes the shift timing, delaying it and raising RPMs between shifts for a sporty ride, or shifting lower in the RPM range for Cruise mode, which gives an easier ride and extended fuel mileage.

Honda gave several of the new Rubicon models Electronic Power Steering, but for a more precise feel, the mounts were changed to a three point configuration. A big part of the feel comes from the tires and wheels; a new Maxxis tire with an aggressive tread pattern means more traction in the snow, mud, or sand, while an improved sidewall helps create a better ride. Finally, just like with the Rancher models, the reverse lever mechanism was changed as well. Highlights of the 250 Fourtrax Foreman Rubicon are:

  • Honda 500-class engine is tuned for loads of pulling power along with a broad, easy-to-use powerband.
  • Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) for improved throttle response, smooth power delivery, and extended fuel economy
  • TraxLok 2WD/4WD system offers 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD mode with locking front differential to optimize traction. Speed Override mode that can be engaged when the front differential is locked, allowing increased wheel speed under severe conditions
  • DCT fully automatic transmission is convenient, compact, and strong, but gives the option of push-button manual control via Honda’s Electric Shift Program (ESP®). Automatic DCT features Dual shift-mapping that automatically selects between two transmission shifting modes – Cruise or Sport – depending on rider’s pattern of throttle operation
  • New double-cradle steel frame features increased stiffness and better torsional rigidity for precise handling and a smooth ride
  • New independent double-wishbone front suspension delivers 7.3 inches of
  • New independent dual-arm rear suspension design offers a more optimal shock ratio and increased suspension stroke for 8.5 inches of travel. Preload adjustable shocks used at all wheels
  • New reverse and parking brake lever for more convenience
  • Increased towing and load carrying capability. 99 pounds on front rack, 187 pounds at rear, 1322 pounds towing.
  • Aggressive styling with integrated front bumpers and winch mount. Better splash protection
  • More space for rider, thicker seat, new digital instrument cluster, and easy to read controls
  • Next generation Maxxis tires with a more aggressive tread pattern and a new carcass for improved rider comfort
  • Deluxe models come with aluminum wheels, special red-painted suspension components, and special decals
  • Assembled in Timmonsville, South Carolina, using domestically and globally sourced parts

Ride Time

We were impressed with the new FourTrax Rancher and Rubicon. They’ve always been easy to ride, comfortable, reliable machines and with the changes Honda made, they’re almost sure to be even better. We’ll get some extended seat time on both and let you know!   



Engine: 475cc liquid-cooled OHV longitudinally mounted single-cylinder four-stroke with EFI – 36mm Throttle Body – Electric start with optional auxiliary recoil

Transmission: Automatic ESP five-speed with Reverse and Drive/Low – Auto Clutch

Driveline: Direct front and rear driveshaft’s with TraxLok® and locking front differential

Suspension: Front: Dual A-Arm; 7.3 inches travel, Rear: Independent dual-arm; 8.5 inches travel

Brakes: Front: Dual hydraulic 190mm discs, Rear: Single hydraulic 170mm disc

Tires: Front: 25 x 8-12, Rear: 25 x 10-12

L x W x H: 83.7 x 47.4 x 49.1 inches

Ground Clrnc: 9.8 inches

Turn Radius: 11.5 feet

Fuel Capacity: 3.9 gallons, including 1.3-gallon reserve

Colors: Red, Olive, Honda Phantom Camo, Black

Curb Weight: 703 pounds (standard) / 719 pounds (with EPS) / 712 pounds (Deluxe)


Transmission: Five-speed with Reverse and Drive/Low – Auto Clutch

Colors: Red, Olive, Honda Phantom Camo, White

Curb Weight: 679 pounds (standard) / 696 pounds (with EPS) / 688 pounds (Deluxe)

All other specs identical to those above

MSRP – Base Model FourTrax Foreman Rubicon Starting at $7,799

 2015.honda_.fourtrax-foreman-rubicon4x4.close-up.traxlok-2wd-4wd-engagement-mechanism.jpg  2015.honda_.fourtrax-foreman-rubicon4x4.close-up.reverse-trigger.jpg

November 4, 2014