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Written By: 
John Arens

ABC Television’s Wide World of Sports began every broadcast with amazing video (Who could forget agony of defeat skier Vinko Bogataj?), but also with the words, “Spanning the globe”.  Argo could say the same.  Known far and wide for their water and marshland loving line of amphibious vehicles, for 2018 ARGO has decided it may as well conquer the remaining 30% of the planet with a new lineup of ATVs.    


Argo had a big surprise for us recently with the introduction of their ATV lineup.  We jumped at the chance to test ride them all in the woods, field and swamps of Minnesota.    


If you’re going to introduce a new product line you had better look for a group of experts to get it started properly.  For ARGO that meant finding a group with ATV experience, and lots of it.  An all-star team of veterans was recruited from other major manufacturers, giving ARGO a huge leap forward in development, not only of new ATVs, but also of their ATV business model.  From the start, they were on the gas, and thanks to new manufacturing partnerships and a lot of late nights there are seven new ARGO ATVs to choose from with four of the group being two-seat models! 


   The ARGO Xplorer ATV lineup wasn’t limited to just single seat machines.  Called the XPLORER XRT lineup, there are four different models of two-up Argo ATVs from 500 to 1000cc’s.   

At our first inspection, the new ARGO ATVs seemed curiously familiar, and this was because of Argos manufacturing partnership with TGB motors from Taiwan.  TGB is one of the world’s largest CVT manufacturers and a supplier to several of the other OEMs for their ATVs and Side x Sides.  TGB also has been producing their own ATV models for many years, and the new ARGO models draw from those designs but with ARGO changes and updates for the North American market.  It’s a good match for development and manufacturing.  The A-Team was off to a great start. 


  A new ARGO XR ATV on the trails.  We enjoyed riding the ARGOS and they are very capable trail machines.  


Argo is branding their ATVs as the Xplorer line.  The XR models are traditional single seat ATVs, while the XRT models feature seating for two. 


The controls of the ARGO ATVs.  Notice the center mounted shift lever, and the small, locking storage area on each fender.

The 2018 ARGO Xplorer XR ATVs include the XR 500, the XR 500 EPS, and the XR 500LE.  All models in the XR lineup share a chassis with nearly identical specs and features.  Highlights are:



503cc, EFI equipped, 4 stroke engine with a CVT transmission


Fully independent suspension


Disc brakes at all wheels


Excellent ground clearance


1300lbs towing capability thanks to 2” receiver hitch


Wide stance for stability on off-camber terrain


Multi-function digital instrumentation


Front locking differential


      The XPLORER XRT 1000 LE in action

The XR models are all full-sized machines with features for both comfort and convenience.  Main chassis members are round steel tubing with dual A-Arm suspension at each end.  While most manufacturers mount their shocks on 4wd machines on the upper A-Arm, through careful engineering ARGO was able to attach the shocks to the lower A-Arms.  This offers significant advantage by allowing for a longer shock body, increased oil volume for less shock fade, and more accurate valving thanks to the longer shock stroke.  All of the shocks also feature preload adjustability.  At the rear of the chassis is a 2” receiver hitch has its own unique feature.  Rather than just slipping your hitch into the receiver and then letting it rattle down the trail, Argo has a set screw style bolt that prevents any vibration.  Innova tires with a very familiar Maxxis Bighorn style tread pattern are used on all models.       


    The Xplorer XR 500 carves around a tree easily.  Notice the steel racks front and rear, and aggressive tires that clean out well in the mud.

All critical components on the Xplorer ATVs are tucked safely behind extensive bodywork that fits well and seems both pliable and resistant to scratches.  Fender flares over each wheel keep you protected from mud and splashing water and at the rear they serve as the mounts for two tail lights.  There are also reflectors at the rear and sides of the Xplorer ATVs for extra safety.  These also help make them legal for sale in Canada where side reflectors are required.  A pair of dual head lights help light up the trail ahead, and on the high end LE model a light on the center instrument pod makes night rides even easier as it turns with the handlebars.  All models also get sturdy steel racks at both ends for hauling any gear to camp or the job site.  Storage is also very important and there are two compartments on the fenders big enough to hold your phone, wallet, a snack, etc.  Curiously, both compartments are opened with the ignition key.  This is no doubt a holdover from the Xplorers Taiwanese roots, and the key even lets you remove side panels.  For the North American market it’s not really needed and we wonder how well the key would fit after a pass through a Louisiana mud pit or day of freezing snow and rain in Montana.  Note to Argo product development:  Save the expense and skip the keyed panel locks.    


    Notice the dual exhaust outlets at the rear. It certainly gives a unique look.  Down below is a 2” receiver hitch, and good A-arm protection.  

Maintenance is always a huge concern and thankfully ARGO considered those tasks as well.  The battery is under the seat along with the airbox, and the lid can quickly be removed to service the foam filter inside.  Down below on the right side of the engine is an easy to remove panel with a handy dip stick just behind.    


      The new A-Team ready to roll


Even though the all of the Xplorer XR models share most chassis features, there are major differences between the base XR 500, the XR 500 EPS, and the XR 500LE.  It really comes down to extra features for comfort or convenience.  Here is how the three compare:


XR 500  -  The base model.  The same chassis and engine package as the other two XR 500 ATVs in the most economical package. 


XR 500 EPS  -  The XR 500 EPS gets a big upgrade with ARGOs adjustable power steering.  Called Tri-Mode Power Steering, the system is highly adjustable and easy to differentiate between input levels.  Basically, you can adjust system response to what feels best for you.


XR 500 LE  -  The XR 500 LE gives the most features in the XR ATV lineup with addition of power steering, but also 26” tires on cast aluminum wheels for style, durability, and extra ground clearance, a great center mounted headlight that turns with the bars to help you see into turns, and a heavy duty brush guard to give maximum front end protection. 


It was a blast roosting through the trails on the new ARGO Xplorer ATVs.  The 26” tires were a little more difficult to break loose in wet terrain though thanks to the massive traction.


Argo didn’t stop with the XR models and call it a day.  They actually have more models in their two-seat lineup with a second engine choice.   Called the XRT family, the two seat models are:


XRT 500  -   The base model.  Seating for two, fun for both at a very reasonable price.


XRT 500 EPS  -   The easy steering XRT includes Argos Tri-Mode Electronic Power Steering


XRT 500 LE  -   Comfort, convenience and style.  Bigger wheels and tires, EPS, extra lighting and bumpers, and available with a very sharp Silver / Grey color scheme.  This is our favorite of the group.    


XRT 1000 LE  -   The one to really scare your riding buddy.  Huge power from the 1000cc engine on 26” tires with cast aluminum wheels.  It’s all business, but built for two.  Available in orange, black, or silver color schemes. 


     Under the seat of the Xplorer ATVs is the airbox, battery, and electronics.  It’s a good start, but easier filter access would be a welcome feature.

Like their brothers in the XR lineup, the XRT ATVs share most chassis features for manufacturing efficiency, and it’s really option packages that create different models.  The most important feature of the XRT chassis is the extra length for added load carrying ability and extra stability on the trail.  A couple of the features we really appreciate with the XRT models is the raised rear seat for comfort and trail visibility, the adjustable hand holds, and the raised passenger foot platforms.


     Inside the front locking storage bin is a 12V outlet for powering accessories

At the top of the two-up class is the XRT 1000 LE.  Rather than the 503cc, EFI equipped, 4 stroke engine common to the other ARGO ATVs, the 1000 LE uses a massive, 997cc, twin cylinder, EFI equipped engine cranking out 83 horsepower.  A CVT transmission gets the wheels turning, and 26” Innova tires claw at the ground like a badger on meth when you crack the throttle.  All you need to do is point it where you want to go and hang on. 


   ARGO did a great job with making the engine oil dipstick easy to reach.  Just pop off a side panel (no tools required) and the dip stick is right there.  Perfect!


We happily grabbed our helmet and climbed aboard the XR 500.  Overall feel is big and roomy, but not overwhelming.  A flip of the key brought the stylish digital display to life and it provides plenty of useful information.  On either side of it are lights for gear selection and engine warnings.  We slipped the center mounted shift lever into high and headed for the trails. 


The XR 500 picks up speed nicely and we didn’t notice any flat spots during acceleration.  The motor runs smooth and crisp.  CVT back shifting is also very good.  On high speed sections the XR500 held it’s line very well, and it felt stable and predictable, even in off-camber turns or when crossing hills.  It wasn’t long before we went looking for challenges.


With aggressive tires and plenty of ground clearance, naturally we began to climb over downed logs and large rocks.  We love these type of challenges, and apparently so does the ARGO.  Since the XR ATVS are meant for venturing into new territory that is exactly where we took them, eventually finding some steep hills of the type that would worry one’s mother.  Our first test would be of the brakes and we pointed the XR toward the bottom.  With both a hand and foot on the brakes we crept and slid our way down the slope with no incident.  Hills go both ways however, and we quickly pointed it back at the top.  A stab at the throttle got the XR climbing skyward as the Innova tires clawed at the ground.  Again, the ARGO did not disappoint and we did it a half dozen more times just for fun.         


We also wanted to test the Tri-Mode Speed Sensitive Electronic Power Steering (TMSS).  The system allows you to adjust steering assist for what works best for you.  Maximum assist would be excellent for carrying a load on the front, but we preferred the minimum setting for better feel of the trail.  That’s just our preference.  Next up was the XRT 1000 LE model.


The sound of a smooth running twin-cylinder gets your attention, but you’ll definitely love the power!  Like all the XRT models, the 1000 LE feels very similar to the single seat XR line except for one difference.  The longer chassis helps with hill climbs, stability, and traction.  The tradeoff for the longer chassis is a little less maneuverability in tight turns.  Only on tight trails does this make any difference.  The power from the 1000cc engine will have you looking for wide open spaces to turn it loose though.  When we approached the hills again, this time there was no doubt the 1000 would get to the top, but we wanted to test the Active Descent Control on the way down and it definitely helps you stay in control on severe slopes.  If things get slippery, the handle bar mounted control activates the electronic locking front differential - providing maximum grip at all four wheels.    



The A-Team is off to a great start but there are a few features we would love to see ARGO work on for future models.


In many ways suspension is more important than power.  You can have all the power in the world, but if the suspension can’t handle it you end up bouncing down the trail like an outdoor version of pin-ball.  Different shock valving would immediately improve the ARGOs.  For some reason, without fail, every ATV manufacturer in Taiwan equips their ATVs with springs heavy enough for a mid-70’s Buick.  As a collective they would all do well to hire one guy for the entire island that understands suspension and never let him leave. 


A second thing we would do with the ARGO is shorten the front bodywork.  The reason is, when you roll into your truck bed the nose will hit the front end long before the tires, and you won’t be able to close the tailgate.  The worst-case scenario we witnessed was a guy rolling another brand in too far and blowing out the trucks back window.  You always want the tires to hit first.  The longer nose serves no purpose, it limits vision with close trail obstacles, and it can be eliminated. 


Finally, we would ditch all the keyed locks except the ignition.  In the scooter world they use a key to both lock and open everything, but that doesn’t translate well to the off-road world.  Create a large storage bin instead.


WIDE WORLD of ARGO         

With their new XR and XRT lineup ARGO can now truly lay claim to the phrase, “spanning the globe’, and even that won’t be enough soon.  Thanks to their NASA vehicle development partnership ARGO will no doubt be the first to leave tracks on another celestial body.  That will be a riding area we would love to visit!  Until then, whether by land or by sea, we’re content to ride an ARGO anytime here!




Engine:                             503cc, EFI, Liquid Cooled, Single Cylinder

Transmission               V belt C.V.T Automatic with Differential Lock,  L/H/N/R/P

Engine Braking            Standard

Brakest                        200 mm Hydraulic Discs – Front,  180 mm Hydraulic Discs Rear

Front Suspension        Independent Double A-arm 8.7” travel.  9.1” travel on XR 500LE

Rear Suspension         Independent Double A-arm 9.4” travel.  10.4” travel on XR 500LE

Tires / Wheels              Front- Innova AT25 X 8-12, Steel.  XR 500LE- AT26 X 8-14, Aluminum

Tires / Wheels              Rear - Innova AT25 X 10-12, Steel.  XR 500LE- AT26 X 10-14, Aluminum

L x W x H                     84.8 in (2,154 mm)   x  48.6 in (1,235 mm)  x  49.2 in (1,250 mm)

Ground Clearance        12 in (305 mm).   XR 500 LE - 13.2 in (335 cm)

Towing Capacity          1,300 lb. (590 kg)

Fuel Capacity               4.2 gal (16 ltr)

Front / Rear Rack         99 lb. (45 kg) / 165 lb. (75 kg)

Power Steering            XR 500 EPS,   XR 500 LE

Front Brushguard        XR 500 LE

Rear Hitch                    Standard / 2” Receiver

Warranty                      1 Year         




Engine:                             503cc, EFI, Liquid Cooled, Single Cylinder

Engine 1000 LE:                 997cc, EFI, Liquid Cooled, Twin Cylinder

Transmission               V belt C.V.T Automatic with Differential Lock,  L/H/N/R/P

Engine Braking            Standard

Brakest                        200 mm Hydraulic Discs – Front,  180 mm Hydraulic Discs Rear

Front Suspension        Independent Double A-arm 9.1” travel.  8.7” travel on XRT 1000LE

Rear Suspension         Independent Double A-arm 10.4” travel.  9.3” travel on XRT 1000LE

Tires / Wheels Front     Innova AT25 X 8-12, Steel. 

XRT 500LE and 1000LE- AT26 X 8-14, Aluminum

Tires / Wheels Rear      Innova AT25 X 10-12, Steel. 

XRT 500LE and XRT 1000LE - AT26 X 10-14, Aluminum

L x W x H                     92.9 in (2,360 mm)   x  48.6 in (1,235 mm)  x  49.2 in (1,250 mm)

            XRT 1000LE     91.7 in (2,330 mm)  x  47.2 in (1,200 mm)  x  50.8 in (1,290 mm)

Ground Clearance        13.2 in (335 mm).   XRT 1000 LE – 11.6in (295 cm)

Towing Capacity          1,300 lb. (590 kg)

Fuel Capacity               4.2 gal (16 ltr)

Front / Rear Rack         99 lb. (45 kg) / 165 lb. (75 kg)

Power Steering            XRT 500 EPS,   XRT 500 LE,  XRT 1000 LE

Front Brushguard        XRT 500 LE

Rear Hitch                    Standard / 2” Receiver

Warranty                      1 Year




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