The Rubicon has less ground clearance than most 4x4s, which sounds like it would limit the
Honda in water and mud. The Rubicon doesn’t care.
Honda’s sportier Rincon and Rancher
AT have longer travel with independent
rear suspension (IRS). The Rubicon
is more of a work machine, and its
outstanding stability makes the machine
feel reassuringly surefooted on ugly, off-camber trails. The solid-axle rear end
doesn’t squat under heavy trailer weight
like independent rear suspension, either.
HOW’S THE SUSPENSION ON THE TRAIL?
It’s very good for reasonable speeds.
Solid-axle rear suspension is inherently
less compliant than independent
rear suspension, but the Rubicon’s
is impressively smooth. High-quality
shocks give the Honda a comfortable
ride on choppy terrain and rocks, and
there’s enough bottoming resistance to
handle big bumps as long as you’re not
too deep in the throttle.
Power steering is a fairly costly option
on the Rubicon, but it dampens bumps
that come through the steering and
reduces steering effort.
HOW DOES IT CORNER?
It’s remarkably stable, predictable and
light-handling. It should be; it’s lighter
and lower than most 500-class 4x4s.
The Rubicon weighs 640 pounds with
a full tank, about 100 pounds less than
some 4x4s. Low and light has done
great things for race cars and sports
cars, and it does good things for the
Rubicon’s cornering too. The 500 has
enough power to drift around corners,
and its stability makes getting sideways
fun, not spooky. The Honda’s power
steering reduces steering effort without
taking away steering feel, so it’s a plus
in low-speed, technical terrain and fast
HOW IS IT ON HILLS?
It’s an expert climber. Smooth power,
plenty of traction from the 4WD system
and the seamless operation of the
hydrostatic CVT make hills a breeze.
All you have to do is hang on and keep
your thumb on the throttle.
You have to think like a rider on the
way down steep hills, because the
transmission will shift up and let the
machine pick up speed easily. That’s
where the Honda’s brakes come in.
The front discs are great, and the rear
drum is very good too. The front and
rear brakes have separate controls, so
skilled riders can finesse their way down
any hill. You can also switch to manual
shift mode and ease your way down
in first using Honda’s excellent engine
HOW DOES IT HANDLE MUD?
Much better than you’d think. The
Rubicon has less ground clearance
than most 4x4s, just 7. 5 inches at the
rear gear case, but the machine makes
impressive progress in sloppy terrain—
you just have to pick your lines a little
more carefully than on taller machines.
The Honda’s waterproofing is excellent.
We rode with the engine completely
submerged and waves splashing the
headlights, and the machine never
missed a beat. If you love riding in
mud and water, you’ll grow to love the
hydrostatic transmission too. No belt to
burn or get wet means more mudding
HOW ARE THE DETAILS?
Some are spectacular, some not so
much. We have nothing but praise for
the Rubicon’s ergonomics. The machine
isn’t huge, but it’s roomy, and the slim
midsection is way more comfortable
than wider, bulkier machines. The
seat is perfect—soft, but not too
soft. The Honda has a handy storage
compartment in the front fender that
you can reach while seated on the
machine, and there’s a larger storage
box below the rear rack. Honda even
made the sophisticated transmission
The double A-arm front suspension has less travel than most other
4x4s, but the ride quality is better than some machines with more
This solid-axle, swingarm suspension is now an endangered species on
4x4 ATVs. Despite what you may have heard, independent rear suspension (IRS) isn’t better in every way.