button on the left brake-lever perch,
then squeeze the brake and downshift
to reverse with the thumb button. It’s
simpler than it sounds, but it can be a
stretch for riders with small hands.
WHAT KIND OF 4WD SYSTEM DOES IT
A simple but effective one. Like most
4x4 ATVs, the Rancher has selectable
2WD/4WD, but you select the drive
mode with a mechanical lever on the
tank rather than a more convenient
handlebar switch. There’s no front
differential-lock feature. Unlike machines
with limited-slip front differentials, the
Rancher’s front differential puts more
power to the front wheel with more
traction, which provides plenty of grip.
IS IT FAST?
For its size it is. We know the
previous Rancher is quicker than a
Yamaha Grizzly 450 in a drag race, and
the 2014 feels a little faster. It should
be. The new automatic Ranchers have
the higher-performance cam and higher
compression that used to be reserved
for the top-of-the-line Rancher AT, and
the new model is a few pounds lighter
HOW IS THE POWER ON THE TRAIL?
It’s responsive and fun, but, in some
situations, it’s more fun if you do your
own shifting. Honda’s automatic DCT
does a great job of picking the right
gears for casual trail cruising, and it gets
all of the Rancher’s power to the ground
on tough climbs, but we switched to
manual shift mode to make the most of
the engine’s snappy throttle response.
Holding the Honda in the gears we
liked didn’t get us down the trail much
faster, but it let us lift the front end
over rises and puddles and drift the
Rancher around turns. Manual shifting
also makes for smoother progress on
gradual uphills where the transmission
hunts for the right ratio in automatic
shift mode. Full auto is great for full-throttle acceleration—the automatic
shifts crisply and gets the transmission
through the gears as well as any rider
could in manual shift mode.
WHAT KIND OF SUSPENSION DOES THE
NEW RANCHER HAVE?
It’s like sport quad suspension—dual
A-arms up front and a single-shock,
solid-axle swingarm setup in the rear.
The front and rear shocks have five-position spring-preload adjusters. The
new Rancher has more travel than in
the past, but its 6. 69 inches front and
rear is still conservative in keeping with
Honda’s preference for flat cornering
and stability over long, whoop-swallowing suspension stroke.
HOW DOES THE
SUSPENSION WORK ON
smooth for a solid rear-axle setup. Honda has
the Rancher’s spring and
damping rates so well-tuned, the ride is similar
to some machines
with independent rear
suspension (IRS). The
Honda absorbs a lot
of the harshness from
things that normally give
riders a beating, like ruts,
roots and rocks, and it’s
impressively plush on
milder bumps. Power
steering does its share to smooth
the Rancher’s ride also, because it
dampens the kick that bumps send
through the steering, in addition to
making the steering easier. Very high
speeds and big bumps will use all the
available travel more often than on
machines with more travel, but the
suspension handles normal riding very
HOW IS THE HANDLING?
About as good as it gets. For a 4x4,
the Rancher has a genuinely light, agile
feel, a quality missing from most larger
sport utility machines. The Honda’s
willing handling is part common-sense
engineering. It’s smaller and lighter than
most 4x4 ATVs and has solid-axle rear
suspension like a sport quad, which
cuts body roll, so it handles more like
a sport quad than a parade float. The
rest of the Rancher’s feel is the result of
The nimble, agile Rancher handles more like a sport quad than most 4x4s, and its snappy
power is fun to play with.
The new Rancher is bigger and roomier than
before, but it’s still comfortably slim. The new
seat is super comfortable, and the ergonomics are perfect.
The fully automatic transmission is new for the solid-axle
Ranchers, and you can shift manually through its five speeds
for more control if you like. Getting reverse is more work than
on some automatics. You have to press the red reverse button
on the left brake-lever perch, then squeeze the brake lever
while you downshift to reverse with the thumb button.