Those who have followed Suzuki since the early 90s know the King Quad name. For many years it was Suzuki’s premier utility ATV. It was a workhorse and had one of the neatest differential systems ever produced on an ATV. When Suzuki retired the King Quad 300, we couldn't blame them. Its QuadMaster 500 - and later Vinson — were more of a “king” than the King Quad 300.
We knew Suzuki was working on a big-bore utility machine for a few years. When it released the Kawasaki-alliance-shared Twin Peaks, Suzuki made sure to let us know that it soon would have a new big bore of its own.
Soon after that announcement, the company released some “spy” photos of the new quad to be named King Quad. Would Suzuki be able to live up to that name? We soon found out it did.
This is the ninth year we have handed out an ATV Magazine ATV of the Year award. The King Quad represents the first time Suzuki has won the honor. There are three main set of criteria we use in determining ATV of the year: innovation, industry influence and consumer appeal.
One only need to look at the engine of the King Quad 700 to see the innovation. It may not be the first ATV to feature electronic fuel injection (Cannondale and later Polaris beat them to it), but it is innovative in its EFI design. The engine cylinder is also cantered 48 degrees forward to reduce the height of gravity. Anyone who has ridden a machine that was too top heavy knows how this affects machine handling in corners. The engine also has dual overhead cams — a first on a utility ATV engine. Up until now, DOHC was something only found on the most high-tech sport quads. With two cams, an engine can breathe much more efficiently and can rev higher to produce not only more bottom end, but more power, too.
This also represents the first time Suzuki has offered an ATV with independent rear suspension in this big-bore class. By adding this to its ATV features, it is our hope that we will start to see more Suzuki ATVs with IRS.
A small but innovative feature is the ability to switch the pod handlebar light on and off independently from the front headlights. Many people who have ridden at night on an ATV with its front racks loaded knows how annoying a pod headlight can be. Again, it is small, but we know customers will appreciate it.
Will this machine influence manufacturers? No doubt it will. Again it wasn't first with EFI, but it is the first Japanese-designed ATV with EFI. Will this force Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha to incorporate EFI into their designs? We hope so.
At our recent ATV Trials event, the King Quad weighed in at 661 pounds with operating fluids and a full tank of gas. This, too, should influence others to lighten their ATVs in this class. The quest for more displacement has also increased weights. Other manufacturers could easily lighten their ATVs without sacrificing durability.
When other manufacturers have worked to bring engine displacements closer to 800cc, Suzuki didn’t push its engine size to be the biggest on the market — even though it could have. Rather it looked at engine power and weight and saw that, at 700cc, it would still perform at a level Suzuki wanted.
But the No. 1 influence we hope comes from the King Quad 700 is price. At $7,199, the King Quad is the lowest-priced model in its class. With a slew of features available to the consumer, Suzuki has managed to keep its price low. Will this force other manufacturers to offer more features for less price? If so, that’s a plus for the consumer.
This is a no brainer. One look at the King Quad and one can see the curb appeal of this machine. Its lines are unmistakably Suzuki, but it keeps a modern and fresh approach to the Suzuki look.
Suzuki also added a few things that riders will appreciate once they have bought the machine. For one, the air filter access is easy to get at and makes changing the filter simple. Suzuki also offers its customers a nice 2.8-liter water-resistant storage compartment within reach of the seated rider.
Anyone who looks closely at the King Quad will find features and benefits befitting ATV of the Year status. For ATV Magazine, it was the clear choice.