Honda offers GPS on Ranchers

In an effort to give customers more of what they want, Honda is the first ATV manufacturer to add integral Global Positioning System (GPS) on to one of its models. The 2004 FourTrax Rancher AT with GPSCAPE aims to build on the success of the Rancher. In 2002, Honda sold more than 70,000 Rancher units, due to its broad appeal. “It does so many things very well,” said Lee Edmunds, Honda’s Motorcycle Press Manager. Part of the appeal is the machine’s ability to perform equally well in sport, work and recreational applications.
The machine fits perfectly into a somewhat “new” market in ATVs — sport utilities. Honda’s Rincon 650 is one such model, a powerhouse machine that is comfortable on the farm or on an enduro track a Rincon won the 2002 Baja 1000 in the ATV division. With competing brands releasing models that fit this new SUV niche — such as Bombardier’s successful Outlander, the Kawasaki Prairie 650 and Suzuki’s Vinson, to name a few — Honda knew it needed a 400-class machine to remain on top of the segment.
The Rancher AT features a larger displacement engine: 397cc compared to the 329cc mill in the 2003 model. Honda engineers increased both bore and stroke to up the horsepower by 10% and the torque by 20%.
According to Edmunds, customers and dealers were demanding the Hondamatic automatic transmission, similar to the unit found on the Foreman Rubicon. A pivoting lever allows users to choose between automatic transmission or Electric Shift Pattern (ESP) modes. In electric shift mode, five preset transmission locations mimic the function of gears. On equipped models, a thumb switch allows the rider to choose between two and four wheel drive. The longitudinally mounted engine provides shaft drive to both front and rear wheels.
Styling is Rinconesque, with sharp lines and a sporty look and feel. Integrated head and tail lights add to the sleek appearance. Color options are similar to other Honda lines: red, yellow or olive green. Rack capacity stays the same: 66 pounds up front and 133 pounds in the rear.
The GPS unit was developed in conjunction with Garmin,
a leader in the GPS market. Though the GPS features are scaled down compared to many portable units available, the unit works well and should suit most ATV customers. Operation is simple and efficient. Users may set up to 100 waypoints in memory, either by punching in the location they are in or by inputting the coordinates.
For trail riders, having the waypoints in the system means no longer needing to note specific trails or routes in order to find your truck and trailer at the end of the day. Instead, you can ride until the fuel tank is half empty, then turn back, the display will point the way. It also allows hunters to set waypoints at their favorite spots or at treestands. The unit does not interface with a computer and does not store maps or other downloadable data.
The user interface is simple. On the left, a Mode button allows the user to switch between the five available modes: odometer, trip meter, clock, hour meter and GPS. The center button, labeled WPT, sets waypoints and resets the trip meter.
On the right, two buttons allow users to set coordinates to create waypoints off topographical maps or to reach specific destinations.
Most users will understand the computer with a few minutes of use. The receiver holds data in memory for 10 years, and stores it even if the battery goes dead or is removed.
According to Edmunds, the GPS just adds to the fun factor of the machine. “Maybe, (some customers) will never see it off a fire road,” Edmunds said. “But we have to respond to (all) the markets.” The GPS should be a convenience feature useful for both work and play applications.
Despite the improvements, the original Rancher 350 won’t go the way of the Dodo. It will continue in the Honda lineup for budget conscious customers or entry level riders.

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