Honda Dealers Welcome Multi-Use Vehicles

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American Honda Motor Co. introduced 11 new or updated vehicles in September, bringing the manufacturer's product lineup to nearly 75 models for 2008.

Product destined for dealerships include Honda's long-awaited side-by-side, the Big Red; the TRX700XX open-class sport quad; two 1470cc turbo-charged AquaTrax PWC; the CRF230L dual-sport; and the VTX1300 Tourer.

While Honda calls it an "early-announcement 2009 model," the Big Red Multi-Use Vehicle is scheduled for delivery to dealers in time for the 2008 summer selling season. Honda says the 675cc fuel-injected machine is not a vehicle created to compete against Yamaha's ubersuccessful Rhino, but instead is a unit destined for more mundane utility purposes. It comes with an automatic transmission featuring three selectable drive modes plus reverse, front and rear independent double-wishbone suspension, rubber-mounted bucket seats with adjustable backs, and a tilting cargo bed.

Created to provide big torque numbers even at altitude, the 686cc fuel-injected TRX700XX (MSRP: $7,899) is Honda's entry into the increasingly popular open-class sport quad market dominated by Yamaha, BRP, Arctic Cat and Kawasaki. It's outfitted with double-wishbone independent rear suspension (IRS) and a centered chain drive system, and comes in metallic black/silver and metallic black/red.

Although Honda continues to approach the PWC market with caution (never overextending its product offerings), the OEM remains in the mix. Honda bumped the size of its AquaTrax from 1235cc to 1470cc, and no longer offers a nonturbo-charged model. The 200 hp AquaTrax F-15X and AquaTrax F-15X with GPScape are based not only on a larger engine, but also on a newly designed hull to provide more splash protection, improved stability and low- and high-speed turning performance without sacrificing low-speed maneuverability.

Unique features include a multifunction meter indicating approximate remaining ride time based in fuel consumption in minutes, Honda's proprietary Ignition Control System (ICS) to protect the engine from abnormal operating conditions, a gear-driven dual engine balancer system to virtually eliminate high-frequency engine vibration, and a crankcase breather system featuring three breather chambers that prevent oil loss if the PWC is accidentally overturned.

The CRF230L ($4,449) is a compact dual-sport Honda thinks will be successful doing double duty as an economical commuter, motorhome runabout or "weekend outback-exploration trail bike." The 267 lb. machine is outfitted with a 223cc single-cylinder air-cooled four-stroke with electric start and features CRF-R-inspired bodywork/graphics and everything needed to make it road-legal.

Remaining new models come in the form of the VTX1300 Tourer ($10,999–$11,099), an updated TRX400EX ($5,999) and a revised CRF250R ($6,449–$6,649), CRF250X ($6599) CRF450R ($7,199–$7,399) and CRF450X ($7,399).

To come up with the VTX1300 Tourer, Honda simply took the 2007 VTX1300 and added a full-size windscreen, chrome-padded backrest and 24-liter leather saddlebags from its accessories catalog. The TRX400EX receives updated suspension components and settings, a lighter clutch pull, a wider seat with a narrower seat/tank junction, new bodywork and an LED brake light and taillight.

Highlighting the CRF-R motocrossers and CRF-X dirtbikes is the addition of a Honda Progressive Steering Damper (HPSD) to the CRF450R/X and CRF250R, which will likely improve handling and reduce rider fatigue. Both MX models also benefit from numerous power-enhancing improvements, and receive a revised Showa front fork with new damper rods and stiffer springs, plus rear shock valving that matches changes to the forks.

— Guido Ebert