When you have a popular, market-leading product, it's a dangerous proposition to start changing things unless you think you can make significant improvements.
That's where Honda engineers were three years ago when they began developing the all-new 2007 Honda TRX420 FourTrax Rancher 4X4 Utility All Terrain Vehicle. After all, last year's 350 cc Rancher sold 70,000 units, more than some ATV maker's total production.
The new Honda TRX420 Rancher (foreground) shares no parts with its popular predecessor except its name badge. Gone are the cooling fins on the cylinder with new liquid cooling, and fuel-injection has replaced the carburetor. Overall, the TRX420 is about 30% more powerful than the 350 it replaces.
The new TRX420 started rolling off the line in Timmonsville, South Carolina in mid-October. From our time on both the old and new rendition of the Rancher, and with a MSRP sticker price of only $200 more than last year, we think the change was well worth it!
New from the Ground Up
While the old and new Rancher don't show a "night and day" difference outwardly, they certainly are at least "early morning and bright noon" in technology and performance.
The new machine moves on a totally new frame, powered by a new-for-the-Rancher liquid-cooled 420 cc fuel-injected engine. The high-revving two-valve single-cylinder mill uses proprietary aluminum pushrods to lower internal inerta in a conventional OHV design. The result of the lighter valve train, along with a computerized throttle-body fuel injector and a completely solid state ignition system, is 27% more horsepower and 30% more torque than the venerable 350 cc air-cooled thumper it replaces.
The TRX420 keeps Honda's in-line engine/drive line configuration for what engineers say is a conservative 10% better power-to-the-wheels efficiency rating than competing machines which use bevel drives to transfer power from traditionally-mounted engines.
True to its motorcycle ancestry and Honda's lack of problems with gear-to-gear ATV transmissions, the TRX420 comes with a manual-shift or electric-shift 5-speed clutchless gear box. A drive shaft turns a traditional Honda solid rear axle which can swing up and down 6.3 inches, the same as the front double wishbone front suspension. Four-wheel-drive units also sport a non-locking, differential up front. Overall ground clearance for the TRX420 is 6.5 inches
Hydraulic disc brakes on the front and a sealed mechanical rear drum brake make full-speed straight-line stopping a breeze, and proved more than adequate on Honda's 1.7-mile wooded test trail.
The TRX420 is much more civil in turns and on rough spots than its predecessor, and much more nimble due to the increased power output and close-spaced 5-speed gear box. Tight corners come easily with a 10.5-foot turning radius, and an overall weight of 562 pounds for the electric-shift model. The manual shift Rancher tips the scales at 560 pounds.
Creature comforts include a well-designed set of high-rise front fenders that keep the rider dry even while plunging in bumper-deep water holes, or plowing over submerged roads with water up to the foot rests. For more severe conditions, riders can count on an air snorkel mounted high on the front of the 3.7-gallon fuel tank, and USDA-approved spark-arresting muffler mounted just below the rear cargo carrier.
The TRX420's towing capacity is rated at a conservative 850 pounds
Also, there's no engine heat billowing between the rider's legs as in the past, and the new seat design is well padded and easy to remove to service a washable air filter located just slightly under the air-snorkel level.
The TRX420 comes in Honda Red, Bright Yellow, Olive or NaturalGear Camo (at a higher cost). Options include a flag kit, a recoil starter and a waterproof 12-volt accessory socket. Sticker prices range from $5299 to $5849 depending upon 2WD/4WD selections, manual or electric-shift, and standard color or camo paint.