As the market for utility ATVs grows in demand, so do the owners' demands to stay current with technology. The biggest advancement in the ATV market for both utility and sport models was the introduction to Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) systems. This made the machines even more user friendly when adding aftermarket exhaust systems or riding in areas where elevation changes affected the machines' performance by automatically recalibrating the fuel delivery. The next feature that companies worked on for their utility machines were reliable Electronic Power Steering (EPS) systems that not only help the overall handling of the machine for recreational riding but for increased performance when hauling heavy loads.
Even as we ran over rocks...
Even as we ran over rocks hidden in the powdery snow, the EPS prevented the bars from being jerked away.
While many other companies were quick to be competitive with one another by including this feature on their products, Arctic Cat stood back and studied what worked for some and what didn't. The end result is the Arctic Cat Variable Assist EPS, which provides steering assistance to the ATV before it even starts to move at idle. The engineers at Arctic Cat felt that this was a huge benefit to conserving the riders input energy when in four-wheel drive, even more so when the differential lock has been engaged. The EPS reduces the necessary effort to steer the ATV when changing directions with loaded racks or navigating tough obstacles like rocks, deep mud or logs. The system also acts as a steering damper of sorts, as it will help prevent the bars being jarred from the rider's hands upon hitting ruts, rocks or anything else one might encounter on the trail.
Knowing that Arctic Cat customers use their products in some of the most severe conditions and terrains, a sealed unit containing a brushless motor driving a worm gear was chosen. This allows the system to be completely submerged in water or mud without worry and the brushless system provides a longer life than most conventional EPS systems being used today. The amount of assist delivered by the power steering system is determined by an electronic control unit (ECU) inside of the housing that measures steering input force, tire resistance, wheel and engine speed. Based on all four inputs, the system can deliver strong assist at low speeds in addition to providing enough resistance at higher speeds, eliminating the feeling of a floating front end.
At this time, Arctic Cat has decided to include this option on six of its most popular utility ATVs. The base models are the 550 H1 S that is available in red, while the 700 H1 S is available in the standard green color. While they don't feature any special bells and whistles, they do have the great reliability that Arctic Cat is known for. The 550 and 700 H1 S LE models on the other hand are the real eye-catchers of the group. The 550 H1 S LE package comes with alloy wheels, a pre-installed and wired winch, heavy-duty front and rear bumpers, deluxe digital/analog gauges and painted Tungsten Metallic plastic. The 700 H1 S LE package has all of the same features with the exception of the painted Viper Blue plastic. The TRV line of machines both feature alloy wheels, deluxe digital/analog gauges and painted Viper Blue plastics for the 550 and Tungsten Metallic for the 700. Pricing on these machines was still yet to be finalized, so check with your local Arctic Cat dealer.
To put these machines to the test, Arctic Cat invited us out to Moab, UT, where the power steering systems could be pushed to their limits. Known best for its extremely technical rockcrawling trails, this area had recently been hit by a severe cold front dumping over two feet of fresh snow in the region, which meant that the machines could really be tested in extreme elements. Our group arrived at the staging area where the Arctic Cat semi was parked as well as all of the machines that we would be testing for the day. As our group bundled up to ride in the below-freezing temperatures we could only hope that the day's ride would put us higher than the cloud bank we were presently in the middle of.
The EPS unit is hard to miss...
The EPS unit is hard to miss but well worth the 14-pound weight increase.
As I stepped aboard the 550 EFI S LE for my initial ride, I fired up the engine and before rolling out of the staging area gave a quick turn of the bars. Since we were parked on fresh blacktop, the contact patch of the tires would provide a significant amount of drag as the wheels turned from side to side. The assist from the EPS on this quad made turning the bars almost effortless and made me even more anxious to hit the trail and test the full capability of the system.
Once our trail guide had our group on the fire road leading to the many trails that Moab has to offer, we quickly climbed above the thick cloudbank and were greeted by gorgeous mountains that were covered with thick powdery snow. This also meant that the roads and trails we were on would be extremely slippery due to mud and ice that covered them. On the fast straightaway portions of the road that were icy, I never felt any lack of control or comfort in the steering action. While I could tell that there was still assist from the EPS unit, it wasn't overdone making the steering feel twitchy at high speeds.
Even with a passenger on a...
Even with a passenger on a TRV model the machine was easy to handle.
Once we reached the highest elevation of our journey it became necessary to punch through the untouched snow on some of the trails we wanted to tackle. Once the first machine went through, the following machines clawed their way through the white powder. At times there were hidden boulders under the fluff that I could feel as the quad bounced over, but not once did these hidden objects cause the bars to feel like they were going to be ripped out of my hands. So far, the new power steering was living up to the hype that the Arctic Cat engineers had built up to us. After hours of playing in the powder and high-speed riding, we started our descent back to the semi. On the way back we stopped to play around on some of the magnificent red rock that this region has to offer for a bit more technical riding. Whether we were on a TRV or standard machine, the power steering made maneuvering around the technical terrain effortless and much more enjoyable.
Back at the rig everyone started comparing notes on the new machines and the general consensus was that Arctic Cat hit a home run with the new EPS system. While the unit adds 14 pounds of weight to the front of the machine, the trade-off is well worth it. Your body will notice this at the end of the day when you realized that you have ridden much more than usual with less muscle and back fatigue. One of the only conditions we were unable to test the EPS systems in were the sticky swamps typically found in the South, so we questioned the company reps about the performance there. They assured us that there are machines with certain test groups in those regions and the feedback has been just as positive. If this is the case, it is a true testament to a company that has done its homework to make a quality product.
2010 Arctic Cat EPS Models
How do you make a good product even better? In their case, Arctic Cat took their popular H1 line of utility ATVs and added power steering. If you're in the market for a standard, LE or two-seater TRV model, here is a gallery of your options as they are offered.
550 HI EFI S
550 HI EFI S LE
TRV 550 HI EFI S
700 HI EFI S
700 HI EFI S LE
TRV 700 HI EFI S
||Less steering effort and increased control.
||14 pounds of additional front-end weight.
||Longer rides with less rider fatigue.