The Rancher model has a colorful history on the timeline for Honda as a manufacturer. This machine as well as its middleweight displacement has been a staple in the ATV history book and is still very much in demand by many consumers as one of the more affordable utility ATVs you can get. For 2014, Honda has not only changed the looks of the machine but also added and changed many other features offered in the total of seven packages. We had a brief encounter with this great machine at Honda's R&D facility in Columbus, Ohio, and the meeting was refreshing to say the least.
The 2014 Rancher has many new and exciting changes beginning with the frame of the middleweight fighter. This frame design is a bit more rigid and lends itself to better control as well as more precise handling. This also gives the driver a smoother ride overall. The main chassis is not the only change, though, as the suspension gets a little longer travel from years past. The front and rear travel had been at 6.3 inches but raises up to 6.7 for the new machine. This means a little more comfort and articulation in the rougher terrain as well as extended reach for the harsh bumps. The shocks are preload adjustable, which might seem basic but is a step in the right direction. Total ground clearance on the new Rancher 420 is set at 7.2 inches for 2014; that takes the machine up 0.7 from last year's model at 6.5 inches.
Powering the 2014 Rancher 420 is a revised 420cc liquid-cooled four-stroke. The engine remains basically the same, but the power that comes off the crank is a bit more to brag about. Getting the engine of the Honda Rancher to respond a bit better, the engineers remapped the ECU for the Programmed Fuel Injection, and combining this with a new oxygen sensor just behind the exhaust silencer on the head pipe, the computer-aided mapping adjusts itself for optimal performance. The engine is also longitudinally mounted so the crank is aligned with the drive shaft to make sure every ounce of Rancher power hits the ground.
Some maintenance-minded riders will be excited to know that the new digital dash gives its owner checkup notices right on the screen. This keeps the proper maintenance on the rider's mind so the Honda Rancher lives as long as possible. The serviceability is also increased with things like a one-piece bodywork that when removed reveals the tank and key parts of the engine. Honda is known for reliability, but failing to hold up your end of the deal by servicing the machine regularly could cause trouble.
Putting the Rancher 420 power to the ground is the Honda automatic transmission. This transmission has a dual clutch design that is super heavy-duty and shifts smoothly from one gear to the next. The options on the "shifting" of the transmission seem endless but are as follows: manual foot lever shift, automatic ES (electric shift)-which is an up-and-down twin-button bar-mounted switching process that has been used by Honda for many years-and the DCT shifting, which controls all of the transmission shift points on its own. Quite a complicated transmission for sure, as it was derived from the Honda Automotive side of the company.
The ride location was the R&D facility at the Ohio plant, and the woods ranged from some tight sloping hills and lots of slate rock in the creek crossings. The root-filled sections gave us an appreciation for the extended shock travel and settings, while the more open trails allowed us to open the mid-bore machine and feel the awesome power of the 420cc powerplant. Getting acquainted with the Rancher was almost instant, as the machine has a big comfortable seat and plenty of roomy floorboard area even for a larger rider such as myself. As I mentioned before, the power of the 420 really comes to life and is surprising for a smaller-displacement machine. Whether shifting with my foot on the manual transmission or engaging the two-position switch on the bars, the Honda transmission worked just as it should with a smoother feel compared to last year's model. The power steering was set almost to perfection as it gave just enough feedback in the bars to make the rider feel at least in touch with the trail. Overall this machine is not only a great value but has seven model variations to choose from, and if I could suggest one option, it would be to purchase power steering.
- Engine performance
- Overall handling
- Fit and finish ergonomics
- Non-power-steering model 4x4 is tough to steer
- Could possibly use longer wheelbase
2014 Honda Rancher 420
Type: OHV semi-dry-sump longitudinally mounted single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore x stroke: 86.5 x 71.5mm
Fuel system: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) w/ 34mm throttle body
Starting system: Electric w/ optional auxiliary recoil
Drive system: Direct front and rear drive shafts, 2WD/4WD
Transmission: Automatic ESP 5-speed w/ reverse
Front: Independent dual A-arms/6.7 in.
Rear: Swingarm w/ single shock/6.7 in.
Front: Dual hydraulic discs
Rear: Single hydraulic disc
Wheelbase: 49.9 in.
Curb weight: 626 lbs. (TRX420FA1) / 639 lbs. (TRX420FA2)
Ground clearance: 7.2 in.
Length/width/height: 82.8/47.4/46.2 in.
Seat height: 33.7 in.
Turning radius: 9.2 ft.
Fuel capacity: 3.9 gal., including 1.3-gal. reserve
Towing capacity: 848 lbs.
Rack Capacity Front/Rear: 66/133 lbs.
Lighting: Twin 35-watt halogen
Instrumentation: Digital dash including Honda's new Maintenance Minder alerts
Colors: Honda Phantom Camo, Olive, Orange, Red