From the September/October 2011 issue of ATV Rider Magazine
Each year when spring is at its peak, most people look forward to seeing plants bloom or start making plans for their upcoming summer vacation, but not us powersports journalists. This is the time of year when manufacturers proudly showcase the machines they’ve been working on for the past few years, though in some instances it’s what we call BNG, that is “bold new graphics.” But not for Honda. This year red has gone big with the new-and-improved Foreman 4x4, and we’re not talking about just new colors, wheels and tires. From the ground up the engineers at Honda took feedback from their customers and set out to make what they thought was the best ATV in its class.
To see an obvious change from 2011 to the 2012 model all you need do is look at the machines side by side. What you’ll notice first is that the bodywork has been given a complete overhaul, with the new Foreman gaining a much more aggressive look than the previous model. In addition to improved looks, the large oversize fender package also provides exceptional mud and splash protection for the rider. At the back of the overhauled machine a new steel swingarm attaches to the frame and provides 6.9 inches of travel with a single rear shock. The front suspension is a dual A-arm style that features 6.7 inches of travel, and working with the rear setup, this combination should easily take on the toughest terrain your heart desires to tackle.
At the heart of the revamped ATV is a brand-new liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, 475cc engine that comes with a higher-compression-ratio piston than the older air-cooled powerplant to provide great torque. To complement the stronger liquid-cooled engine, Honda engineers also did away with the traditional carburetion system for a more up-to-date fuel-injection fuel delivery system through a 36mm Keihin throttle body. This was the system of choice because they felt that it would provide great throttle response and consistent performance at any altitude in addition to easy cold-weather starting. This all-new engine has been mated to the tried-and-true five-speed automatic clutch transmission that is available in either electric shift (as we tested) or standard foot shift that also features a reverse gear. Since they improved upon the engine to make more power, they also decided to upgrade the Foreman’s braking capabilities by upgrading the front brake system with a set of 196mm discs and dual hydraulic calipers.
Up top the instrument cluster has received a complete face-lift with a new instrument cluster. The new setup features a multifunction LCD digital meter that features a large screen to display your fuel level, gear position, speedometer, odometer, tripmeter, hourmeter and oil change reminder. The housing of the meter also features LED lights for reverse, neutral, oil temperature warning and a front-differential indicator. In all reality, the only thing this meter doesn’t feature is color cable TV, but just give it a few years and that could possibly turn up on some units… For now, we’re impressed with what we get on this one. All of this sits on top of the handlebar, which is mounted on top of a steering system that is offered with or without an electric power steering (EPS) system. If all of what you’ve read so far sounds good, you’ll be even happier to know that this machine is made and assembled in the United States. From the cast engine cases to the molded plastic, we had the opportunity to see machines being assembled start to finish at the plant in Timmonsville, South Carolina.
We can keep talking about this machine till we’re blue in the face, but we know you want to hear how this baby actually handles out on the trail. To test out the new Foreman, Honda took us and a few other select media outlets to Carolina Adventure World (CAW) in North Carolina. This would be my first time at this location and I was pleasantly surprised at the varying trails and terrain we had at our disposal. From wide fire roads where we could pin the throttle to test the ATV’s high-speed handling to tight technical rock crawling to test the suspension articulation and torque of the drivetrain, this place had everything we needed to get a good evaluation.
I picked out the fully loaded Foreman with EPS and electronic shifting, and started off my evaluation with seeing how comfortable the cockpit and controls were for me. I instantly noticed that the seat was extremely cushy and the controls were comfortably within reach. The thumb throttle had very little resistance, and the shifting buttons seemed to be simple enough to operate. As I brought the water-cooled engine to life there was one thing I especially noticed: the sound of the exhaust. I don’t know what it is, but it seems to me that Honda has a patent on a certain sound for the exhaust systems for its four-stroke utility-based machines. It’s not a bad thing, but to me it’s very noticeable and reminds me of my very first ATV.
I shifted into gear and made my way down some of the tight trails of CAW, which had just been bombarded with rain in the days leading up to our trip so there were plenty of rain ruts over every trail. I found this to be the perfect terrain to test the updated rear suspension and comfort of the EPS, since rain ruts are notorious for jerking the bar out of many riders’ hands. No matter what speed I hit any of the ruts, I felt like I was completely in control of the machine with the aid of a good working suspension and an EPS system that not only worked as a steering stabilizer, but also made navigating the tight, technical trails easy. At one point in the day the group I was riding with came across a narrow creek/rock garden where we could test the low-speed prowess and power. With a simple pull of the Hi/Low gear selector just to the left side of the engine cowl, I put the ATV into low range, shifted into first gear and made my way through the rocky trail. The torque of the engine and transmission combination allowed the Foreman to claw its way up rock ledges, and the EPS allowed me to change direction with ease no matter what boulders stood in my way.
While I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the Foreman, I will say that I did find myself wishing for a CVT transmission like what is found on almost every other ATV in this class. Don’t get me wrong in thinking that the electronic shift system isn’t easy to deal with, but since I’ve been riding the new ATVs on the market I’ve really taken a liking to the simplicity of a CVT transmission. At the end of the day I had a smile on my face and plenty of energy left over since the machine was easy and comfortable to manage.
Has Honda hit the ball out of the park with the new Foreman? It’s hard to say with the stiff competition it’s up against with other ATVs in its class, but one thing is for certain: This is definitely a contender. Honda machines have always been known for their great reliability, and when you put that with the great features and handling characteristics found in the updated Foreman, it would be a hard machine to beat. ATVR
A brand-new liquid-cooled, single- cylinder, 475cc engine that comes with a higher-compression-ratio piston…
2012 Honda FourTrax Foreman 4x4 ES with EPS
Type: OHV longitudinally mounted single-cylinder four-stroke
Fuel system: FI with Keihin 36mm throttle body
Starting system: Electric
Drive system: Direct front and rear driveshafts with TraxLok and torque-sensitive front differential, 2x4/4x4
Transmission: ESP five-speed with reverse
Front: Independent dual A-arms/6.7 in.
Rear: Swingarm with single shock/6.9 in.
Front: Dual hydraulic 196mm discs
Rear: Sealed 180mm mechanical drum
Claimed curb weight: 644 lb
Ground clearance: 7.6 in.
Length/width/height: 83.7/47.4/47.1 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.0 gal., including 1.2-gal. reserve
Rack capacity, front/rear: 66/133 lb
Generator: 416-watt AC generator
Lighting: Triple headlight system with single 45-watt upper light and dual 30-watt lower lights; LED tail/brake light
Instrumentation: Multifunction LCD display with fuel gauge, gear position, speedometer, odometer, tripmeter, hourmeter, oil change reminder displays; LED indicator lights for reverse, neutral, oil temperature and differential indicator
Colors: Red, olive, NaturalGear camouflage
|Pros / Cons|| |
| +||Liquid -cooled, fuel injected, great styling|
| -||No CVT transmission|
| =||Fun and stylish machine that is great for work or play|