ATV of the Year
January 20, 2003
Filed under Features
Bombardier Outlander honored
Creative engineering pays off, again, for the ATV division of Bombardier Recreational Products. Editors of ATV Magazine have selected the Bombardier Outlander 400 as the 2003 ATV of the Year. The manufacturer’s first ATV, the Traxter 500, earned the ATV Magazine honor upon its introduction in 1999.
ATV Magazine editors present the ATV of the Year honor to the one ATV that best integrates innovative and influential engineering with consumer appeal. The 2003 Bombardier Outlander 400 fit that description best, according to the editors.
With the Outlander, Bombardier engineers not only went outside the box, they went outside the typical box-frame, steel-tube chassis, as well. Bombardier designed the Outlander around a totally new chassis that is essentially a rectangular steel tube formed into an oval in which the engine sits protected from below. This “Surrounding Spar Technology” (SST) chassis uses fewer parts and requires less welding. It’s lighter than a traditional tube chassis, it allows easier access to components, and the frame itself acts like a big skid plate.
The Outlander’s rear suspension deserves special recognition, according to ATV Magazine. The innovative suspension uses individual trailing arms on each side of the unique frame, allowing the tires to be suspended with complete independence. A short torsion bar runs inside the arms’ forward axis to aid stability. This system uses fewer parts and has fewer pivot points than a dual A-arm rear suspension.
Most manufacturers want to build lighter machines, increase manufacturing efficiency, and produce innovative products that are comfortable and easy to use. While it’s not expected that other ATV manufacturers will build direct copies of the SST frame (it most likely carries a few patents), other manufacturers may begin to follow Bombardier’s lead and build utility machines differently.
The Outlander has enough new ideas for a few ATVs — some work better than others — and each will have its own degree of influence. The rear suspension, similar to technology used by off-road racing trucks, could be an influential design, particularly as more ATVs now incorporate independent rear suspension. It’s certainly one that riders will find most beneficial.
The Outlander is definitely not trying to slip by unnoticed. Its looks alone give it a love-it or hate-it following. Bombardier dealers no longer struggle to sell new ideas; they’ve done it with several unique ATVs. And with reportedly few complaints from Bombardier buyers.
The Outlander’s appeal will grow on those who give it some time. Look closely at its unique features. Sit on the machine, and take it for a test drive if you can. While its looks may not appeal directly, the complete package is far more attractive.