When we asked the makers of off-road utility vehicles (UVs) to point out some of the differences between a UV and an ATV, here's what they said: “ATVs are built for recreation; UVs are built to work….UVs are built with a low center of gravity so they won't tip over…. You can tow and haul loads at the same time — in some cases up to 2,800 lbs. …A passenger seat allows you the option of bringing your partner or hired hand along as you check fields or fix downed machinery….UVs offer more storage for tools than an ATV.”

The newest models have either four or six wheels but are similar in engine capacity, payload and towing capabilities, and body size. All models feature continuous variable transmissions (CVT) and rack and pinion steering. Here are some of the other distinctions these new machines boast.

Pioneer in the field. “We consider ourselves the leader in the utility vehicle industry,” says David Turner, brand manager of performance UVs for Club Car, a division of Ingersoll Rand. “We started making utility vehicles over 15 years ago.”

Most UVs have a standard locking rear differential. The new, four-wheeled Pioneer 1200 has a shift-on-the-fly differential lock that, after a shift of a lever, engages and disengages as needed. No stopping or adjusting is necessary. “The shift-on-the-fly is transparent to the operator when it shifts and engages,” Turner claims.

Turner says his company's UV has the largest fuel tank with a 7-gal. capacity; is the only UV with an all-aluminum chassis (an I-beam) and bed floor for rust and corrosion resistance; and has the largest bed capacity of 15.3 cu. ft. with slam latches so it locks in place like a pickup bed.

The Pioneer has exclusive self-adjusting rack and pinion steering that will take up the play in the gearbox that's created from wear, Turner explains.

Standard is a heavy-duty front brush guard, 4-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, independent front and semi-independent rear suspension and a two-year limited warranty. Options include sprayers, stake side kits, 1,500 lb., remote-operated winch, canopy top, windshield, lightbar and a cab with steel doors. Contact Club Car, Dept. FIN, Box 204658, Augusta, GA 30917, 800/800-1227 or circle 222.

Gator aid. You won't find the Worksite Gator at your local John Deere dealer; it's only sold through the company's commercial Worksite product dealers. “It's similar to a Green Gator 6 × 4 diesel, only some of the equipment that is optional on the Green is standard on the Worksite,” says Collis Jones, product marketing manager for UVs with John Deere Company.

Those standard features include a bed liner, front bumper, front fender and front brush guards, electric lift kit, chain guards, heavy-duty suspension kit, tie-down rings, heavy-duty, all-purpose tires and a heavy-duty frame.

Because the internal wet disc brakes on both the 6 × 4 and 4 × 2 models are constantly lubricated in oil, they require less adjustment. The driver's seat is offset to the center for better weight distribution, load balancing and stability. Tire footprints are only 5 to 6 psi to help reduce soil compaction.

Jones claims the Worksite's front to back 6.7-in. underclearance creates a very low center of gravity. This, coupled with the machine's wide track stance, keeps the machine stable. For a dealer near you, check the John Deere Gator UV Web site, call 800/537-8233, or circle 223.

Ranger to the rescue. Polaris is somewhat of a latecomer to the UV market. It launched its Ranger “super utility” in 1998 and now offers the six-wheeled machine with on-demand 6-wd. (According to one source, Polaris classifies its UV as a super utility because it exceeds the EPA standard maximum speed limit of 25 mph. A Polaris spokesman chose not to supply mph rate.)

“On-demand 6-wd is kind of rare in UVs,” says Tim Erickson, public relations coordinator for Polaris UVs. A rocker switch on the dash engages all six wheels at once.

The machine features a no-slip, front-wheel-drive system that senses rear-wheel traction and engages it to transfer full torque to both front wheels.

The Ranger's dump box is easy to load and unload because of gas-assist springs. Ground clearance is high at 7 1/2 in. The only storage on the Ranger is between the bucket seats: A center console features a box for storage and two beverage holders. The vehicle's power plant and clutching system are the same as those used on the company's ATV. Contact Polaris Industries Inc., Dept. FIN, 2100 Hwy. 55, Medina, MN 55340, 800/765-2747 or circle 224.

Mule made to move. Kawasaki built its first Mule in 1988 and it hasn't stopped beefing it up since. All new this year is the 3000 series, which includes the 3010 (a control knob on the dash lets you switch between 2- or 4-wd) and the 3000 (a 2-wd version of the 3010).

“The frame is a ladder-type frame, the same you find on full-size pickups,” says Russ Brenan, Mule public relations coordinator for Kawasaki. Other features include 4-wheel suspension, brakes on all four wheels — an uncommon feature on UVs — and a completely sealed belt drive.

The air intake for both the tranny and the air cleaner is mounted above and behind the operator seat. “It gets air from the cleanest, driest place we could find,” Brenan claims. “Most UVs take air from underneath the vehicle so you get dust and dirt from the road in your air intake.”

An automotive-style dash has storage compartments and a glove compartment; more storage is under the hood. The engine is beneath the vehicle's bed. For maintainance, you simply tilt up the bed; to check or add oil, you tilt the bench seat forward. A 12v outlet powers electronics or shop tools.

Accessories include sprayers, trailers, and tool and implement holders. Contact Kawasaki, Dept. FIN, 9950 Jeronimo Rd., Irvine, CA 92618, 949/770-0400 or circle 225.

A real workhorse. E-Z-Go just started producing UVs three years ago but has been making golf carts since 1954. “We started production last month on our new Workhorse ST 480 model,” says Ron Skenes, communications manager for the company. “It has a lot of standard features that other companies only offer as options.” He cites a receiver hitch on the front and back of the machine for hitches and winches, a standard electric dump bed, a bed liner and headlights.

The 480 has a 6-gal. gas tank and hydraulic brakes that are self-adjusting to eliminate maintainence. Contact E-Z-Go, Dept. FIN, Box 388, Augusta, GA 30903, 800/241-5855 or circle 226.