Honda courts farm customers with a new powerful, automatic ATV.

Seeking to gain a greater share of the hot market for multipurpose ATVs, Honda recently released details about its biggest, most powerful ATV, which it will introduce next spring. Called the 2001 Fourtrax Foreman Rubicon, the 500-cc ATV will handle work on the farm and ranch and provide recreation when the work is done.

And for the company's 2000 product line, Honda has designed four new ATVs bearing the Rancher name and packing 350 cc of power.

ATV prototype. Honda hopes its new Foreman Rubicon, named after a famous California trail, will capture new farm customers in the fast-growing ATV market.

The Rubicon features a beltless automatic transmission called the Hondamatic. The continuously variable transmission is compact, quiet and rugged and features engine braking.

Rider controls include a shift lever for drive, low, neutral and reverse. A dash-mounted knob allows a rider to select maximum torque, maximum performance and a third position for Honda's electric shift program.

A liquid-cooled, four-valve, 500-cc, four-stroke single-cylinder engine powers the new ATV. Honda engineers were determined to lower the engine's height to improve ground clearance and maintain a low center of gravity for superb handling. The four-valve head was needed for performance, a feature that usually requires an overhead camshaft. So the engineers placed the engine's camshaft below the cylinder head to lower the height of the engine. In addition, the oil supply, usually located at the bottom of the engine, was relocated to an external tank, also reducing engine height.

The Rubicon is equipped with full-time 4-wd and a torque-sensing front differential that improves handling. Dry weight of the ATV is less than 600 lbs. Price has not yet been determined.

2000 models released. If you don't want to wait for the Rubicon, Honda offers four new models for next year, all in the Rancher line. The ATVs come in 2-wd and 4-wd as well as conventional and electric shift models. These 350-cc ATVs replace the Honda models TRX300 and TRX300 4x4.

All models feature a new longitudinally mounted 4-stroke engine with a dry-sump oiling system that places the oil tank inside the oil cases. This reduces engine height and creates a 9.7-in. ground clearance.

Color choices for the Rancher line are red, olive and orange. List prices: Rancher S, $4,399; Rancher ES, $4,599; Rancher 4x4 S, $5,199; and Rancher 4x4 ES, $5,399. Contact American Honda Motor Co. Inc., Dept. FIN, 1919 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90501, 310/532-9811.