The side-by-side utility vehicle market remains a solid earner from companies that compete in that space. During a media event in Minnesota, Arctic Cat expanded its popular Prowler line with a new 500 HDX series that takes cues from the bigger 700 series. The new line offers three model ranges starting at the 500 HDX that is designed with a feature set that allows buyers a value-priced entry into the market.

"The 500 HDX is built on the same platform as the 700," says Ryan Hughes, engineering program leader, Arctic Cat. "But with its features it has a lower price point. The base 500 HDX is available in red and green." What the 500 series does have is three-passenger seating, popular on the 700, and other capability features that enhance the value of this machine over the base two-passenger Prowler lineup.

Arctic Cat's popular top line 700 series features automotive paint, electronic power steering, and extra storage that may be just right for some buyers. But the base level 500 HDX features a molded plastic body and 14-inch steel wheels. The base machine also has no power steering and there's no tilt wheel either.

After taking it for a test drive it's easier to talk about what it has than what it hasn't. The 500 HDX is powered by a 443 cc liquid cooled Arctic Cat engine that provides capable power for most users. It's 42 mph top speed is plenty fast in a range of situations. And the machine featueres a 2-in. receiver hitch front and rear for versatile use in a number of situations.

And after some trail riding, it should be noted that lack of power steering wasn't an issue in handling this machine. Through a number of situations, it was easy to maneuver the machine and during my drive I didn't feel the need for power assisted steering. And to check that I took the top line 700 HDX machine out for a spin and while power assisted steering was evident, it's not something you'll miss with the 500 HDX.

"This machine is targeted for the ATV owner who is thinking of moving up to a side-by-side," Hughes explains. "The buyer is getting the frame and base features of the 700 at a better price."

A closer look

That 443 cc engine is new for Arctic Cat. It features a closed loop electronic fuel injection design that self adjusts for a range of conditions. There are also two intake filters to keep dust and dirt out of the machine, and both can be removed for cleaning or replacement without tools.

The large pallet-friendly bed of the 500 series comes directly from the 700 family including the ability to remove the sides and tailgate to get 'flatbed' versatility. In 500 trim, capacity of the bed is 600 pounds, which would allow plenty of hauling capacity for most operations. When the sides are left on the box, users have a lot of tie-down options for keeping a load secure.

The easy-dump design allows for cleanout, and the tailgate opens by releasing two latches on the right and left side for better access. This is a wide, utility-friendly bed for hauling plenty around the farm.

If the base 500 HDX doesn't offer enough features there are two more higher-optioned models in the line - the 500 HDX XT and the 500 HDX LTD. Moving up means adding under hood front storage and side storage compartments. And you get a higher-level painted finish on the two higher models. Only the HDX LTD model gets variable assist electronic power steering and a 5-position tilt wheel.

Suggested list price for the base 500 HDX is $10,999. The company will be releasing more information about the line on its website soon, check it out at www.arcticcat.com.

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