Just the Honda name alone brings a long standing reputation for reliability and function at its finest. In the incredibly diverse 4×4 Utility ATV market, the age-old Honda Rancher is like a moniker for the same. A basic functioning utility quad that would continue to work hard until your grandkids were inheriting them. With minimal necessary maintenance, unbelievable reliability and durability was the rule, not the exception. The Rancher’s one downfall might have been just that, future repeat sales were definitely affected by the fact that the old ones just never give up or wore out. Along comes the Rubicon, a little more motor, more up to date transmission options, and overall trail-ability.
In 2015, the trail proven, workhorse Rubicon was completely re-engineered for increased trail comfort. The Honda Rubicon was reliable, predictable, and capable in every way, but with its solid rear axle, the one area it lacked in was trail comfort. Honda engineers developed a new Rubicon chassis to work with its new Independent Rear Suspension or “IRS”. IRS proved to be a huge upgrade to the Rubicon, with much smoother suspension and a major boost in ground clearance. Sub models were soon to follow, with options for EPS and the DCT transmission.
HONDA RUBICON DCT DELUXE
The DCT Deluxe Rubicon model is the latest, all-in Rubicon model with all the bells and whistles you want in a trail friendly, workhorse ATV. Well refined and well-equipped, the Honda Rubicon DCT Deluxe has it all, IRS, DCT, ESP, EPS, and a manual locking front differential. What all this means is that you get all the options you need for work and play, without a huge HP, gas guzzling powerplant that most people may never use anyway.
THE RUBICON MOTOR
The super reliable, 475cc, single cylinder engine is longitudinally mounted in the Rubicon’s frame. The engine is also rubber mounted for increased comfort through minimized vibration. This proven Honda design allows a direct shat drive, eliminating the need for power robbing, 90° changes in the drivetrain. The liquid cooled motor is also fuel injected for easy starting and the best possible performance at any altitude or temperature. While it is no monster, the Rubicon still exhibits plenty of power for any chores around the Ranch, and enough mid-range and top end power to be fun on the trail. The low gear option will help to manage any technical trail obstacles that might come its way.
THE DCT TRANSMISSION
The Rubicon’s transmission is called an Automatic Dual Clutch style because it can still be electronically shifted (ESP) through five gears with the buttons mounted on the handlebars, or can be switched to a fully automatic option with another handlebar mounted switch. Working with the Rubicon, its full-auto mode is brainless, and it can still accomplish any task you throw its way. Aggressive sport or trail riding is fun in both modes, but we found that when pushing it hard, the auto-tranny would often search or scavenge for the proper gear, whereas with ESP, you are in total control. For aggressive trail riding, the ESP is a no-brainer for extracting every last ounce of the Rubicon’s power. EPS shifting is precise and quick, but it does require a lot more paying attention and work to keep it in the ideal gear. Accessing reverse is pretty simple, but will take a little getting used to. The Rubicon also has a Low gear selector located on the left fender for maintaining low speeds in the rocks, or getting unstuck.
DIFF LOCK AND EPS
The Rubicon was the first Honda ATV to get a locking differential. It is accessed by a handlebar mounted switch, and it truly provides the grabbing and pulling for traction that you really need when it comes to very extreme terrain. Whether in the nastiest of rocks or the deepest mud, a locking differential can make you attempt the unthinkable, or even conquer the unconquerable. Another great thing about the Rubicon Deluxe’s locking front differential is that it is paired with EPS. Handling and steering control has always been the downfall with a locking differential, and with the advances in Honda’s electronic power steering, it’s a non-issue. You still wouldn’t want to trail ride all day with it engaged, but you can definitely leave it on for that entire rocky riverbed, or on again, off again hill climb. In 2wd or 4wd, the Honda’s EPS has been developed and refined to reduce steering effort, as well as kickback or negative feedback. This steering damper-like effect is as impressive as ever, and really makes us want EPS on every machine we ride anymore.
RUBICONS IRS SUSPENSION
The IRS suspension is a huge improvement over Honda’s previous, straight axle design in rough terrain. It is way plusher and you seem to miss a lot more of the rocks, roots, etc. with the extremely increased ground clearance. On faster fire-road type terrain, the IRS still exhibits more body roll than the straight axle, and is a little less stable. The anti-sway bar undoubtedly helps to combat this effect, but it’s still noticeable and worth mentioning. While sliding around on dirt roads is more predictable on the straight axle equipped machines, it in no way outweighs the benefits and comfort improvements of the IRS, everywhere else you will ride.
AS READY TO WORK AS EVER
For a mid-bore 4×4, the Honda Rubicon still carries an impressive tow capacity. With 600 kg towing capacity and another 130 kg carrying capacity on the racks, this little workhorse can carry well over twice its own weight. Pretty impressive, and that’s not even counting the rider. What’s even more impressive than just capacity numbers is how well the Rubicon can actually work with these loads. The powder coated steel racks feature well thought-out tie down points, the shocks are adjustable for heavier loads, and the auto transmission has no issue with pulling a trailer either. The handlebar mounted, extra third light is even on a separate switch, so that you can turn it off if you’re carrying a load on the front rack.
WHAT DO WE THINK
The Honda Rubicon DCT Deluxe is a great little 4×4 ATV that can work all week, and still bring a smile to your face on the weekend. They are proven to be unbelievably reliable, and with proper maintenance, will probably last forever. Suspension and overall performance are very good, but neither to the point of overly impressive. There are probably other machines out there that could best the Rubicon in either of these areas, but as the overall package goes, it just does everything pretty darn well. The Rubicon has truly been refined to near-perfection, and its nimble handling will impress just about anyone. It’s compact, but not cramped for riders of any size. The fit and finish, and quality of a Honda is typically second to none, and this machine will probably prove to be an investment that can be passed on to future generations, like the ATC 90s, Trail 90s and XR Dirtbikes we grew up with.
Whether you’re looking for an addition to the stable, to replace that twenty-year-old Rancher, or just one machine that can do it all, the Rubicon will impress the working class rider, both in the field and on the trail. It’s capable, comfortable, and just sporty enough to bring a smile to your face, over and over again.
SPECS: 2018 Honda Rubicon DCT Deluxe
Engine type: Liquid-cooled, OHV, longitudinally mounted Single Cylinder 4-Stroke
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Lubrication system: Wet sump
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Starting procedure: Turn ignition switch/push button
Transmission: Fully automatic, 5 speed, dual-clutch transmission w/Selectable Electric Shift (ESP) plus dual-range sub-transmission and reverse
Drive system: Switchable 2wd/4wd and torque-sensing/locking front differential
Final drives: Direct front and rear driveshafts
Fuel capacity: 14.7 liters
Wheelbase: 1292 mm (50.9”)
Overall length/width/seat height: 2147 mm / 1205 mm / 909 mm (84.5”/47.4”/35.8”)
Ground clearance: 239 mm (9.4”)
Curb weight: 325 kg (716 lbs.)
Front Rack capacity: 45 kg (99 lbs.)
Rear Rack capacity: 85 kg (187 lbs.)
Towing limit: 600 kg (1322 lbs.)
Front: Independent double-wishbone w/adjustable hydraulic/185 mm (7.3”)
Rear: Independent dual arm w/adjustable hydraulic shocks /215 mm (8.5”)
Front: Hydraulic discs 190 mm
Rear: Inboard hydraulic disc
Front: 25×8-12 Maxxis
Rear: 25×10-12 Maxxis
Wheels: 12 inch Cast Aluminum Wheels
Electrical Output: 470 watt alternator
Lighting: Twin 35 watt headlights w/independently operated top assist 50 watt light
Instrumentation: Full function LCD dash w/speed, odometer, trip meter, fuel gauge, coolant temperature, clock, gear position indicator, 4wd indicator, Maintenance Minder system
Warranty: 12 months Distributors Warranty plus 24, 36, and 48 month Honda Plus Extended options
COLORS: MATTE GRAY METALLIC
RETAIL: $11,299 CAD