Segway’s brand-new ATV range is ready for its closeup

We paused while reading the brochure for the new-to-Canada, hot-off-the-assembly-line Segway Snarler AT6 ATV range. Under the heading “Flaming LED eyes,” the text claims Segway’s “off-road esthetic is bold, confident, and radically different,” and then, unable to restrain itself from a flourish, they call the Snarler “an untamed mechanical beast in the dark forest.” While it’s our duty to substantiate claims like this, we can’t, not this time. Because the woods that surround the Ontario HQ for Segway Canada are bursting with bright spring colours, and are about as far away from a dark forest as winter is from today (with apologies for the mention of winter). But we’ll do our best to see if the Snarler is indeed as “untamed” as Segway claims. 

ATVs leave little room for designers to work their magic. Dominated by big wheels and equally big fenders to keep the mud at bay, and with large carrying racks front and rear, beauty to the ATV enthusiast is determined by how well the manufacturer addresses these challenges. In the case of the Snarlers, the answer is impressively well, though we’re not sure if they achieve the “controlled tension” that Segway claims in its sales literature. 

There was a time when a company new to a segment would need to spend years in the dark forest of product development before competitive products would see the light of day. It’s hard to imagine, given the success of the company today, but Hyundai’s Pony, the South Korean car maker’s first foray into the Western marketplace, was so wretched it nearly skewered the brand for good. Product design—thankfully—has significantly moved on since the 1980s, and Snarlers aren’t saddled by poor industrial design, or by the use of sub-standard components or materials. 

The three-model Snarler range is powered by the same twin-cam, four-valve, 570 cc single. Claiming 44 horsepower and 48 N-m of torque, the mill fires to life instantly, and settles into a smooth and quiet idle. Fuel-injection programming and CVT calibration for the Snarlers that we tested, matches the sophistication of units from major OEMs. And while 44 horsepower isn’t going to peel your cheeks back from your teeth, the Snarler is quick enough to be engaging, and for general trail and around-the-homestead-use, we’d rather have the Snarler’s sophisticated drivetrain calibration than a more powerful engine, hobbled by a lackluster drivetrain. “Untamed,” it’s not. But that’s a very good thing. 

The base model for the range is the $7,995 Snarler AT6 SE. With 12-inch steel wheels (sporting 25×8 front tires and 25×10 rear tires), the SE has colour-injected bodywork with colour names that suggest someonewithin Segway had a four-martini lunch prior to heading back to the office. Your options? Dream green with bold black. Or smart blue paired with innovative grey. Our favourite, though it sounds like something related to physical rehab from an industrial accident, is the “electric white and tensive O&R.”

Up a notch in the Snarler hierarchy is the $9,595 AT6 SX. Immediately noticeable are the 14-inch aluminum beadlock rims with 26×8 front and 26×10 rear tires. Two of the base-model SE colours are maintained, though smart blue and innovative grey is jettisoned for dream green and bold black. Befitting of a colour upgrade, the SX’s bodywork is painted and not injected as on the base SE model. 

As far as other upgrades to lure you away from the SE, the SX adds electric power steering, a 2,500 lb. winch, gas-charged shocks (the SE’s are hydraulic) and locking front and rear differentials—the SE has a front locking differential only. 

Tired of being alone? Looking for a little companionship? Then scurry over to the two-up AT6 LX. With a 57.1-inch wheelbase (nearly a full six-inches longer than the 51.2-inch wheelbase of the SE and SX) the LX is essentially a stretch-limo SX. Variations between the SX and LX, aside from a two-up seat with an included backrest, are fairly minor. The winch gains 500 lb. of capacity, to bring it to an even 3,000 lb., and the front and rear racks, which boast capacity of 88 lb. front and 132 lb. rear (same as the SE and SX) are made of a composite material, and not steel as on the solo-seat models. 

And your passenger won’t be the only one getting a boost—the LX’s lighting goes from the halogen employed on the SE/SX to LED. Consistent on all three Snarler models are 10.6-inches of ground clearance, a system that modulates engine braking, a digital dashboard, a 2-inch receiver hitch and, because technology rules the universe, a “smart moving” app that allows you to access “real-time data” of your Snarler from your phone. 

In our admittedly brief test session, the Snarlers behaved admirably. Despite giving it our best shot, we couldn’t get one stuck in the mud, so we can’t comment on the effectiveness of the winch, but the comfort of having a winch gave us the foolish nerve to attempt just about anything.

By the end of the day, we were itching to give the Snarler range a go on a long weekend ride. With 24 litres of fuel capacity, and useful features such as integrated storage at the tail-end and in front of the driver’s cockpit, it’s a machine that deftly straddles both sides of the pleasure riding/workhorse challenge. 

Segway’s ATVs are better than a brand-new, up-from-nothing lineup has a right to be. And the brand has within its global range—though not yet for the Canadian marketplace—the technology to become a major player in Canada. A bold statement? Perhaps. But for other markets, Segway has an ATV with the 1,000 cc parallel-twin that currently powers its side-by-side range. Even more intriguing is the model (again, not for us) that bolts a hybrid electric motor to the same base 570 cc single that powers the Snarler models we rode. The upshot? A massive boost in power and the ability to slink around in electric mode when you’d rather not announce your arrival. The benefit of such technology for hunting is obvious. As is the benefit for sneaking the Snarler back into the garage when you’ve lost track of time and missed dinner. Again. Our message to Segway? As good as the standard models are, we can’t wait to run the hybrids through their paces. Bring it on!