by Lazelle Jones - Monday, July 20, 2009
All-terrain vehicle manufacturers continuously compete against themselves in an effort to improve existing products and introduce new ones that meet and exceed the needs of end-users. Such is the case with the new Kubota RTV500, a small vehicle (dry weight 1,278 pounds) designed and engineered to deliver utility, functionality and dependability. Already a huge player in the diesel utility-vehicle market, Kubota recognized that 75 percent of all utility vehicles sold today are powered by gasoline engines. With a brand-new vehicle, the company saw an opportunity with the RTV500 to match and marry the specific needs of the farmer, construction worker and outdoorsman with a vehicle powered by a gasoline engine.
The gas engine is similar in appearance to that found in the RTV500's diesel-powered big brothers, the RTV900 and RTV1100. It's a liquid-cooled four-stroke in-line twin cylinder (not a single-cylinder), which, company personnel underscore, yields a much smoother and more consistent traveling speed and overall operation. The need to continuously apply and release pressure on the accelerator to control RPM levels is absent with this engine. The powertrain delivers a significant portion of its horsepower and torque at low RPM, which enables smooth operation both at low speeds and under heavy loads. The engine is rated at 15.8 net horsepower at a low 3,600 rpm; it's capable of towing 1,102 pounds and hauling 1,014 pounds of payload. Electronic fuel injection further facilitates smooth operation and permits the unit to operate efficiently (a function totally transparent to the end-user) under varying climate conditions and elevations.
Mated to the engine is what the company calls the Variable Hydro Transmission (the VHT-Plus series). This next-generation unit is engineered to provide more dynamic and smoother (less abrupt) transmission-braking than previous iterations. At the same time it exhibits excellent hill-holding capabilities (often referred to as engine-braking) through hydraulic pressure management. At the opposite end of the spectrum the RTV500 exhibits quicker off-the-line response. The vehicle comes standard with 2WD/4WD, and the gear shift selector runs between high and low speed (in forward) and reverse. Top cruising speed is 25 mph. Standard instrumentation includes a fuel tank-mounted fuel gauge and an on-the-dash temperature gauge.
The RTV500 is equipped with a 2-inch receiver hitch, which means the hitch shank is interchangeable with that on a pickup truck or SUV. The steel cargo box measures 41 inches wide, 33.7 inches long and 11.4 inches deep; total volume is 9 cubic feet, and it is rated to carry 441 pounds of cargo. Manual releases on both sides mechanically lock/unlock the bed, permitting it to be articulated for dumping. The inside of the box is steel, while the outside is clad in composite material. The tailgate can be folded down/up, or it can be removed.
Kubota's modular hard cab (with full doors) weighs in at a very stingy 160 pounds. The beauty of a lightweight modular cab is that it can be assembled and installed, or removed and disassembled, in about a minute (that's correct, 60 seconds), so hunters can decide whether they need protection from the weather at the last minute. The exterior surface of the canopy, as well as the rest of the exterior, is fabricated from a weather-resistant thermo-plastic-olefor (TPO) material. The windshield is high-quality polycarbonate with a scratch-resistant coating.
The driver and passenger are protected by Kubota's OSHA-standard rollover protection system and retractable seat belts. Both the bench seat and the cargo box lift up to provide ease-of-access to the engine and transmission. The robust chassis is mated with an independent front and semi-independent rear suspension. Fuel tank capacity is 5 gallons, which provides a respectable driving range. And perhaps best of all, the unit can be transported in the bed of a full-size, long-bed pickup.
The standard exterior color is Kubota Orange, but a full Hardwoods camouflage paint scheme by RealTree is also offered. Other options include a front guard/bumper; a cargo screen; a Warn winch rated at 2,500 pounds; two light packages-forward-facing work lights (mounted atop the cab) and rear-facing work lights (located aft on the cab), which provide illumination when loading/unloading the cargo box; an under-the-hood storage box; a heater; and windshield wipers.
Powertrain: 456cc, OHC, water-cooled, two-cylinder, fuel-injected gasoline engine; Variable Hydro-Plus automatic transmission w/Hi-Lo range, neutral, reverse; 2WD/4WD
Suspension: front-independent, MacPherson strut; rear-semi-independent multi-link
Brakes: front/rear-dry discs
Dimensions/Capacities: wheelbase-70.9"; length-105.9"; width-54.7"; overall height-72"; ground clearance-8.1" front, 6.8" rear; cargo capacity-441 lbs.; towing capacity-1,102 lbs.; fuel capacity-5 gals.
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