When you hear the word
"Bombardier" your first thought is probably not towards ATVs. Most people don't
even know how to pronounce it correctly. However, Bombardier (bomb-bar-dee-a) is a word
you will be hearing more about in the ATV industry and a company that many of you are
already familiar with whether you know it or not.
Bombardier has been making ATVs for a few years now, but has been an
industry leader when it comes to Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft, and even Learjet
aircraft. When Bombardier came on the ATV scene, they surprised many by their bold launch
of high-performance, big displacement engines. Early on they released a 500cc utility and
quickly introduced a 650cc utility ATV along with a 650cc sport ATV. Bombardier's growing
ATV lineup is going toe-to-toe with the bigger manufacturers.
We decided to complete our run of the big-bore 650-class utility ATVs
by including the Bombardier Quest 650. We wanted to give our readers the full scoop on all
of the big-bore ATVs. How does the Quest 650 stack up against this very competitive class
of ATVs? We took it through the Hunting Illustrated high country testing grounds to find
One look and you know this is not your conventional ATV. For many
people, you either like the looks or you don't. Bombardier is going a little different
route with some of their utility ATVs by including a semi step-through design. Normally
where the gas tank would reside is now open space. What does Bombardier hope to benefit
from this design? It will be easier to get on and off; it provides a small cargo space to
tie down a small jacket or bag; and has a lower center of gravity. Bombardier placed the
gas tank under the seat for increased stability and to keep all four tires on the ground.
Does this design work? Our test riders were mixed, but most preferred the conventional gas
tank or something similar in its place to use as a leverage for your legs when riding.
Most of the time when riding you don't notice that there is an open spot right in front of
you, but in most instances we didn't see much benefit.
Another design difference is the air-cooling fan. Normally located in
the front of the engine under the fender, the Quest 650 fan resides in the back of the ATV
under the rear rack and fender. This keeps the hot engine air away from the rider and also
frees up some room under the front rack. Due to this extra space up front, a surprisingly
large eight-gallon storage compartment holds quite a bit of stuff.
Sittin' in the saddle
Once you get the
looks out of the way, you wonder, "How does this really ride?" With a 650cc
powerplant, combined with bombardier's proven performance on their Rotax engine, you get
the feeling this machine can move. The looks might be a little deceiving but the engine
really smokes. The power does not come on very strong or overbearing at first, but once
the RPMs kick in, this ATV is fast. The mid and top end are probably the fastest in the
big-bore utility class. One of our test riders made one of the fastest times on our
4,000-foot ascension fire road. He made it to the top in 13 minutes. That's smokin'! He
may have made it from point A to point B in good time, but he quickly found out the rest
of the ATV is not quite up to par with the engine. The engine is powerful and fast, but
the suspension and handling are definitely for slower speeds. Quite a bit slower. The
suspension does not have adequate travel to really handle the 750-pound beast. Being the
heaviest ATV on the market, it shows its limitations on the trail. The rear suspension is
not bad, but the front suspension is too rough and all of the bumps go straight through
the handlebars and into your hands and arms. The front end handling also has a lot of play
in it, especially the faster you go.
After bringing these realities together, one might conclude there is
not much sport in this utility. Bombardier's focus with the Quest 650 is more for the
industrial market. They wanted to make this ATV fill the needs of the rancher and farmer.
By doing this they made a machine that is strong and powerful, yet stable and reliable.
The Quest 650 is great for towing and the front and rear racks are laid out excellent for
cargo. Bombardier also added a huge 5.8 gallon gas tank, the largest in the class, to
ensure you return from your ride in style. Also largest in class is the 400-watt
alternator, which is great for external hookups. The suspension travel is low and wide and
the solid rear axle provides great stability. With the proven Rotax engine, you know this
ATV will last longer than the farm tractor. To get you out of the sticky stuff, the Quest
650 is equipped with full-time all-wheel drive. As soon as there is slippage, the front
tires engage with full lock traction. This setup is nice for those who don't want to worry
about the nasty stuff, but we feel the better setup is to have the choice and to be able
to turn on or off the four-wheel drive. The "always on" setup also prevents you
from having a little fun that only two-wheel drive can offer.
What we think
Can this big-displacement engine compete with the flashy new Grizzly
660, Prairie 650, Sportsman 700 and the new Honda Rincon 650? Did Bombardier make their
Quest 650 too one-dimensional? After spending quite a bit of time in the saddle, in
various types of terrain, all of our testers agreed this ATV needs some definite
improvements if it is going to compete with the big boys. The Quest 650 may be $400 to
$800 less than the competitors, but $6,500 is still a lot to pay for a high-end utility
ATV. The Quest 650 may have some features that make it a great workhorse and there is no
doubt this would be the machine to haul an elk off the mountain, but the smoothness and
ride comfort are lacking. The suspension needs to be softened and the handling improved.
The engine braking is good and strong, but is jerky when letting off the gas. The shift
lever, which is positioned below the seat, needs to be higher for easier convenience and
to see what gear you are in. The lever also needs to be strengthened. It feels like you
could easily break the lever when the gears sometimes stick and is difficult to engage
into another gear.