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Hunting Illustrated Fall 2002: Bombardier Quest 650

Home > Magazine > Fall 2002 Issue > Bombardier Quest 650
ATV: Bombardier Quest 650
by David King
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This machine takes you to the top of the mountain in a whole new fashion.   The Quest 650 from Bombardier

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 out.

First Impressions

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

Quest 650Once 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.

You can really feel the weight of the machine when descending down a hill.  The machine does have good engine braking, especially in low range, but it has a jolting tug to it.Bombardier has some innovative and unique ideas. You have to hand it to them for being bold and trying new things instead of following everyone else. They are confident in their designs and different way of thinking to carve a niche out of the ATV market for themselves. Bombardier has a great start in the game because of their engine and reliability. This can be a good workhorse to use at the ranch at slower speeds, but until they make improvements to the suspension and handling, the competition has the edge when it comes to year-round, all terrain access and fun. We are anxious and looking forward to see what Bombardier will do with this machine in the future.

Rider Notes

Alan-

The wide stance and stiffer suspension do give it a stable ride. The engine braking works well to hold you back, but it feels like it down shifts when you let off the gas. Having a selectable 4x4 or 4x2 would be nice. I do wish more machines would give you the storage options like the Quest has under its front rack. I like how there is no override button to push to get full power in reverse. I think for a machine this big it needs more low-end power. I like the big heavy-duty racks.

Rob-

I liked the stability and rack capacity of this machine. Sometimes trying to reinvent the wheel doesn't work and to me it doesn't work here. The big Rotax motor hauls, but it is a rough, loud motor. There is no low-end to this motor. You could burn up a belt in high range if the terrain gets too steep. I can race this machine hard and fast, but the ride requires a visit to your dentist and chiropractor after each ride. Your hands will feel every bump you hit. Good ideas on some features, but need to keep working on it.

Dave-

I was anxious to see for myself just what the Quest was all about. The step-through design didn't affect me too much. It is a great workhorse and you can really load up the racks, but I enjoy a little more sport capability when I ride. For the straight utility guy, this could be a good choice. Add a softer ride and better handling and this ATV could really shine because the engine likes to be ridden hard.

Bombardier Quest 650
Pros:
Good mid and top end, fastest in its class, good rack capacity and storage compartments

Cons:
Suspension, handling, heavy, rough engine braking

Specs

Bombardier Quest 650 Specs
Type....4-stroke, 1 cylinder, 4 valve
Displacement....644 cc
Starter....Electric start
Decompressor....Automatic
Carburator....Mikuni BSR42
Electrical output - ACG....400 W
Cooling Type....Liquid cooled
Transmission....Dual range (hi/lo/pk/nt/rv)
Clutch type Continuously Variable Transmission
Front differential....Shaft driven/single auto-lock
Rear axle....Shaft driven / solid axle
Overall height....45 in.
Overall length....81.5 in.
Overall width....47 in.
Wheel base....51 in.
Wheel track - front....39 in.
Wheel track - rear....37 in.
Turning radius....83 in.
Fuel tank....5.8 US gal. (21.8 L)
Front tires....25 x 8 x 12 in.
Front rack....90 lbs
Rear rack....175 lbs
Front storage tray....8 US gal.
Console....11 lbs
Towing capacity....1100 lbs
Dry vehicle weight....745 lbs (338 kg)
Front suspension type....Independent suspension - double A-arm
Front suspension travel....7 in.
Rear suspension type....Rigid swing-arm
Rear suspension travel....7.5 in.
Front brake type/qty....2 drilled hydraulic discs
Rear brake type/qty....1 drilled hydraulic disc
DC outlets....standard connector at the back
Colors....red, green, blue, advantage timber HD
MSRP....$6,500-7,000
www.bombardier-atv.com
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