For the past 50 years or so, the name “Argo” was synonymous with either 6x6 or 8x8 amphibious all-terrain vehicles. Like everything else in this world, the times are a-changin’ at Argo as well. This year, the company unveiled its Xplorer XR line of ATVs in hopes of expanding its business model into a demographic also interested in traditional four-wheeled ATVs. Available in either 500cc single-rider models or an available 1,000cc two-up design, the machines now offer Argo an opportunity to chase down buyers who don’t necessarily need an amphibious “go-anywhere” vehicle.
Argo hooked us up with its entry-level Xplorer XR 500 EPS model featuring Electric Power Steering. The MSRP of under $7,000 for an ATV with a full-size chassis and EPS caught my eye, so we wanted to make sure we gave this model the full shakedown to see exactly what makes it tick.
Engine And Transmission
Powering the XR 500 EPS is a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 503cc, single-cylinder powerplant. The transmission is a typical belt-driven Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with both high and low range, as well as neutral and reverse. Up front, the Argo has a locking front differential for when the trail serves up some serious obstacles.
Dual front A-arms deliver 8.7 inches of front suspension travel. Out back, the fully independent rear suspension provides 9.4 inches of rear travel. Helping keep the machine running as smoothly as possible down the trail is the Xplorer’s Electric Power Steering (EPS) system.
Tires, Wheels, Brakes
Our entry-level model utilized steel wheels wrapped with 25-inch Innova tires that seem to resemble the Maxxis Bighorn in appearance. While the Xplorer features hydraulic front and rear brakes, their method of actuation strays a bit off the beaten path.
When it comes to brakes, there’s usually not too many differences across the board. For most manufacturers, the left handlebar lever and the right foot pedal actuate the rear brakes, while the right handlebar lever controls the front brakes. With manufacturers like Polaris, the left-hand lever typically actuates both the front and rear brakes simultaneously, while the foot pedal brakes just the rear. The Xplorer has both a left-mounted lever and a foot pedal like the Polaris, but engaging either one brakes both the front and rear brakes simultaneously. This type of setup is not my preference because being able to drag just the rear brake without also actuating the front is a must-have when it comes to riding aggressively.
With this being Argo’s first launch of a four-wheeled ATV, it was important to do some proper testing of the Xplorer 500 EPS, ATV Rider style! I grabbed six-time GNCC ATV champ Chris Borich, and we headed out to the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, for some proper testing. After grabbing our necessary photos of the Xplorer 500 EPS in action, we dropped off the photo gear and I hopped on a Honda Rubicon 500 Deluxe to provide Borich with some chase. A few weeks ago, the AOAA hosted an Ultra-4 race. Ultra-4 is synonymous with the King of the Hammers race in Southern California. The best explanation I can give of KOTH is it’s part desert race, part rock crawling mayhem. Since there are no deserts in Pennsylvania, the Ultra-4 course at AOAA was instead strewn with massive rock gardens, roots, ruts, slippery elevation changes, and incredible scenery. This is the trail where we spent the most time with the Xplorer, and it really allowed us to evaluate it accordingly.
Borich and I did swap back and forth between the Xplorer and the Rubicon, but since I had spent a few weeks riding the Xplorer before he did, I wanted him to put more time on the machine to get a proper impression. The GNCC champ has put more machines than I’d like to count into “limp mode” with his aggressive riding style. So I’ll cut right to the chase and tell you there was no limping coming from the Xplorer. It ran without an issue the whole day, even with Borich riding it like he stole it!
Clearly, the Argo Xplorer 500 EPS is durable! But how did it perform otherwise? Our machine did have an optional Warn winch mounted up front. Borich and I both noticed that the weight of the machine seemed to be more biased to the front than the rear. The winch certainly had something to do with this, but even without the winch, I’m sure the weight bias, front to rear, is not balanced. The front feels heavy, and the rear feels light, and when ridden aggressively, you’ll notice the rear hopping around more so than the front.
At low speeds, the EPS makes the steering incredibly easy. However, at higher speeds and when ridden aggressively, the handling gets twitchy. Now, granted, most people in the market for an Argo Xplorer are probably not going to wheel the thing through the woods at the velocity we did. But it’s a necessary evil for us, and the way we determine a machine’s strengths and weaknesses.
Throttle response from the little single cylinder was pretty responsive. In straight-line performance, the Xplorer seemed to be in line with other 500cc-class ATVs, including the Rubicon.
Sitting around, chatting about our ride and thoughts afterward, Borich and I were on the same page. From a durability standpoint, the Xplorer 500 EPS exceeded our expectations. We didn’t break anything expensive or important. However, after our ride, we did notice both of the floorboards were cracked. On closer inspection, the plastic is rigid, rather than flexible like on the Honda Rubicon. This is likely what caused the floorboards to crack. Also, when we pressure-washed it at the end of the ride (like I always do), I blew several of the stickers off the plastic (which I never do).
So, at the end of the day, I was pleasantly surprised with our time on the Argo Xplorer XR 500 EPS. With an MSRP of $6,899, Argo has the machine slotted at a price point where most folks can afford one. I’m looking forward to seeing what changes ultimately evolve on the Xplorer line, and how the company continues to grow its brand!
- Engine: 503cc single-cylinder
- Fuel System: EFI
- Cooling: Liquid-cooled
- Bore x Stroke: 92.0 x 75.6mm
- Transmission: V-belt CVT automatic
- Front Differential Lock: Standard
- Gear Selection: Low, high, neutral, reverse
- Engine-Braking: Standard
- Front Brake: 200mm hydraulic discs
- Rear Brake: 180mm hydraulic discs
- Hand Brake: Operates all four wheels
- Foot Brake: Operates all four wheels
- Front Suspension: Independent double A-arms
- Rear Suspension: Independent double A-arms
- Front Travel: 8.7 in. (221mm)
- Rear Travel: 9.4 in. (240mm)
- Wheels: Steel
- Front Tires: Innova AT25 x 8-12
- Rear Tires: AT25 x 10-12
- Length/Width/Height: 84.8/48.6/49.2 in. (2154/1235/1250mm)
- Wheelbase: 50.4 in. (1280mm)
- Seat Height: 36.1 in. (916mm)
- Ground Clearance: 12.0 in. (305mm)
- Towing Capacity: 1300 lb. (590kg)
- Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal. (16L)
- Front Rack/Rear Rack Capacity: 99 lb. (45kg)/165 lb. (75kg)
- Passenger Backrest: No
- Power Steering: Yes
- Front Brushguard: No
- Front Bumper: Optional
- Rear Hitch: Standard/2-in. receiver
- Winch: Optional
- Hand Guards: Optional
- Accessory Outlet: Yes
- Handlebar Headlight: No
- Lower Headlight: Yes
- Warranty: 1 year