The Honda Foreman proved itself a do-it-all workhorse over the years. A favorite with ranchers and farmers, it could commonly be found pulling mowers, pushing plows, or out mending fences. You name it. If it was work, the Foreman could do it. Honda reliability and quality—with minimal maintenance requirements and a low MSRP—made for the perfect companion in the field. When looking to re-create the Foreman, Honda engineers had their work cut out for them. Those who purchased the Foreman in the past loved it. Honda would need to keep them in love with it by making it more desirable to the recreational-use market, all while keeping the ultra-affordable price point the same.
The all-new 2014 Foreman has been designed to reach the broader multipurpose ATV consumer market with improved trail-handling capabilities, yet it still appeals to the hard-core ranchers. It remains capable of everything its predecessor did in the field—only now more comfortable and capable than ever on the trail. Speaking of capability, the new Foreman was not only completely redesigned for comfort and handling, but it is also the first Honda ATV to feature a manual-locking differential. Diff-lock has been a touchy subject for many years with Honda. We’ve claimed its necessity for maximum performance, yet Big Red has been the lone holdout with this feature. Honda’s testing and the results of multiple consumer surveys claim that the average ATV consumer won’t see an advantage from a locking differential. This might be the case in typical riding or working scenarios, but we generally try to push our test machines harder and through worse conditions than your average trail ride. We also believe that a large portion of “average” ATV riders might actually end up in similar situations.
Regardless of “claims,” “surveys,” and “testing,” the new Foreman still features Honda’s stellar TraxLok 2WD/4WD option with a torque-sensing front differential, but you can now flip a switch to manually lock up the front end when things begin getting ugly. The tried-and-true TraxLok system automatically engages when conditions get slippery, yet the rider has the final say on extreme traction when needed.
As for the rest of the machine, major changes define the reinvented Foreman. A completely new chassis was designed to house the same proven 475cc, OHV, liquid-cooled engine. This same proven motor is still longitudinally placed for optimal driveline efficiency and features the option for a conventional manual shift system or the ever-popular Electric Shift Program (ESP). The fuel-injection system has been remapped for increased power delivery, throttle response, and fuel efficiency, extending the new Foreman's range. This new computer-engineered, double-cradle frame design is 5 pounds lighter yet 20 percent stiffer for precise handling, the smoothest ride, and better load-handling ability. Redesigned suspension components work with the new chassis design, offering 7.3 inches of front and rear suspension travel and new adjustable shocks.
This new chassis, while designed to impress the multi-purpose recreational crowd, also improved upon the Foreman’s impressive working range. The new Foreman’s design raised rack capacity by a third more than the already-stellar numbers. The new Foreman is rated to safely carry 264 pounds on its racks, and clutching has been improved to tow an impressive 848 pounds with its heavy-duty trailer hitch.
Riding trails on the new Foreman is a blast. The suspension works pretty well, and the throttle response is quick and snappy. The 2014 model brings a noticeable improvement in comfort over previous years, but you are still riding a straight-axle machine. The straight-axle design is more cost effective than an IRS system, but it truly boils down to personal preference. An IRS system can ultimately provide a smoother ride through chopped-up or rocky trails, but there is nothing more confidence inspiring or fun than drifting corners on a straight-axle machine. When it comes to fast fire roads or off-camber trails, we will take the straight-axle machine any day of the week. While not as plush as some higher-priced IRS machines, the new suspension on the Foreman was impressive in contrast to years past. Bottoming resistance is improved, and it stays predictable and smooth through small- to medium-size impacts.
The basic Honda Foreman straight-axle rear end design was improved upon as well. The Foreman gets a new enclosed-axle-type swingarm to further enhance chassis strength and rigidity. This new design features a sturdy, heavy-duty sleeve over the rear axle for strength and protection, allowing the swingarm to support more of the rear wheel loads. This new design also moves the sealed mechanical drum brake into the right rear wheel for protection and greater ground clearance. The Foreman’s 7.5 inches of ground clearance is impressive when compared to any straight-axle machine.
Honda engineers also gave the Foreman new bodywork for a more aggressive and modern look. The new bodywork features a one-piece tank and sidecover with tool-less removal for easier engine, air intake, electrical, and fuel tank access and maintenance. We found a few of the deeper creek crossings, and it appears that mud and water protection is also improved with the new bodywork.
Technical terrain during our test consisted of rocky creek beds, gullies, and downed trees. Looking for a true test of the diff-lock, we scoured the area looking for obstacles that would require it. As it turned out, with a little body English and careful throttle execution, the Foreman could conquer most of the obstacles we found in TraxLok. These same obstacles seemed like mere bumps in the road with the diff-lock engaged. When riding in differential lock, speeds are limited to 20 mph, but Honda incorporated a speed override mode. When conditions get extremely tough, such as deep mud or snow creating excessive wheelspin, you can hold down the start button, which also acts as a speed override button. This allows for higher wheel speeds, which can help keep you from getting stuck. Locking the differential requires merely a flick of the switch with your thumb; it will surely ease previously unapproachable terrain for the less experienced rider.
Tight technical terrain is a place where the EPS (Electronic Power Steering) really shined as well. While maybe not a true necessity, we’ve really come to prefer power steering on almost anything. The Foreman’s EPS not only requires less steering effort, but it also acts like an amazing steering damper. When traversing rocks, ruts, roots, etc., the Honda’s EPS nearly eliminates all negative feedback or jarring to your hands and upper body. This, we feel, is a no-brainer when looking for all-day comfort on a four-wheeler. Another mentionable improvement to “all-day comfort” is the seat. Honda engineers added a full inch to the seat foam, and it is more noticeable the longer you sit in it.
While the EPS is clearly a no-brainer in our books, the ESP system is truly a preference item. If you’re used to a CVT or shifting with your foot, it takes a few miles to get used to shifting with your thumb. It’s not long before it becomes second nature, but it does take a little while to train your brain. The ESP allows you to get “lazy” like with a CVT, while almost forgetting you’re riding an ATV. We’ve noticed the working market’s, as well as the older generations’, preference for ESP over the manual foot-shifting option. Honda has a multitude of accessories already available for the Foreman, and they increased the already-powerful AC generator output to 481 watts to power them. A twin-headlight system has been redesigned and now features 35-watt headlights with a better-focused light distribution pattern. The third “top assist” light now operates independently of the headlights. This allows the user to turn it off when hauling a load on the front racks, avoiding any light reflection back toward the rider.
The new Foreman is a success. They have taken a great machine and made it better for a broader spectrum of enthusiasts. The workforce market will still get their tried-and-true Foreman performance and value, but they also might be enticed to use this new machine for recreational purposes. The comfort factor alone will surely bring new customers—helping the market expand, while pushing these same Foreman customers to further live the ATV life in their spare time. Hunters will surely appreciate the increased payloads, better mud resistance, and new lighting options. Comfort, suspension, and the new aggressive look should truly appeal to the multi-use market Honda is looking for.
The new generation of Foreman is sure to make a lasting impression on a large number of users—just like it's predecessor, only with even more comfort and ability. The new Foreman even keeps its MSRP starting at a reasonable $7,099 and $8,048 with power steering and ESP. ATVR
|+ Suspension is plusher and more forgiving||- Power is still a little soft compared to a few of the more expensive 500 class machines|
|+ Softer and thicker seat provides all-day comfort|
|+ Fuel injection is right on the money|
|+ EPS has a great linear feel to it with great damping characteristics|
|+ Honda reliability and quality is evident|
|Spec Chart||2014 Honda Foreman 500 4x4|
|Price:||$7,099 / $8,048 (EPS & ESP)|
|Engine type:||475cc, liquid-cooled, OHV, longitudinally mounted single-cylinder four-stroke|
|Bore and stroke:||92.0 x 71.5mm|
|Fuel system:||Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 36mm throttle body|
|Starting system:||Electric with optional auxiliary recoil|
|Drive system:||Direct front and rear driveshafts w/ TraxLok and locking front differential|
|Transmission:||Automatic ESP five-speed with reverse|
|Front:||Independent dual A-arms/7.3 in.|
|Rear:||Swingarm with single shock/7.3 in.|
|Front:||Dual hydraulic 190mm discs|
|Rear:||Sealed 160mm mechanical drum|
|Claimed curb weight:||630 lb. / 646 lb. (EPS)|
|Ground clearance:||7.5 in.|
|Turning radius:||10.5 in.|
|Fuel capacity:||3.9 gal., including 1.3-gal. reserve|
|Lighting:||Single 35-watt “top-assist”; dual 35-watt headlights|
|Instrumentation:||New digital meter with mph, clock, water temperature gauge, “maintenance minder” system, electronic differential lock indicator|
|Colors:||Red, Olive, Blue, Honda Phantom Camo|