First Test: KYMCO Maxxer 375 Crossover

Home Page Slide Show, Kymco, Sport, Utility — on January 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Everybody loves an underdog story, and we’re sitting on a good one: KYMCO’s all-new Maxxer 375 sport-utility crossover. Its fresh looks need no apology; its stable handling encourages riders to keep the throttle pinned through the twisties; its four-wheel drive makes it capable in varied conditions; and the overall package is a confident, strong statement from a company quickly improving to win the hearts of American off-road enthusiasts.

We’re fresh off the plane from our first test of KYMCO’s new 2010 Maxxer, along with a revised MXU 500 utility that fixes some glaring flaws from its original introduction, and it’s now safe to say this smaller, aggressive powersports factory gets the “Most Improved” award for 2010.

Back-story

KYMCO’s evolution has been a consistent, determined operation where, one by one, the company has covered vital bases in the marketplace with steadily improved machines. There have been a few stumbles along the way, including the MXU 500 ATV that, when it debuted in 2006, was roundly knocked for so-so power, awkward steering, puzzling ergonomics, pervasive bump steer and disconcerting front-end handling — among other imperfections.

KYMCO’s Maxxer 375 crossover is handsome in blue, one of four bold color choices.

KYMCO’s Maxxer 375 crossover is handsome in blue, one of four bold color choices.

With its sprightly MXU 375 entry-level utility quad with IRS, a sporty Mongoose 300 and the competent UXV 500 UTV, the company has recently turned a corner toward brighter pastures with its U.S. off-road products — but its new Maxxer is the best KYMCO ATV to date.

KYMCO is now taking a break from its chores and having a little fun with the unveiling of the Maxxer 375. The company invited a handful of ATV journalists to ride at the sprawling Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, not too far from its U.S. headquarters in Spartanburg, SC. As America’s largest home, the Biltmore House is impressive, and an uncharacteristically opulent setting for an ATV intro. The inference was obvious: KYMCO is sparing no expense in its efforts to improve its products and image.

Contemporary Crossover

Described as having the power of a 500 and sport-tuned handling, we approached the MXU 375-based Maxxer with caution, not knowing what to expect. It was already a winner, based on its post-modern looks, but our excitement would crumble if it was suspended with bottom-of-the-barrel shocks or had front-end geometry that discouraged swift trail riding or off-camber stability. Crossovers are supposed to be fun, but the MXU 375’s utility platform didn’t exactly have us reaching for our MX boots and chest protector last time we rode it. Reputations hung in the balance.

Important specs include the air-cooled 366.9cc single-cylinder engine that produces 26 horsepower and also powers the MXU 375 and Arctic Cat 366. The CVT shifter resides to the left of the tank and includes low, high, neutral and reverse. A push-button control switches between two- and four-wheel drive, independent dual A-arm designs suspend all four wheels and hydraulic discs bring them to a halt. At 606 pounds, it’s heavy, but roughly between the weight of a Yamaha Wolverine 450 and Can-Am Renegade 500 — two of the Maxxer’s crossover rivals.

A dollar short of $6,000, the Maxxer is the least dear of its rivals, albeit with less cubic centimeters. The high-priced Renegade 500 starts at $8,049, and the Wolverine 450 starts at $6,399. We expect the Polaris Scrambler 500 4×4 ($6,399) to be another direct competitor.

Mixin’ & Maxxin’

Aside from the sharp alloy wheels and high-tech headlights, the seat design and rider accommodations are the first thing to notice when sizing up the Maxxer. The seat is padded and shaped like a crossover’s perch should be, with plenty of space to slide around for maximum body English. The full floorboards and fenders protect riders from the elements and front tires (compared with a pure-sport model), and the handlebars had the right height and bend for this six-foot-four tester. Standard handguards (nice!), digital central gauges shared with the MXU 375 and push-button 4WD engagement round out the first impressions.

Hitting the start button, the mid-size engine rumbles to life, with a sound that’s about what you’d expect for a single-cylinder. It revs quickly, and the power and clutching are designed for a potent initial hit, compared to the soft roll-on you typically get with a utility quad. We were told this final calibration resulted from quite a back-and-forth with KYMCO Taiwan, and we’re glad the Americans won the engineering fisticuffs.

Grabbing a handful of throttle on gravel, the Maxxer spins its tires and gets on it without making a big spectacle like a Renegade 800 would, for example. It builds revs noticeably fast, due to aggressive clutching, but calms down above 15 mph. Aimed at novice enthusiasts rather than expert sport riders, the Maxxer’s power is clearly enough for its intended target. Accelerating down an agricultural road at the Biltmore, the power is sufficient for the segment, and 40 mph arrives quickly.

Turning off the gravel and heading onto a bumpy trail, the steering is stable, unflustered and the suspension is on the firm side of things, without beating you up. Plenty of utility quads lose their composure in quick stutter bumps, but a crossover just cannot make that mistake and maintain its entertainment value. The Maxxer can be skipped through rough sections, and can be taken aggressively through tight woods corners — pretty impressive for a smaller quad, and it suggests this platform could accommodate more power.

As the Southeast had been deluged by eight days of torrential rains, trails were at their sloppiest. We encountered numerous mud holes, including a 20- to 30-foot mud bog that required lifting the boots to stay dry. After repeated runs, the CVT never sucked in water, braking power wasn’t diminished (you listening Can-Am?) and the four-wheel drive proved its worth for sport riding.

Color choices are black, red, blue and white — the latter includes a pink graphic kit specifically meant to appeal to female riders, but more neutral graphics are available on the striking white plastics for a more manly look, too.

Speaking of ladies, KYMCO brought local rider/model Stacie Haynes, who mixed it up on the Maxxer during the intro, graciously posed for photos and put up with us off-road rogues during the evening’s dinner and late-night festivities. The company expects this machine to appeal to the fairer sex, hence the white-and-pink treatment.

We were piloting the very first units to come off the Taiwanese production line and encountered very few problems, aside from sliding handgrips and some loose handlebars, both of which we would be more willing to excuse on a pre-production model but are disconcerting, even if it is only on the earliest builds.

One KYMCO staffer hinted the platform was designed to handle more power, and suggested the company is examining “something different” in this realm. We can’t wait to see what that means, exactly, but you can bet KYMCO has some new, larger engines coming soon.

Clearly a comprehensive test of the crossover category is in order, and we’ve got one lined up soon to see where the Maxxer 375 fits in with the establishment. After our day’s ride, we can confidently say the Maxxer feels solid and fittingly aggressive, handles well, is on par with the competition quality-wise, is a real looker and priced just right. More power? Yes, please!

Fixing the 500

It’s not exactly all new, but the changes KYMCO made to its MXU 500 for 2010 are among the most extensive modifications you can do without building a totally fresh chassis. First up, the old-school, swingarm-based rear suspension was tossed out in favor of an independent rear setup. IRS brings significantly better ride quality, and gives the MXU 500 a fighting chance in the eyes of comparison shoppers.

With IRS and a much-improved front end, the MXU 500 utility is much better for work conditions, and drastically more stable for athletic trail riding.

With IRS and a much-improved front end, the MXU 500 utility is much better for work conditions, and drastically more stable for athletic trail riding.

If we could’ve changed anything on this rig in past tests, it would’ve been the front end that was steamrolled by hardpacked ruts, unstable at speed and absolutely flummoxed by even the slightest jump or weight on the front rack. It really wasn’t pretty, and KYMCO listened to its testers and the media’s criticism, and went to work tackling the problem.

Engineers redesigned the front-end for improved steering and better handling, and incorporated an anti-sway bar in the IRS, which keeps the rear balanced in faster turns.

The carburetor was also improved, with an automatic choke for better cold weather starting and overall performance. A locking differential was also added, with a slick new switch that allows riders to go from two-wheel drive to four-wheel diff lock in one quick motion — a nice, unique feature.

Fully independent rear suspensions are a crucial feature for anyone looking to spend serious time on their quad. On the MXU 500, KYMCO fashioned a dual A-arm design that offers 7.5 inches in suspension travel all around — very similar to the competition.

The results are a tremendous improvement over the original MXU 500. Now the 500 remains planted in uneven terrain or sweeping turns, absorbs mid-corner bumps without undue bump steer and is drastically more confidence inspiring. This will help in lumpy farm fields, uneven yards or while trail riding, and gives the biggest MXU a new lease on life, even without a completely new platform.

We’re still not talking perfection, though, as the fixes have imparted the front end with significant push through corners, but it’s a trade-off we’ll take for a more stable ride and better handling characteristics in rough terrain.

Low-end power is still lacking, and the top end could be stronger, but this is typical performance for the class. Bring on the bigger engines!

Limited edition Models

Taking advantage of the opportunity to field some gussied-up models, KYMCO added upscale LE versions of the MXU 375, 500 and UXV 500, which were shined up, tricked out and looking good at the introduction.

The MXU 375 LE comes in black, with a 2,500-pound KYMCO winch, alloy rims, side mirrors, front-rack gear grips, hand guards and a rear cargo box. It comes in at a reasonable $5,999 — a $700 discount off full market value for the add-ons.

It’s a similar story with the MXU 500 LE, which also comes in black, includes the 2,500-pound winch, mirrors, cargo box, alloy rims, hand guards and gear grips. It lists for $6,999, and is a similar deal over buying the components individually.

For its UXV 500 LE side-by-side, KYMCO has added a 3,000-pound winch, alloy rims, a full soft cab enclosure with a full windshield, a gear rail package with gas pack for the rear — all for $9,499, which is $1,400 more than the standard UXV.

Each LE model looks great, offers of upgrades that should appeal to most riders, and gives customers more aspirational models at the top of each model. As the company keeps striving to move up the food chain, such upgrades are essential to raising perceptions, and offering buyers the options they’re looking for right from the factory.

Conclusion

After hearing about the ongoing importance of the U.S. ATV market from some of KYMCO’s Taiwanese leadership, the company’s enthusiastic U.S. President Eric Bondy took the stage to address the ATV media about its 2010 changes.

“We’re really, really excited about what you’re going to ride,” he said. “You’re going to be extremely impressed.”

It’s one thing to be confident, but it’s entirely another to be confident for a good reason. KYMCO’s Maxxer 375 is a winner, the freshened MXU 500 is dramatically improved and the company’s officials suggest that the best is yet to come.

KYMCO Maxxer 375:

$5,999

Engine: 366.9cc four-stroke single

Horsepower: 26

Cooling: Air w/fan, oil cooler

Starting: Electric

Transmission: Automatic CVT w/L-H-N-R

Suspension F/R (type, travel: Dual A-arm, 7 inches / Dual A-arm, 7 inches

Towing Capacity: 1,050 pounds

Dry Weight: 590 pounds

Brakes, front: Hydraulic dual disc

Brakes, rear: Hydraulic disc

L x W x H: 83, 43.4, 46.9 in.

Ground Clearance: 10 in.

Fuel Capacity: 3.75 gal.

Colors: Red, blue, black, white

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

CAPTCHA Image CAPTCHA Audio
Refresh Image

Trackbacks

Leave a Trackback