Cresting the top of a steep rise then feeling the earth fall away beneath the tires gives one pause.
But the trepidation was short lived when the side-by-side I was momentarily flying, came back into contact with terra firma and I was once again driving in full control.
That’s just the type of fun anyone driving Honda’s newest entry into the rapidly growing SXS market, the Pioneer 500, will enjoy when the work days end and weekends begin
Honda’s 2015 Pioneer 500 is a smaller rendition of the two Pioneer 700s introduced last year.
The new machine is what I’d consider an entry-level “recreational” SXS instead of a sport or work model.
That’s because it’s not fast enough to be considered a sport machine with speed limited to 37 mph. I wouldn’t consider it a work machine either as it comes stock with a rear cargo rack capable of carrying 450 pounds instead of a bed. (Honda offers a lot of accessories for their side-by-sides including a bed for the new model.)
However, don’t let its slower speed sway you from taking one for a spin. It’s a blast to drive hard and would be ideal for someone just getting into an SXS.
One of the biggest innovations and fun features of the 475cc-powred 500 is the electric-shift 5-speed that uses paddle sifters.
Yes, paddle-shifters mounted on the steering wheel so you can rapid-shift with your index fingers giving complete control of engine braking and acceleration.
The 1,000-pound machine trans has a granny-low 1st to use for spraying or any other low-speed needs, while the gear splits from 2nd to 5th are very nicely matched to the single-cylinder four-stroke’s power curve.
Getting in and out of the Pioneer 500 is easier than most competitor’s machines because the suicide-style half-doors have the safety nets already attached so you don’t need to fumble around trying to get them re-attached.
Seating comfort is so-so. The seats don’t have much bolstering or padding. There’s no front grab bar for the passenger, and the suspension travel is only 5.9 inches front and rear.
Still, it handles quite well and gets up to its top speed quickly.
Another cool aspect of the Pioneer 500 is its 50-inch width that allows it to fit in the bed of full-size pickups, and gives it access to width-restricted trails designed for ATVs.
It’s just the type of machine for two workers to get around larger jobsites where pickups can’t – and fun enough to sneak away for a little off-road exploring on the weekends.
2015 Honda Pioneer 500 Specifications
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Editor’s Note: Bruce Smith is a Senior Editor at Randall-Reilly