ATV Test: 1997 Honda Foreman 400

Big Red's King Quad


Forget that overpriced, yuppie status symbol - the Hummer. If you've got tough terrain to cover and work to do, a utility ATV is what you really need.

With their combination of torquey, single-cylinder four-stroke engines, heavy-duty, aggressive off-road tires, all-wheel drive and steel carrying racks front and rear, utility quads are the work-horse for farmers, hunters, lumber and oil industry workers alike.

No road? No trail? No problem! 4x4 ATVs dare you to find terrain that they can't conquer.

Plastic heat shields guard the unwary rider from burning their foot.

Honda's entry into the 4x4 utility class is their King Quad - the Foreman. Largest (and most expensive) in their line, it has a 400cc engine mounted transversely in the frame. Until this year's introduction of Honda's Recon, this configuration was unique to the Foreman.

Its "sideways" motor decreases the number of links between crank and wheel, resulting in significant weight savings. According to Honda, their Foreman tips the scales a full 50 pounds lighter than the competition's big bore 4x4 quads. This isn't to say a Foreman is light, as 553 pounds dry isn't a flyweight in anybody's book.

Honda's low key colors may help the mighty hunter in his quest for big game New features for '97 include the low-key beige model that we received. Also new was the speedometer marked through 15 mph in increments of one. This helps in "spraying and spreading," and other pace-oriented farm work. Continued from past years is the surprisingly effective, but heavy triple drum brakes, and a solid five speed transmission.

 

"The all-wheel drive gave excellent traction w hen exploring upstream, and we found ourselves climbing over increasingly larger boulders that would have stopped a sport quad long ago."

Hydroplaning the Foreman.
Working the Ranch
Foreman 400 claws its way up uneven surfaces.
Ample ground clearance and rugged suspension allow the Foreman to climb smoothly over obstacles.
Down a gully, over moderate sized rocks, wherever, whatever, all were handled with ease.
Honda's Foreman 400

Riding the Range A quick look at a map lead us to Texas Canyon and its huge expanses of rutted creekbeds, steep climbs and suspension-crushing boulders. With our test Yamaha Warrior along for the ride, we set out to put the Foreman through some California quad hell.

We loaded the Honda with camera equipment strapped to the front rack and an ice cooler on the rear, finding plenty of room left over for a tent, sleeping bags, and assorted other camping equipment. There's even extra space on the vertical front bumper/rack.

Ample racks fore and aft We started with a little trail riding to become more accustomed to the Foreman's layout. On the open trail Honda's Foreman is competent, but boring. After a bit of huffing and puffing it gets up to an indicated 45 mph. This just ain't no sport quad.

The suspension does work well at these speeds, as long as you can see well ahead to slow for rough stuff.

Clearly, weight is the enemy here, as Honda's big quad simply overwhelms its plush suspension under hard compression. We quickly learned to take rough trails slowly.

A stream crossing gave us the chance to test the seaworthiness of Honda's Foreman. It's full fenders give good water protection, as long as you stay under 40 mph. The Foreman never uttered a complaint or sputter, even after spending a considerable time in the water.

The all-wheel drive gave excellent traction when exploring upstream, and we found ourselves climbing over increasingly larger boulders that would have stopped a sport quad long ago.

"On a tour of the ranch's rugged terrain, Honda's Foreman could do no wrong."

Honda's big quad contains plenty of stump-pulling torque Our next stop was the MO ranch, where we immediately put the Foreman to work. It quickly became apparent that Honda designed the Foreman with serious utility capabilities in mind.

In an effort to test the 400's granny-gear pulling power, we wrapped a tie-down around a 25-foot, 750-pound telephone pole and hooked another to the Foreman's handy towing hitch.

With a rated maximum towing capacity of 850 pounds, the Foreman handled the big log no problem.

On a tour of the ranch's rugged terrain, Honda's Foreman could do no wrong. Down a gully, over moderate sized rocks, wherever, whatever, all were handled with ease - as long as speeds were kept slow. With the engine's low-end grunt and easy-to-use reverse gear, you really had to try to get the Foreman stuck - and believe us, we tried.

It even comes equipped with a recoil starter in case you kill the battery. In exploring situations nothing beats the Foreman's go-anywhere 4WD at breaking new ground.

Great Job Honda's Foreman 400 resembles, and rides like a small tank fitted with racks. If you've got work to do, the Foreman can get it done. It easily overcame every task we threw at it.

If serious utility capabilities and faultless full-time 4WD are things you look for in an ATV, chances are it can get the job done for you too.

Specifications

Manufacturer: Honda
Model: 1997 TRX400FW FourTrax Foreman 400
Price: $6,099
Engine: ohv, 2-valve, single
Bore x stroke: 86mm x 68mm
Displacement: 395cc
Carburetion: 32mm piston-valve
Transmission: 5-speed with reverse Wheelbase: 48.8 in.
Seat height: 30.9 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.2 gal. Claimed dry weight: 553 lbs.


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