Review: Suzuki 500AXi Kingquad

By: Barry Ashenhurst, Photography by: Barry Ashenhurst

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Suzuki’s 500AXi Kingquad is Australia’s most underrated farm quad, and shouldn’t be, says Barry Ashenhurst

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Apart from the unfortunate price - $13,500 - it has everything you’d want in a dogged, single-cylinder workhorse.

Suzuki doesn’t brag about its Kingquad range of ATVs, doesn’t seem to advertise much either – I haven’t seen their ads – yet the 500 we tested would be on a par with anything from any global manufacturer. It’s a mid rather than full-size machine so one of its most useful characteristics is manoeuvrability; it’ll get in and out of tight spots that would have a larger Polaris Sportsman 570 backing and filling. It handles nicely, steers accurately and is small enough to fit in the back of a Hi-Lux. It’s also totally unintimidating. Outstanding!

But one thing will hobble this likeable ATV: at $13,500 it’s too expensive.

Suzuki 500AXi Kingquad working through the water
Baz says the Suzuki 500AXi Kingquad is Australia’s most underrated farm quad

I don’t know how distributors work out their retail pricing – maybe with the same voodoo magic  they work out tow ratings -  but the Honda 420 auto with power-steering, a big seller in rural areas, goes out the door for about $12,000. Retail pricing is up and down, I know that, and is subject to various customer incentives, which bounce around like rubber balls from The Reject Shop, but I can’t sit here on my big fat pumpkin and tell you that the Suzuki has $1500 worth of stuff the Honda doesn’t have.

I spoke to a motorcycle dealer in a large country town who sells both Honda and Suzuki. He told me that if the latest 500AXi sold for the same price as the Honda 420, he’d be selling them faster than Suzuki could truck ’em in. "The Suzuki’s a great machine" he told me enthusiastically, and I agreed. "But at $13,500", he added, "it’s way too expensive and there’s bugger-all we can do about it".
 

Having some fun with the Suzuki 500AXi Kingquad
Kingquads are built in Rome, Georgia (USA),

NOW THE GOOD NEWS

Kingquads are built in Rome, Georgia (USA), in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Hillbilly country, where locals admit they’re 20 years behind the rest of the country and like it that way. Nevertheless, their Suzukis were upgraded for the 2019 model year (and you can read more about that in the sidebar in this feature).

In mechanical layout terms there’s nothing unexpected. The modern ATV is rigidly formulaic. The overhead cam single is fuel-injected, canted forward to lower the overall centre of gravity. The trannie is the customary V-belt auto with a guard-mounted shifter. Pushing the bar-mounted 4WD button gives you three-wheel drive; engaging the diff lock gives you four-wheel drive. Suspension at both ends is independent, with double wishbones and coil springs.

Storage space at the front comprises a deep waterproof container with a round lid and looks like something you’d see on an ocean-going yacht. You can’t really mistake it for the fuel filler point but apparently at least one man has. It might be urban myth, but as the story goes, one irate land owner (I didn’t say farmer) demanded that his dealer "come out here and fix this bloody new machine" because it wouldn’t start. When the dealer finally arrived and inspected the machine, he found that the barking-mad customer had pumped all the fuel into the front storage bin.

Two more small bins sit at the rear of the machine. The owner’s manual, stashed in one of them, was still readable after we cut several laps of the Brisbane River so these bins appear to be more or less waterproof.

Large mudguards help prevent gunk hitting you from the rear. They look a teensy bit gumby but they work. There’s a square receiver hitch on this model, and on either side of it a pair of placid looking, 25-inch Carlisle knobbies that are nowhere near as aggressive as the tyres Polaris specifies for the latest Sportsman 570. That’s neither good nor bad. Not everyone needs combat rubber. On the other hand, the Carlisles clogged quickly when dunked in a potent mixture of cow poo and mud and, thus encumbered, were unable to get any grip at all on a big log we were trying to ride over.

Two of the three storage bins.
Two of the three storage bins.

Suzuki has a knack of making a quad (or road bike or dirt bike) feel instantly familiar. Controls are exactly where they should be, or within a poofteenth of an adjustable millimetre. The bars-seat-footpegs relationship is always spot-on too, so there’s no need for lengthy familiarisation. A Suzuki feels right as soon as you climb aboard. But the factory still likes to fiddle.

We were told the electronic power-steering has been tweaked but we didn’t feel anything we didn’t feel the last time we tested one of these jiggers. They might have added a "higher output electronic power-steering system" but we noticed nothing unusual about the steering because there was nothing unusual to notice, the most sincere compliment we can come up with at short notice.

Ride quality is what you’d expect in a mid-size quad, firm but not lumpy. The signature T-seat is certainly comfortable – who’d think that building a seat that shape would make such a difference? – but it does, although we wouldn’t call the overall ride cushy. On rough ground that you’d ride sitting down on a Polaris or Can-Am, you’d ride standing up on the Suzuki. That’s an observation not a criticism. And frankly, we know ATV users who any day of the week would swap cushiness for the direct handling of this Suzuki. It goes where you point it, an admirable trait in a machine with low pressure knobbies and a top speed of 100 kph. Suzuki says the geometry is set up with an understeer bias, to make the machine more agile, but we couldn’t tell. It certainly didn’t suffer the understeer we’ve felt on other brands.

The quad’s size and suspension layout enable it to turn tight and hang on. On fast farm roads or tracks it’s not twitchy and in low speed situations it changes direction easily. The engine gives you plenty of grunt, but is not throttle-sensitive, so you won’t experience sudden bursts of acceleration when you don’t need them, a trait too common in recreational ATVs forced into farm work.

The Suzuki 500AXi Kingquad working
"Suzuki has a knack of making a quad (or road bike or dirt bike) feel instantly familiar."

The long and short of it is that we really like the 500AXi. It’s always more fun to write these stories when a machine has obvious faults that shouldn’t exist, like no power, lousy engine braking, poor build quality, or cup holders that come out of the dash with the cup. But the Suzuki suffers none of these. It’s functional, non-intimidating, well made, easy to operate and has excellent engine braking.

In all things that make a real difference it’s a splendid farm quad. If only they could do something about the price.

A SMALL LIST OF BIG CHANGES

The Kingquad has remained untouched for several years now but with the 2019 model, Suzuki unleashed its creative energy, bringing the King up to speed. We can’t list all the changes in detail, that would require pages, but here’s a summary of the most significant ones.

  • New guard-and handlebar-mounted lights, and new low-draw LED taillight. New LED dash is easier to read and includes service reminders.
  • High-capacity, large diameter aluminium radiator.
  • New steel frame, with thicker frame tubes and redesigned brackets. Gas shocks replace oil units. With a stronger frame comes a bigger tow rating, now 600kg.
  • The base steering characteristics are now tuned to an under-steer condition for reduced effort and tighter turning. This also allows fitment of higher, more comfortable handlebars.
  • Redesigned plastic panels simplify maintenance, such as oil level checks and fuel and air filter servicing.
  • The dual hydraulic front disc brakes have new brake pad material, fluid lines and brake lever.  
  • 25-inch Carlisle tyres are mounted on strong steel wheels with a durable, powder-coated matte-black finish.
  • The new 35W handlebar-mounted headlight illuminates the trail in the direction you’re steering.
  • Winch-ready mounts and wire conduit for quick winch installation.
  • New, redesigned, multi-function instrument panel with readouts for speedometer, odometer, twin tripmeter, hour meter, clock, fuel level, driving range and drive mode. LED indicators for high, low, neutral, reverse and 2WD/4WD and differential-locked 4WD. LED cautions for fuel injection and engine temperature.
  • A new, four litre storage compartment is centrally added at the rear of the ATV.  
  • Steel-tube cargo racks with wrinkle paint finish for durability and scratch resistance.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

Suzuki 500 AXi Kingquad

Engine                                       493cc, fuel-injected single

Compression ratio                      9.9:1

Fuel System                                Suzuki electronic injection

Transmission                              Auto V-belt with 2WD, 4WD, high & low range, diff lock

Final drive                                 Shaft

Suspension                              Ind’ double wishbones & coil springs, gas shocks & 5-way                                                   preload adjustment

Brakes                                       Front, discs. Rear, multi-disc in oil bath

Length x width x height (mm)   2150 x 1215 x 1285

Tyres                                        Front, 25 x 8-12 Carlisles. Rear, 25 x 10-12 Carlisles.

 

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