2015 Honda Foreman Rubicon IRS Review Hot
Honda has come out swinging for 2015 with a plethora of updated and refined machines, and , just like that, Honda jumps into the pack of recreational trail riding ATVs. One of these BIG updates comes in the form of the 2015 Honda Foreman Rubicon, and the word “update” doesn’t do the Foreman Rubicon any kind of justice. It is completely and utterly new, from the proverbial “ground up”. The 2015 Foreman Rubicon may just as well be a new model, since it is packed full of “completely new”. The “new” is everywhere, similar to a kid eating candy or a pig in the mud (there is a pun there don’t you think?). There is the new frame, independent rear suspension(IRS), front suspension, rear disk brakes, rugged appearance, Automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) with low range, diff lock, thicker seat, reverse lever, muffler, more powerful light, instrument cluster, Maxxis tires, and even hand grips. There is also a deluxe version available that adds red suspension accents and cast aluminum wheels. So in summary, the 2015 Honda Foreman Rubicon is “new”!
The 2015 Honda Foreman Rubicon is designed to be a trail-rider's ATV.
Let’s Talk Honda
Honda owns a hefty 37 percent of the ATV market, making it the number one manufacturer of ATVs. Honda never does anything on a whim, taking years to bring new models, as well as updates to current models, through the product development life-cycle. My thoughts on Honda from my experience is that Honda makes a fantastic work ATV; one that lasts for years and years because of the quality put into the product. Honda traditionally, however, does not offer a particularly competitive recreational ATV. What I mean is the features and specs on Honda ATVs do not lend themselves to being competitive to the recreational ATV side of the market. While the 2015 Foreman Rubicon exudes the classic “Honda” signature in every respect, one thing is crystal clear in talking with the Honda crew about this new Foreman Rubicon: it is not only meant to carry the mantle from a work perspective, but it is designed to offer the rider a fantastic experience when its time to have some fun on the trail.
The mountains of West Virginia was the perfect place to put the "trail-riding"
abilities to the test. Hatfield-McCoy Trail System is one of the best
in the U.S.
My Testing Facilities
I was pumped when I received the invite to the intro for the Foreman Rubicon, and equally thrilled to find I was headed to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in West Virgina to put this machine through the paces. Feel free to click on the link below to find out all about the Hatfield McCoy Trail System, but it is the perfect place to test an ATV touted to be a pleasure on the trails. The system offers more than a thousand miles of trails winding through the forest, with all difficulty levels available to ride. The trails offer hill climbs, hard pack, mud, rocks, gravel, and loose dirt, all while offering incredible views to boot. Think of it as a candy store for ATV & UTV riders. The trail system is arguably the best in the Nation, and one I am always anxious to ride. The day soon came to hop the plane (or two), and shortly thereafter I arrived in West Virgina.
Which one to choose?
The new rugged bodywork makes the Foreman Rubicon a sharp looking ATV.
The next morning I donned my riding apparel and helmet, and was whisked away to the trail head where a whole group of shiny new Honda Foreman Rubicons awaited for our riding pleasure. Even though I had gone over all the changes on paper, it is different when looking at a machine. It is in these moments that I “geek out” and go over a machine from top to bottom, which is exactly what I did with as many senses as I could muster along with my camera. The Foreman Rubicon is a good looking ATV, and yes it does look rugged and tough like it is aching to carry you on an adventure through the rough stuff. The Deluxe model’s accents give the Foreman Rubicon a polished look that is beyond the utilitarian look normally associated with Honda. Of course there is also the “choice” factor. You can choose a manual or automatic transmission, EPS or no EPS, or a Deluxe model, but all the Foreman Rubicons come with IRS. Going over the Foreman Rubicon led me to the conclusion that Honda made it a priority to engineer this machine to offer the rider a comfortable and capable ATV for those who want to use it for work OR play.
Into The Trails
Soon those in my group were aboard our choices of Foreman Rubicons, and my choice was an EPS and automatic DCT transmission version, which is exactly what I wanted to spend time on. I was looking forward to seeing if the power steering was all that I had heard about, and most of all, I wanted to experience the DCT automatic transmission over all kinds of terrain and trail miles. Up the first hill we went, and right away I began to get the experience I wanted on both of these features. The riders in our group were not shy on the throttles of these ATVs, and the 475cc single-cylinder fuel injected engine responded with a surprising amount of smooth power and torque to push me along the winding trail with zeal. This 500 class engine had “get up and go” that made it fun to ride the trails, and this is a must for a recreational ATV. In fact, during my entire ride, the engine never struggled in any way, always having the power to climb the hill, traverse the rocks, and zip me along with a smile on my face. The power steering (EPS) was everything I had expected, since I had heard raving reviews about it for years. The EPS takes out the jolts experienced from trail obstacles, while still offering plenty of feedback from the trail as it adjusts the amount of assist depending on your speed. Through my day of riding over rough terrain at high speeds, the EPS proved to be one of the best on the market. The handlebars never were jolted out of my hands, which is saying a lot.
The electronic power steering keeps the Rubicon going in the direction you point it,
and keeps the handlebars comfortably in your hands despite rough terrain.
The ride proved to be even better than what I had expected. In fact, it was impressive. With the new independent rear suspension (IRS) and front suspension improvements, there is 8.46 inches of travel in the rear and 7.28 inches of travel in the front. To add to this, all four shocks are adjustable with preload settings, so you can adjust the ride to your liking and riding style. These suspension improvements absolutely lends itself to a much more recreational ATV. The travel numbers alone allow for a ride that soaks up the rough stuff and offers significant ground clearance; 9.4 inches to be exact, though it felt like more. The travel was particularly welcome when traversing rocks where keeping tires on the ground is important. I never bottomed out the suspension even through a few dips in the trail at significant speed. I will say I came pretty darn close, so if you are an aggressive trail rider, it is nice to know the preloaded suspension can be adjusted. After a day of aggressive riding through winding trails, the thick padded seat and suspension kept me from feeling worn out.
The front and rear independent suspension is what turns the Rubicon into a pleasure
to ride on the trail. It also makes "work" a bit more comfortable also.
For The Rough Stuff
On a couple of occasions the terrain became a little more, shall we say, challenging, which gave me an opportunity to put the new TraxLok four-wheel-drive system into action. This system now offers a much needed diff-lock, which allows the rider to flip a switch to engage power to all for wheels equally. For years Honda has lacked a diff-lock option, which is a necessity in the extreme terrain in which recreational riders find themselves in on occasion. I pushed the 4-wheel-drive button a few times, and then engaged the diff-lock for some wheels in the air rock crawling. It was a welcome thing to have the ability to engage the diff-lock for that added security.
DCT Automatic Transmission Drive/Low Transmission
If there is one feature that is completely and utterly unique to Honda, it would be the DCT automatic transmission. This transmission is hydraulic (think your car), and it is dual-clutch. On top of that, it has a fully-automatic setting and a manual electronic shift push button setting, allowing the rider to shift up or down with a quick stab at the shift buttons. The rider can choose either the fully-automatic or manual push button mode. On top of this there is a low range setting as well as the drive setting. So essentially, between the five speed drive setting and low range setting, this hydraulic transmission has ten gears. It is safe to say the Honda DCT transmission is a technological wonder of sorts. I think we need to break this down. First, it is hydraulic rather than a CVT found in all other automatic ATV & UTV transmissions, so it actually shifts gears. Second, it is dual-clutch, which means gears 1, 3 and 5, and 2 and 4 have separate clutches. So shifting from first gear to second gear happens almost instantly since second gear uses a second clutch rather than waiting on the clutch from first to move to second. So in essence first and second gear are both engaged at the same time and so are third and fourth gears. I know this is a little confusing, but I am doing my best here! The result, though, is instant gear changes and it is truly noticeable.
The Automatic DCT comes in two modes selected with a thumbswitch.
You can choose fully-automatic, and forget about shifting, or
choose to shift manually with the electronic shift buttons (below).
When using the manual push-button mode, the gears engage so quickly it is truly amazing. Hit the button and “boom” you are in the next gear. This makes trail riding fun, and, the more I rode ,the more I found I liked manually changing the gears so I could enjoy the sensation of having the gear change happen so quickly. With some play time, it was easy to dial in the power of the engine and transmission shifts to bring me to riding bliss. Just for fun and in the pursuit of ATV science, I dropped the shifter into the “Low” setting and ran the gears in some more serious inclines and declines. The result is significant torque being at your throttle control. I am glad there is a Low range in the transmission for those situations where you need the extra torque to pull or climb something or want to walk the ATV down a steep decline.
The DCT Transmission features a dual-range gear set with a high AND low.
So what about the “automatic ” setting on the DCT transmission? It leaves something to be desired. Though the transmission is “smart”, and learns your riding style in order to switch shifting points between two maps for either leisurely or aggressive riding (that is a mouthful), it still seems to hunt for which gear to be in. In fact, the transmission shifting seemed to be all over the place, and hills made the problem particularly evident. I would be cruising along and hit a bit of an incline, and, though I would begin to give the Foreman Rubicon throttle, the transmission wouldn’t shift down until I had lost a good bit of momentum. When cruising along a trail on flat ground and giving it some throttle to keep up with the group, it would wait to downshift until I was giving the ATV a thumb full of throttle. The dual-clutch helps with quick shifts but the computer seemed to struggle with WHEN to shift. I found running it in manual mode was better for the aggressive riding our group was doing. However, if you are out just cruising trails in no hurry without very many inclines, then it will work fine. The nice thing about this transmission is that you can set it to the kind of riding you are doing at any given time. The DCT could not be more flexible to a person’s riding style.
The padding has been increased compared to years past, and offers riders
a comfortable day-long adventure.
The Foreman Rubicon gets high marks for the small details people want in a recreational ATV. All the controls are easy to use and positioned properly. There are storage spots in the front and underneath the rear rack for the items one needs for the trail. The new grips are comfortable, the instrument cluster allows the rider to stay on top of everything with a glance. The riding position is comfortable as well as the handlebar placement. There is plenty of front and rear rack capacity for work or play, and the engine placement allows for a rider’s feet to have plenty of room to adjust their placement. The ergonomics of this ATV make for a comfortable day at work or a day at play.
On-board storage is available in this front compartment, and in the rear (below).
The Rubicon sports a large instrument cluster complete
with a headlight for added visibility.
Honda has produced a competitive work and play ATV in the Foreman Rubicon.
To Wrap It Up
I like this new 2015 Honda Foreman Rubicon as a recreational ATV. This is a Honda ATV that sports the features and specs to make it competitive with other recreational ATVs in its class. The comfort level of the Foreman Rubicon allows it to play out on the trail all day long, and bring its rider back without feeling beat up and worn out. Yes, it can still work for you, with its years of service, along with hauling and towing capabilities you expect from a Honda, but it can also be the perfect companion for a day exploring your favorite trail or riding park to blow off steam from the work week. It is also capable of going where other recreational ATVs go with comfort and style to boot. Take one thing out of all of this: The Honda Foreman Rubicon is a recreational ATV, and that is exactly what Honda wanted this ATV to be.
Photos from our 2015 Honda Foreman Rubicon review.
It's a Honda
Honda makes a great product that will last for years. The Rubicon may not be the most powerful of the 500 class ATVs but it provides a great ride with superior quality.