Honda Rubicon 520 Review- Lessons From The Trail Hot
Honda Rubicon 520 Review- Lessons From The Trail
With all the Crossbar Offroad Park talk the last couple of weeks, I wanted to take some time to share some of the things I learned about Honda’s Rubicon 520 during the adventure. I have spent a good bit of time aboard the Rubicon 520 at this point, but Crossbar’s rocks and rocky terrain taught me some things about this ATV my previous riding simply had not. Though the lessons I took away from this adventure are several, there were a couple of big lessons that stood out worth sharing about Honda’s 500-class ATV.
Lesson 1- It IS an adventure ATV
It seems for a long while that Honda places its ATVs in “work” category. That is seen in so much of the marketing of Honda ATVs across the board. The Rubicon 520 had the features and specs, on paper at least, to be a very capable and comfortable adventure/trail ATV. This was the first time I had actually put that to the test with the Rubicon 520 proving itself as a comfortable and capable ATV.
First and foremost the Rubicon 520 is comfortable and easy to ride, which as an adventure ATV is pretty darn important. The 2020 upgraded engine provides the power on the low to mid area of power and torque to give it effortless power to tackle whatever terrain you choose to ride. Mated to the engine is the dual-clutch hydraulic automatic transmission, a transmission like what is in your car, using metal gears and no belt. This transmission on the Rubicon 520 means a fully-automatic mode, a manual mode with buttons to shift up or shift down, and both a high range and low range gearbox. Put all this together and you can hop on the ATV, start it, flip the transmission to auto, and hit the trails with the power and shifting working together without any more driver input than your thumb. It couldn’t be any easier. Now if you want to run the gears yourself, you can do that. If you need that low-range capability, then you can choose that. You can cater the tranny to do what you want it to do, or just set it to auto mode and go. Oh, and I find the power to be plenty to have fun in the corners, open up on long straights, and offer torque-on-tap at low to mid speeds to make you smile. Most of the time I just ride with it in auto mode and forget about it.
Other nice features making it a day-long adventure ATV proved to be a comfy seat, small storage containers in the front grille and left front in addition to a descent amount of rear storage, power steering, a well protected rider area, plenty of rack space, good lighting including the pod headlight, and a width making the ATV stable and roomy. The independent suspension has enough travel at 7.28-inches front and 8.46-inches rear to make the ride fairly comfortable compared to ATVs with more travel and a cushier suspension. I did find the limit to those smaller travel numbers on the rock-filled trails throughout my ride. I thought the Rubicon 520 rode better than I expected considering the terrain. Even at the end of the day I wasn’t worn out from the the suspension. I would also like to note I had the 5 available presets on the shocks cranked all the way up for maximum ground clearance, which means the ride could have been better. When you look at all the creature comforts Honda places on the Rubicon 520, you could definitely use this ATV as your main adventure vehicle.
Lesson 2- DCT Tranny & Power On Inclines/Declines
The Honda Rubicon Dual Clutch hydraulic transmission is such a departure from the much more common CVT transmission. I found on my ride that I could get the Rubicon to do exactly what I wanted while rock crawling and traversing inclines and declines, but it required a little more work and thought than a typical CVT transmission. A typical CVT transmission has a High and Low gear and that is it. From there the ATV basically does the rest. Engine braking typically works more or less aggressively depending on the gear. While a hydraulic transmission does maximize engine braking, the Auto mode on the Rubicon wants to shift up as speed builds. To be fair, when you let off the throttle on a decline, the transmission downshifts to slow the ATV. I found that to be good, but not totally dependable on challenging and rocky declines. In addition, when getting some moment to start up a steep incline, the transmission shifted up and then starting up the incline I would loose momentum and it would shift down, but even that brief pause would cost me momentum. These were pretty extreme and rock filled inclines! Under normal inclines and declines it doesn’t make much difference.
What I found was as soon as I started down these more extreme trails I would take the transmission out of Auto and into manual mode so I could control the shifting. Then I would drop the transmission into Low range, and I was ready to tackle whatever with confidence knowing the Rubicon wouldn’t shift at an inopportune time. This proved to work great, and was particularly effective when walking down steep declines.
After the dust settled, what I learned was that the Rubicon works best on extreme terrain by controlling manually what the transmission is going to do. Yes, the Rubicon will go over anything any other ATV will go over, but it works best when the transmission is controlled manually by the rider in extreme terrain. I think it is important to point out again that this is only the case in extreme terrain and not in the case in 90-percent of the adventure riding most ATV riders tackle.
Lesson 3- I Like A Diff Lock
There are a handful of different 4-wheel-drive systems out there, but most work basically the same. When 4-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive is engaged the system sends power to the front wheel or wheels depending on the system. Then on some models the rider/driver can choose to lock the front differential to send power to both front wheels equally. That is the 4-wheel-drive system the Rubicon has controlling the 4-wheel-drive. The rider can choose between 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD with Diff Lock. I am so glad I had that feature while riding the Honda Rubicon.
Most of the time when I ride an ATV, I leave it in 2WD so I can corner aggressively when I am having fun. I can tell you the moment we started down the first trail at Crossbar I was pushing the button for 4WD so I could have the front wheel(s) pull me and slow me down on declines. Once we started hitting obstacles, having the front diff-lock at my disposal made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Really, it gave me more confidence since I knew those front wheel were pulling from the moment I hit the throttle. It is so nice to have a diff-lock on the more serious obstacles, and I was happy the Rubicon had it.
Lesson 4- It Is Like A Tank
Looking back at the Crossbar Offroad Park adventure, I was glad to have spent the majority of the time on the Honda Rubicon. That ATV was like a tank and just went where I pointed it without complaints. Of course its a Honda, so the tough level on the Rubicon is an 11 on a 1 to 10 scale. Yes, there are more powerful 500-class ATVs with more travel, but the Rubicon performed predictable and reliably the entire adventure including on some pretty extreme terrain and rock obstacles. I have so much respect and confidence in the Honda Rubicon, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it on any adventure, any terrain, or any distance in the future.
Those are the lessons I learned about the Honda Rubicon on the adventure to Crossbar Offroad Park. If you have any questions about my experiences with the Honda Rubicon 520 then just leave a comment below.
Extra Torque On Incline
Driven a 520 for 2 years now and love it. Just two points that the author missed;
1) The tranny automatically learns from your usage and maps your driving habits; If you're cruising low key, it gives you low key shifts and gives you much better gas mileage. I get better gas mileage on my 520 than my 400.
2) If you are in auto, and need more torque, simply shift down; no need to change mode. After a few seconds, it goes back into auto.