Remember a time before UTVs? Myself, I always thought that between go-carts, buggies, rock crawlers, prerunners, quads, and dirtbikes, the average American had enough vehicle variety to keep himself entertained. I was initially skeptical when the Polaris RZR arrived in 2007 and took off like a jet airplane. It seemed like a fad, one that would come and go like the Macarena.
Instead, it flourished. As of last year, the UTV and ATV market is a six-billion dollar industry, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. According to studies from Mordor Intelligence, a market intelligence and advisory firm, Polaris, BRP (Can-Am), and Arctic Cat lead the UTV/ATV market. Together with Honda and Yamaha, they make up 90 percent of the global and national sales.
That’s pretty crazy when you sit down and think about it. Granted, those numbers also include agricultural and task-oriented ATVs like the Polaris Ranger and Yamaha Viking, but the amount is still remarkable.
In the time since the rise of their popularity, UTVs have continued to be a force in the off-road world. RJ Anderson showed the world just how capable they were with his famous XP1K series on YouTube, putting his RZR through the wringer in various courses made from forests and abandoned industrial sites. Sanctioning bodies from Ultra4 to SCORE to LOORRS have incorporated them into their events. Even video games like Grand Theft Auto 5 have recognized their popularity, and in February, a game called Overpass released, showcasing high-definition graphics and lifelike performance of UTVs in racing and obstacle course settings. What’s more, Polaris RZRs featured prominently in the adventure comedy Jumanji: The Next Level that came out last year.
And UTVs are ever-evolving. The Nikola NZT, which we first noticed at the Sand Sports Super Show two years ago, is an electrically powered UTV that gives us a glimpse of what’s next for these vehicles. Even the military is considering using these machines for special forces missions. To that end, Polaris has developed diesel-powered UTVs like the MRZR, and Kawasaki Teryxes have been modified to mount machine guns!
It’s amazing just how versatile and accommodating these machines can be. But what comes next? If I may offer some predictions:
- Solid-axle UTVs. Granted, the Mahindra ROXOR is already on the ball with this, but I would anticipate the big players like Can-Am and Polaris are eyeing the ROXOR to see how it does. Or they’re already developing their own version to compete. Who wouldn’t love to see some dedicated rock-crawling UTVs out there?
- Increased speed potential. The two things every gearhead out there loves are speed and power. As of this writing, the fastest UTV is the Can-Am Maverick X3, which has a reported speed of 85 mph. Sooner or later, one of the companies will make the leap to 100 mph. Possibly beyond?
- Planet rovers. With the renewed interest in space travel and interplanetary discoveries, someone is going to craft a vehicle capable of traversing planets beyond our own. UTVs seem like they might have the right qualities with few modifications.
What do you think about UTVs and where they’re headed? Deposit your two cents in the comments below.