With Side x Sides, width is a much bigger deal than you’d think. Sure, if you’re running sand dunes most of the time or blitzing up and down fire roads, a wide vehicle provides maximum stability, keeping all four wheels planted when cornering or riding off-camber. Can’t deny it.
However, if you’re preference is trail riding, it’s really nice to have a narrower vehicle so you can get between rocks and trees without carving rims, tires and bodywork. Thus, the 50-inch wide SxS was born.
Only slightly wider than some ATVs, 50-inchers can go places you simply cannot go with a bigger machine.
We’ve been noticing the last few years how vehicles this wide are rolling out of showrooms in record numbers. Both Polaris, Arctic Cat and even Honda record significant favor with consumers buying the 50-inch RZR, Wildcat Trail and Honda Pioneer 500.
CFMOTO is a company that doesn’t stand still very long. The intro of the ZFORCE 500 a couple of years ago put them squarely in the running with those other competitors and then they started adding models and features – all at a ridiculously good price that simply put the others in the rearview mirror.
CFMOTO started with a Bosch EFI equipped 495cc parallel OHC single then stirred in a set of CVTech clutches. Although that combo isn’t mind-bending, the CVT clutches are smooth shifting and the engine’s 37.5-ponies are enough to create plenty of excitement when wicking up the throttle along with getting you up and over hills and obstacles without difficulty. In the mud, you can engage 4×4, low range and diff-lock with an electric switch on the dash.
Up front, the 500’s parallel A-arms are damped by a pair of compression adjustable gassers and at the rear there’s a set of rebound and compression adjustable gas shocks but without remote reservoirs.
Inside the cab of this Canadian model, you’re surrounded by creature comforts like 4-point seat belts, an excellent roll cage and seats that make for easy ingress and egress, and slanted at an ideal angle both for steering and aggressive driving.
There’s a well-featured LCD digital gauge in the center of the dash and the center-mounted shifter between the seats engages Park, plus there’s an external handbrake.
The 2018 pre-production WINDZONE concept tested here with Morning Dew water-dipped epoxy camo exterior may only be available in Canada for this model year but it constitutes the premium ZFORCE 500 and comes with upgraded aluminum wheels, better tires, a 3000-lb winch and EPS.
Riding the ZFORCE 500, we found it to be extremely stable when cornering under power and had enough get-up-and-go from the 495cc mill to break the rear wheels loose in corners to get the vehicle oversteering nicely on loose stuff.
While we think all ZFORCE models could use more aggressive damping profiles, the shocks are adequate over small jumps and rollers and the whole package feels pretty taut and responsive when out for a spirited ride.
Is it faster than some of the other 50-inchers on the market? Corner to corner, no. The fact is it gives up about 200ccs to the Wildcat Trail and about 70 to the RZR. Nevertheless, its engine tuning and clutching keep it in the hunt.
CFMOTO is addressing the meat of the marketplace when it offers a vehicle like this. Honestly, there are a lot of buyers looking for something in this price range that still stirs their hearts.
The ZFORCE 500 is very competitive at any price but the fact you can still hear change jiggling in your piggybank after you’ve bought it is a double whammy.