There are a number of different cylinder layouts for ATVs including single cylinder, parallel twin, even firing parallel twin, V-twin, and variations on mounting them, including transversely.
We’ve often heard comments from our readers telling us they think the V-twin is the ideal engine layout for a 4-wheeler.
Kawasaki, Arctic Cat and Can-Am are the most notorious users of the V-twin layout and there are some advantages to this cylinder configuration.
The most obvious is that a V-twin can be narrower than a parallel twin, potentially providing more foot space at the running boards.
The difference is actually marginal when compared to a normally mounted big-inch single because the foot area width really comes from the clutches and engine cases, not the fact the cylinders are one behind the other.
Probably the best way to get the running boards narrower is to mount the engine transversely like Honda does and Polaris with its XP models.
A V-twin is narrower up top and allows the designers to make the area above the rider’s knees a bit less intrusive, but foot well width is a bit more of a challenge.
If you’re arguing big-inch singles versus V-twins, there’s no denying a 700cc or larger single is far lighter than a comparable V-twin.
The low-end grunt factor from a big single is a real good feature when you’re slogging in deep mud or sand in 4WD, too.
V-twins, particularly smaller displacement ones, need to produce RPMs to get good climbing results or take advantage of gummy traction situations.
This factor is less noticeable with bigger displacements (over 700ccs), but we think the single cylinder layout is best for engines up to about 600ccs.
Certainly, the power pulses are smoother from a V-twin and there is less vibration with any twin cylinder engine.
Truth is, though, that just doesn’t seem to be much of a factor with ATVs owners seeking power. Most will gladly compromise smoothness to get power results.