Testing the Suzuki Eiger

Testing the Suzuki Eiger

Burch, Monte

The Suzuki Eiger series of ATVs is named after the Swiss mountain peak that has become famous for its classic profile and underlying strength. The Suzuki 2003 LT-A400F (K3) Eiger Automatic 4X4 QuadRunner, however, is right at home in the mountains of the United States, as I found exploring the Ozark hills and hollows.

An aggressive but superbly handling ATV, the Eiger, at 376 cc, is an excellent mid-size ATV. It’s hard to imagine an ATV with almost 400 cc being called mid-size, but these days it falls into that range. The Eiger is extremely quick on throttle dump from a standstill and offers great midrange response. The Eiger comes in automatic 4X4, manual 4X4, automatic 2X4 and manual 2X4 models. We tested the automatic 4X4. All Eiger models feature a dependable 376 cc single-cylinder, 4-stroke, air-cooled SOHC 4-valve engine, with 9.0:1 compression ratio, a single 32 mm Keihin carburetor, a gear-driven balancer to reduce vibration, and a wet-sump lubrication system. One advantage these Suzuki engines offer is quicker start-up of the cooling fan at lower temperatures than some other makes and models. If you’re operating in warm temperatures, or operating fairly slowly, you’ll notice the fan kick in early and frequently.

In the automatic model we tested, power is transmitted through an automatic transmission featuring a fully automatic V-belt with a continuously variable gear ratio. The automatic models also feature an advanced engine-braking mechanism and two-speed sub-transmission with a reverse gear. The automatic shifting was extremely smooth, with no jumps or hesitation. In addition, four-wheel drive models, such as the unit tested here, feature Suzuki’s unique torque-sensing limited-slip front differential and an easy-to-use handlebar mounted 2WD/4WD control lever. Shifting from two- to four-wheel drive, however, must be done while the vehicle is stopped. Suzuki has continued to make its automatic QuadRunners progressively easier to use, and shifting into high, low, neutral or reverse on the Eiger is as simple as it gets with the side console-mounted gearshift. Some of the older Suzuki models were harder to shift. A thumb release button on the Eiger shift lever allows you to easily shift in a straight forward-back pattern without following a complicated shift pattern. Parking is achieved with a thumb brake on the left-hand handlebar. To engage, however, the parking brake lever must be pushed in place by reaching over with the right hand.

Running some fast turns on winding Ozark mountain trails, I found the Eiger to have very good balance. The foot pegs are placed well for either sit-down or stand-up running. Like many riders, I prefer to stand up when negotiating rough, twisting trails as it is easier to balance the machine on maneuvers. Also, adding a bit of power on sharp turns in 2WD slides the back end around, a typical maneuver for experienced riders. This maneuver is made easier with the Eiger’s extremely quick mid-range response and good balance.

The Eiger frames are constructed with large diameter, thin-walled steel tubing for maximum strength and minimum weight. The machine is fairly lightweight for its size and ruggedness. Aggressive bodywork, high-radius fenders, a ruggedly styled grill and a large front bumper creates a good looking machine that is also built to take on the rough stuff.

The ride of the Eiger is comfortable, but also stiff enough to provide good control, typical of Suzuki’s suspension systems. The front suspension features an independent double A-arm design with a class-leading 6.69” of travel. The rear suspension is a dual shock swing arm with the same 6.69” of travel. Ground clearance is 9.3”.

Braking chores are handled by dual 190 mm front disc brakes combined with a water-resistant drum brake mounted at the rear. Braking is sharp and smooth with either front or rear brakes. Engine braking is excellent on this model. One trail used for the test is about a half mile of steep downhill with “shelves” or drop-offs typical of the Ozark mountains. In the test, going at a fairly good clip, I released the throttle just before the drops and found braking started immediately, providing good control on the drops. Other features include a start-in-gear system for quick and easy restarts, spin-on oil filter, standard brake light, and a large four-gallon fuel tank. The mechanical fuel gauge is right up on top of the console and easy to see and read. The unit also features large-sized tires and wheels and high-capacity cargo racks. The racks are open and well-designed for easily fastening a variety of items to them.

New for 2003 with the Eiger QuadRunner series is a higher output 12V/120W automotive-style electrical outlet for a wide range of electrical accessories.

I liked several other features of the new Eiger as well, including the handy tool/gear box built into the lower portion of the rear rack. A convenient and easy-to-use latch on the side of the rear of the seat allows it to be easily removed. Beneath the seat is easy access to the air filter.

Climbing mountains is easy with the Suzuki Eiger Automatic 4X4 QuadRunner, but even if you don’t have mountains to climb, you’ll find this mid-sized ATV a handy and reliable worker and playmate.

Copyright National Rifle Association of America Jul 2003

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