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How Driving an XTV is Different from Driving a UTV

Due to their size and off-road capability, Argo’s XTVs are often compared to UTVs. While at first glance, an XTV may seem like it’s a UTV that can go into the water, operating one is a completely different experience. To make the transition, you need to understand how these vehicles operate and how they react to different terrain.

Skid Steering and Braking

The handlebars are connected to a pair of service brakes mounted inboard next to the two drive axles. These both stop and steer the vehicle. Since the wheels are always connected to the drive system, each brake slows down every wheel on its side. Closing the brake lever operates both service brakes to slow the vehicle.

The standard Argo transmission applies 100% braking force when steering, so turns have to be taken in small chunks, lining up the front of the vehicle, driving straight, then steering again. Admiral transmissions apply braking force gradually for smooth turns, so the vehicle behaves more like an ATV.

Since the steering is brake-controlled, the vehicle turns in the same direction whether it’s going forward or backward. In a car, ATV or UTV, you have to turn the wheel or handlebars in the opposite direction when backing up, but to turn an XTV when in reverse, you just lean the bar toward the direction you want to go. For most operators, overcoming their automatic reactions can be the hardest part of learning how to drive an Argo.

As the vehicle turns, the rear swings outward like a forklift. The vehicle needs to be driven toward the inside of the path before making a sharp turn to keep the back corner from striking trees and other obstacles.

Turning Circle

The transmission’s low gear is primarily for sharp steering, not hill-climbing ability. Standard transmissions can stop the inside wheels in low gear, while Admiral transmissions can turn the inside wheels in reverse. This lets an XTV turn within its length, giving it a turning circle that can be less than half that of a UTV.

Suspension and Ground Clearance

An XTV won’t be able to climb extremely rocky, uneven terrain like a purpose-built rock crawler. However, while 9 inches of clearance may not be exceptional in the UTV market, the giant tires on an XTV spread its weight out, letting it drive over soft terrain that would stop the tallest UTV. Add some tracks and ground clearance increases to 10 inches, while ground pressure is even lower. This makes these vehicles ideal for crossing snow, mud and sand.

Crossing Water

If tracks are installed, an XTV won’t float. In this way, it’s a lot like using a UTV to cross water: the water level needs to stay below the intake to protect the engine.

Without tracks, an XTV floats on water, so depth is no longer a problem. Fast flowing waterways are still dangerous, but with water only pushing against the tires and the bottom of the hull, an XTV is less likely to be swept away.

The hull of an Argo has drain plugs that need to be sealed before entering water, then removed to drain out the cabin. Most models also have bilge pumps to remove water splashed up into the vehicle, and one can be installed in any XTV.


Without a long travel suspension forcing components to be mounted up high, an XTV has a very low center of gravity. Most XTVs don’t come with a ROPS pre-installed because they aren’t required to meet rollover safety requirements and the added weight decreases stability in water.

XTVs can handle maximum sustained climbs up to 30 degrees. At this point, it’s not the vehicle that’s the limiting factor, it’s the engine’s lubrication system. Brief climbs can be much steeper.

Want to Learn More? Talk to the Experts.

Shank’s Argo is one of the largest Argo dealers in the East, providing sales, service, and support for their full model range. We also have decades of experience helping enthusiasts, professionals, and businesses with their outdoor equipment. If you’re looking to buy an Argo, visit our showroom at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. To get here from I-81, take Exit 10 to Marion.

Do you want to test drive an Argo XTV? We can arrange that. Visit us online at

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