I was very fortunate to be introduced to the sport of Hunting and Fishing by my dad at a very young age. Some of my most found memories of my dad revolve around our outings together. Today I am still very captivated by hunting, however due to lack of time I rarely go out on hunts anymore. Some of my friends are avid hunters and to some degree use off-road vehicles such as ATVs or UTVs to get to their hunting spots. The major complaint by them and I am sure this applies to other hunters as well, is the noise produced by these off-road vehicles. Aside from the noise, these units also produce exhaust fumes, which just seem too endlessly linger around their hunting locations. If your prey can hear and smell you, chances are it will have an impact on your hunt. This is why most hunters use their off-road vehicles for part of their trek and the final approach to their hunting location is done on foot.
One night while watching television I came across a commercial for Bad Boy Buggies that boasted the slogan, “They won’t hear you coming”; my curiosity was aroused. When I attended the Edmonton Boat and Sportsman show a few months back I had the opportunity to meet the Territory Sales Manager from Bad Boy Buggies. He briefly introduced me to the Ambush iS model, which is a hybrid unit offering the ability to switch between gas and electric powertrains.
“Gentleman, you had my curiosity… but now you have my attention”, Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Indeed, they had my attention. We finally arranged to get a demo unit so we could put this “Bad Boy” to the test, no pun intended.
As our test location we selected a trail system that hunters utilize to get to their hunting spots during hunting season. Obviously for the safety of the trail riders, and also so the trail riders don’t scare off all the prey, this trail system is closed during hunting season. A good trail system offering many different riding conditions, perfect location to see what the unit had to offer.
The test scenario we had planed was simple: basic trail riding while trying to concur adverse trail conditions. We wanted to test this unit under gas power, electric power and a combination of both. Also most importantly, we had to test the battery life of the unit to see if it could really get us where we wanted to go.
The Ambush iS is powered by a 28-horsepower 720cc fuel injected Subaru engine and a 48-volt AC electric drivetrain. The electric drivetrain is 25% more energy-efficient that the previous DC technology used, allowing longer range between charges and better performance on the trails. The unit features six 8-volt batteries, 4 batteries situated under the vehicle’s seat and 2 upfront of the unit with a hood cover for easy access. The division of the batteries provides for better weight distribution to the front of the vehicle supplying better traction in front wheel drive.
For long hauls, the unit can be uniquely powered by the gas engine (2WD Rear). When you are ready to approach your hunting site, switch to electric power (2WD Front) for virtually silent operation. On-demand 4WD is activated by engaging both powertrains simultaneously. A unique feature of the Ambush iS is “REGEN MODE”: this allows for the vehicle’s batteries to be recharged on the fly while the unit is driven under 2WD gas power. A dash-mounted REGEN switch allows you to choose between high or low resistance. This resistance is turned into energy and sent back into the battery packs. The unit produces a top speed of 25 mph / 40 kph and to fully recharged drained batteries it can take a good 8-12 hours.
SUSPENSION AND HANDLING
The Ambush iS comes equipped with four-wheel MacPherson Strut independent suspension and sway bar. For additional traction the locking front and rear differentials direct the vehicle’s power to the wheels that need it the most. The unit also features rack-and-pinion steering which offers agile response with every turn.
TIRES, WHEELS AND BRAKES
The unit we tested came equipped with a set of KENDA 25-inch all-terrain tires (25 x 10-12) that were mounted on a set of 12-inch steel rims and the unit is brought to a stop by front and rear hydraulic brakes.
COCKPIT AND ERGONOMICS
Entering and exiting the vehicle is made easy via clip-on nets, however they remain clip-on nets and at times they can be cumbersome. The floorboards are low on the unit so you don’t have to step into the unit; this also facilitates ingress and egress. The unit offers bench style seating with separate headrest, under the bench seat is located 4 of the 6 batteries and the fuel tank, and due to this arrangement obviously the seat is non-adjustable. In the center of the unit, at the right hand side of the driver, you will find the shift levers which allow you to lock the front and rear differentials.
The front dash is made up of 2 gauges and several switch controls for the operation of the unit. The electric and gas levels are each represented by their own gauge, so you can easily read the battery and fuel quantities. You will also find a switch selector that allows you to operate the vehicle in electric mode, gas mode or a combination of both if you want to use the unit in 4WD. On the right hand side of the gauges you will find 3 other selector switches: “Engine Start” to start the gas engine, “REGEN MODE” low and high which allows you to charge the batteries while using the unit in gas mode, and finally an on/off switch for the vehicles headlights.
The Ambush iS does not have a traditional shifter arm; shifting gears is accomplished by using the key. Simply turn the key to “F” to move the unit forward and “R” to move the unit in reverse and “N” for neutral. This applies for both gas and electric operation. Since there is no traditional “PARK” position it is strongly recommend to always use the units hand brake.
The overall cockpit interior is simplistic in design with a modest fit and finish. All the controls are easily legible and within reach and the unit also offers the basic creature comforts that one would typically find in this type of unit.
The UTV consumer can find the exterior styling of the Ambush iS somewhat unique and definitely not what there used to seeing in a “hunting class” utility unit. At first glance, the Ambush iS may look like a “beefed up” golf cart, but the similarities stop there. The unit’s chassis as well as all the other major components are built especially for this unit. I will use an expression that I have heard time and time again when making reference to the Ambush iS: “Much more than your grand-father’s golf-cart”!
Our test unit was the 4-passenger model, however the Ambush iS comes standard as a two-passenger model featuring a 9.6 cubic foot cargo box with payload capacity of 500 lb. / 226.8 kg. For easy access and safety for the rear passengers, the 4-passenger model offers an access ramp/foot rest and hand rails, and of course safety harness are also included. When not in use the rear seat can easily be folded down to carry your gear or your trophy kill.
For the remainder of this article we will focus on the 4-passenger model; for information or specifications on the 2-passenger model, please refer to the Bad Boy Buggies website as the 2 models differ. www.badboybuggies.com
The Ambush iS has an 81.5-in. / 207-cm. wheelbase and 7-in. / 17.7-cm. of ground clearance. The unit measures width: 55-in. / 139.7-cm, length 127.5-in. / 323.8-cm and height: 75.5-in. / 191.7-cm. The overall weight comes in at 1,889-lbs. / 856.8 kg.
Our test unit was Matte Black in color, optional colors are also available: Matte Green, Flame Red, Realtree® Xtra™, Realtree Max-4™. Many genuine add-on accessories are also available for the Ambush iS, for the complete add-on catalog please visit the Bad Boy Buggies website www.badboybuggies.com.
The unit is very nimble and easy to maneuver: at no time was I left with the feeling that this unit required power steering. We tackled various trail conditions although nothing too extreme, and the unit never let us down and got us where we needed to go. The suspension and ground clearance where very adequate for the trail conditions we faced.
In “Gas Mode” the unit has enough power to handle treks through forest roads, tight winding trails and obstacles that are encountered along the way. However when we faced certain steep inclines, it lacked in power. But this didn’t stop us, we simply engaged the 4WD. Engaging the 4WD requires both drive trains to work simultaneously which results in more HP for the unit. The last small criticism I have with the unit in “Gas Mode” is the engine noise; it didn’t bother me personally but may be an issue for some.
In “Electric Mode” it’s a whole another story! The engine is extremely quiet, so quiet in fact that you don’t hear it at all, the only noise which is produced is from the tires riding over leafs, branches and obstacles along the trail.
We did the same passes over different trail scenarios in both “Gas Mode” and “Electric Mode”. Surprisingly I preferred the “Electric Mode”, I found the unit more responsive and tackled the trail conditions just as easily as in “Gas Mode”.
Battery life was also quite impressive, we did a good 4 hours in “Electric Mode” and at the end of our testing the gauge indicated half full. I should mention that we did not fully charge the unit before our testing as the gauge indicated almost full. Obviously result may vary depending on the trail conditions you ride.
The last 45 minutes of our ride, we engaged the “Regen Mode” on high position. If you remember from earlier, “Regen Mode” mode recharges the unit’s batteries while in gas operation. Once we got back to our trailer, I took a glance at the battery power level gauge and did notice a small difference, the batteries seemed to have recharged. Unfortunately I cannot comment on how long you would have to operate the unit in “Regen Mode” for it to make a significant difference.
SO DID WE LIKE IT?
We spent 8 hours field-testing the unit, even with this limited amount of seat time I enjoyed the Ambush iS. I found the unit nimble, easy to maneuver in tight trails and had enough power and torque to handle the trail conditions we faced. If we had to get by a difficult obstacle, we simply engaged 4WD, locked front and rear differentials and off we went! I especially liked operating the unit in “Electric Mode”, not only did I find it more responsive but it was also a pleasant new experience for me, it was a great feeling to ride along the trails peacefully without any engine noise.
Is the unit perfect? Of course not, which unit is? The side nets buckles can be cumbersome, as mentioned previously I found the engine quite noisy and the bench seats can become uncomfortable, but remember we spent 8 consecutive hours on them.
Now the important part: remember who is the key consumer for this unit. This unit is marketed towards the “sportsman” consumer, particularly hunters. This is not a unit for trail use! Hunters will typically use this unit to get to and from their hunting location. So some of the negative criticism towards this unit may not necessarily concern them, but nevertheless needed to be mentioned.
If you are a hunter in the market for a UTV and are planning to visit dealers in the near future, make sure to add Bad Boy Buggies to your list. Visit you local Bad Boy Buggies dealer and take one out for a test drive, judge for yourself if this unit is right for you.