What do you get when you take an ATV, a UTV, a boat and a tank and mash them all together into one vehicle? Of course, we all know you end up with an Argo. The somewhat strange vehicles have been around for years. What you may not know is that recently, Argo has undergone a bit of a change and today’s Argo is not the same as it was in the past.
Hunter’s and outfitters have long known about the Argo’s capability and now Argo has rewarded their loyalties with the Huntmaster 8×8, part of their Avenger series of machines. The Huntmaster is loaded with features aimed right at the needs of the outdoorsman, with everything from extra cargo capacity, to gun racks, and lest we not forget, the Mossy Oak camo finish. Hop in, it’s time to go moose hunting.
So, what is an Argo?
We have all seen them, but what really is an Argo? Is it an ATV? A UTV? A boat? The answer is a little of each with a few other traits thrown into the mix, making for something unlike anything you’ve ever driven, if you’ve not had the pleasure of driving one before.
The Huntmaster technically seats six, with a broad bench seat up front and two narrower benches in the back. The total capacity on land is 935 lb., or 424 kg total weight. So, with multi-passenger capability, it’s very UTV-like. But there is no roll-cage, like a standard UTV, which in some areas classifies it as an ATV for trail usage. In my home state, when used on land, the Argo must be registered with ORV licenses and, because there is no roll-cage, you need to have helmets on. Of course, you’re going to wear helmets anyway because, you know, you’re not crazy.
But wait, the driver’s controls are on the right side like a boat. And an Argo will also tackle water. So, is it a boat? It’s got a bilge pump! The fact that the controls are on the right is no accident, as Argos historically are considered boats. That fact is not lost from a legal standpoint. As was explained to me by my local conservation officer, technically speaking, an Argo needs to be registered as a boat to legally go into water and move under any sort of power. Thankfully my run-in with the officer was more of a curiosity and not of an enforcement issue. He was far more interested in what the Argo could do than what I was doing with it. The real issue is getting it registered, which can be extremely tricky. The bottom line is this – Check with all of your local ordinances and agencies before taking off in your new Argo. Just to be on the safe side.
The heart of the Argo
The Argo Huntmaster uses a Kohler Aegis ELH775, 747cc V-twin four-cycle engine that pumps out 30 horsepower. The entire engine and drivetrain is in the front of the machine with the exhaust exiting on the left side. It has a cool-sounding note to the engine when it’s running. It sounds very meaty. And when you get on the throttle, it really growls at you.
The transmission is completely automatic with a CVT belt clutch and the final drive is a set of meaty chains that run to all of the axles. The Argo transmission send equal torque to all axles continuously and simultaneously. You don’t steer via turning the front wheels, you steer using the transmission. Turn left and the left wheels slow and the right-side speeds up. It takes some serious getting used to as it isn’t a smooth transition, but once you’re used to it, it turns really tight and very precise.
Speaking of the throttle and the controls, that is another one of those blurred lines. It has a motorcycle-styled twist throttle and handlebars. There is a single brake lever that handles braking on the Argo and it is very well done. You want to stop, you stop.
There is a rocker control on the bars for the factory-installed 3,500lb. Warn ProVantage winch. The winch is a nice touch, very needed for the places the Argo can take you. It is also set up with a rear mount. You can unplug the winch, take it off and mount it on the back, where there is a second set of plugs to hook it up out back. These Argo guys were thinking!
Shifting from forward to reverse is easy with a dash-mounted control lever and a digital readout mounted on the bars gives you all the pertinent information when you’re running the beast. The only complaint about the controls and cockpit area is that, if you’re tall, you’re going to bump the dash with your knees. The front seats, however, are extremely comfortable.
Storage on the Argo gives you lots of options. There is the front rack that hold about 50lbs. of gear. A large under-seat storage compartment is easily accessed. There is ample area in the back, especially if you’re not hauling more people. Included in that storage area are two gun racks with padding and Velcro straps. Check with your local ordinances before transporting guns, just to be sure if you need to have them cased. You’d need a pretty thin soft case to carry a gun in the rack if need be, but there are plenty of those on the market.
Access to important areas really shine with the simple design of the Argo that when you really get into it, isn’t simple at all. Argo made the machine tough to get into some really wild places, but serviceable if something were to come up. To access the engine compartment, you pop out a few pins and the front rack comes off. From there, there some access panels for the engine bay. The nice thing is, Argo gives you room to work if you should need to.
The chain drive for the axles is a thing of beauty if you’re like me and like chain drives. You can access the chains by lifting the removeable floor in the front and back and there it is – a set of massive drive chains. Have an issue there? It’s easy to get to and fix.
The fuel tank, a 7.1-gallon (27 liters) capacity, sits under the front seat and is made of semi-clear plastic. No need for a digital fuel gauge, as you can see how much gas you have left. Argo says that under normal use, you have 8 hours of operation on a full tank of gas.
Driving the Huntmaster
Are you all about going fast and letting it all hang out? No? Good. If you’re buying an Argo, you’re not looking to go fast. Top speed is listed at a blistering 20mph. I hit that, but only going downhill… and with a tailwind. It’s not fast, but that’s okay. It’s not supposed to be. There are no shocks on an Argo. Think back to those old three-wheelers from back in the 70’s. Big, 25-inch, specially-designed, chevron-patterned Argo tires supply all the “suspension” you’re going to get. Oddly enough, they do a remarkable job of keeping your teeth in your head over rough terrain. The Argo spreads the impact of bumps across the entire machine, making for a smoother ride.
On water, it’s a weirder and a much different story. Top speed is a mere three mph and again, you don’t want to go faster than that, but you kind of do. Let me explain. The dealer that set up the Huntmaster for me and ran me through all the operations stuff when I picked it up said that taking the Argo into the water was going to feel like the oddest thing I’d ever done. He suggested that I have a passenger with me to sit in the back to balance things out. I wish I’d been able to go that route, but alas, it was just me in the Argo and I should say, it was unnerving. The Argo weighs in around 1,500 pounds wet before any passengers. Add a driver and that gets up a bit more. With most of that weight toward the front and you can guess what it was like entering water for the first time. You nose right in and while you do float and do move along, it was really unsettling to me. Maybe I’m just chicken, I don’t know. All I know is, I didn’t like it. I added ballast and tried it again and it was much better. So, take my advice – add weight to the back!
On land, the Argo is a tank. It will go ANYWHERE. I said that is all caps because I meant it. Snow, sand, hard-pack, mud… anywhere. It seemed to thrive on the nasty stuff, which makes it fun. I had a pair of ATVs stuck in some slop. Both had mud tires on and should have done well. The Argo walked through the same stuff like it was nothing, pulled both machines out and didn’t even seem like it was really working.
If the wild, nasty places beckon you to come out and play. If you want a machine that is part boat, part UTV and part tank, that can take you into those nasty places and bring you back out again, there is no better way to go than with an Argo Huntmaster 8×8. It’s not cheap, at over $25,000 depending on where you’re at. But if the wild calls to you, it might just be worth it.
For more information on the Argo Huntmaster 8×8, please visit : www.argoatv.com