The Powerland 900d 4×4 is a brilliant machine. You can muck around on it, go rock climbing or carve doughnuts on a sandy beach. It has got enough thrills to turn a sombre geek into a kid with a free pass to an adventure park. Thrill of Driving, Riding or whatever else is guaranteed. You would want one, if you ever rode one. But here’s the thing, ATVs aren’t road legal. So, if you do want to have some fun with them then you’d probably need an SUV with a trailer. By the time you’ve hauled it up to wherever the trail exists you’re already pooped. Hell, it even sounds exhausting and you haven’t even begun. So what on earth is the brouhaha surrounding the Powerland 900d about?
The 900d has an ace up its handlebar. Imported as SKDs (manufactured in Goa) and homologated as… wait for it… an agricultural tractor, the 900d is completely road legal. Yep, that means no more SUVs and trailers. You gear up, get on the thing, ride to wherever and come back with a grin to split your happy head in half. We went trail riding over sand, muck and even stones, did pretty much nothing that would remotely qualify as (ahem) farming and came back as happy as pigs in the mud. Not much of a tractor then, is it? Who cares? It’s super fun.
The 900d comes with a 794cc, liquid-cooled, V-twin diesel engine that makes 20bhp and 45Nm. Why diesel you ask? Because Indians love the cheaper fuel; especially in the rural markets. The engine is centrally mounted and weighs just 60kg. And to keep the maintenance levels low, it comes mated to a CVT that feeds power to the rear wheels or all four. There is a simple handlebar based switch to put it into 4×4 mode, on the fly. You can also shift into 4-low when required. Some ATVs are devoid of a reverse gear, but not the 900d. In fact, it has a winch on both the ends and the max payload it can haul is 750kg. Although at the Baja SAE India event in Indore, some enthusiastic students managed to lug around 1.5 tonnes of mass! Now imagine the possibilities. And to maximise usability, it also gets a 20-litre fuel tank and a claimed fuel efficiency figure of 20kmpl giving it a range of 400km.
Heading down a trail on a big bored ATV (let us call it so) makes the hair on your back stand. My most memorable ATV trail remains the one I had been on in Scotland on a Honda Foreman, a few years ago. The Honda was extremely nimble and easy to ride for a beginner like me. The experience of riding the 900d is exactly the same. It makes things easy for the newbie.
The ergonomics are precise for my body type (I am almost 6 feet tall with a large frame) and the switchgear falls perfectly into place. However, it comes loaded with buttons that take some time to get accustomed to. The instrument cluster too seems familiar and is reminiscent of the Yamaha FZ (which is not a bad thing at all) and to keep the experience even more biker-friendly, it gets a bike-like grip throttle instead of the thumb based one. One grouse is the protruding transmission box that pushes your left foot slightly outwards on the floorboard.
As you get on the move, you clearly understand why the makers have opted for a diesel unit. Farm tractors require massive loads to be lugged around, and hauled on to the trailers. The torque at the bottom end is decent enough, but don’t expect to go power sliding. Power delivery is typical of a diesel with not much of bottom end power (pronounced even more, thanks to the CVT). After 2000rpm, it starts building up and redlines at almost 3800rpm, which is neat for a diesel. Cruising at 40kmph is comfortable and obviously, once you’re off road, even 40kmph feels like a good 80kmph. And thanks to its 4WD setup, there is rarely any loss of traction and you never lose the sense of speed.
We rode it on an abandoned mining site and a beach, encountering rutted hill climbs, slush pits, stones and dust trails, where you could run flat out. The steering is heavy at low speeds (manoeuvring at parking speeds is a cumbersome task) but as you gain momentum, it gets lighter and starts communicating freely. It’s not a quad bike when it comes to handling; which means you cannot really go all-out as you can on those ‘superbikes on four wheels’. The positive aspect of it being an ATV, is the stability. It comes with independent suspension all around, which helps in keeping it standing (or crouching) on all four wheels, all the time, however hard you go. The weight distribution also helps and you don’t really need to use your body weight to keep it stable, even when you’re in a mood to run on two wheels. The suspension gets a travel of 203mm and is perfectly tuned for ‘trail’ conditions, though the setup is slightly biased towards the softer side. And that makes it comfortable on the tarmac as well. We rode it around Margao, Goa catching eyeballs in dozens and even the pillion rider was left grinning, with no discomfort even during long stints. I am happy to say that no matter what we threw at the 900d, it took everything in its stride, even off the tarmac. I was happy riding it the whole day, without much fatigue.
Are there any things that I would want to change? Yes, the CVT gearbox, brakes (wooden, with not enough stopping power) and the flimsy build quality. The company is already working on developing a turbocharger unit and ECU remapping kits, which will cater to enthusiasts like us. Also, it is perfect for beginners who are planning to head the Dakar way. With just enough power and nimble handling, it is not really difficult to learn the nuances of off-roading on this not-so-little machine. Powerland has also developed farming tools indigenously, including a three-point hitch, plough, PTO drive and a trailer for those looking to use it as a substitute for human and animal labour.
The 900d has opened up a whole new window of opportunity for ATVs in the Indian market. And with an affordable price tag of Rs. 3.75 lakh, it can really start a new revolution for its recreational as well as farming value.
Engine 794cc, V-twin, diesel
Transmission CVT, with high and low ratio, and a reverse gear
Power 20bhp @ 3600rpm
Price Rs. 3.75 lakh (ex-showroom Goa)