With the arrival of three “versatile” 8-wheeled platforms, Argo utility terrain vehicles have tapped into a growing range of specialized applications for highly receptive customers.
Argo’s current line of extreme terrain vehicles (ETVs) includes three baseline platforms: the Argo 8×8 750 HDi, Argo 8×8 XTI and 8×8 Centaur. Each baseline features a host of versatile options and components to adapt the vehicle to unique requirements in the field, backed by the manufacturer’s or dealer’s capability to customize its product as needed to suit the customer.
Bernhard Wagenknecht, VP Sales & Marketing Argo, explains: “Our new class of ETVs was inspired by requests from business customers to push our popular UTV series even further. They were looking for very rugged working vehicles that could take them deeper into the toughest terrain conditions, whether it’s dense bush, rock or flooded areas.”
The development of Argo ETVs began with mine exploration crews looking for more practical and more affordable ways to transport people and supplies into remote sites around the world. Since then, Argo ETVs have also been welcomed into service for public utilities, forestry, firefighting and search & rescue.
Common ground for ETV mobility
Configured to carry cargo, passengers or tools, each of the new ETVs is based on the same engineering principles that made Argo the “go to” vehicle for serious off-road enthusiasts. The design of each platform began with extreme terrain essentials, including low ground pressure, low centre of gravity, traction and maneuverability. Sharing these primary characteristics, all three ETV types offer a light step on soft or sensitive terrain, excellent stability to safely negotiate slopes and rough ground, and ground-eating mobility to climb through all kinds of soft, wet and uneven terrain.
Safety is a key concern when personnel are sent into isolated work zones, so it’s a key focus for Argo as well. Tipping becomes a serious hazard on rough terrain, but Argo’s low centre of gravity makes it one of the safest off-road vehicles available. The tipping coefficient, or static stability factor, for Argo ETVs is uniformly in the range of 1.35 to 1.4. By comparison, the most popular competitive UTVs are three to four times more likely to roll over. Adding a ROPS cage will provide some protection against tipping injury, but it will also raise the centre of gravity and make the vehicle less stable as it negotiates boulders, logs and steep inclines.
Unlike most ATV/UTV -style vehicles, the Argo ETVs are able to steer through the tightest bush and rock conditions with their zero turn radius and feature a ground clearance of 9” or more. The Argo 8×8 750 HDi and Argo 8×8 XTI are both amphibious, able to drive straight into and out of flooded areas and small lakes, while the larger Centaur ETV will ford streams as deep as 26”. The vehicles’ fully sealed lower body not only keeps out water and dirt, it also contains service fluids within the machine. Potential pollutants such as lubrication, oil, hydraulic fluid, antifreeze are safely held in the vehicle in case of a leak until they can be properly disposed. The ETV body also minimizes heat and spark hazards in dry forested areas and grasslands. Only a short segment of the exhaust is exposed outside the body, exiting the hull at a point three feet (one meter) above ground level.
Rough-terrain “tool carriers”
For industrial explorers and crews working in the world’s most remote territories, “getting there” is only half the battle. The Argo ETVs are built for hard work, and the designers ensured that each platform would adapt readily to the many applications their owners take on. The ETVs are offered with a list of quick-change components that tailor the baseline vehicle to its job with customized equipment for carrying cargo, people, special equipment and fuel.
“Making the baseline vehicles easy to convert has really made a difference to the practicality of these ETVs,” says Wagenknecht. “We’ve had a lot of success with rental houses who stock the vehicles along with a selection of add-on components, much as they stock attachments for other prime movers. It lets them get more utilization from their investment, and a more satisfied customer at the end of the project.”
UTVs roll up their sleeves
The Argo 8×8 750 HDi and Argo 8×8 XTI closely resemble previous models of ARGO UTVs in appearance, enclosed by a vacuum-formed sealed body with full skid plate provided as standard. Both are powered by 31 HP (23.1 kW) Koehler Aegis 750 cc engines coupled to the triple-differential ADMIRAL standard or high-torque steering transmission developed by Argo’s parent company, Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd. (ODG). The transmission delivers even torque to all 8 tires and is up to 50% more efficient than hydrostatic drive systems.
The HDi model is rated for loads of up to 1150 lbs. (520 kg) and runs at top speeds of 20 mph (32 km/h). Its standard ground pressure with Argo’s stock 25” tires is just 2.1 psi (14.5 kPa), which can be pared down to as little as 1.06 psi with the use of Argo’s 18” wide rubber multi-purpose tracks. This excellent weight distribution is especially valuable when crews are traversing environmentally sensitive areas – the impact of the Argo vehicle is actually lighter than a man’s footstep!
Argo also offers 15” or 18” quad tracks for all of its vehicles, designed to provide increased flotation along with traction to scramble over obstacles on irregular terrain.
The XTI is a beefier vehicle with a 1500 lb. (680 kg) load capacity and a top speed of 17 mph (27 km/h). Like the HDi, the XTI features a one-piece ergonomic handlebar steering control with a mounted brake lever. Its greatest departure from the lighter HDi is in the chassis, modeled after the highly durable and robust Centaur 8×8.
The top of the line 2013 Centaur 8×8 has adopted the look and the work ethic of an extreme-terrain truck. Shifting to an automotive-style steering control, the Centaur is driven by a 34 HP (25.3 kW) Daihatsu/Briggs & Stratton engine with the advanced Centaurmatic transmission, designed specifically for this ETV by ODG. Operating at speeds up to 28 mph (45 km/h), the Centaur hauls loads up to 1500 lbs. (680 kg) and boasts a towing capacity of up to 2000 lbs. (900 kg) using an auxiliary trailer available from Argo.
The hallmark of the Centaur is the payload platform behind the 2-person cab. Argo has developed a varied selection of flatbed decks, a dump box as well as a multi-purpose mounting frame for add-on equipment that users can quickly swap out to suit the task at hand. Variations now in the field include a customer installed mobile jib crane, drilling rigs, spraying systems and firefighting equipment. The mounting frame is purposely designed with a deep recess into the body of the ETV, so the vehicle’s centre of gravity remains close to the ground after its attachments are mounted.
Argo’s focus on supporting work crews is reflected in additional features and options such as the 150A alternator kit for operating power tools on the Centaur, a dash-operated bilge pump, and a 4,000 lbs. (1,814 kg) power winch for front or rear mounting. For rapid transport to the most remote sites, Argo offers a 4-point helicopter lift kit for all of its ETV series.
All in the Argo family
Argo ETVs are marketed through a growing network of stocking distributors and dealers worldwide. Argo USA has more than 100 dealers and continues to grow at a steady pace.
Since their introduction over 45 years ago, Argo vehicles have become world-renowned for their versatility, safety, dependability and low operating cost. In 2008, Argo accepted the challenge of a lifetime, helping the Canadian Space Agency to design a vehicle for “out of this world” terrain conditions: NASA’s next-generation Lunar Rover! Recently, Argo partnered with a Canadian security specialist to create a remote-operated robotic platform for airport baggage facilities to recover and remove suspicious packages safely. With over 50,000 units in service worldwide, Argo vehicles have been adopted and customized for military, search & rescue and robotic surveillance duty, as well as leading the industry in recreational and hunting applications.