First Test Drive and Launch - Gibbs Quadski by Martha Hindes +VIDEO
On land, on lake, the Quadski finally delivers the ultimate Way-Off-Road, off-land adventure
By Martha Hindes,
The Auto Channel
“You look bad ass,” said the photographer as I walked toward the lake fitted in jet ski safety gear. I didn't feel that way however, after donning a life vest over my fleece hoodie, swim shoes and the obligatory helmet and goggles required for the land portion of my upcoming test “drive” of the amphibious Gibbs Quadski. In front of me, on dry land, were two of the aquatic, four wheeled all-terrain vehicles ready to go through their paces, one bright red, one bright blue. I chose the blue one with a little less mud on the seat. In mid-October in Michigan under leaden skies and with recent rain, the resulting ponds of silty water on off-road tracks were not unusual.
A first set of instructions dealt with the land-based trekking I would do to get accustomed to the high-riding off-road vehicle. The engine kicked to life as I activated a start button while gripping the brake handle. On the trail, I could ratchet up through five gears depending on speed and terrain – no clutch pedal required. The two-stage thumb-operated power lever allowed smooth accelerations and solid control, designed to eliminate jerking.
Despite the height needed to accommodate a watery transition, it was firmly planted on all fours, and cornered easily with no feel of uncontrollable bouncing. There was no hint of the dual nature of this all-terrain vehicle that rides on standard ATV tires. As it sped along off-road tracks, it seemed to be in its natural territory. The only issues: climbing aboard since I'm not the six-foot, six-inch tall male the Quadski would seem ideally suited for, and taking a wrong turn that sent me on a solo off-road venture for a while. (If I were buying, I think I'd wait for the smaller version Gibbs hinted was under development, along with a half-dozen other amphibious vehicle versions. A bit smaller sounds more suited to a shorter, female driver.)
Watch the Gibbs Quadski in action
The Quaski sped along as fast as I accelerated with thumb pressure and maneuvered easily to avoid unnecessarily connecting with ruts or logs on the path. There was no sense it ever would lose control even when building momentum or in sharp turns, although I didn't hit the maximum 45-MPH land speed (the same speed it can reach skimming the surface of open water). And I spared giving a fellow driver a muddy bath by slowing down through a tight, last minute turn that took me through about a 20 foot stretch of mud. It would have been fun – for me at least. I don't think he would have appreciated it.
Then it was time to convert to a water-borne jet ski. As I prepared for the conversion, I could envision an extreme sports enthusiast in the summer, or avid duck hunter during the fall driving up and quickly taking off on water at full speed as they never could before. Gibbs is considering how enthusiasts will use the vehicle and is looking into possibly adding accessories that could perhaps accommodate a gun rack for a hunter or law enforcement use, equipment for an emergency rescue crew or storage for a sportsman or sportswoman. Two small bins built into the Quadski top can be anchored shut to secure small items such as a wallet, glasses or keys.
With helmet and goggles removed for boating use, I eased the Quadski down an embankment and into the water to about a three-foot depth where I felt it becoming buoyant. Once the wheels aren't touching the bottom, they can lift up and out to a horizontal plane. That's done with an up-down toggle switch that takes a scant five seconds to work and a gauge reading changes from “land” to “H2O” to indicate it is ready. The gear change reading disappears, as the Quadski does that automatically on water. A backup lever would allow me to maneuver to a better starting position with reverse jet thrust if needed. Ready to go,
I hit the accelerator and took off. It lifted up and sped smoothly across the water with speedboat dexterity rather than plowing through it the way a slower craft would. I turned to the right, then to the left and the Quadski easily accommodated with a sure, controlled arc that swept me near the edge of the shoreline then back over open water. Cutting back over my own wake, I slowed down to avoid too much bouncing and got about an inch of water in the foot wells. Despite the 50 degree air temperature with dusk approaching, I didn't feel cold. I just felt invigorated with a sense of command that had allowed me to take this land vehicle out onto water in the matter of a minute. According to Gibbs, I could have skimmed over water this way for about an hour and 45 minutes if fully fueled with gasoline.
As I returned to shore and switched to wheels down, the head and tail lamps (required by NHTSA for land driving) automatically turned back on. They had been off over water as required by U.S. Coast Guard regulations since the Quadski isn't designed for watercraft use at night. (These agencies need to communicate better.) With night approaching, it was time to scramble back onto shore, turn in the key, affectionately pat it goodbye and head for home.
The net effect?
My Quadski test drive left me with the feeling I had just gotten started. And it left a strong desire to be one of the first to order one of the 1,000 projected to be built during its first year on sale starting this November, as Gibbs lines up high end dealerships to partner with. Talk about dreaming. Maybe I'll start putting dollars aside to cover the initial $40,000 price tag.
© Martha Hindes, Automotive Bureau, All Rights Reserved