You’re comfortably perched atop the Quadski, a next-generation recreational vehicle that’s a hybrid all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and personal watercraft (PWC) in one, joyriding at 40 mph along a backcountry trail when you spot a series of obstacles ahead. In the near distance is a banked turn with a felled birch tree directly after and beyond that is a deep river you don’t remember seeing on your map that morning. Things just got a bit serious.
You feather the brake and the Quadski’s four-wheel disc brakes check your speed at the same time, aided by the engine, automatically downshifts the six-speed transmission. Now under control, you hit the banked turn and feel the Quadski’s advanced suspension system absorb the bumpy trail beneath as it works to maintain traction. You exit the tricky turn, push the thumb-throttle for a quick burst of speed, kick up a bit of dust and power right over the once mighty birch.
At the river’s edge, you don’t stop, but instead slowly drive the Quadski into the water until you’re floating on the vehicle’s composite hull. With the push of a button, the wheels retract inboard and the engine switches to marine-jet propulsion. Within five seconds, the Quadski has transformed from rugged ATV into a powerful PWC, and you find yourself planing, as boaters say, atop the water at speeds up to 45 mph, traversing the river rather than circling around it. On the other side you press the same button and the wheels extend back down before you hit shore.
Pioneered by Gibbs Sports Amphibians, a company founded by Alan Gibbs of New Zealand, the Quadski is a technical innovation, as it’s the first amphibious vehicle that can perform at speeds that exceed 10 mph. The secret lies in the Quadski’s proprietary High Speed Amphibian technology, which is powered by a 175-horsepower, 1,300cc engine, built by BMW. While the engine’s output is slightly more than a top-of-the-line PWC, it is more than triple that of a world-class ATV. Gibbs said the company’s engineers actually limit the output of the Quadski’s engine when it’s in ATV mode.
At a little more than 10 feet long, the Quadski is much bigger than a normal ATV, meaning it’s a little less nimble and more suited for groomed trails and fire roads. As a PWC, though, it reaches planing speed in seconds without any loss of maneuverability, and its heavier weight means it cuts through wake with ease.
Gibbs, which first built a Quadski prototype in 2005, has put roughly $200 million into the project, and is manufacturing the vehicle in a factory in Auburn Hills, Michigan. As of now, the vehicle sells for about $40,000 and can be found at dealerships throughout the country.