In a Nutshell:
Phoenix HD 4 is a fantastic, well-rounded model, capable of meeting the needs of some 98% of the market. It is recommended for anyone weighing up to 350 pounds.
- Great and Well-Rounded Design
- Capable Performance
- Wide Applicability
- No Major Criticisms
- Minor Limitations
- Not Deal-Breakers
- Unlikely to Compromise Overall Strength
- No Specific Criticisms Detailed
Are you a bit heavier than the average person? Looking for a robust, capable electric wheelchair or scooter to help you get where you want to go, and preferably, one that’s not outright impossible to take on the road with you when you travel?
If you answered yes to the questions above, then you’re in for a treat where this Phoenix HD 4 review is concerned.
While the Phoenix HD does have a couple of fairly minor limitations, for most of the people on the hunt for a mobility aid like this, it’s pretty close to perfect.
Of course, every person’s tastes, preferences, and needs vary. For most of the people out there, though, this model will serve them very well indeed. In the sections that follow, we’ll tell you everything it brings to the table, and we won’t pull any punches when outlining its limitations and shortcomings.
That way, you’ll have all the details at your fingertips so you can make an informed buying decision. If that sounds good to you and you’re ready to learn more, read on!
An Overview of the Drive Medical Phoenix HD4 Scooter
The Phoenix HD cuts a striking figure. This model is mostly black, with a two-toned black and grey seat and your choice of red or blue highlights. The word “scooter” really doesn’t do it justice. Scooters sound like something wimps use to get around in. This thing looks burly. It’s all business and ready to travel any time you are.
Before we get into the details in this section of our Phoenix HD 4 review, though, let’s press pause for just a moment to do a quick stats review so we can get a better sense of the machine. Here’s a quick overview:
- Overall Product Dimensions: 21.5” (W) x 41.5” (D) x 38” (H)
- Seat Dimensions: 17.5” (W) x 17” (D) or 20” (W) x 17” (D) (make your selection at the point of sale)
- Top Speed: 4 mph
- Maximum Range: 15 miles
- Wheel Size: 9” x 3”
- Maximum Climbing Angle: 6 degrees
- Turning Radius: 54”
- Ground Clearance: 3.75”
- Chair Weight: 132 pounds
- Maximum Supported Weight: 350 pounds
Most of these numbers are pretty impressive, but a few of them are underwhelming. Overall, it’s a sizeable piece of equipment. Surprisingly, given the HD designation in its name, it’s not the biggest scooter that Drive makes.
It’s actually a little shorter than Drive’s Spitfire Scout, although it is both taller and heavier, and it sits higher off the ground.
It delivers a rather disappointing top speed, though, so don’t be in too big a hurry to get where you’re going. At a maximum of 4 miles an hour, people who are out power walking will pass you by.
On the other hand, the battery array will keep you chugging along for up to 15 miles, which is better than average. It can also handle slopes of up to six degrees, which is about average for a machine like this. Note, too, that the Drive Phoenix HD4 scooter is a rear-wheel drive, which does help in powering up and over inclines.
The turning radius pretty much precludes you from using this inside your home unless you live in a palace. Still, the wheels are non-skid, so you can take it into the grocery store or your local shopping center without getting run out by an angry manager.
We really like the ground clearance here. This one sits nearly 4” off the ground, while the Spitfire Scout mentioned above only offers a 2.5” clearance. The difference might seem small, but in terms of being able to plow over uneven terrain, it’s significant.
You’ll still have to watch where you’re going so you don’t run into or over anything the Phoenix can’t handle, but you’re a lot less likely to get hung up on something driving this one than the Spitfire. That’s a very good thing.
We’re a bit underwhelmed by the maximum supported weight, however. With the HD designation hanging on the end of this model’s name, we were expecting more. Perhaps something in the range of 400-450 pounds?
As it is, this model offers a higher maximum supported weight than the industry average of 300 pounds, but it only barely qualifies as a bariatric chair. Even so, given the weight limit, it’s useful to some 98% of the potential market, and that’s fairly impressive.
One final thing to make a note of before we leave this section is the fact that this model is also offered in a 3-wheel variant (the Phoenix HD3 scooter). It’s more or less the same machine, but the three-wheeled version has a slightly smaller turning radius (48”) and weighs a bit less (121 pounds).
Adjustability and Comfort of Drive Phoenix HD4
The seat on the scooter swivels and can be angle adjusted. Between that and the tiller adjustment options, you can really fine-tune the scooter and optimize it for the perfect seating and driving experience for you.
Additionally, you can set the seat height and adjust the width of the armrests. That, combined with the two-seat size options, makes it all but guaranteed that when you settle into the seat to take this scooter for a spin, you’ll do so in comfort and style.
If there’s a point of weakness here, it lies in the fact that the seat is upholstered in PU, which is attractive enough but doesn’t stand up well to the rigors of heavy daily use.
If your plan is to use the Drive Medical Phoenix 4 wheel heavy-duty scooter every day, you’ll notice that the upholstery starts peeling, cracking, and otherwise showing its age after about 18 months.
The good news is that there’s really not a lot of upholstery to contend with. When it starts to wear out on you, it’s easy enough to have it reupholstered in something more durable. Note that this machine comes with a limited lifetime warranty. With proper care, you’ll be replacing the upholstery many times before the scooter itself wears out!
The armrests are firm plastic and not as comfortable as the padded arms of the Spitfire Scout, but they’re not awful either. Still, by the time you’re nearing the end of your battery life, your arms and elbows will be ready to be on a softer, more pliable surface.
Extras and Options of Drive Phoenix HD4
There are two “extras” built into the Phoenix HD scooter and a number of high-value additions that can be purchased from Drive separately if and as you need them.
The first extra to talk about is the most visible: The plastic storage basket built onto the front of the unit. It’s modestly sized. You’ll also probably want to augment the storage space, but it’s great that the unit comes with some as a standard feature. It’s big enough, though, to hold a few essentials.
The second is the headlamp, which really extends and expands when and how this scooter can be used, opening up the possibilities of an evening ride too!
On top of that, all of the extras that work with the Spitfire Scout will also work here, so you have access to:
- A cover to protect your scooter from the elements
- A pull-behind trailer with a removable cover
- An Oxygen Tank holder (mounts behind the seat)
- A crutch/cane holder (mounts behind the seat)
- A cup holder (mounts beside the seat)
- A rear basket for extra storage
- An armrest bag for yet more storage
- A backpack (slings over the seat) for yet more storage!
This is a good array of extras, and note that the company has placed a heavy emphasis on increasing the storage capacity on offer. If you invest in all of the possible storage options here, you’ll be able to haul pretty much anything you set your mind to. We love that, and we think you will too!
If that’s not enough for you, bear in mind that the aftermarket is huge. You can find all sorts of enhancements offered by a raft of third-party vendors. If you’re willing to consider third-party add-ons, the sky is the limit when it comes to customizing your ride.
Portability & Ease of Use
At first glance, it may not seem like the Phoenix HD4 is a portable machine at all. After all, it weighs an impressive 132 pounds! The good news is that it can be easily disassembled into five pieces. Each piece weighs more or less the same (an average of about 26.4 pounds), which puts each piece at significantly less weight than your average manual wheelchair.
Also, since it can be broken down into smaller, manageably-sized pieces, finding a place to put them is fairly easy too. Even if you have a full-sized sedan with a limited amount of trunk space, between that and your back seat, you should have little trouble storing all of the pieces when you’re traveling, fitting them in between your luggage and other supplies you’re bringing with you on the road.
The drawback is, of course, that it takes time to break the machine down, then more time to get it ready to use when you get where you’re going.
If you want to avoid that problem, it’s going to take an additional investment in technology.
There are two good options.
If you have a truck or van, you can buy a ramp. Just deploy the ramp and drive the scooter up into the fan or the bed of the truck.
Secure it, stow the ramps, and you’re ready to travel.
The other option is to invest in some type of lift to mount on the back of your vehicle. These are more expensive than simple ramps, but either option will neatly sidestep the issue of having to dismantle and reassemble the scooter, which saves you time.
Just be mindful of the fact that if you decide to go with either a ramp or a lift, it will increase your total cost of ownership of this model. We suggest you build that into your budget, so you have a clear picture of what you’re spending.
Air travel with a device like this is pretty much a non-starter. Most airlines simply won’t allow it. The batteries are a fire hazard, and fire and airplanes aren’t really a great combination. If you have your heart set on taking it with you, by all means, give the airline you’re planning to fly with a call and find out what their policies are. Just don’t be surprised if they give you a hard no.
You’ll find the controls to be intuitive and easy to master. The control panel is clearly laid out and you won’t have any questions about what you’re looking at. The only thing that might give you a few moments of difficulty is mastering turning the machine around or backing up if you don’t have the room to complete the turn radius. This, however, will only require a few minutes of practice.
Pros & Cons of Phoenix HD4 Scooter
The Phoenix HD 4 wheel scooter is a great, well-rounded, and capable machine that’s useful to the vast majority of the potential market. We don’t have any major criticisms of the scooter, but there are a few minor limitations to be mindful of. For example:
- We think it’s fantastic that there are two seat size options available, but if you need the 20-inch seat, you may run afoul of the 350-pound weight limit, which we feel could be increased with a minimal increase in the total cost of the unit.
- The armrests are okay but not great. Some padding would help tremendously. When you inevitably have the seat reupholstered, that’s something you’ll likely want to spring for as well.
- The upholstery isn’t as durable or as long-lasting as we’d like, especially given that the machine itself has a limited lifetime warranty.
- It’s not exactly a speedster, with a top speed of just 4 miles per hour. That’s not the slowest scooter out there, but it’s on the lower end.
None of these are deal-breakers. Even taken together, given the overall strength of this model, they’re unlikely to make a compelling argument against the Phoenix HD. It’s a really strong design and an excellent, versatile piece of equipment.
Drive Medical Phoenix HD 4 Review Conclusion
Our minor quibbles aside, we love this model, and we think you will too. We admit here in our Phoenix HD 4 review that while it can’t quite go absolutely anywhere (it’s just not made for braving hiking trails, at least not without a wheel upgrade that lifts it a bit higher off the ground), it can go most of the places you’re likely to want to take it. We highly recommend this model.
References & Resources:
- Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare, Official Brand Website
- Drive Medical Phoenix HD 4 User Manual
- The Use of Mobility Scooters by the Elderly – A Feasibility Study in Israel, ScienceDirect
- Travelling With a Mobility Scooter, RiDC
- The Value of Powered Mobility Scooters From the Perspective of Elderly Spouses of the Users – A Qualitative Study, Taylor & Francis Online