Continuing where model 2009 left off, this new decade turning year, is yet another one filled with exciting and innovative new all-terrain offerings from Polaris. Nobody was expecting so much change to an already very impressive line-up of quads. This time around, the boys and girls in Minnesota had one very special model to reveal, one whose mere existence could have huge ramifications.
The coming of their new highly upgraded XP versions for the Sportsman and Ranger lines launched for 2009 was huge news in the ATV world and many members of the media, including us here at ATV Trail Rider, considered some of these new offerings to be the best ever built. The almost complete re-design of the Sportsman quad has since been thoroughly tested by us and we keep getting more and more impressed with its all around performance every time we take our shiny red XP 850 out for a spin. Improving on such a great line of vehicles was surely a challenge for Polaris, who had set the bar way higher than ever before. Applying this new and better design to their two-up models was also an expected and very logical move. That was a surprisingly small part of what they had in store for all of us, true trailing fans. We would soon find out how ingenious and bold these Polaris people really are.
Something for anyone and everyone
In the process of thriving to enjoy even greater success, Polaris may yet again have found a way for their products to apply to a broader range of applications, thus appeal to even more people, who are soon to find out, how All Terrain Vehicles can truly positively affect life in so many ways. Whether it’s to help you in your work during the week, or keep the family together on weekends, or maybe a little bit of both, owning an ATV is becoming for many, just as important as owning a car. In times where people expect to get the very most out of their pocket book, Polaris succeeded in achieving growth, with a good dose of very advanced innovations in ATV and UTV technology, while keeping simpler yet good quality models at a value price available. The end result is the broadest line of ATV and UTV models ever offered by any manufacturer.
The fact that they invited us directly at their home away from home at the Polaris R&D facility in Wyoming, Minnesota, had to mean they had something big to announce yet again. Horned with impressively sleek and graceful looking Victory motorcycles, the front doorway was breathtaking and inviting in its design, compared to the pretty basic and square architecture of the rest of the building. Huge glass walls gave a welcoming view of the vast and beautiful lobby, decorated with cool action shots printed on huge canvases of their most impressive creations in action. Once inside, my face was drawn in repetition to clear cubes displaying many detailed components in cut versions of some of their greatest mechanical engineering accomplishments through the years. My mind was going full throttle as I tried to store as much information as possible in this sometimes erratically functioning brain of mine. I’m the type to put the milk away in the cupboard or search for sugar in the fridge from time to time, but there was every reason for me to be at my very best as a reporter, since video and photography was unsurprisingly forbidden inside the premises.
After an appreciated hand shake from all the top Polaris people, at the forefront of making ATVs an incredibly user friendly and technologically advanced pieces of machinery, we entered a small conference hall. Contrary to me, who is playfully keeping you wondering what could be so hot and new from Polaris in 2010, which by the way might have the potential to change the very face of the industry as a whole, they didn’t waste any time and directly took us to a small conference hall to present their 2010 line-up. Just so you get the same sort of feeling we get when flying in, driving to and then walking into such a big media event. By the time you make it there, your curiosity is at a peak and you can’t wait to see what’s going to punch through the curtains and roll onto the hall’s clean carpeted floor.
For 2010, the 99 percent new Sportsman XP chassis, motor and features have been expanded to the Sportsman 2-Ups with the introduction of the Sportsman 850 and 550 Touring EPS, and Sportsman 550 X2. This is a huge upgrade for the Sportsman Touring, already among the most-comfortable on the market. The 2010 Sportsman Touring models have standard electronic power steering and an exclusive shock absorbing passenger seat which Polaris calls comfort ride seat suspension. This very ingenious and one of a kind new system, vastly-improves passenger comfort and does away with the bounciness, which we had found to be awkward at times with the Sportsman’s extra plush passenger seat. Strangely ergonomically perfect for many different size riders and amazingly predictable and stable in handling, the qualities of the powerful new Sportsman XP chassis, are now fully harnessed throughout the entire line. The versatile X2 transformable two-up to cargo carrying ride was also upgraded with all these wonderful improvements that include a 42 horsepower producing 550cc engine.
Polaris stays confident in the quality of the latter design of the Sportsman and will still be offering a value-priced Sportsman 500 H.O. Touring with the original Sportsman body style and features. The 2010 Sportsman lineup also includes the Sportsman 850 XP, Sportsman 850 XP EPS, Sportsman 800 EFI, Sportsman 800 Big Boss 6×6, Sportsman 550, Sportsman 550 EPS, Sportsman 500 H.O., Sportsman 400 H.O. and Sportsman 300. The next big surprise to roll out was also pretty sweet. Finally, the Scrambler, Trail Blazer and Trail boss models had gotten their well-deserved makeovers.
By then, I wasn’t expecting as much new stuff in the Ranger line of side x side’s and wasn’t too surprised to learn that they also expanded the new RANGER XP chassis with upgraded ergonomics and dual A-Arm front suspension to all full-size RANGER vehicles, including the six-passenger RANGER 800 CREW and RANGER 800 6×6. ROPS certified cabs will protect occupants in all Ranger models for 2010. Our beloved Ranger RZR S now has a cool new black and white racing scheme and they also had a few RZR LE models parked out there with some exciting colors, for us to only observe. The proud and hard-working Polaris team actually had much more in store for us to write about, creating a new midsize class with two new two-passenger models added to the line…
Polaris, goes green!
The first is the RANGER 400, which offers a 455cc high output carbureted engine with 29 horsepower, 40 mph top speed, 500 lb of cargo capacity, 1,000 lb payload and 1,250 lb of towing, at a reasonable value price of $7,999 (U.S.). The other new mid-size Ranger was kept as best for the end; and so the clean and quiet electrically powered RANGER EV, was one big show stopper! As it rolled silently before us, a mix of murmurs, ooh’s and aah’s broke this relaxing absence of noise. Yes you read right, just after I expressed my hope in my last editorial for such technology being applied to off-road use, there it was, deliciously rolling silently before me.
The new RANGER EV and RANGER 400, share the same smaller two-seat chassis that fits in the back of a pickup truck, with many of the hard working, smooth riding features of their full-sized counterparts: On-Demand True All-Wheel Drive with VersaTrac, Independent Rear Suspension, heavy-duty front end protection, high ground clearance, and the longest suspension travel in its class. Surprisingly, this new electricity powered Ranger has the same load and towing capacity as its fuel burning brother. A set of eight 12-volt US12VXC batteries setup in a series-parallel configuration create an 11.7kW power delivery battery pack at 48V DC to power the Single 48 Volt, High Efficiency, AC Induction motor, which in turn is controlled by a 650 – Amp Sevcon Gen IV controller with multi-mode driving. Regenerative braking is another key feature making the vehicle last longer on a charge and also good smooth feel in descent control.
It takes eight hours to charge the vehicle back up from a complete drain, which will then able the fun vehicle a range of 80 kilometers if you’re riding on flat grounds in ‘Max Range’ driving mode. If you keep it gunned to the floor, it could only last a few hours, but imagine how easier and cheaper it will be to fill it back up, through any common household outlet. As we were taken for a visit across the vast environment where this bold and brave Polaris bunch think up and turn into reality these imaginative off-road wonders, I was struggling with my freshly shambled thoughts on the EV. The main office/brainstorming area is vastly high and wide and very open in feel. While all the desks are separated by dividers, these have windows, further encouraging direct contact and better communication between co-workers. Minds thrive in this very open environment, where R&D engineers, designers, technicians and what not, continually raise the bar by constantly sharing their ideas as openly and frequently as possible, while they build machines better and more attuned to our needs.
True machines, engineered by real riders
Now that I was riding with them, the very people who create these wonders of technology, right there in the very same trails where they go at it while developing new designs and testing them, it became clear that they are truly devoted and passionate about making their products not only better, but also more of what their clients truly want from their new practical and fun companion, the ATV. The pace imposed by our Polaris guides for our test rides was safe, but with just enough speed to truly appreciate the true performance of these many gems. We got to try almost every model in the line, but of course, my most memorable ride is my first time out in the trails in an electric UTV. Climbing into the EV was a pretty uneventful experience as nothing really set it apart from the other Rangers. Only the different instrument cluster could reveal its true identity when sitting in it.
As I turned the key, the first weird feelings started popping up, ok… this thing is running right now I suppose. Yes, the gauges seem to say so, bright green led lights lit in readiness to ride. This searing hot day had me flooring it in a quest to get for a soothing breeze out of the ride. Much to my surprise, this un-weird looking electric vehicle picked up the pace just as fast and efficiently as in the gas-powered 400! Of course, I had selected the H (High) setting on the multi-mode switch that also includes L (Low) and M (Max Range) operating modes. Before I knew it, that familiar breeze found its way through my helmet not only in feel but also in sound. In fact, I could not only ear the wind sifting through the creases of my head protection, but also hear everything and anything going on around me. The rubber of the tires battling every change on the ground, birds flirting with each other in appeasing symphonies, water drumming its tune on the rocks littering a nearby stream…
There still was a bit of sound produced, but the direct drive motor to transaxle transmission uses low noise gears to keep it at a minimum. This non-polluting ride brought a totally new angle to the trailing experience, but stayed sound and solid in its trailing capacities and performances all Rangers have been known to deliver; good smooth feel on the controls, ease of steering, a stable and safe feeling footing on the trail, and more importantly, enough torque to thread through just about anything and fun acceleration to its logical top speed of about 40km / h (25 mph). Independent Macpherson Struts offer 8″ of travel up front while dual A-Arms with 9″ of travel take care of providing an impressively comfortable ride. Automotive-Style 3-Point seat belts keep you safely aboard. The most obvious difference really, was in the tires, which are much less aggressively threaded than on other Rangers in order to achieve better range. They remained effective enough for the dry trail conditions we were lucky to get there, we didn’t really have any mud to attack to get a better idea of how it could get out of certain predicaments on its own, but we will surely soon get a chance to thoroughly test the Ranger EV in our choice of varied conditions.
Like a kid again
Even if I was enjoying myself, comfortably being bounced around in various Polaris UTV models, there is nothing I enjoy more than a fun and more physically demanding trail ride on a regular quad. I was just about to climb on this hot and stealthy looking new Scrambler 500 HO, when a nice Polaris lady asked if I wanted to hop on the back of a two-up to try the new comfort ride suspension under the passenger seat. Like I’m going to say no to that right! The ride was short and merely involved ascending and descending a man made hill and slow drive through a long pile of huge rocks. I was amazingly pleased with the results, by far better than what I had previously experienced on any rear seat. It is a great idea, and it really works!
Finally, I was blasting the new Scrambler out of a turn, feeling like a kid again, with all the power I could crave, right there and ready, whenever the back end needed to be placed right where I wanted it. Something somewhat lacking on the less exciting Trail Boss and Trail Blazer models, which were equally much more attractive in looks than they used to be. Makeovers on all these value models also include improved ergonomics with a much larger seat and larger foot rests, more-powerful lighting, a thicker brake disc with new master cylinder and a remote fuel gauge. Another good news is that the Trail Boss 330 and Trail Blazer 330 models now have the same rear suspension travel of 26.7 cm/10.5 inches than on the Scrambler.
The Trail Blazer has a new suspension and chassis closely resembling that of the Scrambler. I was generally pleased with all of these fun quads behaviors in the trails, but disappointed in the very bad placement of the foot brake control and the fact that you can only brake all four wheels at once, whether you choose to squeeze the handlebar mounted lever or search for the foot pedal, which is oddly positioned, almost three inches higher than the foot rest. A bright future for ATV riding, thanks to our friends at Polaris Industries.
As the mind boggling implications of these wonderfully perplexing announcements were still overcharging my now fully awakened brain; a multitude of questions, first reactions, mixed feelings and possibilities fed my solicitude. How successful will this wonderfully electric vehicle truly be? Will it pave the way to a brighter future for our beloved pass time that is ATV trail riding? I, for one, believe and hope that this will insure the presence of ATVs in the lives of many future generations of riders, far ahead into the future; a future which might not be so tolerant of man’s inconsiderate and blind abuse of fossil fuels. Thank you Polaris!
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Polaris Website