The sharply scarred rocky mountain peaks tell the tale of long forgotten times when the surrounding lush green valleys and vistas were home to abundant marine life deep under water. These lands, kept calm and clean of too much human presence, seem yet again peaking with different life forms, almost back to a perfect and global symbiosis. As a wheel is turned decisively on the Ranger, to dodge a harsh smack on the A-arms, another lonely rock gets the underside and scratches out the back in a menacing screech. Obviously confident in their products’ abilities, our friends at Polaris chose to bring us here, to this transformed and still in transformation pristine location, in the Great Falls, Montana region, to try out their new 2011 ATV and UTV models.
The seat was its exact same perfectly comfortable self, as I jumped, without hesitation, in the back of a really hot-looking Red and black, more than brand-new RZR4. Every other media guy had unofficially reserved their preferred ride, by throwing all of their stuff on it as soon as we came off the bus. As for myself, I was so taken by the surrounding scenery that I dropped all my equipment on the ground instead, and started shooting away with the camera.
Let the fun begin
I was actually anxious to totally leave my fate in the hands of a total stranger. Having a blue and white 2010 version of this amazing vehicle back home for testing meant I was already familiar with its potential to bring adrenaline levels way high when driving it. Now this here was different; the vistas, perfect weather, fresh clean air, convinced me that it was the time and place to just sit back and enjoy the ride. The fact that a guy directly involved in its conception would be driving was really cool, and sounded safe. It only took a few meters for me to adjust to the odd feeling of not being in control. I was certainly in expert hands, but by nature, it still brought up the thrill level.
What’s new for 2011 on this one? Oh, goody! A glove box, placed in a should-stay-dry type of spot, under the dash. I could have thrown stuff in there or in the other very practical hood compartment, which now does a much better job at giving the ride a sporty look, with its air scoop style cut. It can almost fool you into thinking the powerful 800cc engine sits right there underneath it, up front. The new front grill/hood scoop design not only looks better, or at the very least, more aggressive, but it also offers much better air flow to the radiator, with a 29 percent increase in cooling airflow area.
Other RZR line improvements include High/Low headlights for increased night visibility; a new fuel management system coupled with a new tank that offers a 30 percent improvement in range and better slow speed drive-ability. Better clutch/belt cooling, improved front and rear drive durability, sealed dash switches and new easier-to-use side nets also better all RZR models for 2011. The RZR-S gets a significant change in suspension units and tires, with two-inch big bore Sachs shocks, instead of the Fox racing on the 2010; and ITP 900 XCT tires, instead of the Maxxis Bighorns. The Sachs shocks are said to provide greater cooling capacity and improved fade resistance. I have no doubt that these new ITP tires will do great in the very rough stuff, and hope to get my hands on this sweet-looking new puppy real soon to find out. They sure look like they will be great in the snow, like those efficient Bighorns. The S will be available in two premium painted éditions, along with a standard red colored edition, which will receive a new lower price. For the Ranger RZR 800 in particular, six percent more power has been added for 2011. Quicker acceleration can be expected with the addition of an 800 H.O. engine that gives it 55hp to play with. All RZR models get a new easier to see and basic black numbers on a white background speedometer.
I opted to keep everything close to me in the rear box, with my back pack strapped around the horizontal bar just behind me, not even that tight. I could throw it back there without worrying about it bouncing around all that much. It is telling of my confidence in this ride’s smoothness in suspension. It was also the first time I had a feel for how the buggy reacted with a full load of adults on board, not to mention from a rear seat position. During the first part of our breathtakingly beautiful trek up our first mountain, I struggled to stay focused on the vehicle’s behavior, reminding myself that this short but intense trip was for work and that I wasn’t just on vacation enjoying the view. This was challenging, as our driver, Matt, was obviously good at offering us just the right balance of thrills, versus relaxing and worthy to slow down for views. The carving action in the corners at the rear wheels was a bit too harsh at first, and we were bottoming out rarely when our excellent pilot would charge in complete confidence, despite the presence of sharply protruding obstacles. My 265 lbs body, ok 275, who knows, I’ve stopped counting, was certainly among the factors influencing the forces at play.
That is, when that Robby Gordon flair really stood out; when we manhandled the ride and propped it up to a comfortable balance point and found the huge red springs to be set really high in position (in other words, at the lowest pre-load setting). Matt cranked up almost 2 inches to each side, in no time at all. The best thing is that we were only using up a small portion of the adjustment’s range, meaning even bigger boys in the back are no problem for the ride, when adjusted accordingly. Our way of jacking up a vehicle for servicing is certainly not a recommended one, but the huge number of passionate ATV press guys, anxious to help out, made the operation actually safer this way than any other.
The RZR4’s handling was noticeably improved, giving a bit more over steer for our driver to play with, in long power sliding exits out of turns. Lucky for us, our driver seemed very eager on providing a fun pace, but to do so he would wisely choose curves that didn’t have any menacing cliffs to their side. Absolute off-road bliss and perfection, my friends! I truly felt like a child at play in some endless amusement park ride, sitting there and being comfortably swayed in the right rear seat. Somebody pinch me, I vividly remember machines like the RZR’s being in my dreams, a long time ago! For those who have had the pleasure of driving the RZR-S, hear this; the RZR4 only handles even better! For those who haven’t, what are you waiting for? Sell something; stop spending on video games nights out for dinner and movies. Actually, you know what? Just cancel any and all other entertainment expenses and keep it for this truly enriching and fun family experience. That is what is so great about this vehicle; it not only is a good and sound machine, but also opens up a myriad of fun possibilities with a very high potential to improve family and friend relations. If I sound in love with this machine, that is because I really am. Of course, there are always going to be things that can be improved upon; I would beef up the rear suspension arms a bit and I can’t help but wish they would have come out with a 1000 version right away.
Making work more fun.
The Ranger utility line continues to grow and enter new segments in 2011, with the introduction of three new products: the Ranger 500 EFI, Ranger Crew 500 EFI and Ranger Diesel. You can beat on me all you want, what can I say? I just wasn’t all that interested in testing out these work-oriented models for now. Since this was just a one day deal, other RZR type goods were taking over all of my attention. Another RZR4, this one with EPS, looking even better for my taste in the blue, black and white pattern, seemed popular with the guys and it seems I would have needed to be much sneakier to be able to grab hold of its feather-light-feeling steering. Unable to grab that or a new red RZR-S, I slid sideways into another all new Ranger model for the working type: a long 500 equipped Ranger Crew, with ease, I noticed, to be purposely built into it. The nicest fact is that this ease trait was present with every aspect; so easy to steer that it almost makes the EPS, now available on the Pursuit Camo Ranger Crew 800 model, seem obsolete.
Also easy, was to manage the power, with a nicely set throttle that didn’t mind a bit of unplanned tapping. When I floored it for the first time, I was surprised by the smoothness in delivery and was glad to see that it still felt powerful, but without any unnecessary wheel spin action going on. This seemed to be a more logical choice of engine for the ride, despite its huge size. Why would anyone want to go faster in this type of multi-passengers, anyway? Going downhill was also a breeze with an amount of engine braking that I really liked; not too much so that the wheels are still free to roll when releasing the brakes from a skid. I had to add some of my input with the brake pedal once in a while and I liked that. I hate having to accelerate to go down a hill because the engine braking is too aggressive, even worst when on an ATV.
Despite the fact that I didn’t jump on the occasion of brushing the dust off the tires of that new Ranger Diesel, I think it is important to underline the significance of its existence in the Ranger family. The Polaris crew (not the vehicle now, the actual people) are obviously devoted in meeting the changing needs and expectations of one of their most important class of clients; the hard at work. The 904cc, 3 cylinder, single source engine, which offers 24hp and keeps speed at a logical top of 56.3 km/h. Work-enabling ergonomics including tilt steering and easier steering effort: heavy-duty front end protection and largest fuel tank in the class, make it the perfect partner for any tough task. It joins the Ranger EV as a great economical and reliable choice for farm and land maintaining chores or heavy duty cushing, pulling, and hauling in continuity, with hardly any down time.
Polaris ATVs keep getting better
By now, my thumb was tingling and needed to be doing something else than just clicking the scroll button on my camera to view my pictures. I see a quad, any quad, without a helmet or gloves or anything else on it as a reminder that it’s taken. I leap to it, and once seated, I notice what model it is. Oh sweet, a Sportsman 500 H.O. In keeping with their latest trend of improving models each and every year, Polaris have made significant changes to their ATV line up once again. This particular model, like the Sportsman 800 EFI, Sportsman Big Boss 6×6 800, and Sportsman Touring 500 H.O., has been updated both in style and functionality. An aggressive new front end style raises and angles the front radiator, giving the whole machine a less-bulky appearance, improving handling and also clearing up space in front, to offer the operator better visibility of obstacles close in front. This radiator position change also improves mud clogging protection. The Sportsman 400 H.O. rejoins the rest of the value line, also with this restyled chassis. All these also have an improved drive train with a quieter, more efficient transmission for smoother operation.
The new engine placement, moved rearward more than three inches, is for better handling and lighter steering effort. I can’t say that I noticed much difference, as my time on only some of these rides was pretty short. Another good change to mention is a lower winch mount for improved leverage when self-extracting from out of the mud. The increased functionality of these hard working ATVs will surely please many who depend on these machines to make their lives easier on a daily basis at work. I truly appreciated the fact that many of the Polaris guys and gals were asking questions about what I thought of their rides and if there were things I didn’t like. I really felt my answers and comments were important to them, and their will to better their products seemed constantly turned full on.
On the XP side of things, both for the 850 and 550, have an approximate 12-pound weight reduction; get improved engine braking with more user-friendly engagement; better splash protection and a new vinyl seat with less slip. Those are among the changes made to these quads which were already amazingly capable and comfortable rides in their 2010 versions. The Sportsman Touring 850 EPS and 550 EPS models are equipped with an improved and removable passenger seat with additional stability and security;, a new rear seat comfort ride system with improved shock and spring control; and standard, removable Lock & Ride® passenger hand guards. For the occasional one-up rider who wants additional hard-working capability from their ride, both the passenger seat and Lock & Ride® hand grips can be removed and replaced with a PURE Polaris storage box for added rack capacity when just riding 1-Up.
No Outlaws in sight
Not even one parked anywhere just for show! I hid my pouting, when realizing the total absence of the Outlaw line, staying untouched for 2011, which is all good I guess. You have got to give those guys a chance, they are really kept busy, with an impressive number of vehicles to try and improve all the time. I’m not worried for the Outlaw line though, they are good sport quads for the price as is, and stay easy to work on yourself, with just a bit of basic knowledge of mechanical factors needed. Though there are a few things that could be very easily improved on, the 525S we have got stashed in the ATV Trail Rider technological analysis laboratory (in other words: my garage), has been one very sweet Polaris ride to enjoy also. Look for articles on both these rides in your next ATV Trail Rider issue. That RZR4 is something else; every time I want to just get it out of the way to pass through the garage and out with the Outlaw, I end up staying in it for a good while, practicing my power sliding skills on our sweeter than sugar new spot to test it at: Saisons Express in Léry, Québec. Keep an eye out for some pretty cool new smooth- cam on-board footage, which truly translates what the ride has to offer, in a video on the incredibly fun RZR4 Robby Gordon edition, soon to be published at www.passionperformance.ca in our video section.
Purify your Polaris
Another important list of items to mention remains: Pure Polaris accessories for the Ranger line are plenty and ever so varied; here are a few that jumped to my attention. Killer-looking chromed wheels which are actually just powder coated paint like those other cool looking black ones in the line, which means they should hold up pretty good in the rough, and give your RZR-S a showroom clean look perfect for dune or beach cruising. Front snowmobile style wind deflectors, PIAA lights that fit snug into the front grill, sturdy bumpers, doors and protection plates to make it invincible. There is a whole lot of stuff to truly make your Polaris unique and tailored to your specific needs. On the utility side: Ranger doors with wind up windows, windshield with wipers, just like in your car, seem a must for any worker using his Ranger in harsh conditions. A JL audio RZR SlamPack is another very cool new accessory available from Pure Polaris in 2011. The easy attach snow plow, led light bar and lamps and full fiberglass cab, are the perfect additions for putting even a sporty RZR to hard work after a good old Canadian winter storm.
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Polaris Website