2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 H.O. Review

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 H.O. Review


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Yet another wish granted from Polaris Industries, whom we’ve come to love for their boldness and efficiency in providing us with toys worthy of our talents as avid trail riders. Not that this quad couldn’t please a responsible and well-trained adult newbie, but it is in a class of its own performance wise. Don’t be fooled by its name! Although the old Scrambler was a fun sport 4×4 quad, this all-new 2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 H.O. can leave those odd-looking older versions far behind, scrambling for clean air.

Power is nice, but how you present it and match it with the proper chassis and suspension combo, is much more of a delicate art to master. After six years of testing all kinds of rides for this mag, I can seriously say that Polaris has led the field in performance enhancements and innovating for the good of the entire off-road industry. With all the recent hoopla with Side x Side vehicles, it’s nice to see the launch of this new model, and proof of the passion engineers working at Polaris still have for recreational ATV trail riding.  It shows that they are not only building and designing great machines, but they are also very enthusiastic ATV trail riders. This gives them a competitive edge, and not to say that others aren’t as passionate about their ATVs, but in recent years, it has become quite obvious that North-American manufacturers have displayed a little more passion in making ATVs progress into better vehicles. Off-road vehicle design has gone leaps forward in the past decade, and that is in great part because of this particularly hard-working bunch at Polaris. With continuing growth despite a sometimes tough economic climate, the Roseau facility, located just south of the Canadian border, has been and still is home to Polaris Snowmobile, ATV, RANGER & RZR production, plastics manufacturing, aspects of engineering and product testing, since their first snowmobile in 1956.

The new 2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 H.O. was truly designed with the all-day trail rider in mind, with front and rear racks providing 75 lbs. total capacity, so you can bring all the gear you need with you and a level of comfort and ease of use to accommodate that type of extended use. The powertrain is basically the same as on the Sportsman but with a few tweaks here and there to make it feel sportier. This means you get all known Sportsman XP advantages such as a narrow center section, low center of gravity, and great suspension geometry with front steering joints placed in the neutral center of the wheels to minimize the effect of bump steer. This is a small detail but it has a huge positive effect for both rider and machine and the main reason why even the non-EPS equipped base model remains easy to steer. The rear suspension is also set just a little softer and sits a little lower than on the Sportsman, helping create that sportier feel. You will also find the same On-demand true all-wheel drive (AWD) system, which remains one of the most user-friendly and efficient automatic 4×4 systems out there. The Polaris AWD engages all four tires when the rear wheels slip and you need more forward traction and then reverts back to 2WD when you don’t. No buttons or levers to bother with. The 2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 H.O. comes in a base model only available in white and a Gloss Black LE version, adding Electronic Power Steering (EPS), compression adjustable Fox Podium X shocks, handguards and super bright LED headlights, instead of the standard 50 Watt halogen lights.

The conditions were absolutely awful for my very first time out with this superb looking new Polaris 4×4 sport quad, down in Montana. Well, for some, like us ATV test riders, those could be considered perfect trail riding conditions. Even more so, with a cool and powerful quad like this one! I remember it as being a very wet but fun day, and it seems I just couldn’t ever escape the wet factor while testing our unit up here in Canada as winter was slow to be done with and early thawing and then freezing up again made a lot of our usual trails extra challenging and sloppy. They would be considered bad conditions for most, but they were actually great ones to fully appreciate the abilities of this extremely capable trail beast. Especially designed for Sport/Recreational use, the 14″ 489 II sport performance tires offer excellent traction on loose terrain, at times so much so that breaking the rear free needed some aggressive body movements, which this quad excels at leaving enough space for. They were perfect for our melting season conditions, in other words, the worst possible during the year. The 12’’ in ground clearance were also an important advantage in these conditions, as the quad was almost constantly running in very deep ruts, or soup of mud, slush, snow and water. The pointy fenders do offer less protection from flying mud than on any Sportsman, but it is something we actually like, and sets sport quads apart from the others.

I will get to the point; this quad is extremely fun to ride! The 2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 H.O. is powered by a new and more powerful 850 EFI High Output engine, with a SOHC cranks out an impressive 77 HP. It delivers quick acceleration off the line and keeps gobs of torque available throughout the entire low and mid-range. But the sound, wow, what a sound! The best thing about it is that it isn’t very loud or bothersome to others from a distance, yet indescribably awesome when you are sitting on the bike. It has a low growl, seemingly separate from a second higher pitched sound playing in tandem. It so fine that we’ve found ourselves constantly starting it up for no reason but to share this Scrambler music with everyone.

There is good chance that some of you reading our magazine are familiar with extreme ATV trail riding. For others, let us explain the fact that intense trail riding can be considered highly entertaining, and practiced in a safe manner, as long as you are staying away from high speeds and progress to tougher challenges with baby steps. We usually use a long stretch of straight and flat dirt road, to find out what top speed we can reach with each quad, but we’ve come to question this practice after much deliberation. Is it logical to even try it when we are almost constantly advising our readers, to stay away from higher speeds? Isn’t such a test obsolete, since acceleration and putting power to the ground efficiently, is what really counts and what manufacturers are trying to perfect? Suffice it to know that it can thrust forward with the same efficiency as a Can-Am Renegade 1000 and feels a bit more predictable, light and smooth going through really rough sections. It does have two and a half inches extra in width, which helps give it a little more reassuring feel in sharp turns. Foot peg presence is much better on the Can-Am though and even if this isn’t an actual shootout, we can’t help but make comparisons since this new Scrambler was obviously created to directly compete with it. So if we look at the pricing, the Renegade 800R X xc is just about the same price as the 2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 H.O. EPS Gloss Black LE and they both offer about the same set of high-performance features. The Can-Am has the three modes on its power steering system and beadlock wheels going for it, yet the Lock & Ride ready rack on the Scrambler with a slew of possible storage attachments, could make it a better for choice for those planning longer treks. As usual, all of these guys are making it very hard to decide which to buy. For now, we will stick to the greatness of this all-new player in the game, coming in with aggressive styling that is sure to turn heads and has  performance worthy of the XP included in its name. Let us remind you that they mean extreme Performance.

The things some of us do with such powerful sport quads can seem downright crazy to some, but to be able to blast through a mud hole and shoot out the other end with the front up in the air and being able to sort of keep it there for a little while, can be considered very healthy activity, to some of us. Although we don’t encourage anyone to perform any risky manoeuvres, we think those with the capacity to trick ride or push an ATV to extremes, have a right to know that this new Scrambler is just the right machine for that kind of thing. The smoothness and easy control of the power at the thumb, precision and smoothness of the rear brake pedal (still don’t care for its high and far from the foot peg position), precision and ease of use of the levers and light steering, even without the EPS, means the ride stays predictable, even when the experienced rider pushes it to odd angles and/or on the edge of its limits. Those lucky enough to race this quad in competition will find the LE version to be a superbly well-balanced racer right out of the box. Remove the rear rack and bolt on some number plates and you’re good to go! The higher level of adjustability and performance of the Fox Podium shocks make buying the LE version a logical choice for extreme riders also, since any buyer can appreciate the extra handguards, Electronic Power Steering (EPS) and shiny gloss black paint job that also comes with it. Less experienced users might mostly notice the high comfort level and ease of operation. Truth is that this Scrambler can be enjoyed by just about anyone, as long as that H.O. power is used with great care and respect.

If you’re a true trail riding enthusiast, this latest new ATV model offering is an exciting reality, even if you don’t necessarily come to own one. It’s just cool to be able to point at it, to share its beauty with a friend. Simply riding around with this brand-new Scrambler XP 850 H.O. in our trailer reminded us of how important it was to entice people into this awesome lifestyle, with new lines, colours, shapes, and promises of good performance. It is just a simple fact, a lot of ATVs stay stuck with pretty much the same look and set of features for many years, and after a while even the nicest ones sort of lose their appeal. In some cases, people get so used to a model’s looks, that changing it becomes a risky move. Coming out with a bold brand new model is certainly a risk. We hope Polaris has success with It. No replacement for the missed Outlaw line of sport quads, but we feel this new Scrambler XP 850 H.O. is totally rocks and thank Polaris for their devotion in making our trail riding experience and lifestyle, better and better.

If you are already a fan of the brand then you owe it to yourself to visit the new Polaris Experience Center in Roseau, proudly displaying the company’s numerous achievements and innovations over their 57 years in the business of creating great fun off-road vehicles for us. Tours for the main plant are daily at 2:00 pm and special tours of 15 or more may also be arranged. This will give you a sense of how truly passionate these people are in making our lives more enjoyable.

For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Polaris Website

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