In recent years the off-road lifestyle got a really good boost in popularity, at a very crucial time, thanks to a particularly devoted bunch, working just south of the Canadian border, in Roseau Minnesota, things are more fun than ever out there in the middle of nowhere. Their most recent all-new platform, the now world-famous RZR, really caught on with a whole new crowd as well as pull older fans right back into this great activity that is outdoor recreation. As another year turns, Polaris further improves accessibility to this extremely healthy family bonding lifestyle, with a record-breaking number of new models for 2015. From a value-priced new Sportsman ETX ATV, to many new high-performance oriented RZR models, everything at one end of the spectrum to the other is making our job sweeter than ever.
From first-time users, to recreationalists, to those who rely on their vehicles for work, Polaris offers the most complete, off-road vehicle lines on the market. Interesting fact to know is that Polaris started making ATVs in Roseau Minnesota 30 years ago with production of just one promising little 250 called the Trail Boss. They’ve certainly come a long way since then and a lot of people now consider them to be the best for comfort on the trails. The word smooth is omnipresent in our writings on this exciting brand to root for. For the past 5-6 years I’ve ridden with several friends on Polaris quads, rolling countless miles and at times performing some pretty demanding manœuvres, with zero breakdowns.
Paraded in front of us on the wet and soon to be totally flooded floors of the Zion Ponderosa Ranch and resort’s garage, was a large number of vehicles all looking familiar but with significant changes and upgrades hidden under their shells. The one message that came through loud and clear for me after the colourful display of force, accented by a full of surprises and truly innovative new all-encompassed digital display, that will amaze you with its clarity, functionality and looks.
A pair of Aces rolled in, one green ready for the hunt with gun scabbard, full windshield and a roof, and a blue one with a smile inducing 570 written on its side. Offering an all-new off-road experience, the Sportsman ACE, launched in January 2014 and presented to us at a media event last spring, features a revolutionary, sit-in chassis that is nimble and comfortable to operate for anybody. With the addition of more power provided by a 45 horsepower, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder Pro-Star 570 engine delivering smooth, efficient power, the vehicle would surely feel even more well-balanced and controllable in all of the challenges off-road life can present. Fact of the matter is that this centered driving position brings up the fun factor of conquering any simple bend or obstacle. I had felt that the chassis and superbly stable suspension setup of that new ATV with a steering wheel, was able to handle much more power and so I just couldn’t wait to get in that vehicle and punch it through some tight nice and flat S curves I had spotted near the ranch on our way in.
Yes looks are a very personal thing but even if some prefer something different than the recurring square lines in all Polaris models, we all have to applaud Polaris for having certain flair at designing them looking as tough as they really are. They are American-made and truly look like it. This time like many others the beauty came in the form of punchy new colors and serious accessorizing to create awesome-looking specialty oriented RZR vehicles. New for 2015 and last in our presentation parade barely audible over the torrential rains challenging the ranch’s staff trying to keep the water from reaching our feet, was the flagship RZR XP 1000, in two, new, purpose-built creations, the RZR XP 1000 High Lifter Edition for deep mud with flashy orange accents and a blue RZR XP 1000 Desert Edition, to provide the ultimate RZR experience in their respective extreme off-road disciplines.
The RZR XP 1000 High Lifter Edition features high engine air and clutch intakes, redesigned front axles, stiffer suspension springs, high-clearance A-Arms, half doors, Polaris PRO HD 4,500 lb/2041.17 kg winch with synthetic rope and integrated switches, mud-specific Walker Evans shocks, 29.5 in/74.93 cm High Lifter Outlaw II tires, brushguard, High Lifter graphics kit, and sealed switches, fuse box and battery.
The RZR XP 1000 Desert Edition features high-clearance A-arms, 18 in/45.7 cm rear and 16 in/40.6 cm front suspension travel, a 13.5 in/34.3 ground clearance, beadlocks with Mongrel tires, six-point seatbelts, body protection, spare tire, roof, lighting and the new Interactive Digital Display.
Available on the RZR 900 XC Edition, RZR XP 1000 Desert Edition and the RANGER XP 900 EPS Vogue Silver Deluxe, the new Interactive Digital Display, the most advanced instrumentation in Off-Road Vehicles (ORV), was left for the end and kept every media representative alert and listening despite the floor of the barn/garage being entirely flooded. The full-color, 4.3-in/10.92 cm, LCD display provides riders with vehicle performance, operating conditions, riding conditions and Bluetooth capabilities. It includes a vehicle diagnostics system that displays fault codes and descriptions with some corrective actions to keep the vehicle running in top condition. For a further enhanced riding experience, the GPS connectivity offers exact location information including elevation, latitude and longitude, compass, and the ability to record the driver’s route and save waypoints so the trails can be found again at any time and shared with friends. The trail and mapping information also can be updated through RiderX.com to ensure the most up-to-date information. To stay connected, the display offers Smartphone connectivity through Bluetooth to view incoming texts, missed calls, phone battery life and cell signal strength. The new Interactive Digital Display also will be available as an accessory for other models. What impressed me the most about it was the size of the characters and their clarity for quick at a glance communication between a rider and his or her cool-looking ride.
As usual, the evening presentation of shiny new rides got us all very anxious to try them out and this time it would be in an amazingly beautiful part of the world. Zion National Park encompasses an area of 229 square miles (593.1 km) and offers a spectacular landscape of sandstone cliffs, deep canyons and expansive plateaus. Zion National Park is a vast wilderness of rock formations that includes the world’s largest arch – Kolob Arch – with a span of 310 feet (94.5 m). Our time there, exploring this beautiful region on amazingly fun to operate Polaris ATVs and UTVs, we won’t soon forget. Nearby Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park was an endearing spot any off-roader would want to stay and camp out at for a while, as it offers a fun dune experience with the peace of mind of always knowing where you are thanks to the beautiful peaks surrounding the area. The geology of the sand dunes is an intriguing subject. The sand comes from Navajo sandstone from the geologic period call Middle Jurassic. The same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country are responsible for this landscape of coral pink sand. Opened to the public as a state park in 1963, Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a popular destination for ATV riders. About 90% of the dunes are open for riding.
I stayed very busy throughout both days of amazing riding in these majestically beautiful surroundings. The first day was all trails and tighter stuff to play in and on the second day we hit the dunes. I have to admit preferring my drive in the new RZR-S, now graced with the ProStar 900 engine, in the dunes on the second day, since that’s not something I get to do often.
On the first day near Zion, the narrower RZR totally surprised me in the way the suspension setup contains and lets you use all that ProStar power very safely. That ride’s stability in turns is mind-boggling for a 50-inch wide ride and only an intoxicated or someone totally lacking common sense could roll this vehicle. I also tested the Sportsman 1000, the new 30HP Sportsman ETX and the ACE 570.
Polaris just isn’t informing the public of the ETX’s ProStar engine’s displacement, fearing misinterpretation. This 325cc machine has a little bit more power than last year’s 400 with 29HP. The ETX’s engine features a modern efficient four-valve, DOHC design, counterbalanced to reduce vibration. The old 400 was carbureted, the ETX has fuel injection, meaning easier cold starts, and more consistent power at different altitudes and temperatures. The ETX’s overall length and width remain the same, yielding a full size machine that should be a little easier for smaller riders to handle. The ETX shares its chassis with the Sportsman 570, but with a smaller and lower profile for improved ease of mounting and dismounting. It kept that ride short but pushed this newbie as best I could. It was all too familiar to me, not as smooth suspension wise as most other higher priced choices in the line, yet just as good a conqueror. My biggest disappointment with it was the lack of drainage holes in the floorboards. Not much of a problem down South in dry weather but up here in Canada they will pack up pretty quick with either snow or mud. This is a nice and affordable work partner with the same 90 pounds front and 180 pounds of rear rack capacity, plus 1,225 pounds of towing capacity, as the Sportsman 570.
The ACE 570 was just a blast to drive in a mix of tight two-track trails and fire roads. There is just something magical about this centered operating position that makes you smile at every turn. The Sportsman ACE and the Sportsman ACE 570 are identical except for the engines. They share the same chassis with a MacPherson Strut front suspension and dual A-Arm rear suspension with 8.2 and 9.5 inches of travel respectively. What impressed me most was how much room there is for the rider. Walking towards it a big 6 feet 3 inches tall person like me will be fooled into thinking the vehicle is too small for them. Nothing could be further from the truth and I felt just as comfortable in the ACE as any Side x Side. The tilt steering can be moved very far up and the seat is adjustable, so getting in and out is real easy. The low flooring, despite the generous 10.25 inch ground clearance, makes it actually easier to get into than any Side x Side.
Introduced for Model Year 2014, the RZR XP 1000 and RZR XP 4 1000 brought significant innovations to each of the hallmark Power, Suspension and Agility aspects of RZR, while adding a new level of interior comfort and accessory customization. The vehicles were built for the pinnacle of performance with an all-new Polaris ProStar 1000 engine that provided an industry-leading 107 horsepower with a true 999cc of displacement, making it the most powerful and largest engine in its class. For 2015, Polaris ups the ante again by giving the vehicles a higher output 110 horsepower, and new direct flow intake covers, new belt and a new clutch cover with more ducting providing two times more airflow directly to the clutches. Sadly, we didn’t get to drive any of the 1000 RZRs.
Also new for 2015 is the Sportsman X2 570, designed to be a versatile work machine. Part of Polaris’ 2-up value line, the X2 shares its chassis with the 570 Touring EPS. The X2’s second seat can be flipped up, providing full access to the machine’s huge tilting rear cargo box. While it shares its 90-pound front rack, and 1,250-pound towing capacity with the other Sportsman 570s, its rear cargo box increases rear weight capacity from 180 to 400 pounds. Polaris has replaced the Sportsman 550 models in its premium line, with the new Sportsman 570 SP and two-seat Touring SP 570 models featuring a new and improved dual a-arm front-end suspension, with geometry optimized for the SP’s standard electric power steering system. Dual a-arms and preload adjustable shocks at both ends travel up and down 8.25 inches in front and 9.5 inches out back. That is a lost of ¾ inch in front and ½ inch of rear suspension travel when compared to last year’s 550 but the new 570 SP weighs 3 pounds less and provides four more horsepower.
The new Sportsman 1000 was my favourite ride to try during this grand event. It sure is nice to get to drive all sorts of new Side x Side vehicles but I remain a huge fan of ATVs and since there are much less new ATVs coming out, I jump to it when I get a chance to ride one. This 1000 handles almost exactly like the 850, which means, extremely well. For me the extra power simply meant it was easier to get it to point in the desired direction and separate brake controls with great smoothness and feel to them, made this quad feel even less awkward to push in performance and sportier than the Scrambler XP. Just like it was the case with that just as powerful 4×4 quad, this is definitely not an ATV we would suggest to anyone other than extremely experienced riders. Its maximum power output is well beyond what most riders should need or want and fully harnessing it should be left to well-trained racers.
It is based on the XP chassis and its 88 horsepower ProStar single overhead cam 1000 twin engine is based upon the proven 850 twin. The fuel-injected big bore engine features a 270-degree offset crankshaft and dual balance shafts for generous power that remains incredibly smooth and vibration free. Standard Electronic Power Steering (EPS) makes it easier to muscle over everything and Polaris’ Engine Braking System (EBS) with Active Descent Control (ADC) helps control downhill braking for smooth, even deceleration of all four wheels. For improved traction, it boasts an On-Demand Close Ratio, True All-Wheel Drive system.
On the practical side the 2015 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 with a new headlight pod with improved visibility to instrumentation for easier operation, features the highest pulling and towing power at 1,500 lbs./680.4 kg and biggest rack capacity at 120 lbs./54.4 kg front and 240 lbs./108.9 kg rear with a total of 100 built-in, tie-down points to ensure plenty of cargo capability.
This new Sportsman also comes with a Polaris HD 2500 lb./1133 kg winch and new plow accessory integration to get the job done quicker and easier.
The Sportsman XP 1000 will join Polaris’ Premium ATV line, and will be available in Black Pearl Metallic Paint and Polaris Pursuit camouflage. The Sportsman Touring XP 1000 will be available in Bronze Mist paint and joins Polaris’ Premium 2-Up ATV offering.
In conclusion I think it is important to mention that nothing negative came out of this wonderful experience with these many new Polaris rides in Utah. All of them performed flawlessly and left all of us with very little improvements to hope for. Still, knowing how passionate Polaris engineers are about their products, they will always find ways to make them better.
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Polaris Website