A little history
Nothing better than knowing where you come from to find out where you are going!
The history of Polaris ATVs began over 35 years ago, around 1985. The first models that Polaris released were the Trail Boss and the Scrambler. Remember, in 1985 there were only Japanese ATVs. So the arrival of Polaris with an extraordinary vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission was sure to attract attention.
It was with the Trail Boss in 1987 that Polaris innovated with the On-demand All-wheel Drive 4×4 bundled with a high-performance 400 cubic centimeter 2-stroke Fuji engine. It was never seen before, compared to the 350 cubic centimeter Japanese 4-stroke quad. In addition, the Trail Boss was equipped with a MacPherson-type front suspension which offered incomparable comfort at that time. However, it is no exaggeration to say how little evolved the driveline was. It consisted of six sprockets and three chains. Unfortunately, this concept was often compared to farm equipment, not to say an old manure spreader. Fortunately, there have been improvements.
Following the evolution of Polaris, the Sportsman made its debut in 1996, with Electronic fuel injection in 2004 and power steering in 2009. So is this constant evolution still present? Should Polaris envy other quad manufacturers?
Now let’s see where Polaris stands with the Sportsman.
The subject of the analysis: Sportsman 850 Premium with Trail option 2020
The 2020 Sportsman’s Trail option is not to be overlooked. This model is specifically designed to push back the definition of the expression all-terrain. This option equips the quad with arched control arms for better ground clearance. It also includes aggressive 27-inch tires, a high-comfort seat with a 2-fabric finish, and high-performance LED headlights. These options are also found in 2021 on the limited-availability “Ultimate Edition” model with even more accessories.
At a glance
Polaris offers many inviting aspects to the Sportsman: a good quality bodywork finish with a very resistant paint to the extreme conditions. Also, the seat is visually good-looking with its two fabric colors and excellent comfort.
The fully digital instrumentation is very comprehensive. You can customize the color of the backlight, its brightness, the order of the information displayed, and even connect your cell phone via Bluetooth, which allows you to view missed calls. Once the cell phone is grouped to the quad, an icon displays the status of mobile reception to the Sportsman’s instrumentation.
As for storage, Polaris has always been generous with its waterproof storage compartments. But, of course, the traditional storage under the front luggage rack is still there with a capacity of 15 liters. At the rear of the quad is another 8-liter storage: it’s significant in size, but adding a trunk to the rear rack will make it difficult to access.
The tires of our test quad are the Power Grip made by Duro. This tire will honor the quad with its robustness combined with its aggressive profile with its radial design. However, some lesser-equipped Sportsmans are fitted with Carlisle AT489a bias tires. Well, I have to be honest, this tire is not designed for large ATVs. Aggressive use on rugged terrain with this tire usually ends with a flat tire repair session on the trail.
In terms of performance, the ProStar 850 engine gives a generous 78 horsepower. This power comes courtesy of a two-cylinder engine powered by electronic fuel injection.
As for the numbers, Polaris has kept the reasonable dimensions of 47.6 inches wide, which makes tight maneuvering easier. The quad’s 350 kg (772 lb) curb weight is considered slightly below the category average. Power combined with weight allows this quad to achieve a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds. The rear suspension travels 26 cm (10.25 inches) and the front 22.9 cm (9 inches) with a ground clearance of 29.2 cm (11.5 inches). With these characteristics, this quad makes it possible to push back the limit of the impassable.
This ATV is CVT type (continuously variable transmission). Polaris used the same clutches it has used for a long time. This set of clutches is not a constant mesh type used by Yamaha or Suzuki, but rather like a snowmobile. Its operation is smooth and does not interfere with engine power. In the long term, this set of clutches is durable and requires little maintenance.
The brakes are of the hydraulic type with pads and discs. Use of the handlebar brake lever provides balanced braking to all wheels. The one located at the foot only actuates the rear brake. The whole braking system is performing acceptably.
The wired-in throttle, featured on the 2020 Sportsman 850, is a bit of the old-school type. Knowing that Polaris has mastered and already uses the electronic throttle, the option is long overdue on the Sportsman 850.
The arched suspension arms are a great move. The ability to cross the quad in deep ruts will undoubtedly be increased. In addition, the optional suspension arm of this type eliminates the need for lubrication points and adds a seal to their pivot pins.
The battery fitted to this quad is powerful at 30 Ah and ensures reliable starting.
A good quality disposable paper-type filter provides the air filtration system. Its accessibility requires the removal of the seat and an air intake box panel. So, there will be no reason to neglect it.
The shift lever is still the eternal big arm on the right side. With no stops or notches, you always end up going one or two gears farther than desired. We then see ourselves in the obligation to visually check the display of the transmission position inside the instrumentation. With practice, its use becomes more precise, but still …
I removed a few body panels to see the mechanics of the machine. Although, like most newer, high-performance quads, it’s compact. In mechanic’s parlance, I would say, “it’s a bit crowded in there”. At first glance, we notice that the engine is positioned longitudinally. This powertrain configuration brings its share of advantages. First, the engine and transmission assembly is narrower in this position, which helps subtract seat width. Second, we find the transmission, clutches, and engine all fixed in one block. This design prevents torsion and misalignment of components caused by their pulling under heavy load. The result is less vibration and reduced belt overheating.
As soon as the engine is running, the displacement immediately asserts its virility to us by its purring. The driving position is comfortable, thus giving us a pledge of ease for long rides. The operation of the various controls on the handlebars is carried out intuitively. The instrumentation position allows a good reading without getting too lost in the abundance of information.
The ProStar 850 is absolutely brilliant. The power under acceleration is impressive, and the recoveries on the trail are just as much. Regardless of the terrain, with a simple flick of the thumb, the quad lets its engine express itself and will give you great adrenaline rushes.
An iron fist in a velvet glove
Thanks to its narrow seat, this quad allows the driver to easily move from left to right, which improves sporty driving. Its very comfortable suspension, but without too much swaying, helps to perform controlled drifts in the turns. When you push the accelerator, the exhaust system roars, establishing its real intention to dominate the trail. But when the need for smoothness arises, this ATV can be well disciplined in low-speed maneuvers. The clutch exhibits excellent flexibility, and the motor emits a harmonious whirring sound which makes its use equally well suited for work around the house as it is on the trail.
In conclusion, Polaris has been marketing the Sportsman 850 for several years (since 2009). The continuous improvements of the quad make it possible to raise the bar for competitors significantly. This machine, by its behavior, will undoubtedly give you comfort and, above all, an irrefutable desire to go on an adventure in its company. So, we can conclude that Polaris has done a great job.