2020 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Review

2020 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Review


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The Sportsman line of ATVs celebrates its 24th anniversary in 2020. The first version Polaris released was the 1996 Sportsman 500. At the time, there was already an independent suspension at the front and rear, with a list price of $ 6,449. And the single-cylinder engine produced a respectable 35 horsepower. Then, in 2003, Polaris entered the market with its first Sportsman 700 EFI, a two-cylinder engine pumping out approximately 45 horsepower. A little later came the ProStar 850 engine with its 78 horsepower and finally the 1000, the latest version we’re going to talk about now.

Our vehicle

Courtesy of Thibault Marine in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, the Sportsman XP 1000 Premium Trail Package is a vehicle specifically designed for the trail and long rides. You will notice later in this article that Polaris has indeed focused its development to enhance the ride over long distances. We were pretty happy to get the chance to ride it, and we thank Thibault Marine for the help.

2020 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Review

A few specs

On the performance side, the 952cc twin-cylinder, four-stroke ProStar engine develops a whopping 90 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful engines in the industry. Our Sportsman model has a wheelbase of 134.6 cm (53 in), a ground clearance of 30 cm (12 in), a height of 128.9 cm (50.7 in), a width of 120.9 cm (47.6 in) and a total length of 134.6 cm (83.25 in). There is a PVT variable transmission with Park, Reverse, Neutral, Low and High Forward positions, as well as two modes of traction: two-wheel drive, or Polaris’ True On-Demand all-wheel drive with active descent control.

The towing capacity is 680.4 kg (1,500 pounds), the front rack capacity is 55 kg (120 pounds), while one can carry up to 110 kg (240 pounds) on the rear rack. To enjoy your rides, you will find 15 liters of storage under the front compartment, and 8 liters storage at the rear.

The look: Premium Trail Package

2020 also means a nice redesign of the front and rear look of the Premium Trail Package version. After several years, it was time for Polaris to bring a fresh breeze to what is truly a sport utility vehicle. The rear is now equipped with three red LED lights, and the center light is a high-intensity unit which greatly improves the visibility of the vehicle, especially in situations like thick dust. The arrangement of these three LED lights is really nice, offering a sleek and stylish, up-to-date look. In the same vein, the LED front headlights are also completely redesigned by Polaris, again combining style and efficiency. Much whiter and very powerful, these front headlights add, as at the rear, a breath of fresh air to the Sportsman, and it is very successful. The machine is a bit of a head turner on the trail.

Another nice looking feature, the Trail option offers the front and rear coil springs painted in yellow, matched with decals on both sides of the fuel tank.

To improve the vehicle’s ground clearance, the engineers at Polaris added A-arms with double arches at the front which increase the clearance under the vehicle, making it ideal for tackling rough terrain. To ensure a solid grip on the ground, Polaris used new 27-inch Duro Power Grip tires. They are more puncture resistant and designed to maximize grip on the ground.

Finally, a 3,500-pound winch and a completely redesigned cut-and-sew seat, which adds an extra inch of cushion for better comfort, were added to the Trail package.


On this side, there no doubt that the manufacturer “gets the job done “. Coming from the ProStar line, the powerful two-cylinder 952cc engine with electronic fuel injection delivers 90 horsepower. You have to try it to understand the feeling that this big-bore engine gives… The instant response at low revs creates a little vibration which accentuates the effect, which will remind the oldest of us the good old 1970 Road Runner 383 Big Block. As soon as you step on the gas, the sound of the exhaust gives a feeling of performance in its raw state. And when the back of the vehicle sinks in a fraction of a second, you quickly realize that you are sitting on a pure stallion and that you have to take the time to tame it… The Sportsman does the same thing when you stab at the thumb throttle. It flat hauls.

Driving position

The Sportsman’s riding position is one of its most remarkable features. Without a doubt it is one of the best in the industry for long rides. The new seat is very comfortable with its additional inch of cushion. The pilot’s legs are positioned at 90 degrees with plenty of foot space, the brake pedal is easily accessible and requires very little effort to lock the rear wheels. The handlebars are high enough to provide a comfortable and ergonomic position for the pilot, while facilitating turns with a lot of clearance for your legs.

Trail behavior

The Sportsman is certainly one of the most comfortable ATVs in the industry, and that translates to the ride quality. The suspension is very smooth, wisely absorbing normal trail bumps. On the other hand, if your riding style is to tackle rough terrains more aggressively, you may need to hit the compression clickers for stiffer shock absorbers. With the weight of the vehicle and the smoothness of the shock absorbers, there is a noticeable sag from the front to the outside in fast cornering; a front sway bar should be considered in the near future for those of us that like to push the limits.

Improvement points

The speedometer still needs to be re-thinked. We’ve been complaining about this for a while and Polaris, take note please!

The second point comes from the power steering. With so much power coming from the engine, high speeds are quickly reached. The power steering, which is very efficient at low speed, becomes an issue at high speed. Progressive power-assisted steering would be desirable.

The last point concerns suspension. Although very comfortable, its great flexibility causes a little instability at high speed. Added to this the fact that the power steering remains in full assistance at high speed, one must keep these in mind and stay vigilant.

What we’re getting at here is, the engine’s massive power lets those of us who like to get on it exceed the machine’s ability to handle it in quick order. The smooth ride at lower speeds is replaced by  a harder-to-handle machine when the speeds and the rider’s ability increases. We’re not complaining too much, but it is an issue.

2020 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Review


The Sportsman 1000 XP is by far one of Polaris’ best riding vehicles, its comfort and driving position will let you ride hundreds of kilometers a day without fatigue. The manufacturer’s Lock & Ride system is easy to use and offers lots of cargo loading options. And we know for sure that its power will hang a smile on your face every time you take a turn.

In closing, I would like to thank Steve Halikas and the people of Thibault Marine from Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Polaris dealer, for the loan of the Sportsman 1000 XP 2020.