With so many new vehicles to pick from, it was difficult to know which one to mount first — a big, rugged 6×6 or a Corvette-like RZR. I went for the RZR, but it didn't matter because I got to ride and drive all of the vehicles in Polaris' big launch last month. They introduced a full lineup of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and Ranger side-by-sides.
To start, the Sportsman XP models with on-demand all-wheel-drive (AWD) are part of the premium 1-up line of Sportsman ATVs boasting 99% all-new components. It's available in a powerful 850 twin-electronic-fuel-injection (EFI) Polaris engine (70 hp) or 550 EFI engine (40 hp).
These new models include an upgraded ride with a dual A-arm front suspension and rolled independent rear suspension to make it a smoother, more controlled ride. With a 12-in. ground clearance, they're also able to tow 1,500 lbs. with a rack capacity of 120 lbs. in the front and 240 lbs. in the rear. The triple-headlight design provides 100% more lighting than on previous models.
The Sportsman 850 XP and 550 XP also feature electronic power steering with anti-kickback to decrease rider fatigue. When you're on the trail, that's a noticeable comfort that keeps you from being beat up when you climb off the vehicle. You'd almost think you were behind the wheel of your car, especially now that floorboards have been enlarged 33%.
The new Sportsman 800 6×6 Big Boss now comes with a 760-cc, twin-EFI engine, six-wheel shaft drive with six-wheel independent rear suspension. With an 1,800-lb. payload, this vehicle is a military favorite with almost a third being sold into that market.
The line of 1-up ATVs includes the Sportsman 800 EFI H.O., Sportsman 500 EFI, Sportsman 500 H.O., plus the new Sportsman 400 H.O., Sportsman 300 and Trail Boss 330.
The Polaris high-performance Outlaw line gets a new design for 2009, too, with updated styling on its Outlaw 525 IRS, Outlaw 525 S and Outlaw 450 MXR. Each features a 6-lb. weight reduction and lower center of gravity.
“Our No. 1 priority is the utility segment and No. 2 is the entertainment market,” says Matt Homan, general manager of the Polaris side-by-side division. “It's a $2-billion market for us in a $4-billion total market. That market is the biggest and still growing, and grew double digits in 2007. It changes every two months.”
On the side-by-side models, the Ranger 4×4 and Ranger XP come with a heavy-duty front end for durability. Although they do not offer power steering, Polaris claims they're 50% easier to steer than previous models. They also have 46% more dash storage than competitors, plus better ergonomics with more seat and leg space for a smoother, more comfortable ride.
Ranger's emergency brake has been moved to the left of the new tilt steering wheel, which allows operators to easily engage it even if they're off the vehicle.
For heavy-duty work applications, Polaris announces the Ranger HD, which has the new features plus an exclusive self-leveling suspension and variable-assist power steering. The shocks automatically adjust for the weight of the load to prevent the rear from sagging when towing. It also comes with power steering.
The Ranger 4×4 has a 500 EFI engine with 30 hp and top speed of 41 mph. The other Ranger models feature a 40-hp, 700 EFI engine with a top speed of 50 mph and 12-in. ground clearance.
If you're into sport riding, Polaris has the Ranger RZR line, a model that was introduced last year with a 50-in. width and a lower center of gravity. For 2009, they'll introduce the RZR S, ideal for desert, dunes and open spaces. The 800 H.O. twin-EFI engine reaches 63 mph at top speed and is 60 in. wide. It comes equipped with sporty 12-in., eight-spoke aluminum rims and 26-in. Maxxis Big-Horn tires. And, it has a heel cup at the base of the accelerator to keep a rider's foot stable.
The lineup of accessories for the new models include winches, windshields, cabs, gun scabbards and much more. For details, check out www.polarisindustries.com.