First Ride: 2017 Polaris UTV Lineup
For the 2017 model year Polaris is offering a literal fleet of new and updated UTVs, each of which are specifically targeted to meet the varying needs of consumers all across the board. We recently had the opportunity to check out the entire line of machines on a private ranch in Montana, the perfect proving ground for testing a variety of updates to some old favorites as well as putting the new machines through their paces.
At the Polaris dealer show a few weeks back, Polaris unveiled its new all-in-one technology hub, Ride Command. Ride Command is literally command central for virtually every aspect of data and control you could possibly be looking for while out on the trail. For starters, the system offers a unique Group Ride function that allows you to keep track of all other parties in your group via GPS, whether you can physically see them or not. Users can establish waypoints along a route to highlight landmarks or key features as well as outline entire courses to ensure no one gets lost or ventures off course.
As far as a data center, Ride Command provides a full range of stats pertaining to your given trip including average speed, top speed, distant traveled and more. It offers the full gamut of gauges and notifications with a few optional display settings that let you customize it to suit your own preference. You can even control and preview the front- and rear-mounted cameras via the integrated Go Pro control panel or mount your own Go Pro camera anywhere you like and control it via Bluetooth through the Ride Command system.
For those among us who can never seem to disconnect from your cell phone, Ride Command has you covered too. No longer will you have to reach for your phone to check missed calls or text messages, because Ride Command provides real time messaging info as calls and text messages are received and displayed on the systems 7-inch glove-touch display screen. Speaking of which, the ability to touch and operate the screen without removing your glove is a big plus in our book.
Other features of the Ride Command include accessing your phone’s music library as well as in-vehicle communications, so you no longer have to shout over the engine noise to communicate with your passenger. So how much does all this new technology cost? Not as much as you might think. Polaris Ride Command comes standard issue on the RZR XP 1000 Velocity Blue Limited Edition model at $20,999, which is $1500 more than the base model RZR XP 1000 EPS. If you’re not in the market for a new machine but would still like to outfit your RZR, General or other Polaris vehicle with Ride Command, the complete system is available as a factory accessory for $2,500.
While we’re still in the RZR family, we have to talk about the new RZR XP 1000 EPS Gold Metallic LE model, which may as well be dubbed the rock crawler edition. How so? Well, for starters it comes with an extra-low, low drive gear that is 55% lower than that of previous models. That, coupled with a new low-speed throttle map, means optimized low-speed power for on-demand, precise torque when taking on difficult obstacles.
Other suggestive upgrades that help paint this as a purpose-built rock crawler are the upgraded half shafts, high clearance A-arms and radius rods providing 14 inches of ground clearance as well as a total protection package including rock sliders, front bumper and a full UHMW skid plate, all right from the factory. Should you find yourself in a situation that’s a little over your head, the included 4500 pound Polaris Engineered winch should ease your concern.
For the newcomer to the off-road industry or the youngster that just isn’t quite ready for a full-size UTV, the RZR S 570 EPS saw some significant improvements by way of larger tires and long-travel suspension. The upgraded 27-inch Maxxis Bighorn tires are a notable improvement over the 25-inch Ancla rubbers on the previous model. Upgraded dual A-arm suspension increases the footprint from 50 inches to 60 inches and provides 3 additional inches of travel all the way around. As the name would suggest, Electronic Power Steering is another welcome upgrade to this model.
Polaris seems to have sparked a single-seat revolution with the release of the ACE line of vehicles, and for 2017 the family gains an exciting new member, the ACE 900 XC. With only one demo unit available, everyone was champing at the bit to get some ride time, and when our turn came, we quickly figured out why. At 200 pounds less than a standard RZR and with 78 horsepower, the ACE 900 XC offers a power-to-weight ratio that mimics the RZR XP 1000 S. Couple that horsepower with dual A-arm suspension and Walker Evens needle shocks and you’ve got a recipe for one heck of a good time!
The ACE 900 XC is a completely new driving experience, even over its predecessor, the ACE 900 SP. In fact, the 900cc displacement is about the only thing these two vehicles have in common. The ACE 900 XC is 11 inches wider and 4 inches longer with a wheelbase that is stretched out a total of 6 inches. To increase the suspension travel, Polaris completely did away with the front struts and utilized a dual A-arm front suspension with the shocks mounted to the lower a-arm for maximum travel. The new suspension, coupled with Walker Evans Racing compression adjustable needle shocks allow for 12.3 inches of suspension travel up front and 12.6 inches out back, which is more than 4 inches of improvement up front and almost 3 inches in the rear over the original ACE 900 SP model.
Overall, the ACE 900 XC is very comfortable. The center-mounted seat is reminiscent of an ATV and really makes the driver feel in control by allowing full view of all sides of the vehicle at one time. Electronic Power Steering helps the vehicle turn on a dime and High-Performance On-Demand All Wheel Drive automatically engages all four wheels when the vehicle senses the need for more traction.
On the utility side of things, Polaris came with some significant improvements to its Ranger line of UTVs. For starters, the Ranger received a welcome upgrade to the 1000 club thanks to the upgraded 999cc ProStar engine. The Ranger now leads the utility class in power with 80 horsepower and 61 lb.-ft. of torque. Also new for the Ranger XP 1000 is a three-mode throttle controller that allows the user to match the power delivery to the specific environment. We found this to be an incredibly useful feature, especially on a utility machine.
We can think of a number of situations where precision is a must, and the Work mode provides smooth, controlled throttle response, even in the event you hit the pedal a little harder than intended. The Standard mode works great for all-around use, and when it’s time to have some fun, Performance mode is where you’ll be able to fully utilize the boost in horsepower.
For 2017, the Ranger XP 1000 is available in a number of different trim levels including four Special Edition models. Each unit is equipped with a variety of accessories from the factory designed to maximize the machine’s effectiveness in its given environment. The Hunter Edition includes two scabbards and is dressed from stem to stern in camouflage. The Highlifter Edition gets aggressive tires, mud-specific gearing and sealed switches, fuse box and battery for added protection from the elements. Ranchers will love the host of accessories on the Ranch Edition that include an in-cab gun mount, front and rear brush guards, a Lock & Ride fence wire pooler as well as a t-post hauler, all designed to maximize storage so users can get more out of their Ranger UTV.
Also new for 2017 was the introduction of the Northstar HVAC edition that provides an entirely sealed cab complete with industry-first heating and air conditioning. Now, before you go jumping to conclusions assuming that heat and air is over the top for a UTV, our hosts made some valuable points. To many users, a side-by-side is a tool of the trade, just as much as a hammer, a forklift or a combine. When you’re spending hours a day in the vehicle on a farm or job site, protection from the elements in a climate-controlled cab makes a ton of sense. They put A/C and even satellite radio in tractors after all. Polaris is just trying to enhance the overall user experience, and we have to say, on a hot day, it can make all the difference.
Last but certainly not least, we had the opportunity to spend some time behind the wheel of the new General 4 1000. Following its release last winter, we expected it would only be a matter of time before we saw a four-seat version and it turns out we didn’t have to wait very long. The General 1000 is a perfect dual-purpose, go-anywhere machine, and with the added capacity the General 4 1000 is moving even further up our list of favorites. Its 100 horsepower ProStar engine had more than enough power to pack three grown men around on our ride, and not a single one complained about feeling cramped in the back seat.
Polaris mentioned they received three main requests for an upgraded General: a camo version, turf mode and a four-seat model. For 2017 Polaris delivers all three and the General remains hard to beat as a multipurpose vehicle. The power and suspension are sporty enough to cruise down a trail at speed with the added convenience of a sizable dump bed for carrying a cooler or hauling a load.
While it might be said that there’s not a whole lot completely “new” for 2017, we’d argue that the upgrades made to many of these vehicles provide such a drastic improvement over last year’s models that they might as well be considered new. More models to choose from and better features only gives consumers more options to find the machine that suits their specific needs, and Polaris fans have a lot to choose from for 2017.