Offered in green and red,...
Offered in green and red, the Ranger RZR will be available at Polaris dealerships shortly after you read this.
First, a little History 101. The side-by-side or UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) genre has more or less been considered by ATV aficionados as a sideshow to real single-seat ATVs. However, ever since 2004, when Yamaha debuted its Rhino 660, the SxS market has just exploded. It wasn't the first, but the Yamaha model has so dominated the class that the name Rhino is as synonymous with SxS as Kleenex is with facial tissues. Especially once consumers discovered this work tool was fun and could do things not normally expected from an underpowered, heavy "farm" implement. And the aftermarket responded as the sales shot through the roof of this new breed-almost 50,000 of the 245,000 SxS units sold in '06 were for recreational purposes-and people wanted to drive them faster and sometimes jump them higher. Such was the force of its racing crush that UTV classes now run in the BITD, SCORE, WORC and WPSA series. Again, it was the Yamaha Rhino as the prevailing model.
Yet despite the vigorous aftermarket efforts to transform these workers into hot-rod racers, overcoming their utilitarian breeding was proving nearly impossible. And the basic demands of consumers-go anywhere an ATV can, more power and performance and improved recreational handling-were only achievable via deep pockets. The return on investment was hitting the point where, despite the heavy amounts of cash dropped on the likable UTV, the rate of performance gains was diminishing.
The window of opportunity was wide open for the first company to build a play-first, work-second side-by-side.
And Polaris was the first to seize the initiative with a new addition to its Ranger line, the Ranger RZR. It bears only a passing resemblance to its bench seat-equipped XP sibling and is an entirely new design. That the Rhino was squarely in the sights of the Polaris engineers is clear even to a blind man. Beyond the ad literature-with its numerous comparisons between the two and the occasional mention of the other SxS, Arctic Cat's Prowler-the new RZR now sports cush bucket seats like its rival. That's where the similarities end. This ain't no reverse-engineered project here. The RZR designers did some serious homework, surveying potential customers for their desires, scrutinizing the aftermarket to uncover the most requested mods, plus undertaking a healthy dose of seat-of-the-pants testing of the big three side-by-sides (Rhino, Prowler and Ranger) to find weaknesses in their armor and areas for improvement. A good mix of creativity was sprinkled in, and when the dust settled, the Ranger RZR was born.
The short version is the Polaris crew took the company's biggest and most powerful engine, the 760cc EFI-equipped twin from the X2 800, and dropped it into the smallest chassis they could right behind the seats. This allowed them to get the seats a whopping 7 inches lower than the Rhino yet still enjoy 10 inches of ground clearance. Using a technique called Rolled Independent Rear Suspension, the RZR sports 9 inches of wheel travel up front and 9.5 inches in back from the antisway-bar-equipped double A-arms (front and back). Rolled IRS means the wheel curves back as the shock compresses to get more travel without longer A-arms. With trail accessibility as a design goal, the RZR has a small frontal profile, with its 50-inch-wide chassis, as well as the lowest cage height of any SxS. This "narrow" track allows it to venture on most ATV trails-of course, back East we are worried about the 50.6-inch-wide Suzuki LT-R450 being too big to fit between trees. It's all relative, and out West, where the sales of this class dominate, it's a reasonable size.
Helping the twin-cylinder move the 945 pounds of machine down the trail faster is an automatic Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT) that feeds the 52 horsepower (claimed) to the Maxxis tires via shaft drive.
Speed isn't fun without comfort, so the engineers gave the Ranger RZR a snazzy little tilt steering system, an adjustable grab bar for the passenger and seats that adjust. And like most sport-utes, the RZR isn't all play and no work (very important for justifying it to the spouse). Its cargo bed is rated for 300 pounds and has 12 tiedown points and can be fitted with several PURE Polaris Lock & Ride accessories, including gas-can holders and a creative dual-gun rack. The RZR also has a receiver hitch and a 1500-pound towing capacity, underhood storage and a myriad of cabs and cargo systems. Best of all, its MSRP of $9999 is only $700 more than the standard tandem-seat X2 800.
We were impressed!
Polaris brought us out to Phoenix, Arizona, for our first meeting with this new side-by-side. The January air had a bite, yet we think the Minnesota-based crew members were happy they weren't home shoveling snow for a few weeks. That cold air wasn't even noticeable once we reached the Hieroglyphic Mountain riding area, where the Polaris gang had an 11-12-mile loop set up for us to give the new Ranger RZR a thorough shakedown. It was a good mix of terrain, from pea-gravel river beds to rock-infested waterfalls to challenging hills that were certainly steeper than the 15-degree inclines we were warned not to exceed during the Draconian safety brief. Solo or two-up, the RZR made short work of the hills and displayed quite clearly one of the highlights of the new design-its true all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. It automatically engages when the vehicle needs more forward traction and reverts back to 2WD automatically when AWD is no longer needed. No stopping is needed, just push the dash-mounted switch (under 10 mph, we noticed) and it transforms from a rear-end-sliding sport to a rock-crawling mountain goat instantly. We tried both settings (on and off) of the AWD and couldn't really discern a difference unless we were trying to slip the rear end around. If activated, the system detected the skid and engaged all four wheels, curtailing our fun like a stern look from the teacher.
Of course, the 760cc twin sitting right behind us was another instigator in more-than-usual instances of editor high jinks. After the group ride, when we were done documenting the RZR on film, we set out for a fast lap around the loop with our Polaris chaperone, Glenn Bode, in tow aboard a Sportsman ATV. Brian and I took turns at the helm and as passenger-white-knuckling the little handlebar as the pilot kept the gas peddle mashed to the floor. This little machine has some giddyup and lots of potential. The big, rolling whoops in the river bed had the RZR kicking like a mule and both of us laughing as we tried to get it settled down. The firm but supple seats and the seat belts with their shock absorbers (to take the sudden shock of hitting those big bumps) helped the stock suspension with soaking up the impacts.
Power was good, better than the rest of the crowd, and that low cg only made cornering sketchy in an off-camber turn on the steep side of a hill. We know this thing can still be put on its side-the scratches and dings from another group showed on our test rig. But they must have been talented, as it's pretty easy to keep the rubber down on the RZR.
We decided about halfway around our fun loop that we needed one to test ASAP. In fact, as soon as we were back in the pits, we were in front of Polaris Media wrangler Donna Beadle asking, "When can we get one?"
Yeah, it's that good, and with part of the work already done by Polaris, aftermarket companies should have this thing ripping in short order-the key is how much performance is hidden in that 760cc EFI twin. The RZR is basically what folks have been clamoring for ever since they discovered sharing the off-road adventure next to your buddy is a hoot and they're cheaper than a full-blown Jeep. We'll keep you posted as soon as we get our hands on a production unit (these were all preproduction models) to spend some quality time with in a few months.
Bryan Nylander/6'/200 lb/IntermediateThis is probably the best Polaris model I have ever tested. It handles well, has a healthy motor and really amazed me with how ably it crawled over rocks and up hills. The 760cc engine had the RZR moving in a hurry-we got it over 40 mph before running out of straightaway-and if it's like the rest of the EFI crowd, there should be more power on tap with a fuel controller plugged in. My only snivels were the excessive engine noise (like riding in a Porsche, with the engine right by your ears); the difficulty in adjusting the seats (they're easy to remove, which is required, then you loosen the four screws on the side, move the seats to the new position, tighten and reinstall the screws and, if not correct, repeat); and being rewarded more than once with grinding gears when I shifted into high gear (even from a stop). That's my complaint list; I can't wait to see what the aftermarket has for it and then see what it's really capable of-much more, I'm betting.
Brian Purtymun/6'3"/170 lb/NoviceThe Polaris RZR isn't really an ATV-it's more like a big go-cart. Except instead of a 5-horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine and a crude frame with no suspension like the go-carts of my childhood, this one is packing more than 50 horsepower and lots of suspension travel. I think a lot of Jeep enthusiasts will love the RZR. It's not street-legal, but it's faster and more capable than a Jeep, and it's cheaper. You can take your wife or kid along with you, and the roll cage gave me a real sense of security during our high-speed high jinks. What's not to like?
After our brief test ride, I can tell the RZR has loads of potential to be made into whatever you want it to be-a desert runner, mud bogger, rock crawler or just a motorized ranch hand. The aftermarket will go crazy with Polaris' new model, and it'll be even more interesting to see how Yamaha counterattacks when it redesigns its Rhino. Also, other manufacturers will no doubt throw their hats in the ring to capture their share of this lucrative market. It's an exciting time to be covering the ATV and side-by-side arena, and ATV Rider can't wait to get its hands on an RZR for some extensive testing.
|2008 Polaris Ranger RZR |
|Retail price: ||$9999 |
|Engine type: ||Twin-cylinder four-stroke |
|Displacement: ||760cc |
|Cooling: ||Liquid-cooled |
|Carburetion: ||EFI system |
|Starting: ||Electric |
|Drive system: ||Shaft, 2x4/4x4 |
|Transmission: ||Automatic PVT with high/low range, reverse |
|Front suspension |
|Dual A-arms with sway bar/9.0 in. |
|Rear suspension |
|Independent with sway bar/9.5 in. |
|Front tires: ||25x8-12 |
|Rear tires: ||25x10-12 |
|Front brakes: ||Hydraulic disc, dual-piston caliper |
|Rear brake: ||Hydraulic disc |
|Wheelbase: ||77.0 in. |
|Claimed dry weight: ||945 lb |
|Length/width/height: ||102.0/50.0/69.0 in. |
|Fuel capacity: ||7.3 gal. |
|Turning radius: ||101.5 in. |
|Bed capacity: ||300 lb |
|Hitch towing capacity: ||1500 lb |
|Instrumentation: ||Fuel gauge, speedometer, odometer, hourmeter, tripmeter, clock; neutral/reverse indicator |
|Color: ||Green, red |
Adjustable cockpit, mix of amazing power, traction and AWD worked well. Shifter balky on occasion,adjusting seats a pain and still cramped for six-plus-footers. The next big thing in the side-by-side class
Low and not too wide, the...
Low and not too wide, the RZR promises plenty of fun.
Our time in the rock bed was...
Our time in the rock bed was a blast; Purtymun ran up and down the little waterfall of rock forward and backward for the camera. The wheels gripped, and the full-length skid plate earned its keep.
The low-mounted grab bar,...
The low-mounted grab bar, net and tubing should help keep limbs inside the ride at all times even when flying horizontal.