One of the Sportsman's strong...
One of the Sportsman's strong points was its digital/analog multipurpose gauge, which would read out a variety of information including motor hours, trip length and engine rpm.
Though covered admirably well...
Though covered admirably well underneath, all the metal protection comes between the frame rails, so they're likely to take a beating.
Rack extenders are standard...
Rack extenders are standard on the Sportsman. If you think all three lights will come on at once, you're wrong.
The twists of fate that decide these shootouts can sometimes take turns for the better--or worse. They can catapult you to the top or gun you down like a clay pigeon. Polaris' Sportsman 700 Twin got hit with both barrels. The first day of testing at the tight GNCC course rewarded smaller, lithe quads--strike one for the big Sportsman. The remainder of the test saw the Twin tackling steep, rocky, loose terrain, with snow and ice to boot. Fine terrain for the big machine, except the Goodyear Rawhide Grip tires that come stock on it are too hard and unyielding to give much positive traction in these conditions--strikes two and three.
The problem was compounded on the frequent steep downhills of the Smokies when the Sportsman's engine-braking only slowed the rear wheels in a jerky grab-and-go manner. For the most part, the Sportsman slid--sometimes in control, sometimes not--down the hills. If there were any sort of off-camber or drop-off involved, the Polaris' pilot was often heard shouting prayers. Tires aside, the 700 had much going for it, which is why it finished as high as it did.
We've long been fans of all the Sportsman models' independent rear suspension. It strikes a good balance of stability when cornering hard, lively handling and actuation in uneven terrain. Unfortunately for Polaris, the Honda Rincon showed up. While the 700 is better at hoofing it sideways, as we found on the Big Buck grass track, the Honda is simply better in all other aspects.
On the tight but fast confines of the GNCC course, a few of the Polaris' misdemeanors compounded for less-than-stellar results. Size was the big one. Trying to hustle an almost 800-pound quad between trees it doesn't fit through is an exercise in frustration. The tight-yet-plush handling that served so well elsewhere was supremely adept at transferring the jarring of roots and stones to the rider as the suspension's valving was overwhelmed by all the direction changes.
However, all felt the Twin comfortable for a long day in the saddle. As long as you weren't out of the saddle. Standing, as was necessary when climbing and descending in the Smokies, had some riders' legs spread a bit too far apart, and one tester even complained of a cramp from it.
While power was not an issue in South Carolina, in the Northern Highlands it felt as though not enough muscle was delivered for the big hillclimbs. In fairness, this may be attributed to the tires not biting as they should and the transmission delivering too much spin and not enough torque, resulting in a machine that bogged down occasionally. However, unlike most of the quads in this shootout, precise line selection was not important for the big blue machine as it handled the big hits of side-lying rocks and roots like no other, staying on track beautifully.
The Polaris' floorboards (along with the Kawasaki's and Yamaha's), packed with snow, mud and ice on our mountain days, created a slight hazard when cornering hard. All felt the footpeglike gripper strips were too far back on the board as well, only snagging the boot in certain positions.
If the rocks were a little bigger or if the terrain a little more technical or muddy, the Sportsman just might have been runner-up to Honda's Rincon. But in the old mountains of Appalachia the rocks have been beaten down to a smaller size. Slow, technical terrain was hard to come by in our test, even in the tight woods of South Carolina, as the track was mostly rutted dirt.
But the reason the shiny blue quad is dinged all the way to fifth is that, to be a true All-Terrain Vehicle, there has to be compromise. All terrains must be conquerable, and making the 700 a ringer in some arenas cost Polaris in this one.
+ Metal-flake paint and chrome rims
+ Solid, predictable handling
- Transmission engages too late
- While satisfying, the power was unimpressive
= Would have scored higher with muddier terrain
|Polaris Sportsman 700 Twin|
|Retail Price||$7499/$7799 Mossy Oak Camo|
|Type||Twin-cylinder, four-stroke, pushrod|
|Carburetion||Mikuni CV 34mm|
|Starting||Electric with recoil backup|
|Drive System||Shaft, 4x4|
|Transmission||Automatic Polaris Variable Transmission with E-Z Shift high/low range, reverse|
|Front||MacPherson strut/6.7 in.|
|Rear||Dual A-arms independent with sway bar/9.5 in.|
|Front||25x8-12; rear 25x11-12|
|Front||Hydraulic disc; rear hydraulic disc|
|Claimed Dry Weight||740 lb|
|Ground Clearance||11.25 in.|
|Seat Height||34.0 in.|
|Fuel Capacity||4.75 gal.|
|Front/Rear Rack Capacity||100/200 lb|
|Hitch Tongue/Towing Capacity||150/1500 lb|
|Headlight||Single-beam 50-watt high and two single-beam 27-watt low quartz halogen |
|Instrumentation||Speedometer, odometer, hourmeter, tripmeter; high beam, neutral/reverse, high-temperature indicators|
|Colors||Black/silver, Camo green, Sonic blue; Mossy Oak Breakup|