The new Polaris General is one sweet machine.
Side-by-Side utility vehicles are more popular than ever, and it is little wonder companies seem to be offering more variety in these machines every year. We recently had the chance to travel to the Polaris off-road testing facilities outside Stillwater, Minnesota. While there, we got to test drive every one of their 2021 model year machines including two variants of GENERAL.
We got the chance to really put these machines through the paces on their facility's winding trails and rough terrain. At the end of the day, out of all the machines, it was the GENERAL that impressed me the most. Especially for fellow hunters who are looking for a vehicle to take them into the backcountry after that big buck or bull.
Here's our rundown of what's new for GENERAL in 2021 and some thoughts on these machines and their practical purposes.
Polaris GENERAL XP 1000
If you are familiar with Polaris powersports machines, you have already heard of RANGER and RZR. They are two drastically different machines for different purposes. RANGER is more of a hardcore work machine designed for farm and ranch while RZR is a high-performance beast built for people with a need for speed. GENERAL falls somewhere in the middle of these two machines. Technically, Polaris calls it a "crossover" in that it has great work features but is also built to tear up the trails like a performance machine.
The two models I drove were the Polaris GENERAL 1000 Sport and the GENERAL XP 1000 Pursuit Edition. Both machines have a 999cc, ProStar 4-stroke DOHC twin cylinder engine giving the machine 100 horsepower. GENERAL has electronic fuel injection and is liquid cooled with an automatic PVT transmission. Gearing include AWD, 2WD and VersaTrac turf mode. They're incredibly simple to drive, even for someone with no previous experience behind the wheel of a UTV.
In fact, I compare all these off-road vehicles to driving a downsized pickup truck. The Polaris engineers told me they take a lot of cues from the auto industry and it shows when you sit down in one of the bucket seats for the first time. Everything instantly feels familiar when you sit in the driver's seat, from the position of the analog dials for your tachometer, odometer and speedometer to the controls and even the adjustable seatbelts. The main difference is in the handling which we'll get into more later.
One thing to note on all the GENERAL models is that there are little hints of both the RZR and the RANGER combined in this machine. GENERAL seems to take its styling more from RZR with the slick lines and half doors standard rather than the cab nets available on many RANGER models. At the same time, the cab of GENERAL feels more roomy and comparable to that on RANGER than the RZR, which makes you feel like you're strapped in the cockpit of a rocket and it has the unstoppable performance to match.
In short, they went for the best of both worlds with GENERAL, and at least in my mind, they succeeded in doing that.
2021 Polaris GENERAL XP 1000 Sport
We'll talk about this model first since this was the first GENERAL I drove. This model starts at around $15,000 MSRP making it one of the more affordable GENERAL models. For reference, we ripped these machines through the same section of trail and track that we drove the RZR on earlier in the day. The trail started off with a series of sharp turns through steep banked corners and around countless trees in the woods before moving to more open areas. There was a nice mix of dirt, grass, and a little bit of mud in there. Of note here is a whoops section that really let me test the suspension.
However, we do need to separate the talk about shocks, suspension and tires because they are slightly different between this and the other model I drove. The 1000 Sport has ZF Sachs twin tube shocks for the front and rear. It has dual A-arms with a stabilizer bar for the front suspension and dual arm IRS with stabilizer for the rear. The back offers slightly more suspension travel at 13.2 inches compared to 12.25 in the front. Let's talk tire specs, the 1000 Sport has 27-inch tires on cast aluminum wheels. The size here is comparable to what you'll find on RANGER. This helps give this machine 12 inches of ground clearance.
For our test ride, I kept things in all-wheel-drive mode. It seems appropriate for most practical applications most people will use GENERAL for. After firing up the 1000 Spot, the engine roars to life and we were off. Out of all the UTVs I tested on this day, the GENERAL seems to offer the most comfort. As expected, the suspension soaked up every rock and rut the trail threw at us and the electronic power steering made cornering a breeze.
I was expecting the GENERAL to ride much like the RANGER, which has some pep, but is rough around the edges, and isn't quite the performance machine RZR is. The power of the GENERAL caught me slightly off-guard. I had to test the hydraulic disc and rear caliper brakes early because I found myself coming up on the taillights of the vehicle in front of me more quickly than expected. As I already mentioned in my RZR review, I'm not a speed demon by any means. However, the new GENERAL XPs seem to hit the perfect sweet spot of fun, power and performance for me. It feels quicker, and more nimble than RANGER without the power of the machine feeling quite as overpowering as it did for me with the RZR.
2021 Polaris GENERAL XP 1000 Pursuit Edition
When we got back to the staging area I just had to jump into this model for the next run since this is the GENERAL that Polaris is heavily marketing towards hunters and outdoorsmen and women with the Polaris Pursuit camo trim and accessories like a gun boot. This version of the vehicle has a wider 64-inch stance and 83-inch wheelbase that makes it feel a bit more stable than the sport version.
Polaris also made this machine a little beefier by giving it 30-inch Pro Armor tires on 15-inch cast aluminum wheels. This helps give a high clearance of 13.5 inches to help get over rocks, logs and whatever else may be between you and that big buck or bull. The shocks and suspension feel a little nicer on this model too. They fitted it with Walker Evans Velocity series shocks and long travel dual A-arms with stabilizer bars for the front and rear suspension. It offers about 14 inches of travel. It makes for a noticeably larger vehicle when you have two of them sitting next to each other.
Once again for this test I kept things in on demand true AWD and this machine handled like a dream. The Pursuit Edition has a much smoother ride thanks to those tires and soft suspension. It also seemed to corner into banks and drive out of them with more power than the Sport.
I should note I did have one little mishap with this GENERAL in the whoops section I mentioned earlier. While punching my way through it, the back end of the vehicle got away from me and I ended up nosing the Pursuit Edition down a small embankment filled with trees. The Polaris engineer riding behind me stopped to make sure I was okay and then gave me a slight push to help back the vehicle out of that predicament.
I don't blame the vehicle, tires or anything else on that. It could have happened to any machine if you get up to excessive speeds, which may have been the case here. Keep in mind this section had been getting ridden hard all day and there were some nasty ruts in that section. It only took hitting one at the wrong angle at the right speed to throw me off a bit.
Back at the staging area I got out and checked out the vehicle's front end. After all, I had gotten a face full of sapling tree branches on that little mishap. Luckily I had good protective clothing and eye protection. Looking over the hood, low profile front bumper, and even the lenses covering the powerful LED headlights, you couldn't tell anything that happened. I expected at the least to see some tree branch scratches, but I couldn't find any. Color me impressed. Polaris has built a very durable machine!
Other Features of the GENERAL
I should mention that both models of GENERAL I drove for this run were equipped Polaris' Ride Command technology. I won't get into too much detail on that here. If you want a complete rundown, read my article on the RANGER. However, I will note that the displays are amazing and ripe for customization. If you can name it, it is shown on the 4-inch LCD center console screen. There's everything from a simple clock to a fuel gauge, coolant temperatures, gear indicators, tripmeters, voltmeters, hour meters, service indicators and the ability to connect to your phone and even other UTVs for group rides. It's some seriously impressive tech.
We should talk about the work capabilities of this machine. It is a crossover after all. We didn't get a chance to test GENERAL in this capacity. However, I will say that the rear cargo box feels a little small, especially with the Pursuit Edition that has some extra cargo racks.
Polaris says these vehicles have an overall payload capacity of 1,100 pounds with the bed having a 600-pound box capacity. The bed does have dumping capabilities for mulch, top soil or other materials which is nice and unexpected for this machine. However, the box also feels a smidgeon high on the frame. I'm about six feet tall and the top of the bed was up around chest level on me while standing next to it.
As another journalist at the event pointed out to an engineer while I was standing there, lifting a harvested deer up to that bed without help is going to be a challenge. If you cut up your animals in the field, this will probably be a non-factor. For anyone taking a deer out whole, the height and box size are a concern. It would probably be a similar story if you're planning to haul rocks or heavy farm equipment or treestands. Of course, the GENERAL has a towing capacity of about 1,500 pounds. That means if you hunt mostly flat areas, there is no reason you can't use a small pull trailer with this vehicle to carry gear. Really, the bed placement is my one bit of constructive criticism for the Polaris engineers.
The Polaris Pursuit Edition does have some other rather nice bonuses standard that don't come with other models. For instance, this model has a Polaris HD 4500 lb winch standard. No need to buy an aftermarket winch. This vehicle also has a Pro Armor light bar for extra visibility and a Kolpin gun mount and boot. It also has a nice Convex rear view mirror that helps you see your buddy riding behind you. To top things off, that bed also includes a box rack for helping secure all your accessories.
The bottom line
To be fair, my thoughts here about the bed may be a non-factor. As I said, we didn't get the chance to test that part of the vehicle in any type of work capacity. I would have to try hauling a deer out with it before I could say for certain. We ran out of time on this trip to test vehicles like the 1000 Deluxe and 1000 Premiums, however we're betting they offer the same silky smooth and fun trail riding that we experienced with the Pursuit Edition and Sport.
After driving all the 2021 Polaris machines, the GENERAL Pursuit Edition was my clear favorite of the day. Overall, I just loved the look and the ride feel for the GENERAL Pursuit Edition. For die-hard hunters and fishermen looking for a machine that will take you deep into the back country and give a bit of fun on the trails with friends, this machine is it.
For additional information on GENERAL and all the 2021 Polaris off-road use vehicles, be sure to check out their website.