The Polaris RANGER NorthStar Ultimate's climate control makes riding in bad weather a joy.
In the world of off-road, Polaris has been building some impressive vehicles recently, and they just seem to be getting better every year. This past winter, we got the chance to borrow a 2022 RANGER XP NorthStar edition for an extended test ride. This version of Polaris' popular UTV, known as the "Ultimate" package, came fully loaded with all the bells and whistles for both work and play.
Most notable were the HVAC and cab system that made this side by side a true joy to drive, even as Michigan proceeded to hit us with a long and bitterly cold winter. We ended up using this awesome machine not just for fun, but also for some needed yard work. And it handled both tasks as beautifully as you might expect.
This version of the RANGER is the perfect combination of a work and play machine. It feels more like a small, light pickup than it does a UTV at times. At the end of my test run, it was extremely tough for me to watch this machine get loaded on a trailer to be taken back to the dealership.
Specs of the RANGER XP 1000 NorthStar Edition Ultimate
We'll quickly run through some of the features and specs before I get to how this machine handles. This 999cc RANGER is equipped with a 4-stroke twin cylinder DOHC engine and automatic transmission that's easy to operate, especially for beginners to the world of ATVs and UTVs. The engine is pumping out about 82 horsepower, which feels just right for the machine's 1,900-lb dry weight.
The RANGER has the usual drive modes of AWD and 2WD. However, we've come to really appreciate the VersaTrac Turf mode, especially on the yard, because it allows you to get all those light chores done without creating more work ripping up your grass. That sort of damage is easy to do if you're not careful, because the 8-ply Pro Armor X-Terrain tires have some real bite to them. That's what you want when you're off-road, but not on your home turf. The tires also help give this RANGER 13 inches of ground clearance for tackling the roughest of terrain.
Speaking of rough terrain, the NorthStar Ultimate has dual A-Arm suspension in both the front and rear offering about 11 inches of travel. Polaris just continues to amaze us with how buttery smooth their suspension systems make the ride.
This RANGER has a towing capacity of approximately 2,500 pounds (more on that later) and has a payload capacity of 1,275 pounds. Polaris includes a winch with a 4,500-lb synthetic rope standard with this model. I didn't get the chance to use it, but I did note how beefy it was. There should be no issues with durability of the rope or winch. The lighting consists of 1,250 lumen dual LED headlamps on low beams and 2,300-lumen high beams. Every time I drove at night, it astounded me how bright these were. This RANGER has better lighting than my Jeep Liberty SUV!
Finally, as we noted earlier, this RANGER comes fully loaded with power steering, power windows, AC and heat, an AM FM radio, and more. It also has Polaris' popular Ride Command Package that features a 4-inch LCD touchscreen that features all the instrumentation one could ever want. If you ride in a group, you can synch your machine with other Ride Command equipped vehicles using the group ride feature so you can keep tabs on your friends via the map.
Basically, this RANGER is tricked out with every possible feature the engineers in Minnesota could fit onto it, and maybe even a little bit more. I was still discovering amazing things about the machine in the final days before it had to be returned.
A Winter-Long Test Ride
The Polaris RANGER XP 1000 NorthStar was delivered to me at the beginning of November specifically so I could test the capabilities of this machine over the winter months. Originally, Polaris wanted me to get the chance to try plowing snow and using their still relatively new "plow mode" that's quickly becoming standard on their UTVs. Unfortunately, the supply chain problems that have caused issues in almost every industry prevented one from getting delivered during the loan period.
However, based on how the machine performs in snow, I'm confident in saying it likely would have done an incredible job. One big thing Polaris is pushing with this machine is the heating and air conditioning combined with the Pro Cab system. It's an impressive climate control system with controls just like you'll find in your pickup truck or car. It takes less than five minutes for the cab to heat, even on the frostiest of days when I fired it up. In truth, I never turned it up past the lowest setting, only because it wasn't necessary! Even on the frostiest of mornings where the temperature dipped into the teens, this heating system made it comfortable enough to take your jacket off inside.
While the cab of the RANGER is extremely roomy for a UTV, it doesn't take long to heat up or cool such a small space. It makes driving the RANGER in the snow and cold a real joy. If I had been able to plow my driveway, it might have even been fun thanks to how toasty warm the cab stays.
It also features a defroster so you can keep the windshield clear. There's even a windshield wiper. One of my few complaints about the machine is I wish there were more intermittent options for speed on the wiper. It's either on full speed or off. Honestly, that's a very small complaint though. We didn't get a ton of snow here in Michigan this year, but we got enough for me test the capabilities of the RANGER punching through some medium-high snow drifts. Those big tires cut through them like butter. If you live and work in a cold climate, this is the machine for you.
Putting the Polaris to Work
Most off-roaders know Polaris has an extensive side by side lineup. The RANGER is the work horse of the bunch. It can go fast and provide plenty of entertainment, but most people who buy one want to know it can handle their day-to-day chores. While I didn't have a farm or ranch to test it on, I had plenty of yard work that needed to get done. From picking up leaves to trimming branches in the backyard, the RANGER made all these chores much easier.
After most of the leaves had fallen, I hooked my dad's 5x9 wooden and metal trailer to the back of the RANGER using a two-inch ball hitch. This trailer comes in at a little over 1,200 pounds empty and the machine pulled it like a dream. Taking advantage of that 2,500-pound towing capacity, my folks and I only had to make two trips through the yard filling the trailer and the bed with leaves to clear the whole yard for the year.
One thing I almost forgot to mention are the front and rear-facing cameras on the RANGER. Just like a modern truck or SUV, these things make it so much easier to back a trailer when you can quickly glance at the screen to see if you're still in proper alignment.
For hauling, the RANGER is hard to beat, no matter if you're carrying leaves, rocks, fill dirt, or whatever else it may be. It made every hauling task in the yard much easier as the winter wore on., to the point that I'm already dreading doing chores without it as we get into spring. The tight turning radius of this machine allowed me to back it into tight spots for loading with lawn debris, and the dumping capabilities of the box make it simple to unload all that debris at another location.
Whatever chores I had to do this winter, the RANGER made them all easier. Never did this machine feel underpowered for whatever task was at hand. And at the same time, the warm cab made it more tolerable to stay outside longer getting all my chores done quicker so I could get back in the house in front of a warm fire. With that extra time, I would often take a little ride for fun after getting the work done. It's hard not to with how smooth and enjoyable to drive the RANGER is.
The Bottom Line
We know the completely enclosed cab style of this RANGER isn't necessarily for everyone. Some people like to get the dirt and mud in their face. Remember that you can still pop open the tip-out windshield for those who need to feel the wind in their face.
However, of all the Polaris machines we've had the privilege to test drive in recent years, the RANGER XP 1000 NorthStar Ultimate is by far our favorite. For anyone who wants to help tame the conditions, whether that be extreme heat or cold, the cab and climate control system are a no-brainer for making work much more pleasant.
Aside from all the additional bells and whistles, the smoothness of the front and rear suspension makes this a very comfortable and fun trail rider any beginner can get in and feel comfortable driving. It seriously drives a lot like a pickup truck, just on a much smaller scale and with more off-road capabilities of course.
Pricing for the Polaris RANGER XP 1000 NorthStar Edition Ultimate starts at $29,799 MSRP and the machine comes in a variety of color schemes from Polaris Pursuit camo, to a sharp Sunset red metallic depending on your tastes. See the Polaris website for more information on this machine and the others in their 2022 lineup.
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