I drove the 20th Anniversary Polaris Ranger and came away very impressed.
It's hard to believe it has already been 20 years since Polaris Industries Inc. released their first RANGER, a 6x6 vehicle back in 1999. Most people probably think of RANGER from a purely workhorse standpoint with Polaris' RZR and GENERAL as being the fun and sporty Polaris UTVs. But for those in the know, RANGERS don't just work hard, they play hard too.
While I was meeting with world champion tie-down roper Tyson Durfey in Texas, Polaris gave us the opportunity to drive their all-new 2019 Polaris RANGER models. Judging by the mud that was on my shirt by the time the ride ended, it's safe to say I was impressed!
Our test took place at the Bridgeport, Texas ORV Park. It's an abandoned rock quarry, making it the ideal place for off-road fun.
Polaris had three different 2019 RANGER XP 1000 EPS Premiums to cruise around in. One was the all-new RANGER Crew XP model with six seats and the other two were three-seaters. The XP 1000 EPS Premiums are sort of the middle-priced option of RANGERS, just below Polaris' NORTHSTAR Edition package.
The XP 1000 EPS Premiums are more open than the NORTHSTAR models (which come with heating and air conditioning plus a hard plastic cab system and windows). All the models we were driving had cab net-style doors.
The cab net-style doors obviously don't offer as much protection from elements like mud as a hard door might. But it was pretty surprising how much debris they kept out during our test run. Polaris offers a lot of accessory integration, including hard doors with glass windows for anyone that feels the need to upgrade that part of the vehicle.
Durfey and I first rode in one of the three seater models, a special limited 20th Anniversary Edition in an eye-catching, two-tone maroon finish. The 20th Anniversary models also have sharp-looking stitched seats that help set them apart from the other models.
These new RANGERS look beefier, tougher, and more rugged than older year models. Part of that is the wide, 27" Maxxis Tires that now come standard. Every RANGER is built on a sturdy, one-piece chassis, making the whole machine feel rock solid when you're going over rough terrain.
Speaking of which, these machines have dual A-arm suspension in the front and back, which allows for 11 inches of suspension travel. The RANGERS we drove handled everything the off-road park had to offer.
Since I had been wheeling around in some older model RANGERS at Durfey's ranch the day before, I could tell the difference in smoothness; it was really noticeable. Polaris' engineers have obviously been hard at work improving their designs. The Maxxis tires and A-frame suspension arms smooth out all but the toughest of bumps.
Over the course of the afternoon, we drove over many rough areas pocked with small dirt potholes and ruts. The RANGER's suspension allows the machine to flow over these small obstacles like water.
Bridgeport ORV Park sees a lot of Jeep and large truck use, meaning the park was filled with much larger ruts and moguls intended for things bigger than an ATV or UTV. As a result, we were able to give these machines a much more extreme test than most will probably ever face.
When you're climbing up steep inclines filled with rocks, it's going to be a rough ride. But the RANGERS climb hills like mountain goats thanks to their engine and awesome suspension.
The 2019 Polaris RANGER XP 1000s have 13 inches of ground clearance and it was definitely noticeable during our ride. Several times we drove over large rocks, expecting to hear a metallic clank from the skid plate. To my surprise, there was none. Durfey said we went over a few rocks we wouldn't have cleared with his other machines.
Under the hood, RANGER has a 999cc, 4-stroke twin, liquid-cooled engine. Durfey drove first and when we sat down he turned to me and said: "We're going to drive this thing Texas-style!"
I found out what "Texas-style" meant once he hammered the accelerator out of the gate and the 82-horsepower engine roared to life. Whether it's in 2WD or 4WD, the RANGER offers a surprising amount of pep for a utility side-by-side, especially for one that's usually only considered a "work" vehicle.
After driving a few trails, we found an area full of mud and hills to really put the RANGERS through their paces. Durfey aimed the RANGER at the nearest hill and gunned it. He didn't account for the deep ruts slicing diagonally across this particular hill. No suspension on earth could have soaked up this particular bump, and we got jarred pretty hard.
It was a good thing we weren't riding four wheelers. This hill would have definitely resulted in a thrown rider. Fortunately, the RANGER's seat belts kept us both firmly inside.
We tore around this area and hit a few more hills before Durfey piloted us straight through some mud, splashing the wet, brown stuff into the cab and onto the both of us. He seemed to take a lot of enjoyment from that, and to be honest, I did too!
Time to drive
After a few more times around, I got my chance behind the wheel. I gotta say, the RANGER is as much fun to drive as it is to ride in. The accelerator is excellent: not too touchy, and not hard to floor, either. Like I mentioned, the XP 1000 EPS has a lot of pep to it, and now I was feeling it firsthand. The automatic PVT transmission makes it easy for anyone to accelerate and decelerate without a worry.
The "EPS" in the name stands for electrical power steering, and it makes maneuvering the RANGER a real breeze. The wheel is nice and responsive and the RANGER has a great turn radius. When you do get it up to speed, the brakes are more than capable if you need them to be.
If you're looking for a high-performance speed machine, you'll probably be looking at Polaris' RZR or GENERAL models anyway. The RANGER is more geared towards the person who likes to both work AND play hard.
As we drove to a new area, we encountered a deeper mud hole. As an act of revenge, I hit it hard and got Durfey back for the mud bath earlier.
Room for friends
It's worth once again mentioning the seating capacity for these machines. The RANGER Crew XP model is said to have room for four to six people, and they are surprisingly roomy for a UTV.
I'm about six feet tall, and sometimes I find many smaller vehicles to be a bit cramped. But there is a surprising amount of leg room in the RANGER Crew XP. It's roomier than some four-door pickups I've ridden in.
At one point we had three people in the back of the Crew model, along with a bunch of camera gear. We were able to sit back there with plenty of elbow room; no one was squished on top of one another.
When Polaris says they design these things for all-day comfort, they aren't kidding.
The XP 1000s have a towing capacity of 2,500 pounds, which should easily take on most small to medium sized jobs on any farm or ranch.
For hunters and sportsmen, Polaris is offering more accessory integration for carrying chainsaws, guns, dog kennels, and even an ice fishing shanty. The RANGER has a box capacity of 1,000 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,500 pounds, so there should be no issues hauling treestands, blinds, equipment, or even that big buck you dropped. And yes, they offer "Polaris Pursuit Camo" for the truly serious hunter looking for a do-it-all hunting machine.
Even though we didn't really get a chance to test the XP 1000 in a work capacity, it's pretty easy to understand that the machine works as hard as it plays. If you need something to do the heavy lifting, you've got nothing to worry about.
A very versatile machine
The RANGER is geared towards the person who wants something versatile. Our test definitely showed these machines are as much fun on the trails as they are on the ranch. By the time our ride was completed, both the machines and my clothing had a fine coating of Texas mud. Just as it should be.
I caught a plane back to Michigan directly from the test ride, and flew back home still covered in the mud. This got me some odd looks going through security, but I figured if they knew how much fun I'd had that day, they would just be jealous.
Overall, we left Texas extremely impressed by the 2019 RANGER. Whether it's meant for work, play, or a little of both, it seems you can't really go wrong with one of these new machines. Getting such a close up, firsthand experience with them only cemented our thoughts on what a Polaris can do.