Forget the sagging consumer economy. Polaris Industries is hitting the ATV and utility vehicle (UV) markets hard this summer with its biggest introduction of new and redesigned vehicles ever. The company reports it wants to protect and grow its customer base even in the tough economic market. In the past 18 months, its ATVs have gained market share.
The 2009 line of ATVs and Rangers will appeal to the agricultural market with their new utility features and vehicle accessories. The company is offering three new Ranger models, including a heavy-duty model with power steering. The ATVs boast all-wheel-drive and engine braking with an active descent control system that is new in the industry.
Polaris's popular Sportsman ATV achieves an industry first this year with one million models sold. In honor of the milestone, Polaris engineers redesigned the vehicle and are calling it the new Sportsman XP. ATV marketing manager Jan Rintamaki says the new Sportsman vehicles are 99% new.
Polaris also adds a new Sportsman 800 vehicle and a new Ranger RZR S model.
To highlight the major introduction, Polaris invited journalists from around the world to test-drive the vehicles on a wooded, Minnesota motocross course. Rock piles and a bumper-strip course tested the vehicles' suspension. Steep, dirt trails that wound through dense woods tested vehicle maneuverability, ease of use and comfort. The vehicles passed the tests with flying colors.
Here's a look at what's new in the 2009 lineup from Polaris.
The all-new Sportsman ATV comes in 850 XP and 550 XP models. The Sportsman 850 XP is equipped with an 850cc, twin EFI engine with 70 hp, and the 550 XP has a 549cc, single EFI engine with 40 hp. Both engines are rubber-mounted to the chassis to reduce vibration.
Both of the new models feature a low gear that enables them to reach 39 mph. The ATVs tow up to 1,500 lbs. and carry 120 lbs. on the front rack and 240 lbs. on the rear rack.
Both of the XP models are equipped with the Polaris on-demand all-wheel drive (AWD), which automatically engages when more traction is needed and then switches back to 2-wd when it's not needed. Polaris also designed a special engine-braking feature called active descent control (ADC) to help a driver maintain control when traveling down a steep incline with a load.
Braking power is beefed up with new automotive-style hydraulic disc brakes installed on the vehicles. The 850 XP has four-wheel disc brakes, and the 550 XP has three-wheel disc brakes.
Polaris changed the suspension on the Sportsman models to enhance a smooth ride. The company installed a rolled, independent rear suspension and dual A-arm front suspension. It also devised a new anti-kickback steering system to prevent the big jerks that occur when an ATV goes over bumps.
The engine was rotated 90° to provide 5 in. more floorboard space on the ATVs.
Prices for the new line of ATVs were not available at press time.
Sportsman 800 6 × 6 Big Boss
A true work vehicle, the Sportsman Big Boss features a 760cc EFI engine with six-wheel independent suspension and six-wheel shaft drive. Polaris installed the engine braking system with ADC in the Big Boss model as well.
Ranger 4 × 4, XP, HD
Polaris redesigned its Ranger UV from the cup holder and bench seat to the suspension system and hood style. The changes should help Polaris grow its share of the utility side-by-side market. The company reported it considers itself the number-one player in the side-by-side market.
The new line of Rangers consists of three new models: Ranger 4 × 4, Ranger XP and Ranger HD. The three models feature a roomier cab with better ergonomics, easy steering, and adjustable dual A-arm front suspension. Engineers redesigned the front of the vehicles in a bold, aggressive style. The bumper is equipped with a heavy-duty bash plate, a central tow hook and inset tow hook cage. All the models are rated for a 1,000-lb. load in the cargo box.
In the cab, Polaris added more seat and leg space, angled the back seat for comfort, and moved the brake lever to the left of the driver. The company also added a tilt steering wheel, cup holders for 20-oz. bottles, and more storage space.
The Ranger HD with a 40-hp, 700cc EFI engine is designed for customers who want a UV for heavy-duty work. Polaris installed Nivomat shocks that automatically adjust the suspension on the new model to a heavy load. The self-leveling suspension creates a smooth ride and the ability to go long distances at 50 mph. To make the HD model easier to steer in heavy-duty applications, Polaris gave it electric power steering.
The Ranger XP model has the same engine as the HD model; the Ranger 4 × 4 model is equipped with a 30-hp, 500cc EFI engine. Top speed of the 4 × 4 model is 30 mph, and it tows 1,500 lbs.
Prices for the three models were not available at press time.