Utility vehicles remain a hot commodity in the market these days, especially judging from the number of companies offering competent products. For Polaris, the Ranger has been the hallmark of utility vehicle performance with its ability to carry heavy loads and pull up to a ton. Add on a range of Polaris Pure accessories that use the company's exclusive Lock n' Ride system and this is a versatile player in the market. And for 2009, the company is upping the ante.
At first look there are subtle differences in the new Ranger. The upturned bumper on the front and what appears to be a redesigned seat and operator station. On closer inspection, you'll find that the parking brake has been relocated for easier access (on the outside), that cup holders are bigger and more useful, that the under seat storage area has been redesigned to be leak proof and that steering is smoother (with 30% better feel).
More than skin deep
Get under the hood, however, and you'll find a range of differences. There is a location for a second battery for powering add-ons, the front suspension is no longer a strut design, but rather an A-arm that provides better travel easier steering.
Even the finish has changed as the engineers at Polaris get a boost from the company's Victory motorcycle division. The new Ranger, and other products in the company line, including the Sportsman (see sidebar), now have an automotive quality paint finish.
"You can wax this finish," says Jan Rintamaki, who works in product marketing at Polaris. "And this is a finish that's more durable than before." It also looks nicer right off the showroom floor with added color choices.
The 2009 Ranger line gets a new look but users will find that the machines are also smoother riding too. They come in three levels the Ranger 4x4, XP and HD. The HD even powers upfront attachments for chores around the property.
Walk around this machine and you can see it's a workhorse. The molded bed remains the same - although it sports new LED signal lights. That bed has been popular since the company moved that way a few years ago. It's durable and can hold up to 1,000 pounds. And after some test drives over some rocks carrying a full load, it's even possible to get airborne (don't do this at home) and see the bed stand up to tough duty.
Dealers will start getting the new Polaris machines in August, including the new Polaris HD, which is designed to work with front-mounted tools. The company turned to the Boss Company to use an automotive grade attachment system that makes changing from front bucket to snow plow a quick process.
And finally, but not until later this year, Polaris is adding a new feature to the Ranger and the Sportsman ATV - power steering.
The new electronic power steering is smooth and proportional, providing a lot of help at slow speeds where you need it most, but little boost when your moving faster. The innovative design uses a brushless motor to provide the steering boost whenever the split shaft steering column gets more than 3% out of true. That can happen when you have to put a lot of torque on the steering wheel. When that happens the motor kicks in and brings the wheels around where you need them.
Prices range from just under $8,000 for the base Ranger 2x4 in basic green to just under $13,000 for a Ranger 4x4 HD in Turbo Silver.
Sportsman is 'nearly' all new
When Polaris rolls out the new 2009 Sportsman, which is a leader in its displacement class in the market, they'll tout that it's 99% new. So what about that other 1%? It's the shift-nob, which was apparently good enough to be kept on a machine that brings a wide range of features to the market.
This is a machine with improved steering, and a change in the front end that keeps bumps from being pushed up to the operator through the handlebars (a test we got to take and you can really feel the difference). The new models include the Sportsman 550 XP and the Sportsman 850 XP.
The Sportsman line is 99% new for 2009. Building on a successful product, the company says it has brought customer-demanded features to the new machines. Note the automotive-quality finish, this one in 'Nuclear sunset.'
The Sportsman 800 6x6 Big Boss is new for 2009, providing plenty of pull with an ATV-style platform, which a lot of customers like. There's also a new Sportsman 800 X2, designed for two passengers.
For the sports riders among our readers, the Outlaw line gets a revamp for 2009, with the 525 IRS, 525 S and 450 MXR getting a makeover.
You can learn more at your local Polaris dealer or by visiting www.polarisind.com.