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DIRT WHEELS TEST: POLARIS SPORTSMAN 500 X2

 
(7/31/2006)
 About the only thing a typical ATV rider loves more than riding is to show someone else how much fun it is to ride. For years now it has been illegal—and logically so—to take a fellow rider with you, sitting directly behind you. This has led to the introduction of a whole new class of off-road vehicles called side-by-sides, where the passenger sits next to you, in  a conventional auto-style vehicle, such as Yamaha’s Rhino, Arctic Cat’s Prowler,  and Polaris’s Ranger side-by-sides.These machines have proven to be extremely popular, but there is still a desire among a certain percentage of ATV riders for a more direct, more standard ATV experience when exploring the woods aboard a quad. Bombardier first introduced a two-up quad a few years ago. These machines were intentionally designed to accommodate two riders, one behind the other, and had specially constructed and lengthened wheelbases, multiple passenger handholds, and a stepped-up foot rest area and rear seat back for the accompanying passenger.



LEGAL LIMITS
Unfortunately, that did not stop some riders from taking a passenger with them aboard modified single seat quads. This is, and remains, illegal. Conventional ATVs are not designed to be ridden two-up. Just because the seat was long enough for two people did not mean the machine could be ridden this way.Two-up riding on a conventional ATV adversely affects the overall handling of the machine. These quads usually have no allowances for handholds for the passenger, and the standard length and wheelbase make them more susceptible to coming over backwards on hillclimbs or being unstable on sidehill situations. Simply put, two riders aboard a machine not designed for it make it a more dangerous vehicle to operate. To combat this, Bombardier, Arctic Cat, and now Polaris have come up with specially built two-seater quads. These machines have been designed from the ground up to carry two people (a driver and passenger) without the dangers associated with riding a stock single-seat ATV.  The latest in this new generation of legal two-up quads is Polaris’s new X2.

HOW IT IS SAFER?
What sets the Polaris and its Bombardier and Arctic Cat companion two-up quads apart is that they have increased the distance of the rear end and the wheelbase quite considerably from stock. In the case of the new Polaris X2, the standard Sportsman 500 wheelbase has grown from 51 inches to 57 inches, while the length has gone from 81 inches to a whopping 93 inches. The longer wheelbase and length has made the machine much more stable for the rider and passenger. The X2, along with its Bombardier and Arctic Cat counterparts, also have special handholds for the passenger and raised rear seat footrests, for improved passenger input and active weight shifting for increased control when riding. These modifications help to make these vehicles safer to operate with two people aboard and allow for more rider and passenger input on the trail.



CONVERT A QUAD
Another neat feature of the newest generation of two-up ATVs is that they can be easily converted into a single operator machine. This usually consists of simply removing the two-up passenger seat back and installing either a seat insert, or moving the seat back forward.  In the case of the Polaris X2, you also have the option of using  its standard rear cargo dump bed box for packing up to 400 pounds of gear in the back.  It transforms from a single passenger vehicle, with the dump bed, to a two-passenger quad by simply pulling up the two-seat attachment that folds into the rear dump bed. Unlike its two-up counterparts from Bombardier and Arctic  Cat, the Polaris X2 combines the features of their rear dump bed box with the versatility of a two-seat ATV.

FEATURE CREATURE
Besides its two-up and dump bed conversion feature, the new Polaris X2 offers up several more performance features for this type of vehicle. It has the same fuel-injection system as its 500 and 800 Sportsman cousins. This allows for smooth engine operation, regardless of the elevation the machine is operated at. No need to fine tune a carb to suit higher elevations. It also has long travel MacPherson strut front suspension with 8.2 inches of travel and a fully independent rear double A-arm suspension, with 8.8 inches of travel on the back end.There is also an anti-roll bar to help prevent the back end from increased sway and pitching on rugged terrain.
Polaris incorporates its All Wheel Drive locking front differential for full time 4WD when needed. The front wheels sense when power is required and the quad transfer torque to the wheels needing it the most. The X2 also has a 2WD option and a special “Turf” mode that allows for a claimed 20 percent tighter turning radius than standard 2x4 mode. This minimizes damage to softer terrains, such as grass, when operating the machine on large lawns and such.
The engine on the X2 is also the same as that found on the powerful 500 Sportsman 4x4. It uses a 499cc, four-valve, liquid-cooled, four-stroke design with a 39mm throttle body on the fuel-injection system. A standard Polaris PVT fully automatic transmission offers up park, reverse, neutral, high and low gear ranges.
A receiver hitch is also standard, as are dual rear work and brake lights and a huge six-gallon fuel tank. Digital speedo, tach, odo, trip, hour, fuel, and temperature warning lights are also standard on the new X2.

RIDE REVIEW
Polaris has incorporated a lot of performance into the new X2 and made it into a versatile work and play vehicle. To see for ourselves how well it performs, we took it out to one of our favorite test areas, which consists of miles and miles of rocky, hilly terrain that would tax the machine to the fullest. Here’s how it did in our test.

LOCK AND LOAD
We rode the machine in both its single operator and two rider configuration. The transformation from a single seat ATV, with the rear dump bed box, to a two-up quad  is quite simple. You simply pull the rear bed hatch up, fold down the one-up seat, pull up the two-up seat back and  lock it in place. In a matter of a few seconds, it is now ready for both driver and passenger.Our only hitch in the entire operation was getting the seat back to fold down properly when transforming the machine back to single rider operation. It occasionally stuck and was hard to lock down. Polaris informs us that they have come up with a modification for the seat latch that will eliminate this problem and are making it available on all future models. When operating the machine in single-rider mode, you have a full 400 pounds capacity rear dump bed cargo area that comes in mighty handy. While you still have the rear bed available in two-up mode, there is quite a bit less space available for large coolers or other big items on the back of the machine.

TRAIL RIDE
The overall ride in both single and two-up mode is superb. The traditional Polaris comfy seat and plush suspension make this a very comfortable quad to operate, even with two people aboard. The MacPherson front struts and independent rear shocks offer up a very soft, almost couch-like ride, even at higher speeds on rough trails.
The rear shocks and their anti-roll swaybar help contribute to this super soft and cushy ride. There is no hint of body roll in the corners, and with its longer wheelbase and extended length, the X2 is stable on hills and has a confident feel, even in off-camber situations. With its ample passenger handholds and raised footrests, the X2’s passenger has a more active role when traveling behind the operator and can react to varying terrain conditions more easily. There is  plenty of power and torque available for the driver to navigate up and over obstacles on the trail. The Sportsman 500’s fuel-injection system makes for very smooth power transitions, and the AWD system engages quickly and easily to get the power to the ground when needed. The PVT  auto tranny has both a high and low range and the ratios seem well suited to hauling heavy loads or higher speed trail riding. Even with its longer 57-inch wheelbase, and extended 93-inch length,  the X2  handled tight mountain trails surprisingly easy and turns well. It also has a light steering effect.

LOTS OF CAPACITY
The overall versatility of the X2 was even more impressive. The selectable “Turf” mode allows you to operate the machine on softer terrain without tearing up the ground. This also allows for a much tighter turning radius for load-carrying duties around the ranch or farm. You also have the standard rear dump bed cargo box  that can carry up to 400 pounds of cargo or gear, as well as the front rack which can carry up to 90 pounds extra, for a total of 490 pounds.  We also like the integrated front storage compartment, with its hinged cover for keeping items out of the weather. Overall towing capacity of the X2 is an impressive 1225 pounds and it comes with a standard receiver-style hitch. Fuel capacity is a largish six gallons for extended rides or work around the farm. Seat height is a very reasonable 34 inches and the overall dry weight is quite hefty at 798 pounds dry.

OVERALL CONCLUSIONS
The Polaris X2 is one of the most versatile and comfortable ATVs we have ever ridden, single seater or two-up. It has good power and  surprising torque. It also has agile handling manners (in both one-up and two-up modes) and with its anti-roll independent rear suspension and MacPherson strut front suspension, has one of the most plush suspensions of any utility quad we’ve driven. This is a well thought out, capable machine that easily transforms from a rugged work vehicle to a fun-to-ride trail machine that you and a friend can enjoy, safely and legally. That makes it a winner in anyone’s book.
 


Engine: Single cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-valve,4-stroke
Displacement: 499 cc
Carburetion: EFI/w 39mm Throttle Body
Starting: Electric with recoil backup
Drive: Shaft
Transmission: Polaris PVT w/EBS
(Engine Braking System) P/R/N/L/H 
Suspension:
Front: MacPherson strut with 8.2" travel
Rear: Fully independent double A-arm w/anti-roll bar; 8.75" travel
Brakes:
Front: Single-lever hydraulic disc
Rear: Hydraulic rear foot brake
Tires:
Front: 25x8-12
Rear: 25x11-10
Wheelbase: 57"
Turning Radius: (inside tire) 82"
Dry weight: 798 lb.
Length/width/height: 93"x 48"x 48"
Seat height: 34"
Fuel capacity: 6 Gallons
Front-Rack capacity: *90 lb.
Rear-Rack capacity: *400 lb.
Hitch: Std / receiver
Hitch Towing capacity: *1225 lb.
Ground clearance: 11"
Instrumentation: Digital speedometer/Odo/Tach/Trip/Hour/High Beam/Gear Indicator/Fuel Gauge/Warning Lights/Hi Temp / Low Battery/Rear Work Light/ DC Outlet
Colors: Black/Silver; Red/Black
Suggested retail price: $7899

Topic: Tests

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WARNING: Much of the action de­pict­­ed in this magazine is potentially dan­gerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced ex­­perts or professionals. Do not at­tempt to duplicate any stunts that are be­­yond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear.
Copyright 2008 Hi-Torque Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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