168-horsepower joyride—been slammed back in the seat lately? By the staff of Dirt Wheels
There is a line in the Disney cartoon version of Aladdin where the genie finally sees some promise from Aladdin. He exclaims, “He can be taught!” One thing that you can be certain of with Polaris is that they can be taught. It is no secret that the turbo models have had some teething problems, but the company made good on those problems and took steps to ensure that the 2017 model will not have those issues.
Upgrades for the 2017 RZR XP Turbo started with more horsepower—a jump from 144 to 168 to be precise. To ensure that the engine could deal with the added power and more boost, a new head gasket was ordered up to accompany forged pistons, high-strength connecting rods and sodium-filled exhaust valves. New cams designed for the more powerful motor, a better engine-management system with improved knock control and high-flow fuel injectors all combine to make the engine more robust.
Next on the list was cooling. The turbos have two radiators. A small front radiator is part of the turbo intercooler system, and the larger radiator behind it handles the actual engine coolant. Polaris made the engine radiator so much larger that it had to spread the front part of the frame and increase the grill opening to nearly double the size. The added size also makes sure that more of the coolant radiator gets air that hasn’t already passed through the intercooler radiator. Our testing was conducted in sand dunes at 100 degrees, and we never had a hint that the engine was hot, but things stored in the glovebox came out very warm, so we know the radiators are dealing with some heat.
Hot, powerful, CVT-driven machines put a lot of load on the CVT belt. For the Turbo, Polaris developed a new and stronger belt. A new belt cover is more tightly molded around the CVT, some cut wear surfaces were upgraded from aluminum to tougher stainless steel. The CVT case vents and engine air-intake vents are twice as tall as in 2016, and they are two-sided, so there is vastly more intake area. Happily there were no belt issues at all despite the heavy loads of dune running and the unseasonable high temperatures.
DRIVETRAIN AND SUSPENSION
We hadn’t heard of many drivetrain issues for the 2016 Turbos, but Polaris opted for stronger transfer cases and axles to ensure reliability. We drove almost exclusively in AWD, and we didn’t have any problems at all with the drivetrain. For suspension, Polaris stayed with proven A-arm front suspension and trailing-arm rear suspension with stronger and lighter tubular radius rods. Fox Podium internal bypass shocks are used on all four wheels. Internal bypass shocks use bypass holes in the shock body where the shock piston travels. Initially, at the beginning of the travel, all of the bypass holes are open, so the action is smooth. As the shocks move deeper into the travel, the shock piston closes off more of the bypass holes for more damping control. If the shaft speed demands more oil flow than the bypass holes can manage, oil is forced through the shock valving with added oil control. Once the shocks are deep into the travel, the piston goes past all of the bypass holes, and the shock piston ports and shims control all of the damping. By using this design, the shocks have damping that is both speed- and position-sensitive. With 18 inches of rear travel and 16 inches in the front, Polaris has done an amazing job developing suspension that can handle sand whoops at speed, as well as rock crawling in low range.
Finally, with added power and speed, comes the need for better brakes. We can say that the brakes are vastly more powerful, but since most of the test was in sand, we didn’t have to punish the brakes much. We are looking forward to some traction that will let us enjoy the braking power more.
Our test was conducted over two long days in the infamous Glamis sand dune area. It was a busy weekend with plenty of whoops and chop to challenge the suspension. Glamis dunes are also a fine test of bottoming resistance, since some transitions from dune to flat are quite abrupt. The doors open easily and close crisply, and the shoulder belts work fine, though a harness system might make more sense in a car this capable. The engine fires instantly and settles easily into a smooth idle, and that trait never changed no matter how hard we ran the car in the dunes. Like all CVTs, the XP Turbo isn’t absolutely smooth when taking off easily, but the engagement is nothing you can criticize.
As soon as the Turbo is rolling, you can feel the new steering system that requires less effort and less rotation lock to lock. The result is that you rarely—if ever—need to hand-over-hand the steering. And with this sort of performance, keeping two hands on the wheel is prudent. If anything, it feels like Polaris made the power smoother and easier to control at low throttle openings. For technical riding and rock crawling, that should be a bonus. But once you stand on the gas, things start to happen in a hurry. The acceleration feel is just stunning, and that was in sand with stock tires!
We started to get a feel for the power in short bursts of acceleration, but there was enough tire spin to mute the feeling. Then we got into more open areas where we could stay on the throttle hard for longer times. It is even more impressive while accelerating uphill. We are sure that the boost tapers off at some point, but it was always pulling while we were driving. A driver we were with raced a two-seat, lightly modified 2016 XP Turbo against a four-seat 2017 XP 4 Turbo. Both machines were full of passengers. Even with the heavier machine with four passengers seated, the 2017 was faster than the two-seater!
When you are making quick transitions from dune to dune, the steering remains light but secure, and we could even make sharp turns without the need to reposition our hands. In the sand, we needed to be easy on the brakes, since stabbing the brake pedal would jerk us to a stop and drag in the sand.
There is no question that Polaris takes being king of the UTV hill very seriously. With the new Turbo, it has staked out the position of most powerful production UTV. The amazing thing is how drivable and docile the machine can be at small throttle openings. We are also impressed with how quiet the exhaust note is. Nothing about the XP Turbo sounds mean until roost from the tires are hitting your machine as it speeds away. With a two-year warranty, it is clear that Polaris believes in the product as well. Despite the new grill opening and front fascia, we didn’t have anyone notice that we were piloting a 2017 model. That makes the 2017 Polaris RZR XP Turbo the greatest sleeper of all time.
2017 POLARIS RZR XP TURBO
Engine ProStar Turbo H.O.; 4-stroke, DOHC, twin-cylinder turbocharged
Bore x stroke na mm x na mm
Fuel system Electronic fuel injection
Fuel capacity 9.5 gal.
Starting system Electric
Final drive Shaft
Front Dual A-arm w/ stabilizer bar and 16″ travel, 2.5″ Fox Podium internal bypass shocks with 24-position adjustable clickers.
Rear Trailing arm w/ stabilizer bar and 18″ travel, 3” Fox Podium internal bypass shocks w/ 24-position adjustable clickers (remote reservoir)
Front 29 x 9-14 Maxxis Bighorn
Rear 29 x 11-14 Maxxis Bighorn
Wheels Black cast aluminum
Brakes 4-wheel hydraulic disc w/ triple-bore front and dual-bore rear calipers
Ground clearance 13.5″
Payload capacity 740 lb.
Towing capacity N/A
Dry weight 1,495 lb.
Colors Cruiser Black, Titanium Matte Metallic