2020 POLARIS SPORTSMAN XP 1000 S

— Testing the widest new ATV —

By the staff of Dirt Wheels

When it comes to off-road, Polaris is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. There are several reasons why Polaris has such a strong position in the dirt market. For one, the company builds machines that people want to own. That may sound ridiculously simple, but that idea escapes a lot of companies. Next, Polaris continues to push limits with all of the vehicle types it manufactures. That “push” has never been more obvious than with the new-for-2020 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 S. From a distance (and from the side) it looks like a Sportsman, but perhaps a long-travel one.

When you see it from the front or the rear, you realize that you are looking at something quite different from a run-of-the-mill 4×4 utility quad. This thing is the monster truck of 4×4 quads—“S” must stand for supersize. With a track width of 55 inches, this baby is just over 7 inches wider than a normal XP 1000 4×4 quad! It expands the limits of 4×4 suspension travel, power, ground clearance, track width and price at $14,999.

From this angle you see how wide this machine is. That winch and the arched A-arms are stock. It has plenty of articulation.

THE MACHINE
We hesitate to suggest that the regular Sportsman XP 1000 isn’t a powerful monster of a quad. At 90 horsepower and suspension travel equal to a Yamaha 700 Raptor sport quad, the Sportsman is even 3 inches wider than the Raptor! When we first viewed the Sportsman XP 1000 S, it was under an ATV cover meant for a normal 4×4 quad. It stretched the cover like a groom trying to get married in the suit from his grade-school graduation. The cover could barely get over the tops of the tires.

Polaris started with a main frame constructed with 31-percent-stronger tubing. To that it added wider suspension arms, and the fronts are arched for maximum clearance. With strength in mind, the Sportsman XP 1000 S has the same front differential and half-shafts as the Ranger 1000 UTV. That change nets a 15-percent strength increase. Continuing the bulletproofing, Polaris redesigned the transmission to make it 25-percent stronger. Both the Engine Braking System (EBS) and Active Descent Control are standard on the Sportsman version of the S.

Think of this as the roost distribution center. The center exhaust is quiet but throaty. The suspension offers amazing travel.

A SMOOTH RIDE
The rear suspension is designed to eliminate scrub. A vehicle with scrub is wider at mid-travel than it is fully compressed or extended. In other words, the rear track moves in and out as the wheels move through the stroke of the suspension. Polaris claims to have banished scrub. Simply lengthening the suspension arms extends the travel. The XP 1000 S has 4 more inches of rear travel than a Yamaha 700 Raptor and 3 more than a Yamaha YFZ450R. The Sportsman S has more front travel as well. Plus, the track width is 10 inches wider than the Raptor and 8 inches wider than the YFZ450R!

The new Sportsman XP 1000 S is fitted with Walker Evans 2-inch shocks, complete with compression adjustment and dual coil springs with threaded preload adjustment rings. Walker Evans Racing is renowned for needle UTV shocks that have speed- and position-sensitive compression damping. In the case of the Sportsman, the shocks are of conventional design without a needle, and they also have adjustable rebound damping.

There are 6-ply, 27-inch-tall Duro PowerGrip V2 tires wrapped around 14-inch aluminum wheels, which, in conjunction with the healthy suspension system, let the 1000 S sport 14.5 inches of ground clearance. All of these factors contribute to a smooth ride in chop while also being able to soak up hard hits, tackle deep ruts, crawl over boulders and avoid getting hung up on trail detritus.

These Walker Evans Racing shocks work very well. They have adjustable preload, compression and rebound settings.

HUMAN INTERFACE
Polaris’ ProSteer design features a dual pitman arm and drag-link setup. This system claims to eliminate bumpsteer and minimizes the feedback to the handlebars. Polaris’ variable-assist electronic power steering system is smooth and precise. If you ride a machine without EPS, you will quickly learn that it is a welcome benefit when the trail gets rough. The usual jolting hits to the wheels don’t wrench the bar side to side, and the EPS works better when it senses that you are riding faster, slower or steering input has increased. We actually hit good-sized rocks in a sand wash with one front wheel, and we didn’t even have to hold the grips tightly.

The Sportsman riding position is upright with a comfortable and spacious cockpit. The handlebar is swept rearward, which makes turning the machine comfortable while in a sitting position. When you stand up, the sweep could be a bit straighter, but no serious complaints. Standing is easy with proper floorboards, but the combination of the engine and CVT between your feet, the machine is wide between your feet. The throttle lever is wide and easy to modulate. The Sportsman XP 1000 S has three power modes, and we employed them to dial down the response for tricky sections.

Polaris utilizes dual hydraulic disc brakes front and rear, but they are actuated by a single handlebar-mounted lever that actuates the front and rear brakes at the same time. There is no lever that only controls the fronts; however, the foot-brake pedal engages only the rear brakes. While the handlebar-mounted lever is comfortable for your fingers and easy to use, we have found that the foot-controlled brake lever requires some thought. The brakes are strong, but the initial bite is somewhat numb. Our staff shared riding duties with ATV and UTV pro Nic Granlund, and he was not a fan of the brake power or engagement feel. We rarely utilize the foot lever.

This in one of two handy compartments that Polaris has engineered into the Sportsman platform.

POWERPLANT
The XP 1000 engine was already a 90-horsepower monster, so there was no need for a change there. Oddly, in the S model the engine is rated at 89 horses. Connected to the powerful and responsive engine is a CV-style transmission that comes with high and low forward range, neutral, reverse and park. These are easily selected by a stick-type-shift handle on the right side of the 5.25-gallon-capacity gas tank.

The Sportsman has what Polaris calls On-Demand, all-wheel drive to all four wheels. When you select (switch on the right handlebar) four-wheel drive, the computer will feed power to the front wheels to pull you through, or out of difficult situations when it senses the rear wheels slipping. We rarely miss having a front-locking differential.

The last position on the 4×4 selector switch engages the Active Descent Control. This, in concert with the strong engine braking system, utilizes all four wheels to slow the Sportsman down with the compression from the engine. The system really works, and you can feel the front wheels engage and slow you down like the rears are doing from the EBS.

The redefined Engine Braking System does exactly what Polaris states—it makes for smoother deceleration. There isn’t a coasting feature, so it is engaged at all times.

This handy display has all the information you need on multiple screens. The switch on the left controls performance.

GET THE JOB DONE
The Sportsman XP 1000 S is a super-fun machine to ride, but fun isn’t the only thing it does well. When it comes to work, there are front and rear cargo bins and large and effective front and rear racks. The front handles 200 pounds and the rear a whopping 300 pounds. You must pay attention to the max payload of 715 pounds. That number includes the weight of all cargo and the rider. Any rider weight over 215 pounds cuts into what the racks can safely handle. Towing is rated at a whopping 1750 pounds. To put that in perspective, we take a 6-by-12-foot enclosed trailer to go camping and riding. This quad can tow that trailer with a sport quad and all of our camping equipment in it!

Back to the fun part, our time with this machine was limited, but it truly is amazing. It handles UTV-made two-tracks with greater ease than any quad we have ridden. When the trail drops on one side, the wide stance allows you to feel completely confident. The steering is effortless and feels like it has a built-in stabilizer.

All of the handlebar switches are serious about multitasking. Note that the factory winch has a clean little switch here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There is no question that this is a monster of a quad, and one that is wide. It may, in fact, be too wide for many race organizations and, of course, 50-inch trail systems. A dry weight around 880 pounds puts the ready-to-ride weight over 900 pounds. Honestly, it is so powerful that it does not feel that heavy. It is easy to ride hard and fast. It gobbles the rough, though self-preservation tempered our right thumb in giant whoop sections. It is easy to tell that it has suspension travel beyond any production sport quad, and the combination of almost 15 inches of ground clearance and the 55-inch track width make it ultra capable and comfortable in the rough. The On-Demand all-wheel-drive system works well in all types of terrain, and it is rare that we would ever utilize rear-wheel drive only.

The brakes are smooth yet strong, and the cockpit is roomy for any rider. The main bodywork looks like a normal Sportsman, but the fender extensions are much wider for the new stance. Towing capacity exceeds what we would generally use a quad for. We loved this machine in the desert and can’t wait to get it in the woods and roost some dunes. The performance is massive and the suspension prodigious, but the size is substantial and the price is supersized as well. Only you can say whether it is for you, but if it fits in your truck and on your trails without flattening your credit rating, grab one.

If you are interested in checking out Polaris’ 2020 lineup of ATVs and UTVs, go to www.polaris.com or go to your local Polaris dealer.

Looking directly from the side you don’t easily see how unique this machine is. It is literally in a class of its own.

SPECS: 2020 POLARIS SPORTSMAN XP 1000 S

Engine ProStar SOHC 4-stroke twin cylinder

Displacement 952cc

Starter Electric 

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 5.25 gal.

Transmission Automatic CVT

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Sealed, arched high-clearance dual A-arm/11.6” travel

Rear Sealed dual A-arm rolled IRS/14” travel

Brakes Single-lever 4-wheel hydraulic disc with hydraulic rear foot brake

Tires:

Front 27×9 Duro PowerGrip V2

Rear 27×11 Duro PowerGrip V2

Length/width/height 83.25”/55”/49”

Ground clearance 14.5”

Wheelbase 57.4”

Curb weight 970 lb.

Rack capacity:

Front 200 lb.

Rear 300 lb.

Towing capacity 1750 lb.

Colors Orange Madness

Price From $14,999

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