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UTV FIRST RIDE: POLARIS ACE 900 XC

December 1, 2016
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This Ace is wild! By the staff of Dirt Wheels

LINK TO ACE 900 XC VIDEO: WATCH NOW!

When you stab the throttle from a standing start, the Ace 900 XC leaps forward. If the front wheels kick off something, the front will jump into a full wheelie.
When you stab the throttle from a standing start, the Ace 900 XC leaps forward. If the front wheels kick off something, the front will jump into a full wheelie.

 

We may have mentioned before that one of our industry friends has quipped that the Polaris Ace is for UTV enthusiasts who don’t have any friends. With the Ace 900 XC, your friends are very lucky you don’t have room for them. The 900 XC mixes wild performance with a laugh-factory fun factor. It allows (and encourages) you to drive with speed and aggressiveness that is simply not compatible with the image and capabilities of its shorter-travel, narrower-tracked and wheelbase-limited smaller brothers. In horsepower and suspension travel, the Ace 900 XC is most closely related to the popular RZR S 900. The S 900 is plenty powerful, but the Ace XC is close to 200 pounds lighter and has a wheelbase that’s 11.5 inches shorter! If you have the front wheels against a rock or log, full throttle from a standing start will end in a big wheelie!

 

Polaris added legroom to the Spartan single-seat cockpit. It is easier to enter and exit the machine as well.
Polaris added legroom to the Spartan single-seat cockpit. It is easier to enter and exit the machine as well.

 

BOLD POWER

Polaris didn’t say specifically where the difference in power came from, but the Ace 900 is rated at 79 horsepower, while the RZR S 900 is rated at 75 horsepower. With the lighter machine and the shorter wheelbase, we can say that whatever the number claimed, the machine has big power available at all throttle openings.

 

Polaris wisaely keeps the air intakes high and on the sides of the bed to keep them away from water and dust.
Polaris wisaely keeps the air intakes high and on the sides of the bed to keep them away from water and dust.

 

At a dry weight of 1075 pounds, the 900 XC is roughly 300 pounds heavier than a 1000 Sportsman 4WD quad but as much as 500 pounds lighter than some high-end sport UTV two-seaters. A-arm suspension is new to the Ace 570 for 2017, and it was naturally selected for the 900 XC as well. For aggressive driving the suspension action is vastly improved. While the Ace 570 has just over 9 inches of travel, the 11-inch-wider 900 XC has just over 12 inches of travel controlled by tuned Ace 900 XC-specific compression-adjustable Walker Evans needle shocks. Also, mounted in the front and rear of the machine are sway bars. Altogether the suspension is far superior to the smaller Ace models for rough and fast driving.

 

For fast and aggressive driving the Ace 900 XC is at an entirely different level than the Ace 500 or Ace 570. It is 11 inches wider, so there are some trails it can’t manage.
For fast and aggressive driving the Ace 900 XC is at an entirely different level than the Ace 500 or Ace 570. It is 11 inches wider, so there are some trails it can’t manage.

 

HANDLING & FEATURES

At the end of that well-tuned A-arm suspension are cast-aluminum wheels with 27-inch tires (the Ace 570 has 25-inch tires). Our first experience with the GBC Dirt Commander tires was on the Polaris General. They offer fine performance on a wide variety of terrain while wearing well. With standard EPS we didn’t feel the added heft of the 27-inch tires at all.

 

This is what 11 inches of added width, 3 incahes more suspension travel and abandoning the MacPherson strut front end did for the Ace.
This is what 11 inches of added width, 3 incahes more suspension travel and abandoning the MacPherson strut front end did for the Ace.

 

Our ride experience was at a private 1200-acre ranch near Great Falls, Montana. All of the trails in the area are designed to be sustainable. They were on the narrow side for a 59-inch-wide machine, but they provided a good test. There were no true whoop sections, but there were rough rocky areas, as well as substantial G-outs on the trails. Unfortunately, no publication got more than about 30 minutes with the Ace 900 XC, since there was only one unit available. Despite the limited time, we did get some quality trail time in and came to some conclusions. In general, the trails snaked around in random twists, but there were enough climbs and a few straight sections long enough to feel the power and suspension.

 

Getting to the air filter and to the top of the engine is easy. There is no reason to postpone critical routine maintenance.
Getting to the air filter and to the top of the engine is easy. There is no reason to postpone critical routine maintenance.

 

We didn’t have time to check out all of the 900 XC features since we were busy roosting Montana trails, but there is an all-digital gauge with the usual array: speedometer, odometer, tach, two trip meters, hour meter, gear indicator, fuel gauge, AWD indicator, volt meter, coolant temp, high-temp light and clock. But, it also has Bluetooth connectivity to manage your cell phone with missed call, missed text, cell-signal strength, cell-battery-strength indicators and even a DC outlet to keep that cell phone charged. We mostly watched the numbers on the speedo go up very quickly.

 

Hammering through rocks demonstrates how well the Walker Evans needle shocks work. They make a modest amount of travel feel like a lot.
Hammering through rocks demonstrates how well the Walker Evans needle shocks work. They make a modest amount of travel feel like a lot.

 

TIME TO TEST

While we see the humor of our friend’s joke about the Ace line, Polaris wouldn’t be expanding the Ace lineup if it wasn’t making business and financial sense. At the introduction of the new Ace 900 XC, Polaris did give us some clues about Ace buyers: quite often they go to families who buy two at the same time. The original Ace (replaced by the Ace 500 for 2017) and the follow-up Ace 570 have a narrow focus on weight- and width-limited quad trails, but they are aimed at drivers who prefer a roll cage rather than sitting atop a quad.

For 2017 all three Ace models are more comfortable with more leg room and eased entry and egress. Things are still compact for drivers over 6 feet tall, but there is definitely room enough. Polaris’ shifter is on the crunchy side, but once you are in gear, the engagement is solid and never slips out. We found no need for low range in Montana. As we said earlier, stabbing the throttle at a stop nearly lifts the tires in high range. Acceleration is brisk at all times, and even when we had our foot in it accelerating up over jumbled rocks, the car bucked a bit, but still built speed rapidly. This is no machine for beginners. As a short-wheelbase UTV (though long for an Ace), it tends to get light in the rear when you are hammering the throttle. It is pretty well mannered for a small but powerful car. Fortunately, Polaris spent the time to make sure that the chassis and suspension are sorted.

In 2WD the car is more rear-end-loose, or at least it was in the dry conditions in Montana. Engaging AWD calms things down quite a bit, but any Polaris always feels aggressive. The front drive doesn’t kick in until the rear wheels are spinning a bit, so the car always has a hint of slide when you are turning with energy. It isn’t a problem, just a trait of the AWD system, and it is a bunch of fun.

 

 Walker Evans did a great job making 12.5 inches of travel feel like much more. As always, Polaris kept the exhaust quiet but without neutering the tone.
Walker Evans did a great job making 12.5 inches of travel feel like much more. As always, Polaris kept the exhaust quiet but without neutering the tone.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS 

From the moment we heard of the first Ace we had this idea in mind of what the machine would be like—a compact, nimble single-seater that could live up to the RZR family name. Our first impression is a strong one. A 59-inch-wide car never felt so wide, and 12ish inches of suspension never felt like so much. And, 79 horsepower never felt so close to too much. We have always felt that one of the appeals of an Ace was the ability to put it in a truck bed. We didn’t check, but Polaris claims the machine will still fit in a full-size truck bed, but it will have to drive over the wheel wells. We have a feeling that whatever accommodations are required for the wider machine, the 900 XC will be worth the effort.

 

ace-900-xc_5

 

POLARIS ACE 900 XC

Engine SOHC twin-cylinder 4-stroke

Displacement 875cc

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 5.25 gal.

Starting system Electric

Final drive CVT to shaft

Suspension/travel:

  Front Dual A-arm w/ stabilizer bar, Walker Evans clicker needle shocks/12.3”

  Rear Dual A-arm w/ stabilizer bar, Walker Evans clicker needle shocks/12.6”

Tires:

  Front GBC Dirt Commander 27×9-12

Rear GBC Dirt Commander 27×11-12

Brakes 4-wheel hydraulic discs

Wheelbase 67.5”

Length/width/height 94”/59”/72”

Ground clearance 13.0”

Payload capacity 575 lb.

Towing capacity Not recommended

Dry weight 1075 lb.

Colors Matte silver pearl

MSRP Starting at $12,999

Contact www.polaris.com

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