UTV TEST: 2020 POLARIS GENERAL DELUXE

Putting fun in work and comfort in fun

For sure the General was happiest when we were simply hitting trails. It was impressive on tight and narrow tracks.

When Polaris came up with the concept of the General, it proved to be a whale of an idea—an idea that created or at least redefined the sport-utility segment of the UTV market. The General has all the payload, bed-load capacity and towing of all but the best utility models. The bed is not as large, but it can move a significant amount of stuff for work or for play. One of the drivers for our test has owned a Polaris 800 Sport, as well as a Polaris RZR XP 1000. He noted that the General was far more “sport” than his RZR 800, and it has power that rivals his RZR 1000. We agree with his evaluation.

WHAT IT HAS

Of the 60-inch, two-seat General models, the Deluxe is as good as it gets. It has a high-end Rockford Fosgate audio system specifically tuned for off-road adventure to enhance the interior experience. Joining the stereo are a handy rear-view mirror, sun and rain protection in the form of a plastic sport roof and Bluetooth connectivity. For performance, there are high-end shocks and new Maxxis tires.

Our test included only this short stretch of very slippery mud, but it had good manners in the slime as it did in other trail conditions.

PLAYFUL WORK POWER

As nice as the Deluxe features are, there is a lot about the basic General package that is impressive. The 100-horsepower, 999cc parallel-twin engine is back, and it has plenty of play and workability. It remains the most powerful sport utility in production. The great power isn’t just about acceleration. Most engines work fine at wide-open throttle, but the General has clutching and response that makes it an able companion on technical trails. The same is true of questionable traction. The power is partially responsible for the 1,100-pound total payload, in addition to the 1,500-pound towing capacity. It delivers broad torque throughout its rpm range with 65 pound-feet of torque to haul, pull and play.

It doesn’t matter what tasks you have in mind—work, play, camping or hunting—there is ample engine and CVT performance. Throttle response is smooth, so the General is docile and controllable at meager throttle openings. Mash the throttle pedal and the acceleration is brisk. Like our test driver noted, it feels very RZR XP 1000-ish in terms of performance. The speed builds in a hurry.

For much of our testing, the outside temperatures were around 90 degrees. On top of that, we ground through low-speed trails with little cooling getting to the radiator. Conversely, we were in deep sand and had extended sessions of full-throttle running. When it is hot outside, powerful CVT-driven machines put a lot of load on the CVT belt. Despite that, we had no belt issues with the General.

Easy-enter doors, supportive and comfortable seats, a nice center console, and dual vertical passenger grips highlight the interior.

DRIVETRAIN AND SUSPENSION

Many UTV owners stay in AWD in nearly all trail situations. In AWD the General automatically reverts to 2WD when AWD isn’t needed. As soon as the rear tires slip, all four wheels engage. While AWD is great for most work and play, a welcome VersaTrac Turf mode switch unlocks the rear differential for easier, tighter turns that won’t tear up grass or leave black marks on your driveway. On the trail you won’t use Turf mode, but around your property it is handy.

The General has a generous amount of suspension travel for a sport-utility machine at just over 12 inches in the front and just over 13 inches in the rear. Both ends employ A-arms, and the action on the Deluxe is controlled by Fox QS3 adjustable shocks. These 3-position compression-damping-adjustable shocks let you quickly adjust to the comfort and performance you desire. The shocks are preload-adjustable as well.

We wish our RZR models had an air filter element that was as easy to reach as the General does. This will ease maintenance.

FOUR-STAR COMFORT

From the beginning, one of the joys of the General experience was a stellar cockpit that is a bonus for work or play. There are premium bucket seats that are more upright than some sport machines. That is great for seeing over the hood and picking lines on the trail. The seats are reclined more and are more supportive and form-hugging than is typical for utility or sport-recreation machines. Add in half doors that are finished inside and out, and you have a machine that is easy to enter and exit, and a very nice place to spend time. It truly offers all-day comfort. The driver’s seat is adjustable.

There are convenience items like storage compartments and cup holders. We also like the fact that the General has a center console to act as an elbow rest, as well as secure passenger hand-holds. The passenger has a near-vertical hand-hold on each side. All of these features work with the tall doors to make the General a comfortable and secure-feeling machine to ride in. Riders over 6 feet tall found enough legroom. 

Maxxis Coronado tires are new for the General, and we were very satisfied with the performance and the ride quality of the tires.

Bring all your favorite music along for the Rockford Fosgate audio system. It has an antenna if you are in an area that has over-the-air radio, or you can connect a Bluetooth device with music or other audio storage.

In the dash are dual-sweep analog dials combined with a 4-inch LCD display. You may select blue or red backlighting and change the brightness. It shows service intervals, speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip meter, clock, hour meter, gear indicator, fuel gauge, coolant temperature, voltmeter, service indicator and codes, seatbelt reminder light, gear indicator, and a DC outlet. A 4500-pound-rated Warn winch is standard on the General Deluxe. Adding additional-powered accessories is a snap with the General’s six-position bus bar. The plug-and-play design makes the General ready for audio and lighting upgrades, heating, plows and more.

We doubt that many General purchases will be made with beach or dune sand in mind, but we would willingly hit the dunes with it.

THE TEST

We spent our time in the General spinning around the trails where the Nevada, Arizona and Utah borders come together, and we were pleased and impressed with the range of terrain conditions we encountered, not to mention how well the General Deluxe handled them. We had a highly capable, 1000cc, 64-inch-wide sport machine with us, and the General Deluxe held its own with little problem.

It is obvious from the suspension tuning that the General is aimed at the sport end of the spectrum when compared to other utility machines. It clearly has better bottoming resistance than you might expect. Compared to past General test units, the Fox shocks on the General Deluxe do offer a great deal of comfort to the ride. They deal with single large impacts better than, for example, whoop sections.

We were running on brutal, sharp and edged rocks, so we had kept the shocks set on position one, the softest setting. The trails got rolling with G-outs, so we bumped the shocks stiffer for control. The stiffer settings improved the ride in G-outs and rolling whoops and bumps, but there was not much loss of rock comfort that we could tell. Shock damping adjustments are easy and require no tools.

At slow-crawling speeds, the suspension is smooth and reactive.

Having the doors finished with a fully molded inner panel gives the interior a very finished look. We like these doors.

During all of our driving, the handling was stable with minimum body roll. The steering is accurate as well. Maxxis Coronado tires are new for the General, and we found them to be an excellent choice for all-around use. We crossed smooth river rocks slimed with slick mud, plowed beach sand and pummeled rocks without issue.

The sport machine we had along did handle whoop sections a bit better, but at a distinct sacrifice of low-speed ride quality. Ground clearance required more thought on the General than the sport model as well. Because of the trails and the other car we had along, we pushed the General harder and longer than we normally would a machine of this type, and it handled the pressure well. In-cab comfort was superior in the General, and we felt no need to jump ship to the sportier machine.

Some of the trails were extremely tight and slow, and we are not sure that any of our Polaris RZR models would have made the route unscathed. It reinforced our appreciation of nimble machines with a short wheelbase.

When you are making quick transitions, you appreciate the wheelbase, yet during our high-speed two-tracking, it was plenty calm and planted.

Fox QS3 shocks add to the price of the Deluxe model, but the suspension has excellent comfort and ride control.

CONCLUSION 

On tight trails the General Deluxe two-seater is perfectly at home. It does everything well, and you can look at other machines and smile knowing you are riding in greater comfort than they are. Both the base General and the General Sport retail for $15,999. The General Premium is $18,299, but it has the base ZF Sach shocks and no roof or entertainment system. Our General Deluxe is $20,799, and we have no strong feelings about the sound system, but the roof and especially the Fox shocks are upgrades well worth paying more for. We would be perfectly happy to spend time in this General on any trail.

In its fifth year of production, the two-seat General remains a good-looking machine. It has our favorite cabin and ample performance.

2020 POLARIS GENERAL DELUXE

Engine type 4-stroke, DOHC twin cylinder

Displacement 999cc

Bore x stroke 93 mm x 73.5 mm

Fuel system Electronic fuel injection

Fuel capacity 9.5 gal.

Starting system Electric

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/travel:

Front Independent double A-arm/12.25” 

Rear Independent double A-arm/13.25”

Tires:

Front 27×9-14 Maxxis Coronado

Rear 27×11-14 Maxxis Coronado

Wheels Black cast aluminum

Brakes 4-wheel hydraulic disc with dual-bore front calipers

Wheelbase 81 inches

Length/width/height 118.2”/62.5”/75” 

Ground clearance 12.0”

Payload capacity 1100 lb.

Towing capacity 1500 lb.

Dry weight 1,544 lb.

Colors Sunset Red, Black Pearl

MSRP $20,799

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