UTV TEST: 2021 POLARIS RANGER XP 1000 NORTHSTAR EDITION ULTIMATE

Full cab, heat, AC, power windows and more! By the staff of Dirt Wheels

Even though the NorthStar Ultimate is great for working on the ranch, it looks right at home blazing trails and playing around camp.

Polaris’ Ranger lineup has been a trusted industry leader for over a decade, and for good reason. The base model comes standard with a great selection of features like plenty of torque, a 2500-pound towing capacity, front bumper, full skid plate and a comfortable cab. The NorthStar Edition is like the Cadillac of the Ranger collection. It comes stock with the fully enclosed Polaris Ranger Pro Shield cab system with glass windows and in-cab heat and air conditioning! It also has a windshield washer and wiper, but the side windows are manual crank. NorthStar also comes with a Polaris Pro 4,500-pound winch.

If the NorthStar Ranger is the Cadillac of Rangers, then the $27,599 Ranger XP 1000 NorthStar Ultimate is the Rolls-Royce of Rangers. It can be had in Ghost White, Burgundy Metallic, Matte Navy or Polaris Pursuit Camo. It has everything the NorthStar has, but adds GPS with the Ride Command 7-inch infotainment system (with in-dash speakers), 29-inch tires and 14-inch wheels, LED headlights, a Pro Shield full-glass tip-out windshield and power windows in the poly doors!

The comfort and technology make you forget you are in an off-road vehicle, and it makes getting up to do chores, camp, explore, hunt or fish a whole lot easier.

FEATURES & CAPABILITY 

The NorthStar Ranger Ultimate is a fully loaded, fully enclosed, powerhouse. The 999cc, fuel-injected, four-stroke dual-overhead-cam engine puts out 82 horsepower to help you work hard and still have fun. To further enable to work and play, simply use the switch on the dash to flip on the fly between performance, standard and work. To improve work conditions and vehicle lifespan, the 2021 Ranger has a 30-percent-stronger isolated front drive and a 50-percent more durable CVT clutch. This also allows for three-times-longer maintenance intervals on average.

Thank those 29-inch Maxxis tires on 14-inch wheels for the 14 inches of ground clearance in the backcountry and the winch that will help get you out of any trouble. As capable as the Ranger is in all variations, including the NorthStar Ultimate, the winch will no doubt get more of a workout removing obstructions from the trail than it will pulling the machine out of trouble.

The new bigger and stronger dump bed has a 1000-pound capacity (except in California where it is 600 pounds) with tie-down points and bucket loops for all your cargo. Although the bed is easy to use, we think an electric dump option could be helpful for bigger jobs.

Wide rear tires, a tough and reliable hitch, and arched A-arms all help the rear when the trails get slick from hard dirt or wet mud.

OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY

Compared to high-end turbo sport UTVs, the NorthStar Ultimate’s suspension with arched A-arms front and rear and 10 inches of travel might seem basic. Consider, though, that the standard General 1000 is considered pretty sporty and high performance. It has the same wheelbase, is a little narrower and has only 12.24 inches of travel in the front and around 13 in the rear.

This is a very capable machine. It has the goods to do some serious trail work. Likewise, you can get to remote hunting, fishing and camping locations. Or, if you must be boring, do major work. Ride quality is helped by the 29-inch tires, and the steering is light and accurate. It does take more turns lock to lock than a sport model, but for the intended use, it is also quite impressive.

Full poly doors with windows keep you safe and secure, while the 7-inch display screen with GPS, Ride Command and Bluetooth for music, keep you feeling fancy.

INTERIOR SPACE

The inside of this machine is really where all the magic happens. The comfort, storage and technology make the NorthStar worth every penny. The feature that stands out right away is the fully enclosed cab. This cab is gasket sealed with power windows and a full windshield that can be tipped up on gas struts. Not only does this give riders potentially life-saving protection from the elements, but it has climate control! The NorthStar Ultimate has both heating and air conditioning to keep you comfortable regardless of what is happening outside the cab, and not simply heat, cold or wet. We were out in horrendous wind with 90-mph gusts, which we were afraid might flip our tow RV. We drove in comfort in conditions so disturbing we had to use the winch to close a property gate!

The amount of storage in this machine is mind-boggling. Never get thirsty on your ride with six cup holders throughout the cab. There are two glove boxes, as well as water bottle and phone holders, so your stuff doesn’t go flying while you ride. The passenger seats lift to reveal a large storage area to keep any of your tools and gear out from under everyone’s feet.

Usually bench seats aren’t our favorite setup because they don’t always adjust and can feel stiff. The NorthStar has plush three-person seating that was comfortable enough to make our long ride seem easy. An easily overlooked feature is the dome light built into the sport roof, which we found to be very helpful while loading our bags in the dark before sunrise.

A solid front bumper, LED lights, Maxxis tires and cast-aluminum 14-inch wheels keep the front end ready for work or trails. The steering is light and accurate at low speeds.

THE TECH AGE

The new technology built into this Ranger makes life so much easier. The 7-inch infotainment system is equipped with GPS, Ride Command, Bluetooth capability, Plow mode and more. With Plow mode, while using a Polaris snowplow accessory, put it in low range and it drops the blade for you. Select reverse and it lifts the plow automatically!

Front look-down and rear-facing cameras help keep tasks safe and streamlined. That front camera lets you look over a descent well before you can see over the hood to look. You will soon appreciate the reverse camera. Even if you don’t like it to back up, you can turn it on to act as a rear-view mirror for group rides. That is especially handy if you have cargo in the bed that restricts your rear-view mirror.

If you need some music to get the job done, connect your phone or use the AM/FM radio. We found the radio to be pleasant company up to around 20 mph. After that we had to crank the sound too high for good sound. You’ll never run out of juice with two 12-volt outlets, a USB port and the coolest new 2021 feature—a dashboard-integrated trickle-charger port.

The windows are fully automatic, and the windshield can be tipped out, but front and rear cameras come to the rescue when your view is obstructed.

RIDE TIME

Being city folk from California, we couldn’t easily test this machine on a ranch, but we were still able to put it through some paces. We took this bad boy out to the Sierra Nevada mountain range for a weekend of fishing and ghost-town exploring. We loaded coolers, gear and extra gas into the bed, and set out to the extinct mines of Cerro Gordo. At camp it was a balmy 85 degrees, so we rolled up the windows and blasted the AC. It was great to be able to use the wiper and washer fluid at the press of a button after trailing behind the caravan of dust. On our ride we gained about 4000 feet of elevation in 30 minutes. With this change we did experience a loss of horsepower. We were limited to about 10 miles an hour at one point as we went uphill at 9000 feet. We didn’t mind the slow pace since it was a rocky goat trail cut into the mountainside.

We honestly expected the ride to be rough, but we were pleasantly surprised to be plenty comfortable with the plush seats and 10 inches of suspension travel. As we reached altitude on our ride, we were glad to have a closed cab since the temperature had dropped quite a bit from where we left camp. We did have to slow down over some large obstacles, but we were again stunned by how often we didn’t hear a grinding skid plate.

The NorthStar is definitely made more for cruising since it is slightly top-heavy, thanks to the full cabin and ample safety glass. Taking corners or whoops at high speed is not recommended. However, with true on-demand all-wheel drive, we had no problem handling a wide array of terrain.

This is a proven and reliable engine. Only Ranger XP versions have the 82-horsepower dual-overhead-cam engine. It is powerful compared to the SOHC Ranger.

MODELS AND PRICING

While the base model in the Ranger lineup starts at $12,999, the NorthStar begins at a whopping $23,999. Our Ranger NorthStar Ultimate is $3600 more! However, if you think about the luxury and five-star amenities that this machine has to offer, then the sticker shock quickly fades. It’s a tough machine built to work hard and play hard, along with technology that helps you do it all easier, safer and more efficiently. Whether you are hunting, working or exploring, you can do it all while being protected from any kind of weather.

Polaris’ Ranger XP 1000 NorthStar Edition Ultimate is a well-quipped machine with excellent performance for work or play. It protects riders from the elements, be it water crossings, dust, mud, heat or snow.

2021 POLARIS RANGER XP 1000 NORTHSTAR EDITION ULTIMATE SPECIFICATIONS

MSRP $27,599

Engine type 999cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, twin-cylinder four-stroke

Fuel system Electronic fuel injection

Fuel capacity 11.5 gallons

Starting system Electric

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Dual A-arm/10.0” travel

Rear Dual A-arm IRS/10.0” travel

Tires:

Front 29×9-14

Rear 29×11-14

Brakes:

Front Hydraulic disc

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

Wheelbase 81.0”

Length/width/height 120”/65”/79.5”

Ground clearance 14.0”

Payload 1,575 lb.

Towing capacity 2,500 lb.

Curb weight 1937 lb.

Color Ghost White,  Burgundy Metallic, Matte Navy, Polaris Pursuit Camo

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