UTV TEST: 2023 POLARIS GENERAL XP 4 1000 ULTIMATE
Tackle the tougher trails and chores with the luxuries you want
By the staff of Dirt Wheels
If your side-by-side needs include a vehicle that can handle tough chores around the property and farm, as well as a vehicle that plays even harder out on the trails, then the Polaris General should already be on your short list of vehicles to purchase. On the hard-working side of that list, it has a dumping cargo bed with tie-down anchors and a 600-pound capacity, 2-inch receiver for towing up to 1500 pounds, a Polaris HD 4500-pound winch, and an engine braking system (EBS) to help stabilize the transportation of heavy loads. It also comes standard with VersaTrac Turf mode, which unlocks the rear differential to cross lawns and fragile surfaces.
On the fun side, the list is even longer, with a 100-horsepower ProStar engine, Walker Evans Velocity shocks, long-travel suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, excellent ground clearance, electronic power steering (EPS), and sport-focused, bolstered bucket seats. All models can be had in two-seat (83-inch wheelbase) or four-seat (115-inch wheelbase) configurations in three distinctive trim levels. Step up to the Ultimate package (as tested) and the fun list gets even longer.
WHAT’S “ULTIMATE” ABOUT IT?
The General XP 4 1000 is available in Sport ($26,999), Premium ($29,599) or Ultimate ($31,999) trim. Stepping up to the Premium model essentially gets you a Rockford Fosgate Stage 1 audio system and the same painted bodywork colors offered on the Ultimate. But, for an additional $2400, the Ultimate package comes with Polaris’ Ride Command, which is arguably the best GPS/comm system offered in a stock side-by-side. Ride Command’s 7-inch glove-touch display includes satellite-level mapping, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, Follow the Leader mode, messaging, front and rear on-board camera display (great for backing up and rock crawling), Bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity, and more.
The Ultimate also gets upgraded with a Rockford Fosgate Stage 3 audio system with four-channel amp and five-band equalizer; two 6.5-inch, 50-watt coaxial speakers under the dash; and two 6.5-inch, 50-watt coaxial speakers above the rear passenger seats. The sound quality is excellent, even with the wind blowing through your helmet.
IS IT POWERFUL?
During our testing, we found that the 100-horsepower ProStar engine was good for 60 mph on a flat gravel road. It might have gone faster, but we ran out of patience and road before it got there. The General makes excellent power and torque where it’s needed the most, though. It accelerates quickly, and it loves to climb steep hills, whether crawling up rock faces or hammering through the dirt. It’s much more RZR-like than the Ranger.
With the transmission in low range, the General is governed to 30 mph, which we found to be perfect for the twisty, pine-tree-laden technical trails that we conducted our testing on. For much of our ride, there was no need to shift between high and low constantly.
HOW DOES IT RIDE?
On paper, suspension numbers are impressive. The General is 64 inches wide with 14 inches of wheel travel at all four corners. Walker Evans Velocity Series shocks include a wide range of threaded preload adjustment and 16-plus clicks of compression adjustment. Front and rear lower A-arms have a high-clearance bend for optimal ground clearance of 13.5 inches.
When using the factory shock settings, the ride is smooth, both at low and high speeds. The suspension effectively minimizes the impact of uneven terrain, trail chop, embedded rocks and washboard while still providing a sense of connection to the surface below. Even when hitting hard edges at high speed or dropping off rock ledges, the ride remains cushioned.
Much of our wooded trail testing included man-made water breaks that not only divert water away from the trails but make good jumps. The General took them like a champ, always with a soft landing followed by straightforward wheel tracking. With four bodies in the seats, we managed to bottom the rear shocks a few times, but were able to compensate with a few clicks of additional rear-shock compression.
DOES IT FEEL HEAVY?
One thing we noticed, or should we say didn’t notice, was body roll. The General is equipped with front and rear stabilizer bars that had us railing corners with confidence. In 2WD, we did notice that the rear tires would break loose at times, and there was some light pushing at the front wheels, but this was remedied by keeping Polaris’ On-Demand AWD engaged. The system automatically employs the front wheels when slippage is detected, eliminating pushing through the corners while pulling the machine through turns like it was designed to do.
ARE THE TIRES ANY GOOD?
Yes! Eight-ply Pro Armor Crawler XGs perform well over hard surfaces and loose terrain and have plenty of sidewall protection. Polaris recommends 16 psi in the front tires and 22 psi in the rears, but we dropped it to 12/15 for a softer ride and widened contact patch with great results. We wouldn’t hesitate to air down even more when optimal traction is needed.
IS IT COMFORTABLE?
Comfort is possibly the General’s best feature. Up front, leg- and elbowroom are plentiful with driver and passenger seat adjusters and armrests. Half doors are sturdy and increase roominess but without sacrificing safety. A padded center console doubles as a center armrest and offers at least 1-gallon worth of sealed storage space beneath for phones, tools and other personal items. There’s also a DC outlet inside for charging your phone. The dash is also full of storage cubbies and a large glove box. An additional DC outlet is also located on the dash.
Bolstered bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive, and the two-tone stitched seat covers couldn’t look any better. Three-point standard shoulder belts are height adjustable. Passenger grab bars are located near the console and in the passenger door. Two deep drink holders never allowed water bottles to escape under the seats, no matter how bumpy the ride got.
WHAT ABOUT THE BACK SEATS?
Rear passengers receive the same luxuries with more legroom than your last flight in the economy section. The doors open from the rear, so sliding into the seat is easy for passengers of varying sizes. A center console is identical to the front, with plenty of sealed storage, a DC outlet and two deep cup holders. There are also two external slots for smartphones for picture-taking on the go.
WHAT DOES IT HAVE FOR ELECTRONICS?
In addition to Ride Command and the Rockford Fosgate sound system, dual analog gauges and a 4-inch LCD display are easy to see ahead of the height-adjustable steering wheel. Drivers can select between red or blue backlighting and brightness level. The display provides programmable service intervals, speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip meter, clock, hour meter, gear indicator, fuel gauge, coolant temperature, voltmeter and service indicator codes.
Every General comes standard with Polaris’ High-Output EPS. EPS assistance never lagged during our testing and doubled as a steering damper. When striking roots and rocks, we never once experienced deflection at the steering wheel.
The 4500-pound-capacity HD winch is controlled by a dash-mounted rocker switch. The winch uses synthetic rope, has an auto-stop feature and Plow mode. There are also plenty of precut slots in the dash for adding rocker switches and an electric bus under the hood for easier installation of electrical accessories. Every General also comes standard with LED headlights with full-time running accents and LED tail/brake lights.
IT LOOKS TALL
This is one of the biggest complaints we hear about the General: it has too much headroom. And you know what? We disagree. While the General is pure sport capable, it’s not a pure sport side-by-side. This rec/ute is also perfect for ranching, fence mending, and other chores where frequently entering and exiting the vehicle with ease is necessary. If you’re looking for a lower profile and sportier appearance, you should probably be shopping for a RZR.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO MAINTAIN?
Not bad at all. Lifting the dump bed completely exposes access to the engine and CVT cover. You can disconnect the hydraulic arm for even more room. All engine-fluid drain ports are no-mess accessible, and the differentials are easy to access and fill. The battery compartment is secure, but requires a wrench for access. Most of the electrical relays and fuses, as well as the radiator filler, are located underneath the hood.
WHAT DON’T YOU LIKE?
The right rear Walker Evans shock started leaking within the first five miles of easy trail testing behind the compression adjuster knob on the reservoir. We’re certain this was an assembly error since it happened so soon, most likely a pinched seal. It’s an easy fix that would be covered under warranty, but it’s something to typically watch out for on any shock when completing a pre-ride inspection.
Rear passengers also complained about the lack of a forward view. The rear seats are mounted at the same height as the front, so rear passengers must peer through the center to see the trail ahead.
IS IT A GOOD FIT FOR ME?
If you’re looking for a workhorse with a dump bed and a trail machine that can perform at a pure sport level—and doused in luxurious comfort and high-end electronic accessories—the Polaris General XP 4 1000 Ultimate is for you. Everyone gets plenty of comfortable space with extra room for their stuff, power is solid with all seats filled, quality isn’t sacrificed for value, and ride comfort is second to none.