James Rickard put it to the test on a gruelling off-road course.
Taking over as its top, long wheelbase side-by-side machine and sitting just below its crew models, Polaris has introduced a new flagship petrol-powered Ranger to its line up.
Replacing the XP 800, the XP 900 has been designed from the ground up with an all new chassis. It features the firm’s latest 875cc petrol engine, a smoother and more robust transmission and a redesigned cab for a better driving position and more space.
To find out if these improvements are a step in the right direction, we presented the new model with a purpose-built, off-road 4x4 course. With deep ruts, pot holes, mud baths, inclines, gradients, snow, ice, rocks and tree stumps to deal with, it certainly gave the new contender something to think about.
At the core of the new Ranger’s design is its chassis. Based around a main central spine, it offers a much improved ride, over its predecessor.
While its wheelbase has increased by 127mm, it is only 50mm longer, and manoeuvrability and stability were good around the twisty forest tracks.
With 25mm more f suspension travel (254mm in total), it maintained a consistent level of traction, coping well with the arduous conditions. Steering was also light, with good feel and little kick-back.
Providing 60hp, a British-built engine has been developed to power the XP 900. With more power and torque, it is positioned closer to the rear axle and transmission. As well as reducing in-cab noise levels, this helps prevent heat build-up in the cab.
Throttle response is impressive from the 875cc engine. Similarly, there is also a good level of engine braking, especially for a CVT, giving a certain level of confidence when descending hills. How it would react with a big bale behnind it may be a different story.
The XP 900 uses a new beefed up CVT with a thicker belt to handle the increased power and torque. Ranges and positions include reverse, neutral, low and high, selected via a lever on the dash.
Shifting between ranges is smoother than before, but if it was not for the digital display on the dash, it is hard to feel which range you are in.
Just as easy to select are the traction modes; two-wheel drive, two-wheel drive with differential lock and four-wheel drive, which are selected via a rocker switch.
Top speed is 60mph (96kph), but it can be limited to 25mph (40kph) using a special key.
Able to carry three people in relative comfort, the cab features more leg and headroom, even when wearing a helmet. Also, the driving position, which can be altered using a sliding seat and steering wheel rake adjustment, adapts better to different drivers. A slight leg lift is required when moving your foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal.
Its dash contains a comprehensive amount of information, including speed, revs, odometer, hour meter and fuel gauge. But apart from the analogue speedometer, the digital readout can be a bit hard to read.
Storage is plentiful in the cabin, with pockets and cubby holes adorning the dash. Also, underneath the 60:40 split bench seats are more compartments suitable for tools, medicine bottles, etc.
Our test model was specced with the basic cab option, which is essentially an open cab frame using netting for doors. While it was draughty, access was good and there was good splash protection from puddles.
Cab options include various types of roofs from canvas to high-spec sound-dampening hard-tops, as well as several different types of doors and windscreens. In all, the manufacturer says there are more than 100 cab combinations to choose from. Radios and heater kits can also be specified.
Power-hungry users will also be glad to know it features more power sockets.
At the rear, a tipping box, which can be split up using dividers, can carry a payload of 680kg. Its sturdy construction inspires confidence and has six robust tie-down points to keep loads secure.
Daily maintenance points can be easily accessed by tipping the box and getting at the engine, while extra grease nipples have been added to keep dirt out of joints.
It is fair to say Polaris have gone the distance to address niggles associated with the old model such as noise, serviceability and heat in the cabin. And overall we think the XP 900 is a world away from its predecessor.
Its transmission and engine provided precise control when needed, and its chassis clung to the course like a mountain goat.
Unfortunately, our test track can only tell us so much; how the XP 900 will handle loads and trailers may be a different story, but it certainly impressed us.
One possible detractor, though, could be fuel consumption from the 875cc engine. Only time will tell.