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On test: Polaris Sportsman 500 Forest ATV


Now in its second year of production, the Polaris Sportsman 500 Forest is a well-equipped bike.

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As standard, our test model featured independent suspension and disc brakes all-round, a winch and comes road-ready.


Apart from its rather large physical size, the most striking thing about the Polaris is its phenomenal power and acceleration. When towing a laden trailer, it felt like it was not there – it could almost pull a house over.


But as you would expect, all this power needs funding, as the fuel test shows.


However, you probably would not buy this bike just to chase a few cattle, but more as a major workhorse to lug trailers and other implements.


With all this towing capacity, the Forest needs some serious stopping power – which it has. One lever provides all the braking for all four wheels, with a brake pedal providing back-up braking to the rear wheels.


Luckily this pedal does not need to be used often as it requires you to awkwardly lift your foot to get on it.


Out of all the CVTs, its range selection is one of the easiest to master, thanks to a simple lever and gate arrangement which allows for quick and unhindered shifting.


Engine braking is a bit lacking, as with all CVTs, especially below 2,000rpm.


As you would expect, the Forest does feel like a tall bike to ride, not helped by a really hard seat, which disconnects you from the driving experience somewhat.


But for a big machine, it travels well. A good wheelbase, coupled with well balanced weight and four-wheel drive, gives it bags of traction in the boggiest of conditions.


And just to assure you, when the going gets really tough, the standard winch does work.


Slippery footboards

A slight downside of the Polaris is its footboards, which have rounded edges and can make it slippery when mounting and dismounting.

Its load racks can carry a fairly substantial weight, but can only be used with Polaris attachments. This means, unless you buy a box of some sort which clamps on, all you have as standard is a plain lump of plastic to sit things on.


In Porsche style, the bike does have a decent storage space under the front load rack – perfect for accumulating plenty of junk. There is also a good-sized box at the rear, and thanks to a well positioned drawbar, hitching up to a trailer is easy.


  • Engine: 498cc liquid-cooled
  • Transmission: Automatic CVT with high, low, neutral, reverse and park
  • Suspension: Independent all-round
  • Braking: Single lever four-wheel braking with rear braking via a pedal
  • Tyres: 25 x 8 – 12 (front), 25 x 11 – 12 (rear)
  • Fuel capacity: 15.5 litres
  • Dimensions: 2,108mm (L) x 1,219mm (W) x 1,219mm (H)
  • Wheelbase: 1,283mm
  • Ground clearance: 286mm
  • Unladen weight: 316kg
  • Load rack capacity: 40.8kg (front), 81.6kg (rear)
  • Towing capacity: 555.7kg
  • RRP: £6,718
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