Polaris spent five years updating its workhorse Ranger Diesel UTV for its relaunch last year. Jane Carley talks to one Lake District user to see if it has been a success.
With 500 hectares of hilly pasture land in the South Lakes, a reliable off-road vehicle is essential for family partnership Gibson and Berry, who milk 180 cows and lamb 1,500 sheep.
Last May, Chris Gibson and his stepson Matthew Berry were among the first farmers to put the new Polaris Ranger Diesel UVT through its paces. Mr Gibson says; “We had its predecessor and can say it is a big improvement.
“We also had the prototype for six months so were able to offer some feedback on its development. We had a major issue with the drive belt on the previous model, unfortunately at lambing time. It was eventually sorted out by Polaris but it was a relief to see that the new design has a heavier duty drive.”
Mr Berry confirms that the three-cylinder 898cc Kubota engine, replacing the previous Kohler unit, offers more power, is quieter and faster.
He says: “It has no problem getting up our steepest hills and has plenty of grip, but I think the uprated suspension contributes, too. It will go anywhere in four-wheel drive and just keeps pulling when the last one just used to ‘die’. I have also noticed that it is a bit speedier when you are moving stock.”
The front Dual A-arm and independent rear suspension – adopted from Polaris petrol models - also make for a more stable feel on the undulations, he points out.
Having clocked up 1,658 miles in five months, the Ranger is mainly used for flock inspection, to carry bags of feed and fencing kit, and to move stock, while an aluminium top from local supplier TFM Engineering has been added to keep materials dry and allow sheep to be carried if required.
Mr Gibson comments; “The top has been swapped between our last three UTVs so has lasted well. We can easily get 400kg of feed in the bed.”
He notes that the 33cm ground clearance is maintained by the suspension even when fully loaded, another improvement on previous models.
Fitted with a cab from Polaris’s range of accessories, doors are omitted to make getting in and out easier, but the greater seat comfort is praised, along with the addition of a tipping passenger seat for added storage if required.
Mr Berry (pictured above) says; “There is more storage altogether in the cab, which is ideal for small items like medicines, and I like the way the handbrake has been swapped from the floor to the dash – it is easier to get at.”
The one let down with the cab, he points out, is the ‘flimsy’ mirrors, one of which has already succumbed to a passing obstacle.
Access for maintenance is largely unaltered, with the radiator and oil reached from the front panel and the engine under the bed, and is felt to be satisfactory.
Mr Berry adds that the Polaris is still competitive on price compared to some UTVs. “We swap them every two years so that they are always under warranty, and this time we were able to get 0 per cent finance too. It fixes running costs and there is nothing to worry about except the servicing.”
Mr Gibson (pictured above) comments that durability has been improved on the latest model, even compared to the prototype, and that attention paid to guarding has been worthwhile. “There is more protection around the rear wheels – we used to have problems with the battery where mud and water had got in, but that has been solved.”
Travelling 60 to 70 miles a day at lambing time, a proportion of which is on the local gritstone roads, can take its toll on tyres, but Mr Berry says that the Maxxis boots are lasting well, with the upgraded suspension and drive playing a part in cutting wear.
Mr Gibson says; “It goes well on the road, and is quick. And sometimes it is just as easy to jump into the Ranger to go down to the local feed supplier, as get in another vehicle.”
A smaller Polaris quad is also kept on the farm, but the pair point out that using a UTV minimises the amount of time that a trailer is needed and gives much needed protection from the elements.
Mr Gibson adds; “Historically we would have used a tractor and trailer for some of the jobs, but this is our main vehicle now and we would really miss a UTV if we did not have one.”