2009 Polaris 850 XP EPS Review

Polaris' powerful flagship aided by super light steering

Story by Joe Tolle, Photography by Joe Tolle, Aug. 26, 2009

In October of 2008, ATV.com writer Jerry Bassett put 800 miles put a pair of brand new Browning Edition Polaris Sportsman XPs. Both machines performed as advertised sporting improved ergonomics, better handling, improved suspension and powerful yet smooth power delivery. The Browning editions featured tons of goodies such as winches, gun holders and even heated grips! However neither the 550 nor the 850 Browning editions featured the biggest option Polaris added for 2009, electric power steering.

Due to the tremendous benefits in control and fatigue reduction provided by power steering, we felt it was imperative that we get our hands on one of the power steering equipped XPís to put Polarisís EPS to the test. Polaris helped out our cause by sending out a brand new Sportsman XP 850 equipped with EPS. Although this wasnít a Browning Edition it did feature the same Mossy Oak Break Up color scheme.

Polaris stepped up to the plate with big power, plush suspension, great ergos and electronic power steering.

Technical Stuff

The EPS-equipped 850 XP was designed to provide easier steering effort at low speeds, like when youíre crawling down a rocky descent.
Polaris rotated the engine 90 degrees in the 850 XP, giving the rider a lot more room to move around.

Capitalizing on the, ďmore is betterĒ theory, Polaris calibrated its power steering slightly different then its competitors. Polaris claims its system provides 30% more assistance than whatís offered by other manufacturers. According to Polaris, Variable Assist provides easier steering effort at lower speeds and more responsiveness at higher speeds. 

The XP 850 is powered by an 850cc inline twin cylinder 4-stroke engine with single overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Fuel injection with 40mm throttle bodies feed the engine a perfectly balanced diet of air and fuel regardless of altitude or temperature.

The fully automatic PVT transmission features high and low ranges plus neutral reverse and park. The right side mounted shifter gets the job done well, but doesnít operate quite as smoothly as some of the other big bores. The drive train can be run in two or four wheel drive or four wheel drive with active decent control. The four wheel drive setting operates in two wheel drive until the rear wheels begin to spin faster then the fronts. At that point the font wheels engage and 100% power is transferred to all four wheels until the system senses four wheel drive is longer needed.  When engaged the Active Decent Control system works with the engineís braking system to control speed on downhills.

The XP has an all new chassis and suspension system which makes it arguably the best handling twin cylinder on the market. Polarisís anti kickback steering makes even the non power steering XP models steer lighter then you would expect. Large 14-inch front wheels allow Polaris to run longer A-arms and move the steering knuckle closer to the center of the front wheels. A rolled independent rear suspension rotates the rear suspension back four degrees, allowing the unit to better react to oncoming bumps. The 850 has preload adjustable shocks at all four corners. Thereís nine inches of travel up front and 10.25 inches in the rear.

Polaris rotated the engine in the frame 90 degrees in the chassis to narrow the machine between the riderís legs making it much easier to move around on the XP. While onboard storage is limited to a single rear cargo box the XP makes up for it by offering huge cargo and towing capacities. The front rack is rated at 120 pounds while the rear rack will hold a whopping 240 pounds! The standard receiver hitch is rated at 1,500 pounds, however we think the 850 could pull much more.

Ride Time

Fire up the 850 XP and before you roll one inch the difference is remarkably apparent. Sitting still you can easily turn the handlebars from side to side with one arm. This is a huge benefit if you are in a boulder field, mud hole, or are operating the machine loaded down with cargo. The other models we have ridden with power steering donít offer much or any steering assistance until the machine starts rolling. This is a bummer if you need to change the direction of the wheels before you start moving. Power steering assistance at idle is a big plus for Polaris!

Itís times like these when you really come to appreciate power steering assistance.

Hitting the trail, we were reminded why we were so fond of the XPs in our test earlier this year. The 850ís 70HP motor is extremely fast making it a blast to ride in wide open spaces. Super smooth power delivery keep you from feeling overwhelmed in tight woods and make the machine extremely manageable for plowing, pulling or towing in low range.

With 70 ponies at the ready the 850 XP can get up and over just about anything.

Whether you are crawling around in a boulder field or hauling down a whooped out trail the XPís chassis and suspension work extremely well. The overall ride is extremely plush without excessive bottoming while pushing the ATV to the limit. Lots of suspension travel plus anti kickback steering make the XP 850 feel lighter then it is and the addition of power steering only further enhances the feeling of lightness. At super high speeds the power steering equipped 850 feels a bit more twitchy then the non EPS equipped model. Weíd like to see the variable assist in the power steering taper assistance off a bit more at higher speeds where steering effort naturally becomes easier.

Our friends at ATVOnDemand.com put together a video of our ride test. Click here to check it out.


Overall we were extremely happy with the EPS equipped XP. Despite being a bit too easy steering a super fast speeds the system more then makes up for it by providing perhaps the ultimate power steering system for mud boggers, hunters or utility riders. The XPís 784 pounds would be a benefit when it comes to working a food plot or doing some intensive towing where weight helps get power to the ground. With the addition of power steering even grandpa could get back out there and do some gardening.

The bottom line on Polarisí flagship ATV is that itís easy to ride and probably capable of doing more than you are.

As great as the standard 850 XP is, the addition of power steering has made it even better nearly everywhere on the job site or trail. The power steering will set you back an additional $1,200 but if you have the budget we say go for it!

2009 Polaris Sportsman 850 XP EPS Specs
Engine Type: 4-stroke SOHC, Twin Cyl
Displacement: 850cc
Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injection
Cooling Type: Liquid
Transmission: Automatic PVT H/L/N/R/P
Final Drive: Shaft
Drive System: On-Demand True AWD/2WD
Engine Braking: Standard with Active Descent Control
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: Dual A-Arm 9 in. (22.9 cm) Travel
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Dual A-Arm, Rolled 10.25 in. (26 cm) Travel
Front Brakes: Single Lever Hydraulic Disc
Rear Brakes: Hydraulic Rear Foot Brake
Wheels: Cast Aluminum or Stamped Steel
Front Tires: 26 x 8-14; Terrathon
Rear Tires: 26 x 10-14; Terrathon
Overall Length: 83.25 in
Overall Width: 46.7 in
Overall Height: 50.75 in
Dry Weight: 783.0 lbs
Wheelbase: 53.0 in
Seat Height: 37.0 in
Ground Clearance: 12.0 in
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal
Front Rack Capacity: 120 lb
Rear Rack Capacity: 240 lb
Hitch Towing Rating: 1,500 lb
Unbraked Trailer Towing Capacity: 1,914 lb
Cargo System: Lock & Ride
Instrumentation: Digital Gauge, Speedometer, Odometer, Tachometer, Two Tripmeters, Hour Meter, Clock, Gear Indicator, Fuel Gauge, Hi-Temp/Low-Batt Lights, DC Outlet
Colors: Sunset Red, Sagebrush Green, Stealth Black
MSRP: $9,999 (2010 pricing)

Related Reading
2009 Polaris Sportsman XP 850 & 550 Review
2009 Polaris Sportsman: First Look
2008 Polaris Sportsman 800 EFI Review

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