2009 Polaris Rangers: First Look
Being Number One in the market calls for new ideas and Polaris has them
Story by Jerry Bassett, Photography by Jerry Bassett and Polaris, Aug. 15, 2008
Polaris executives get excited when they look at the growth potential of the side-by-side (UTV) market. Polaris got so excited that the company split off its UTV models from its ATV group to form a separate and distinct Ranger Division. This move lets Polaris focus strictly on the dynamics of the side-by-side market.
States Ranger general manager Matt Homan, “Growth in the recreational and utility market is big. It’s a US$2 billion industry.”
He points out that the UTV market breaks down into three distinct categories. The utility segment is the biggest with 59 percent of UTV sales. But he explains there is rapid growth in the recreational segment, which currently accounts for 23 percent of sales. The third component for UTV sales is oriented toward the industrial segment and is where you’ll find the remaining 18 percent of sales.
Homan foresees double-digit growth for Polaris in the expansive side-by-side market. In fact, he says, “This is a dynamic market. Every six months there is news and change.”
The Polaris general manager noted that making news is in keeping with Polaris’ recent history. Because this market is so important to Polaris, he pointed out the emphasis the company has made in UTVs in the past few years. In 2006 the company offered the versatile Ranger. But, in 2007 the low-slung, hot-rod Ranger RZR was introduced — demand for which still remains in excess of production. This past season, model year 2008, Polaris introduced the Ranger Crew that can haul up to six people and their cargo.
Heading into model year 2009 Homan’s Ranger Division is a newsmaker again. Already the number one selling side-by-side, the Polaris Ranger isn’t letting the competition catch up. For 2009 the Ranger comes with new and bolder styling, a smoother ride, more storage and functionally and the best ergonomics in the category.
You can tell the 2009 Ranger is different by simply looking at it. It makes a bold statement as the UTV’s front-end styling becomes more muscular with a sweptback grill and wing back bumper. The headlights are inset to get them away from branches and protect them from rocks and debris thrown up when riding in a group. You’ll also find new tie down locations to secure the rig to a trailer or pickup bed. The new styling is more than just tough, it’s also practical, thanks to more under hood storage. Polaris claims 46% greater dash storage than its competition.
The new styling gives you a good look at the 2009 Ranger XP’s all-new front suspension. MacPherson struts are gone, replaced by dual A-arms and coil spring over shock adjustable damping. This new suspension features fully adjustable preload and motion control. Depending on the Ranger version you pick, you can go from easy-steering and pleasant ride to easy-steering, heavy-duty industrial strength capability.
Easy Steer Suspension
The base suspension with dual A-arms is said to be 50% easier to steer than the 2008 version. Our short test rides over narrow trails with varied terrain would bear this out. But Polaris offers a heavy duty Ranger HD with electronic power steering that not only tilts but also offers fingertip steering — though we don’t suggest you drive that way.
Of course you can expect a full complement of front-mounted Pure Polaris accessories including one of the most versatile plow setups we’ve ever seen off a pickup. That’s precisely why the new front end comes with pre-set mounting points. You can customize the suspension setting to reflect your needs — from a more performance orientation to a heavy-duty work set up.
The base Ranger 4x4 comes with 30 horsepower that is good enough to propel the unit to 41 miles per hour, haul up to 1,000 pounds of cargo, or tow a 1,500-lb payload. The 499cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke single uses fuel injection that is programmed for quick, efficient starting in all conditions.
The engine engages Polaris’ proven PVT variable ratio transmission. The Ranger 4x4 features Polaris’ on-demand all-wheel drive system complete with Turf Mode that prevents tearing up fields and lawns.
But what separates Polaris even more from its competition are two new offshoots of the base Ranger 4x4. The Ranger XP and Ranger HD exceed the basics.
The Ranger XP comes with a 700cc fuel injected twin that delivers 40-hp and makes this version suitable for towing a one-ton payload or speed from location to location up to 50 mph. You can fit up to 1000-lbs in the dump box.
The standard tilt steering setup on this Ranger makes it one of the most driver-friendly UTVs around. Plus, you’ll find a place to keep a water bottle or a cup holder for your coffee. Indeed, this Polaris is outfitted with a removable, underseat storage box.
While we wanted to dismiss the three-person bench seating, we actually discovered we liked it. The seat features a bucket-like feel when you drive that keeps you solidly in place and not slipping about as we first thought would happen. Ease and exit from the Ranger series is among the best you’ll experience in a side-by-side.
But not to be outdone in the world of Ranger UTVs, Polaris offers what we consider to be the ultimate side-by-side, the Ranger HD. Polaris’ idea is for this unit to be the heavy hauler, the true work companion. We accept that, but this may be the most versatile Ranger overall. It does everything that the other models do. But we like the ‘more’ aspect and the increased bells and whistles.
The Ranger HD comes with a variable assist power steering that makes this unit extremely e-a-s-y to drive. We test rode this vehicle with a maximum load in the cargo box. We ambled up a very steep, very rocky section of trail fully utilizing the HD’s full 11.5-inches of ground clearance and were totally amazed by this vehicle’s capabilities. It was light steering and sure-footed thanks to the On-Demand AWD and the fact that the rear suspension came outfitted with Nivomat self-leveling shocks to keep the ride smooth and easy.
Like the Ranger XP, the HD version comes with the proven 40-hp, liquid-cooled 700cc twin. With the full load and a steep grade, we shifted into low range and let the Ranger HD pull us up and over. It was a real eye-opener as to what these vehicles can accomplish. We would imagine the HD would let you haul trophy big game out of the boonies with no trouble whatsoever.
The Ranger HD has the best “goodies.” If you’re a trucker, you know Nivomat shocks aren’t new. But they are a new addition to UTVs. These shocks are proven and are a scaled down, direct descendant of the ones used in over the road trucks.
Then, there is the BOSS hydraulic lift and carry system that fits neatly to the HD front end. You can specify a variety of front-end implements that are controlled from the cab via a joystick. Our favorite was the scaled-down version of the famous BOSS snowplow. You can tip it, move the angle, raise it, and drop it. Well, let’s say if you live in a snow-prone area, you would hope for weekly blizzards. It’s a unique accessory with a high ‘play’ quotient.
The entire line of new Rangers for 2009 has a high play quotient, but they can work as hard as you want — or, need — them to. For 2009 Polaris made significant changes to its best-selling line of side-by-sides, emphasizing that the Minnesota-based powersports manufacturer has no intention of giving up even a single percentage point of market share to its competition.
As general manager Matt Homan stated, “The Ranger is number one in its market segment in an industry that is very important to Polaris.” The new Ranger line for 2009 proves that point.
Ranger RZR fans need not fret as Polaris also came to the table in 2009 with a fully modified version that has to be seen to be believed. You can read about it on ATV.com in the coming weeks.
2009 Polaris Sportsman: First Look