2009 Polaris Sportsman 800 EFI Touring Review
Go exploring with this two-up tourer
Story by Douglas Meyer, Photography by Douglas Meyer, Dec. 14, 2009
Two-seat ATVs are definitely a different breed, with some good attributes and some maybe not so good Ė depending on your needs. While they are clumsier to throw around sportingly on tight, twisting trails, and they take up more room on the trailer and in the garage, they are vastly more stable and more comfortable than single seat ATVs Ė even with just a single rider onboard. Two-seaters are popular because they are the truly the Grand touring machines of the ATV world.
With a wheelbase of 57 inches and an empty weight of 795 pounds there is no disputing that the Polaris Sportsman 800 EFI Touring is a big ATV. But whatís really amazing is just how much more room that extra seven inches of wheelbase gives to both the rider and passenger. Unlike the two-seat X2 models that started Polarisí two-seat movement, the Touring provides a passenger area designed with no compromises to rider comfort. The passengerís seat is slightly raised so they can more easily see over and around the operator. The seatback height is increased as well to give more support. Also designed for added comfort on those long rides are the vibration-isolated handgrips and footrests. In fact every aspect of the Touring model is designed to make both of the riders as comfortable as possible, giving them enough room so that neither will interfere with the other. Itís obvious that the extra room is something that will make the passenger much more comfortable, but something equally important is that it will help the operator to maintain better control of the ATV.
The main complaint we hear about two-seat ATVs comes from passengers donít like sitting higher than the operator and actually feel a bit too exposed sitting that high. Their preference would be to simply make the seat the same height front to rear, just like most motorcycles.
Sitting on the Touring youíll look forward at the large gauge pod that houses all the essentials, including the speedometer, fuel gauge, digital odometer, trip odometer, clock, hour meter, and tachometer, all selected for display by pushing the yellow button on the left handlebar. That button also overrides the reverse speed limiter in the ignition system and much more importantly, allows the unique 4 wheel drive system to work in reverse. On the right handlebar is the slide switch for selecting between 2wd 4wd, and 4wd with Active Descent Control Ė something weíll discuss more of in just a minute.
And quite unique in the ATV world, the Touring also has a rocker switch on the right side of the gauge pod for selecting either an open rear differential, or a locked rear differential. Although originally designed as a way to make the ATV less destructive to sensitive ground cover, the open rear differential also allows for a much tighter turning diameter Ė something that can be a big help on an ATV with a wheelbase this long on a tight trail.
The liquid-cooled 4-stroke Twin actually measures 760cc, but even at that it still supplies more than enough power to propel the Touring and two people up any mountain. The transmission is the tried and true Polaris CVT belt-drive automatic, but now with much-improved engine braking. Even improved, the problem remains that the normal engine braking only engages the rear wheels even when in 4WD. This means that on those very steep and loose downhills that already demand your attention, the ATV wants to slide the rear wheels so maintaining directional control can become a real handful. When switched to ADC, the active descent control will apply the engine braking to all 4 wheels, but unfortunately thatís only when the ATVís speed is under 15mph and there is no throttle applied.
Unlike most ATV frames that are primarily constructed of round tubing, the Sportsmanís frame is built from an assemblage of square tubing and stamped steel extrusions. While that makes for a solid structure, it isnít nearly as strong per pound as the more conventional round tubing Ė nor as good looking in our opinion.
The suspension on the Touring are struts up front that provide 8.2 inches of travel and dual a-arms in the rear with 8.75 inches of total travel. The rear shocks also provide five settings for adjusting the preload. The brakes are discs at all four wheels. Front and rear brakes are actuated by a single lever on the left handlebar and the rear brake can be applied only with the foot pedal on the right floorboard. Although the hand lever works very well, the foot pedal requires that you lift your foot up noticeably to actuate it.
Designed for touring, this ATV needs room to carry enough supplies and gear for two. The front rack has a hinged top that exposes an irregular-shaped interior that is probably most useful for carrying those always-along items like tools, spare parts and tire repair kit. It is rated to carry 90 pounds. The rear rack is rated to hold 180 pounds, but due to itís very small size, the only way youíll be able to get 180 pounds on the rear rack would be stacking boxes of 270 ammo, or thinking in less expensive cargo, bars of gold bullion.
The added length of the Touring helps its tow rating Ė being able to tow a 1,500lb trailer without brakes, or a 2,067lb trailer equipped with brakes. Also specific to the longer-wheelbase Touring is an increase in the fuel tankís capacity to six gallons.
The Touring, like almost every Polaris ATV is extremely comfortable. Thanks to itís cushy-soft seat and the softly-sprung, long travel suspension, both the operator and passenger can spend many hours (or miles) in the saddle(s) without worrying about getting a numbed behind or chafed, er, cheeks.
However, like many Polaris ATVs, the Touring is kept from greatness by several features that make it a love-it or hate-it machine. First, it requires considerably more revs to get it moving than other ATVs. That makes it more jerky and thus more difficult to move around in tighter and difficult situations. It also makes the operator appear as a less-experienced rider - from an observerís standpoint. Second, the single-lever braking system just isnít all that confidence-inspiring to riders who are more accustomed to the added control that a two-lever system provides. Speaking of braking control, couple that single-lever braking with the fact that the engine braking only engages the rear wheels (unless of course you engage the ADC switch and are riding under 15mph, and are applying no throttle), and you have an ATV that requires more attention than necessary on difficult trails.
Taking all that into account, the Touring is still a wonderful way for two more-experienced riders to explore the great backcountry.
Editor's Note: Itís worth noting that Polaris has scrapped the Sportsman Touring 800 from its lineup for 2010 in favor of the new Touring 850 with EPS on the newer Sportsman XP chassis. However, many dealerships will certainly still have some of these units available, likely with a price lower than the 2009 MSRP of $9,699. It could be a great bargain buy as dealers try to clear out their 2009 inventory.
|2009 Polaris Sportsman 850 XP EPS Specs|
|Engine Type:||4-stroke, Twin Cyl|
|Fuel System:||40mm Throttle Body, EFI|
|Drive System:||Automatic PVT, Turf/2WD/AWD/AWD with ADC|
|Engine Braking:||Standard with Active Descent Control|
|Front Suspension / Wheel Travel:||MacPherson Strut with 8.2" / 20.8 cm travel|
|Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel:||Fully Independent, progressive rate with anti-roll bar; 8.75" / 22.2 cm travel|
|Front Brakes:||Single Lever Hydraulic disc|
|Rear Brakes:||Hydraulic rear foot brake|
|Front Tires:||25 x 8-12; 489|
|Rear Tires:||25 x 11-12; 489|
|Length / Width / Height:||86" / 48" / 48"|
|Dry Weight:||795.0 lbs|
|Seat Height:||34.0 in|
|Fuel Capacity:||6.0 gal|
|Front Rack/Box Capacity:||90 lb|
|Rear Rack Capacity:||180 lb|
|Hitch Towing Rating:||1,500 lb|
|Unbraked Trailer Towing Capacity:||1,995 lb|
|Instrumentation:||Digital Gauge, Speedometer, Odometer, Tachometer, Tripmeter, Hourmeter, Clock, Gear Indicator, Fuel Gauge, Hi Temp/Low Batt lights, DC Outlet|
|Colors:||Aurora Blue, Sunset Red|
|MSRP:||$9,699 (2009 pricing)|