2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel Review

An ideal workhorse with good trail manners

Story by Matthew Elmer, Aug. 24, 2011

The sound of an ATV engine can convey many things with its tinny, throaty, whiny, or deep grumble. So, you can imagine that when we fired up the new Polaris Ranger Diesel for the first time we were greeted by a sound typically associated with large trucks. In our heads we equated this to mean that the machine will be slow, lumbering, and maybe even boring to ride – we were dead wrong.

The powerplant making that familiar diesel rumble is an ISO-mounted Yanmar diesel engine. This motor puts out 24hp, which means the Diesel Ranger is ready to work hard or play hard.

We got to experience this machine in both a work and sport capacity. Summertime at the cottage means construction projects galore and the old expression “many hands make light work” is really an understatement when the Ranger Diesel is one of those hands.

2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel

First job – Move stones for the shoreline. Every year the lake eats more and more of the hillside, so every year, we add more and more stone to the hillside. Loading stones into the bed of the Ranger was simple and (thanks to some durable plastics with reinforced steel beneath) the bed took the punishment with nothing more than a couple scratches to show for the effort.

2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel

The bed on the unit is fully dump capable with a gas assist lift shock, 1000-pound weight capacity, and release handles located on either side – great for heavy jobs. The size of this cargo bed was ample as well. Farmers or anyone who moves materials around on pallets will appreciate the “Standard-pallet sized bed” which will accommodate anything that can fit on a skid.

The amount of cargo weight that the Ranger can haul is thanks to its IRS (independent rear suspension) suspension. This set-up keeps the weight stable while still allowing you 9.0 in. of bump eating travel in the rear and 9.6 in. in the front.

Out on the trails we got to experience this first hand. The suspension soaked up the bumps  and the one foot of ground clearance let us get over obstacles of all sorts while the ample torque of the diesel motor ran us all over the trails. One of the different things about the Diesel on the trails in comparison with its Gas powered cousin is its powerband.

2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel

The Diesel utilizes an automatic PVT transmission with a direct shaft drive to keep the wheels turning. When working we found this set-up was phenomenal! The machine turns 90% of its power at only 1,600 RPM and the ability to slowly tug heavy loads and trailers is great. On the trail we felt as if you really had to have your foot on the floor to get some speed going, however. The powerband felt weaker at speed then while working slowly. If you step on it she still goes quick but it’s something you’ll need to get used to if you’re a seasoned side-by-side rider.

Another little something to get used to if you’re making the switch from Gas to Diesel is the fuel economy. Polaris claims that the Ranger Diesel gets up to 40% more range than its comparable gas powered Ranger cousin.

If we look past the fuel supply differences though you will find all the same features as a Normal Ranger. Better fuel economy, more work capability, and all the same fun features as the Ranger we know and love? This is a great package Polaris has put together.

2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel

In the cab you’ll find a bench seat for three occupants. We rode around a bit with three people and it was a bit cramped but if you just need to move people around a job site or for short distances it’s a great feature. We need the extra seat while launching a pair of Jet-skis. One person to drive the Ranger Diesel and trailer back and two people to ride the machines back across the lake.

This was an impressive unit for this job. We moved three people, one trailer, two jet-skis, one fuel can, a jug of oil, and life jackets all in one trip – comfortably.

One interesting note about the Ranger’s drive system: While we were at the boat launch we discovered that the Ranger free-wheels while travelling downhill. You can keep the throttle engaged to keep the belt engaged but we all know this isn’t good for your drive system. However we all felt that rolling down a hill with your brakes being the only control isn’t the best option either – especially with a loaded trailer hooked up behind!

No worries on exceeding towing restrictions on the Ranger diesel with its monstrous towing stats and standard 2 in. hitch receiver. The machine is rated to tow up to 2000 pounds! This was more than enough to pull our water toys around and it was even enough to drag our 880-pound steel harrow around our shop field. This is a yearly job usually entrusted to a tractor but in four-wheel drive with the gear selector in low we just rolled around and tore up all the weeds and larger stones in the lot.

2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel

Talking about that gear selector brings us into the cab features on the Ranger diesel. On the dashboard you’ll find a gear selector which allows you to change between low, neutral, high, and reverse. There is a switch for 4WD, 2WD, and a one wheel drive Polaris VersaTrac turf mode. The cab also has excellent ergonomics with a tilt-steering wheel that moves up to 10 in. and mesh doors which easily open and move out of the way.

The doors on the Diesel feature a solid metal bar which anchors in a cradle at the bottom of the door. This makes the mesh more rigid and easier to move – fewer tangles and fewer headaches.

2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel

Above the clip for the door is the units parking brake which is strong enough to hold the unit on nearly any angle. This also came with a nice feature which we’ve started calling the idiot-alarm. If you start to drive the unit without fully disengaging the parking brake then an obnoxious beep will begin to sound which will tell you that you’re about to do something dumb. Needless to say this saved us from burning out the parking brake a couple of times during our test.

Also during our test we found that even though the unit does not have power steering you can still turn the wheels and manoeuvre around at low speeds fairly easily – even with a full load of people or cargo.  Cargo can be handled on the Diesel easily as well with the lock & ride cargo system. This cargo system allows you a series of different options for how to store and hold things in the bed of your machine. Cargo boxes, Cargo bags for inside the cab, and even gun scabbards are available with this system.

You can dress up your Ranger as well with other factory accessories. You can order a cab for cold or inclement weather operation, windshields for all year around, Winches for when you get stuck, plows for clearing snow, and even a track system to replace the four wheels. The versatile and hard working ranger Diesel only gets better with these options on board.

2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel

We found that the Polaris Ranger diesel would be a great unit for anyone who needs a reliable workhorse. Farmers, property owners, and even construction companies would appreciate the features the machine has as well as its common fuel supply with most of their existing equipment. On the other hand this machine would be at home on a trail too. This isn’t an extreme performance machine, but it can still be a ton of fun starting at $12,999.

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2011 Polaris Ranger and ATV Lineup Preview
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