2011 Polaris Sportsman X2 550 Review
Maybe the most versatile ATV in the industry
Story by Matthew Elmer, Photography by Photos by Lucas Cooney & Polaris, Jan. 24, 2011
What do you get when you combine utility features and dual passenger seating? The answer is the Polaris Sportsman X2 550. The base Sportsman models are already well known for their utility abilities so when Polaris went ahead and added a utility cargo bed it increased the appeal of the X2 as a work machine.
That durable plastic molded box on a steel frame is the focal point of the machine when you first look at it. It’s also the centre of attention when it comes time to do some work or riding.
The bed features a single handle release on its rear truck style tailgate; with this down it makes loading the bed simple and allows you to fit in oversized items. The rear box is dump capable and features release handles on either side of the box at the tops of the rear fenders.
We put the box to work during our test of the X2. Along the lakeshore of our property we’ve built a rock wall from granite stones to prevent erosion as much as possible. Of course every couple of years this wall needs to be re-built or just added to…this was one of those years.
The beach isn’t really accessible by a larger machine like a tractor or side-by-side so the maneuverability of the X2 was perfect for the job. The rear bed features a 400-pound load capacity and pneumatic assist dump feature.
We were impressed with the X2 after two straight days of loading and transporting granite stones from the forest more than a mile away. The plastic in the bed stood up to the abuse of loading and dumping rocks and showed little damage or scratches. The dumping feature wasn’t able to move the near capacity load alone but with a little assistance from us we emptied the bed repeatedly onto the awaiting wall.
The power to move these stones comes from 550’s single-cylinder 4-stroke 549cc engine. This power plant is liquid-cooled and is fed with an EFI (electronic fuel injection) system.
We found that this motor put out plenty of low-end torque for getting the heavy loads of stone around. That power was most noticeable when negotiating the 30-degree natural ramp from the beach up to our property. The motor didn’t struggle and it never felt over-powered or like it would get away from you if you made a mistake.
Putting the engine’s power to the wheels is an automatic PVT (Polaris variable transmission) with selectable park, reverse, neutral, high, and low gears. This transmission’s activation was very smooth and could be operated as smoothly or as punchy as you’d like. We witnessed this first hand at lunch time when we moved some food and drinks out to our miniature “quarry”. The drinks were in cups just standing upright in the bed – with no lids. Thanks to some smooth throttle operation and the gentle engaging action of the shaft drive transmission our beverages made it to the job site without a drop spilled.
Also contributing to our successful hydration is the X2’s drive system. This unit has an on-demand true AWD, 2WD, and VersaTrac turf mode. The true AWD mode automatically engages all four wheels when you need more traction and the VersaTrac mode unlocks the rear differential so making tight turns doesn’t damage the terrain as much.
This was excellent for us around the property. We were able to drive across the lawns while working without the fear of a smack upside the head from our grandmother when we marked up the grass. She couldn’t even tell that we had used an ATV to do the work; she even asked if we had moved all the stones by hand. Thankfully for our backs that wasn’t the case.
We didn’t just work with the X2 though. When the work was done (or we could sneak away on a “break”) we would hit the trails. Riding alone the X2 felt nimble and stable. We had a great time pushing it through the forest trails and through some swampy sections.
The true AWD really shone in this part of the forest when we had the unit up to the tops of the tires in water and mud. The other feature we got to see in action on this part of the trail was the floorboards designed to quickly drain water and mud away from the rider’s feet. Also noteworthy was the waterproof storage box on the front of the machine with 8.2 gal. of storage capacity and a 120-pound weight rating. This kept our wallet and cell phone dry when we were soaked from the chest down.
Moving people around with the X2 was a snap as well. The rear cargo bed features a fold-down seat which quickly converts from a comfortable back rest to a seat for another rider. This seat was comfortable with its adjustable height backrest and dual handles for the rider to hold on too on either side of the bed – no more clinging to the driver. The rear passenger is also accommodated with specially designed rear steps for comfortable foot placement as well as easier mounts and dismounts.
For both working and riding Polaris has built an excellent suspension system to accommodate the extra weight of a second passenger or cargo in the dump bed. The rolled IRS (independent rear suspension) is angled towards the rear of the machine for superior comfort and to reduce squatting during acceleration. This set up allows for 10.3 in. of travel on the rear of the machine and the dual A-arm front suspension has 9.0 in. to eat up the bumps.
Speaking of bumps on the trail, the X2 has a ground clearance of 11.3 in. which is more than enough to get over most obstacles. Moving around our temporary rock quarry was simple because we could travel over some of the stones rather than around them.
Operating the X2 was quite comfortable on the padded rubber seat with a seat height of 30.8 in. The ergonomics in the saddle are quite excellent with a high positioned handlebar and conveniently placed controls.
In front of the pilot is a digital analog gauge which provides easy-to-read information such as speed, RPM, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, and drive mode indicator. Thumb operated controls for the lights and drive selection are well placed and easy to operate.
On the left side of the handle bar you will find the single lever which operates the 4-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. This is a little odd as most riders are used to having a lever on both sides of the handlebars but we found that the single lever operates the brakes just as well and it frees up your right hand to only operate the throttle.
This is especially handy when you are tackling hills. Working both throttle and brakes to keep the ride smooth is essential. The X2 also assists in the downhill aspect with built in ADC (active decent control) and EBS (engine braking system). These monitor and control downhill braking and provide smooth deceleration when you need it most. We really saw the benefits of this system when coming down our driveway with a load of stones in the bed. Our 35-degree driveway has seen many ATVs come free-wheeling down with no back pressure from the engine at all – thankfully the brakes always worked. The addition of the ADC and EBS makes this downward decent feel safer – especially with a trailer hitched on.
The X2 features a standard Polaris 1.25-in. hitch receiver with whatever size of tow-ball you would like. The impressive thing about the towing capacities of this ATV is when you see the maximum allowable load weight is 1,500 lbs.
To test this out we hitched up our Jet Ski to the X2 and towed it down to the launch. We estimated that the trailer and unit weigh around 1,200 lbs. The 550 motor had no problem pulling the weight and didn’t feel loose going down the road to the launch. We were surprised because the trailer was heavier than the X2’s dry weight of 799 lbs. We expected the trailer to push the unit through corners and when braking but were pleasantly surprised when it didn’t.
The new Polaris Sportsman X2 has plenty of power to do the work around your property, but when it’s time to play you and a friend can still hop on and go for a spin on the local trails. This complete work and sport package starts at $8,999.