Putting Polaris' new top gun to the test
Can-Am has sat atop the big displacement throne for the past couple of years now. If not by offering the highest level of all-around performance available, then by simply offering the largest displacement machines on the market with its 976cc Outlander Utility and Renegade Sport 4×4 models.
Last year when Polaris introduced its impressive Scrambler XP 850 Sport 4×4, it seemed that the Minnesota-based manufacturer was willing to do battle with a smaller caliber, yet very refined and effective weapon. One year later, the displacement war has reignited. Polaris is back with a stroked version of its Sport 4×4 – the Scrambler XP 1000. Is more really better? Let’s find out.
The 2014 Polaris Scrambler XP 1000 is essentially a pumped up version of the Scrambler XP 850 LE. Like the 850 LE, it comes standard with Electronic Power steering, eight-spoke cast aluminum wheels, factory installed bumper, hand guards, LED lights, digital instrumentation and, most notably, Fox Podium X 2.0 shocks. All of the Scrambler models share the same chassis and body styling, although the 1000 is the only Scrambler model available in its striking White Lightning, Black and Red color scheme.
To turn the 850 into the 1000, Polaris increased the Scrambler’s bore and stroke, boosting its displacement from 850 to 952cc. While that might not quite sound like 1000cc to some, neither does the 976cc Rotax powering the Can-Ams. Polaris was going after more horsepower with the 1000, not looking to change its power characteristics, so the compression and cam profiles remain the same.
COMPARISON: Read about the Can-Am Renegade 1000
To take advantage of the extra displacement, Polaris designed and installed a new higher flow, stainless steel, dual exhaust system. The larger displacement and exhaust result in a boost in horsepower from 77hp on the 850 to over 89 ponies on the 1000. This amounts to just over $100 for each of the 12 extra horsepower (the Scrambler XP 1000 retails for $13,299 compared to $11,999 for the Scrambler XP 850 LE).
We recently got our hands on a 2014 Polaris Scrambler XP 1000 for a brief test session. While suspension tuning will have to wait, we did get a good feel for what the new machine has to offer.
Turn the key and the Scrambler fires to life without hesitation, thanks to its electronic fuel injection. With a 270-degree offset crankshaft and dual balance shafts, vibration levels are remarkably low from the large displacement high-horsepower engine, although its demeanor is quite evident from the low rumble of the dual exhaust system.
Polaris did a good job of making the monster as manageable as possible. Of course it is ridiculously fast, but if you know what you are doing it’s easy to putt along in tight sections with the throttle barely cracked open. There is enough low end power on tap to crawl your way over or up almost any hill that gets in your way.
On holeshots where you want to bury your buddy, a good level of throttle control is mandatory. In high traction areas, you can easily catapult yourself off the rear of the machine no matter how far you lean forward if you aren’t careful. Power and speed throughout the midrange and top end are mind blowing. The engine is blisteringly fast and not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. It revs quickly and controllably, never running out of power from bottom to top.
Mud boggers and hill climbers will love the engine, as will anyone looking to effortlessly smoke their friends in a drag race. For real world riding, the Scrambler XP 1000 may be a bit much. We’re pretty sure we could go just as fast (and maybe a little faster on most trails) on the slightly less powerful Scrambler XP 850. However, if you have to have the biggest, perhaps only the 1000 will do.
With so much torque, we never seemed to need the transmission’s low range. We would perhaps use it for long periods of rock crawling to simply be kind to the belt in the Polaris Variable Transmission, or if we decided to tow our truck to the trail.
COMPARISON: Read our Polaris Scrambler XP 850 Review
In two-wheel drive, the rear end slides out effortlessly in corners. If there is body roll, the engine will explode the rear tires before the outside tire has a chance to load up and transfer weight. On loose gravel-covered trails, four-wheel drifts are possible with all-wheel drive engaged. Dispite the machine’s hefty 767-pound dry weight, the Scrambler XP 1000 feels planted and secure lugging its way up massive inclines with the all-wheel-drive system engaged. If the rear tires break traction, the front tires kick in and help pull you along, up hills, over logs or through deep mud, providing locked in four-wheel drive until you let off the gas. Once you apply the throttle again, if the rear tires find ample traction the all-wheel drive system will continue providing power to the rear wheels only. Two-wheel drive is fun for sliding around, however we ran the Scrambler in all-wheel drive a majority of the time, choosing traction over sliding for greater predictability.
Steering effort is very light, allowing you to change direction quickly or counter steer if the rear end starts backing out in turns. We noticed a little welcomed front end scrub when making abrupt direction changes with the front tires. We never had a problem setting the Scrambler up for a turn; however, having slightly less than perfect steering precision keeps the front end from getting twitchy at extreme speeds. With steering this light and this much power on tap, razor-sharp steering could get you in trouble in a hurry. We found it to be responsive yet light and manageable.
Blessesd with phenomenal suspension, the Scrambler almost makes you feel like you can master all that power. You can’t, but the suspension sure lets you make the most of it. Its supple on small trail junk, soaks up big square edged pot holes and resists bottoming on g-outs. The suspension’s out of the box setting seem spot on. We didn’t have the time to tune the shocks, but never felt the need to change anything. The Fox Podium X shocks offer true high-performance action, with a level of plushness you won’t find on a traditional lightweight Sport quad. Equipped with reservoirs at all four corners, the shocks never heated up or faded during our testing.
As with the other premium models, the Scrambler 1000 features Polaris’ engine braking system, which does a good job of helping maintain a controllable pace on long descents, and it provides a natural, in-gear compression braking feeling – like you would find on a manual transmission machine.
When you sit on the Scrambler there is no doubt that it is a big beast, although the ergonomics are quite comfortable, especially so for larger riders. The seat is raised near the back, similar to the Hump Seat produced by Quad Tech, which helps keep you from sliding back under extreme acceleration.
COMPARISON: Read our Can-Am Renegade 500 Review
Mini racks front and rear allow you to bring along a little cargo for long excursions. The Scrambler’s racks offer up a modest 25 pounds of payload front and 50 pounds rear. A standard hitch receiver allows you to two along another 1,500 pounds for times you need to pull your buddies Side-by-Sides out of the muck.
No matter who you are, chances are that you don’t have the talent to make full use of this machine for real world riding. This machine isn’t about practicality, though. It is built for the rider with the budget and the desire to own the biggest and best.
Fortunately, it is more than a mindless brute. The Scrambler XP 1000’s handling and suspension are as on par with the engine’s performance as we could expect from a ride-on ATV. If you are new to the sport, look elsewhere. If you are a seasoned rider looking for the fastest ATV on the market to put in your garage, the Scrambler is stupid fast, fun and well refined.