Charging into the desert with Polaris’ new RZR XP Turbo S Velocity Edition
The wide open deserts in America’s southwest region showcase a brutal environment for both man and machine. Rock strewn gullies, washboard roads, and gravel washes are all waiting for the driver to dip a tire just a bit too far to the right just in time to hit that perfectly placed boulder. The desert is there to get you, but there are vehicles these days to bite back like never before. One such vehicle is the latest Polaris RZR offering, better known as the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity.
This particular RZR is a stripped down version of the XP Turbo S that was unveiled last year, complete with all of the technology that you could ever want in a side-by-side vehicle. One of the biggest concerns that we found from potential buyers is the fact that the price of the regular XP Turbo S is one of the highest in the side-by-side industry, with the 2-seater cresting the $28k mark and the 4-seater going for almost $31k. To be fair, these particular models include industry-exclusive features like electronically adjustable Fox shocks, a 7” glove-touch Ride Command system as standard equipment, and massive 32” ITP tires from the factory. Some people don’t want all of this technology because they want a stripped down version of a vehicle, especially in the harsh desert environments. Polaris answered this call with a cheaper (MSRP $25,399), stripped down version of the XP Turbo S with the all-new Velocity edition.
The term “stripped down” shouldn’t concern you, either. The Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity is still loaded with all of the latest and greatest components that make the Turbo S lineup a top-tier vehicle in the industry. Features such as the 72” width, 32” ITP Coyote 8-ply tires, 15” aluminum wheels, new isolated on-demand front differential, 168-horsepower turbocharged ProStar parallel twin engine, redesigned ROPS system, massive brakes front and rear, and an all-new interior are all standard on the Velocity. All together, we wanted to find out if the sum of all of these top-shelf parts result in a RZR that is as capable as its more expensive brethren?
Initial impressions of the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity are very positive as it boasts that signature RZR look and feel right off the bat. In order to get the cost of this Velocity down almost $3000 from the regular XP Turbo S, Polaris had to remove features like the roof, lower quarter doors, signature LED lighting front and rear, electronic Fox shocks, and Ride Command system. The Velocity edition is down on features, but, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m the guy who likes to focus on the adventure side of the UTV market and really find the faraway places. To do that, you want a stripped down version of a vehicle to minimize potential problems on the trail. The machine has to get you there and back. Not that the regular Turbo S would have any issues, but there are more electronic nannies to go haywire out on the trail, and for those reasons and more I’m a fan of the bare bones Velocity that focuses on capability over everything else.
To truly test out the capability of the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity, we took it to several different environments, including the rough and tumble desert with wide open washes and straightaways, massive sand dunes of Glamis, and to the rock strewn environments with big climbs and boulder spots. Combined, all of these would allow us to test out high speed stability, low speed rock crawling capability, and of course handling performance in the dunes and desert through smooth and whooped out areas.
The wide open washes in Arizona allow the driver to test high speed stability and cornering ability, and this is one area that Polaris did its homework with the suspension setup and 72” wide stance. As you would imagine, the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity is incredibly stable at high speeds with that wide stance. Sometimes, flat top tires can have a bit of a blitsy feeling when the driver slides sideways or the rear end gets light, but these ITPs work in conjunction with the chassis wonderfully, delivering stability and cornering prowess that you won’t find in many other vehicles.
If you haven’t driven a RZR chassis before, then I highly suggest getting behind the wheel of one because the driving dynamics are very enjoyable, especially in this Turbo S. The back end is happy to swing out in 2WD, but it does it in a very controllable and predictable manner. I never found that power slides were uncontrollable or uneasy. Plus, with 168 horsepower on tap, you can power slide at 5 mph just as easy as you can sling it sideways at 60 mph. It really is great fun! Credit the power steering here, too – on center feel and weight is near perfect and the quickness of this steering box gives the driver the ability to make quick adjustments for incoming obstacles. It is one of if not the best high performance EPS systems on the market for overall feel and quickness.
We know that high speed handling is a big win for the Turbo S, but how does it do in the rocks and slow speed terrain? Going into the iconic King of the Hammers race this year, many racers thought that the extra wide 72” platform would be too wide for true rock crawling with more area to get hung up on. Mitch Guthrie Jr. proved everyone wrong by taking the convincing win in his Velocity-edition Turbo S.
After driving the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity through some serious rock strewn areas, we can see why this vehicle is so good in the rocks. The combination of the extra strong A-arms and trailing arms that are new on the Turbo S lineup, plus the fact that the drivetrain has been strengthened and the tires are now 32” stock, giving this Velocity edition the ability to eat up rock crawls. The Low gear is sufficiently low for rock crawling, allowing you to creep at 3 mph and carefully place the tires where you need them to get up and over obstacles. Same with the descents. I found that having the tires outside of the fender wells was not so welcomed with having rocks flying in the cab (we wish Polaris kept the lower quarter doors on this machine!), but the excellent sight lines are very welcomed on this side-by-side.
We often comment on how the RZR has a higher seating position than competitive units and how this doesn’t make you feel like you truly sit in the vehicle, but the higher position is great for rock crawling. Coupled with the extra vehicle width, the Velocity is truly a rock crawler at heart. For those of you who ride tree-lined, rooted, rock filled trails back east, you’ll appreciate the exceptional ground clearance (16”), compact wheelbase (90”), and large tires for getting you up and over obstacles, too. Plus, the latest clutching and powertrain upgrades, including that larger front differential, enable this Velocity to be ultra-efficient and effective in putting the power to the ground, no matter how jagged the terrain might be.
Opening it back up, we wanted to take the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity to the wide open sand dunes on the west coast, mainly to test how this vehicle performs in the power-robbing sand. With a set of paddle tires and a trailer full of fuel, I set out on the first ride with my sights set on the largest bowls, steepest transitions, and massive g-outs that are littered all over the Glamis dunes. The first thing I noticed was, again, the extra width and the stability that it provides this vehicle. It is reminiscent of driving large, V8-powered buggies that make razor backs seemingly disappear under all the horsepower and big tires. The Velocity has the power to get drivers up and over the steepest dunes, and the width makes the sharp razor backs much easier to navigate for the novice or experienced duner alike.
One of the other dune features that we wanted to test was the whoop performance, mainly because the dunes are littered with them. Traditionally, Polaris has always sprung their rear suspension very stiff and “bouncy” with a bit too harsh of a spring setup on their stock vehicles. While the Turbo S lineup does a better job at not being too stiff from the factory with a semi dual rate spring setup, it is still not suspended correctly for taking on long whoop sections. The bouncing and bucking effect is ever present in this Velocity – the shocks just don’t cycle through the travel effectively to give you performance in the whooped out terrain. It’s such a shame, because there are so many good aspects of this Velocity, yet I’d have to recommend you re-spring the Walker Evans Velocity shocks from the factory to unleash their full potential. These shocks have great build quality with their massive shock shafts and piggyback oil cooling reservoirs, and with a bit of tuning they have the capability to work exceptionally well with some work in the spring department.
The same suspension findings were noticed in the desert terrain as well. You could write it off and say that the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity is tuned for performance driving and that is that. Yet, when you look at the vehicle as a whole, it should have better performance in a variety of terrain because drivers are using this vehicle in the desert on slow and fast washboard roads, on rock climbs, and in the dunes. While it does perform well, it could be better in the suspension department for more types of terrain.
Looking towards the inside of the vehicle, Polaris has done a very nice job at upgrading its RZR XP interior over the past year. What was once a pretty standard setup has now morphed into a very nice driver-focused instrument cluster that gives you all of the information you need a glance just under the steering wheel. In place of the Ride Command display, the Velocity has a nifty extra storage compartment that is tailor made for essentials like gloves, a first aid kit, snack bars, and other items for your ride. I commented several times as to the effectiveness of the storage compartments on the inside of this RZR and how there are plenty of options now. Plus, the revised dash offers a ton of pre-cut switch cutouts so you can easily add accessories to the Velocity. Sitting in the seats of the Velocity gives you a familiar RZR-esque feeling. The four-point harnesses were a must and we are SO glad that Polaris included these on this vehicle – it’s something it should do to the entire RZR performance lineup. But the seats are getting a bit old in the tooth with their lackluster bolstering and build quality. There are much better options on the market now with a better supporting and more comfortable seat. So, we hope they are improved soon. Plus, Polaris should really look into a better seat slider system.
The rest of the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity is traditionally RZR. Maintenance is easily performed on this vehicle with cutouts for all of the differential, transmission, and engine oil drains. While we never had an issue with the belt, especially with the advanced cooling duct on this vehicle, belt changes are easily performed with plenty of room to work. If you’re one of the riders like us who like to carry tools and a water cooler on long rides, the familiar cargo bed is found on this vehicle with several tie down points. We appreciate the deep bedsides that help keep cargo secure.
Overall, the Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity is one heck of a fun vehicle to drive with great high speed stability, awesome driving dynamics that allow you to slide it comfortably and really take advantage of all that turbocharged power, and a fairly comfortable cabin that allows you to enjoy long rides. The multi terrain capability of the Velocity edition is more than enough reason to buy this vehicle, and for any of you looking for a stripped down version at a cheaper price, this Velocity does it right by ditching some of the technology but keeping all of the features that truly matter, making this the most capable RZR ever in our book.