2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 Review – Video

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
Some new muscle for the Sport/Utility segment

Few ATVs have a longer lineage than the Polaris Scrambler. Starting out life as a three-wheeler in the 1980s, the Scrambler name has seen it all. For 2013 the Polaris brainiacs have unleashed the Scrambler XP 850, a machine that takes on the sporty side of the utility ATV market with a powerful punch to the mouth.

Starting with the most common connections – the engine, transmission and chassis – this new Scrambler is almost identical to the Sportsman 850 XP. The electronically fuel injected, four-stroke, Single overhead cam, 850cc, twin cylinder engine is liquid cooled and takes a deep breath of air while dual balance shafts keep everything running smooth. Included on this model is the sport tuned exhaust that gives incredible tones while keeping the decibels within legal limits. All told, the powerplant offers up 77 trail-taming horsepower.

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 LE Hero

The Scrambler XP 850 borrows heavily from the Sportsman XP 850.

The PVT transmission is also identical to its Sportsman roots and the Automatic PVT belt driven transmission has Low, High and Reverse positions as well as Park and Neutral selections. If the hills you park on get too steep, just pull in the lockable hand lever to really cement the machine’s wheels in place. Keeping the Scrambler moving forward on the trail is Polaris’ On-Demand True All Wheel Drive. The Scrambler has plenty of power to move to get moving and with all four tires digging in there shouldn’t be many obstacles to stop it.

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 LE Roost

With nearly a foot of ground clearance, the Scrambler will cruise over most trail debris.

When it comes to suspension, the Scrambler XP 850 is equipped with dual A-arms front and rear and Sachs shocks at all four corners. Getting the suspension travel out to 9.0 inches in the front and around 10.25 inches in the rear means rocking big bumps without painful consequences is a reality. As well, the new Scrambler boasts over 11-inches of ground clearance to get over the rough stuff like downed trees and rocks in the trail. This will be a big bonus to those weekend warriors who like to blast into the great unknown with abandon.

A powerful engine and supple suspension are all well and good, but if you can’t stop you’re going to have a bad day. Fortunately, Polaris has stopping power under control. Front and rear brakes are controlled by one hand lever on the bars, while a lower foot pedal operates the rear wheels alone. Large discs take the braking abuse with large piston calipers biting down on them.

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 Base

The base Scrambler XP 850 comes in Bright White.

While the Scrambler shares much with the Sportsman it was derived from, it takes a much different approach to styling. Polaris designed the Scrambler with sharp-edged plastics and bold new graphics that lean to the sporty crowd. This isn’t a bad thing as we have seen a few manufacturers go this route. The front and rear fenders are tight into the rider area and feel more like a sport quad verses compared to the utility-minded Sportsman. However, should you need to do a little work, the Scrambler comes with a rear storage rack (75-pound capacity) and an optional front rack.

If you want to take your Scrambler to the next level, Polaris has a Limited Edition model that is a real fighter right out of the gate. It’s also the unit we were lucky enough to test. Extras on the LE model include power steering, FOX Podium X shocks with compression adjustments, Stealth Black automotive-style painted plastics, 14-inch matte black cast aluminum wheels, hand guards, and LED headlights.

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 LE Track

The jump up to the LE model will net you electronic power steering and FOX Podium X shocks.

The Ride

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 LE Front

It doesn’t take long to realize that this machine can rip it up with the best of them.

Riding the hills of Montana after a tremendous rain, we noticed the soil was loamy and seemed to have a bottom, but you had to dig it out. The rocky trails provided plenty of occasional speed sections as well as many tight technical spots that kept you on your toes.

Getting the machine started was no problem at all in this altitude, due to the electronic fuel injection. The sport-tuned exhaust rang out with a smooth, throaty tone that was very inviting. Sitting on the Scrambler XP 850 the seating was comfortable and if you stayed within the bounds of the seat, which we did not, you wouldn’t hit your bottom on the rear rack.

We played around with the FOX Podium shocks, running up and down through the clicker and tweaked the Scrambler’s legs and arms until we were satisfied that we had it dialed in. The suspension handles rough rocky terrain well and with the awesome 77 horsepower lofting the front wheels when we did get some grip to the ground, the fun really began. Turning up the wick on this 850 engine brings a big smile to our face every time.

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 LE Action Wheelie

With 77 horsepower on tap, the front wheels have a tendency to point skyward.

Thanks to the always-appreciated electronic power steering, steering the Scrambler through tough obstacles wasn’t an issue. The steering did feel just a little tight right off center at times, but always controllable. No matter what we had ran into, the bars were right in our grip. The front brake lever that controls both front and rear brakes would hunker the machine down while the rear didn’t seem to be that aggressive; probably due to the wet soil. As we rode further out the trails the more I noticed the fender coverage or lack thereof.

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 LE Front Left

The narrow fenders don’t offer much in the way of protection from mud and water.

The front as well as the rear fenders allowed the machine to throw big mud biscuits forward and I seemed to be able to catch every single one in the chest or legs. This makes for a messy ride, which is surprising for a machine with full floorboards. We are no stranger to riding in the mud, but we think the Scrambler could use a little more fender protection and still keep its edgy look.

Speaking of looks, the jury here is still out. We have grown accustomed to many machines over the years and we’ll have to say it may take a little more convincing for us to fall in love with the Scrambler. It just seems like something is missing up front.

Look Out, Renegade

It doesn’t take a genius to know what the Scrambler’s main competition is and its aggressive pricing suggests Polaris wants to take a significant chunk out of the sport/utility market currently dominated by Can-Am. The base Scrambler XP 850 retails for $9,499, while the LE version has a price tag of $11,999. In comparison, the Can-Am Renegade 800R retails for $9,999, while the Renegade X xc 800R has an MSRP of $12,499. Any way you slice it, that’s an advantage of 50cc and $500 for Polaris. We can’t wait to see how the Scrambler and Renegade stack up in a head-to-head comparison.

2013 Polaris Scrambler XP 850 LE Trail

Polaris is pointing the Scrambler right at the Can-Am Renegade. This should be a fun fight.

Final Word

Overall, this machine does the Scrambler name proud. With its massive and proven powerplant between the fenders, it has the muscle to push its way out front.

Related Reading

2013 Polaris ATV and UTV Lineup Unveiled

2009 Polaris Scrambler 500 4×4 Review

2009 Polaris Sportsman XP 850 EPS Review

2012 Can-Am Renegade 1000 and 800R Review: First Impressions

2009 Can-Am Renegade 800R EFI Review

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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