2015 Polaris Sportsman 1000 XP Review

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
2015 Sportsman XP 1000 Beauty
Gobs of power, but all of it is manageable

Polaris has a well-earned reputation in recent years of going big on a regular basis. This is most evident in its RZR line of Sport UTVs, but Polaris’ ATV family has recently been getting the same treatment. The most recent example is the 2015 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000.

With the introduction of the Polaris Scrambler 1000 for the 2014 model year, it was only a matter of time before we would hear of the same powerful engine being squeezed between the fenders of the Sportsman badge. With a trip out to Hog Canyon in Knab, Utah east of Zion National Park, we had a chance to try the new Sportsman XP 1000 on for size. What we found was a familiar platform with a new desire to run wild.

Polaris made sure the new Sportsman XP 1000 benefited from all of the same great lines as Sportsman family is known for. With the addition of the big powerplant, we were expecting nothing but tire-shredding fun on this Utility ATV.

While it shares an engine with the Scrambler XP 1000, the new Sportsman looks as if it leans more towards work than its racy sibling. That said, it is not hard to bring out the brutal power when you want it. The ProStar 952cc 4-stroke SOHC firebox pumps out 88 hp, which is 10 more ponies than the Sportsman 850. Comparatively, the Can-Am Outlander 1000 is quicker to respond to throttle input off the bottom. The big ProStar engine can certainly be tuned to offer the same arm-stretching performance, but Polaris has chosen to leave that to the Scrambler. You’ll get no disagreement from us on that decision.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Polaris Scrambler XP 1000

This model isn’t designed for racing, so Polaris pulled the reigns back just a little when it comes to things like fuel mapping. With electronic fuel injection, throttle response as well as performance is evident and sufficient. Being liquid cooled, the Sportsman kept a cool head while ripping through the trails or idling around the rocky creek beds at Hog Canyon. Power delivery seems gradual at first, but once it begins to build the muscle it is capable of you can really feel it coming to life.

2015 Sportsman XP 1000 Action Front

Polaris did an excellent job in controlling the power delivery of the 88-horsepower ProStar engine.

Since the power is the big story for this new Sportsman XP 1000, many things had to be taken into consideration for the less throttle-happy consumers. Polaris engineers geared the transmission to handle the extra ponies, yet deliver the power controllably for the average rider. Taking the massive output of this engine and taming it down a bit seems like a crime, but we think it is well worth the cost due to this vehicle’s intentions. Smooth power delivery makes its way to the trail via the Polaris PVT transmission. This drive system also offers Polaris’ acclaimed True All Wheel Drive for the times when the trail turns to mush or the rocky sections need to be tamed with all tires churning.

The Sportsman XP 1000 comes with Low and High gears, as well as Reverse, Neutral and a true Park gear in the transmission. As well, a lockable park brake offers added protection when you walk away from your machine. Polaris also includes its proven Active Descent Control to assist in those steep declines and help slow the Sportsman through engine braking. We had plenty of opportunities to experience this on the trails during our ride. Keeping the ATV in check with engine braking helps the rider focus more on the task of driving and a little less on the machine.

2015 Sportsman XP 1000 Action Descent

Active Descent Control made traversing steep declines a less intimidating task.

Soaking up the bumps for the Sportsman XP 1000 is the Dual A-Arm suspension with 9.0 inches of travel in the front and just over 10 inches out back on what Polaris calls its rolled IRS suspension. Suspension geometry is something borrowed from the championship-winning Scrambler platform and it has proven itself to be a good design. While we found the Sportsman XP 1000’s closest competitor, the Can-Am Outlander 1000, to have a softer front suspension than we prefer on such a powerful machine, the Sportsman does a good job in predictably handling its gobs of power.

With a high ground clearance of 11.5 inches, this machine will easily cruise over trails with exposed roots and moderate rocks as we had experienced during our tour of the canyons. With the 26-inch tires and 14-inch wheels on our Sportsman, it did feel as if we could cross over most any obstacles we encountered.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT

Polaris has worked hard to provide an anti-kickback steering and on the 2015 Sportsman XP 1000 we came to appreciate its Electronic Power Steering. Having power steering on any machine makes the ride a lot smoother and keeps fatigue to a minimum. Being able to control the ride due to its assist from the EPS is yet one more reason to love this ATV. Crawling around in the Canyons three miles north of Knab, Utah, the EPS worked flawlessly. Being able to guide the machine instead of it taking us where we didn’t want to go is always a plus and power steering helps with that. We felt the power steering had a little too much assist at really slow speeds, but that’s where Polaris feels the majority consumers want it the most.

2015 Sportsman XP 1000 Action Right

Electronic Power Steering is a huge benefit on an ATV of this size, especially when slowly traversing particularly nasty terrain.

We mentioned earlier that Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 leans more towards the working and trail riding enthusiast rather than a race machine, and with the towing capabilities of this rig it is apparent that it will be able to handle a great hunt or hard day on the farm. The front and rear rack platforms can handle 120 pounds and 240 pounds, respectively. Additionally, the racks feature around 100 tie-down points for the gear you wish to carry. For towing duties, hook up to the receiver hitch with up to 1500 lbs. We do not know many who actually tow this much weight, but it is nice to know this machine is capable of it.

Creature comforts on the Sportsman XP 1000 are all too familiar when it comes to throwing a leg over the seat. The engine is mounted in a way to provide a narrow, more confidence-inspiring seating arrangement for the rider. The narrow seat keeps your knees a little closer together. It is also comfortable and offers plenty of room for the rider to move around in difficult terrain. It is a more natural feeling seating arrangement and very comfortable even on longer days of riding.

2015 Sportsman XP 1000 Action Standing

We came away impressed with the overall ergonomics of the machine, though slightly grippier floorboards would be been appreciated.

We found ample room on the floorboards for big boots, but would have preferred some better grip. During our ride in Hog Canyon, we didn’t have a chance to test out the triple 50-watt high beams, but we assume that if the sun goes down you will be able to see the trail ahead.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2010 Arctic Cat Thundercat 1000 H2

Our ride through and around Hog Canyon proved much of what we already knew about the Sportsman family. This setup has always been a welcomed ride and with the addition of more power it just makes the ride more exciting. The Black Pearl coloring on Sportsman XP 1000 just seemed to sparkle in the sunlight and garnered the Special Edition look Polaris was going for.

As we had mentioned above, this engine provides plenty of power and torque yet it is smooth and comes on easily from the bottom. It is very controllable, so do not be afraid of this ride because you think it would be too much to handle. We commend Polaris for finding a way to keep all 88 horsepower in check and reasonably easy for the rider to have command over.

2015 Sportsman XP 1000 Action Wheelie
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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