Once in a while at a media event, you run up against a machine that wows the small acreage nut. Call me easily amazed, call me enthralled with UTVs that perform backbreaking work while allowing you to get after it in the trail-riding realm, call me even more impressed with an engineering group who can answer every question you have enthusiastically while getting some sincere joy out of watching their creation be truly put to the test: the Polaris Ranger XP 900 impressed bigtime at the 2012 Model Year 2013 press launch near Great Falls, Montana, last week.
Our folks, the GRIT community, have time and time again indicated you like machines that are capable of real work, be it drilling a 36-inch hole by tractor-mounted PTO auger, splitting Osage Orange (hedge) wood into cords of wonderful heat, a tiller meant to cover your acreage - be it a Mantis 2-stroke or a beefy TroyBilt - or the old Alice Chalmers you inherited and drives like a beast but gets it done wherever you live.
At the 2012 Polaris event, I hammered on multiple units with you in mind: Polaris Sportsman 850 ATV, Polaris Ranger 800 mid-size that is still available and is a best-selling make and model, Polaris RZR XP 900 that now boasts 12 ½ inches ground clearance (guys at dinner tell me competitive riders are buying these turn-key on the way to dunes events, and winning), and most of all the Ranger XP 900.
The Ranger XP 900 is much quieter (in large part because the engine is now located under the box), the chassis is two times (100 percent improvement) more rigid than its predecessor, it has 10 percent more suspension travel, and it delivers - at 60 hp - 75 percent power to the ground. In the world of small-scale agriculture, this thing stole the show. In my mind, it outperformed the popular but older mid-size Ranger (800s retail for around $12,300 base, while the new 900 is about $1600 more for the base rig) hands-down, even under the humble load of square bales I could track down and take to the trails all afternoon. At 1,500-pounds total payload, and one-ton towing capacity, I wasn’t even scratching the surface with those square bales, but I wanted to at least simulate some real work.
At one point, I was straight gettin’ it, sliding sideways around a corner on gravel at around 45-50 mph, wondering a little apprehensively – I admit it – how the top-speed would feel at 60 mph. I wouldn’t feel the need to go that fast on pavement, that’s for sure, but that’s where the Speedkey accessory adds real value; especially if you have kids.
And that American-made Polaris Sportsman 850 gets after it, too. Man, was that fun.
Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on Google+.