Look outside any creaking, cabin door where the machines are stabled much like horses were a hundred years ago and you will almost certainly find a Polaris Sportsman ATV or Ranger Side x Side. No other lineup has enjoyed more success and acceptance with outdoor enthusiasts, mostly due to Polaris designing machines with the features that appealed directly to their needs. It was a match made in heaven, and finally hunting, fishing, camping enthusiasts, and generally anybody that enjoyed time in the woods had a machine that fit their lifestyle perfectly. What started in the woods, though, quickly spread to the backyard, farm, and jobsite and the uses were endless. Polaris engineers did a great job of equipping models for specific tasks as well, and the Polaris lineup now offers over 100 models. At the top of the hard working, multi-purpose Ranger Side x Side line is the mighty Ranger XP 900 and there are 15 different versions to choose from.
All-Weather / All-Terrain Ranger
As much as we love to hit the trails, we spend even more time using our machines as tools for work. It seems there is constantly something to tow or haul, and for that a Ranger is up to almost any task we ask of it. Recently we’ve been using a Ranger 900, and it’s one amazing machine.
Highlights of the Ranger XP 900:
68 hp ProStar Engine
Pre-wired for winch
Tough, high-capacity rear storage box – 1000 lb. capacity
2000 lb. towing capacity from 2” receiver
On-Demand, all-wheel drive
Variable assist Electronic Power Steering on most models
Comfortable cab area with excellent splash protection
Easy entry / exit of cab area – excellent view of the trail ahead
Smooth riding, adjustable suspension with excellent ground clearance
Dozens of factory Polaris accessories
When Polaris redesigned its top-of-the-line Ranger platform a few years ago, all they had learned with the previous Ranger models was incorporated along with a wish list of upgrades. At the heart of the Ranger XP 900 is the Pro-Star engine, but this version has been specially tuned for the hauling and towing demands of the typical Ranger. Rather than racing across the desert or up the face of dunes, this engine is designed for a slightly smoother power delivery but with the brute torque to tow 2000 pounds of whatever you want to hook behind it, plus 1000 pounds piled into the box. That basically makes it a mini-dump truck! The 875cc dual cylinder, EFI equipped engine is rated at 68hp, which is a little less than its racy brothers, but the Ranger is designed for maximum reliability under extreme use and conditions. As with every Polaris, the engine is mated to a CVT style transmission with High, Low, Neutral, Reverse, and Park, and the CVT gets an extra strong belt for maximum service life. The engine is located behind the seat and under the rear bed, which helps with maintenance tasks and it also reduces engine noise. For optimum cooling, though, the radiator remains at the front of the chassis, just like it is with your truck.
Polaris developed an all-new platform for the Ranger XP 900, and the chassis is designed to be stronger and stiffer with less chassis flex. Ground clearance is listed at 12 inches which should get you over almost any obstacle on the trail. At the front and the rear of the Ranger 900 are dual A-arms with 10 inches of travel, and some of the variations between different models are tires and wheels. Base models get 25” tires and steel wheels, while most EPS (Electronic Power Steering) units get 26” tires and cast aluminum wheels. All of the Ranger 900’s come with dual piston hydraulic disc brakes which bring everything to a quick, controlled stop.
Polaris has the easiest power steering in the sport, and it’s possible to turn the Ranger with one finger. On some models, we’ve criticized Polaris for this, feeling that it was almost too light for sport units which had the effect of taking away feel for the terrain. On the Ranger, however, the variable assist power steering works very well! The system measures input forces at the wheel when you begin the turn, then applies assistance based on how fast you’re going. Through the years Polaris has continually refined the system and we’ve never known one to fail. It’s a must-have feature on a full-sized machine.
We like how Polaris used common fasteners on the entire unit and grease zerks at pivot points making maintenance easier. Oil filter access is easy as well and you can get to the filter from the front, top side of the engine; although you’re going to want to do it when the engine is relatively cool since the filter is fairly close to an exhaust pipe. The air filter is located behind the engine but the intake location is high enough it should stay dry unless you really get in deep. While the chassis and engine features on the Ranger XP 900 are impressive, it’s the ergonomics that really complete the package.
The Ranger XP 900 portrays an edgy look and feel, as if it’s ready to take on whatever you point it at. Styling is more than just for looks, however; the occupants are well protected from mud, splashing water, and intruding branches. Inside the crew compartment is the standard three person bench seat sculpted to hold you in place, a tilt wheel, a dash glove box, plenty of open tray storage, and a couple cup holders. On the dash are the shift lever and the switch for the on-demand, all-wheel drive. Thankfully, the driver’s seat is adjustable and the fuel fill cap is on the driver’s side also.
Polaris has always been a leader in storage and in this area the Ranger XP 900 excels. The composite rear bed is rated for 1000 pounds, and under the seat is a second cavernous storage box that’s big enough it could double as a live well for fish. One of the most impressive features, though, is the factory accessory integration. Polaris is a leader in designing their vehicles to work with the factory accessories and with the Ranger 900, they took that concept to a whole new level. Even the roll cage tubes have a channel to work as a perfect mate to the factory doors. It’s a very clever feature that makes the accessory windows and doors extremely easy to install, and they fit perfectly. We couldn’t wait to get one in action.
The North Star
For those of us that live in a Northern climate, it means plenty of days that are less than ideal for outside work. Every hunting season is wet, muddy, and rainy, and winter is long and cold. Minnesota is no Garden of Eden either in winter, but Polaris created a Ranger model that can really take the bite out of winter.
The North Star Edition Ranger is by far the most well equipped Side x Side for battling Mother Nature’s worst. Rather than assembling a cab enclosure one step at a time through accessories, Polaris provides it all in one shot, and the result is a cab that is more comfortable than our truck. Thanks to the tube profile of the main roll cage, all the doors and windows fit perfectly in place and the result is a finished system that both looks and performs better than any cab we’ve ever tried. There is no flimsy feeling with these doors! Polaris calls it their Pro-Fit system, but that hardly describes the level of quality with this kit.
The Pro-Fit North Star Edition Ranger comes with a rear glass window, fixed glass windshield, perfectly fitting molded doors with interior liner and secure latches, hinged windows that can be opened, and a premium, lined roof with an interior dome light. We can’t emphasize enough how it all fits perfectly together. To keep things comfortable inside the cab, the North Star Edition Rangers are the first to be equipped with a climate control system, and in the dash is a heater / defroster. That’s hardly the end of it though; this model also gets HEATED SEATS! Two switches on the dash get your buns toasty, and this was especially welcome for cutting firewood on cold days. Everything seals up perfectly, and noise is greatly reduced. We also like how Polaris gave the glass a curved surface to cut down on glare. As expected, this model isn’t cheap, but there is absolutely nothing close to it on the trail with regard to quality, performance, and comfort. It’s beyond excellent, and if you’ve got outside work to do, this makes it a whole lot easier. For winter joy rides through snowy woods, you can’t beat it! We LOVE it!
Even without the North Star Edition cab, the Ranger XP 900 is a very capable machine. With a 68hp engine down below, there isn’t much that is going to stop it. 4wd has always pulled us through any muddy, sticky spot, but we also like the Turf Mode option with the rear differential which lets us do work around the yard or help out the local little league teams without tearing out the grass. It’s perfect for sensitive turf. Hauling anything from brush to dirt in the huge rear dump box is also no problem, and we like the overall size which lets us carry a good sized load, making fewer trips. It’s been a great tool for hauling branches whenever we trim trees, winter firewood, and even infield dirt. Thankfully, the Ranger also comes with adjustable suspension, and before we began any projects, we cranked the springs up to the second stiffest position. This really helped maintain our ride height and available suspension with heavy loads, but did not diminish the smooth feel of the suspension in any way. For those that really want to pile on heavy loads, the Ranger chassis also comes with a second set of shock mounts that can further stiffen the suspension. About the only problem we had with our Ranger was a little condensation in the fuel after driving it in snow hauling wood, then parking it in a warm barn with a wood burner going. The cold fuel developed a little condensation in the tank, but a couple ounces of Sea Foam in the fuel cured our problem.
The North Star
Through the years, the traits that made the Ranger and Sportsman ATVs a hit with outdoor lovers have continually been refined. Today’s Ranger XP 900 delivers a very smooth, controlled ride, and it handles perfectly on the trial. The motor has all the power needed for anything you ask it to do, and a 2” receiver makes it easy to hook anything behind. Inside the cab area the controls are well placed, and it’s very comfortable for the driver and a couple passengers. The North Star Edition XP 900 takes cold weather comfort to a level you won’t find anywhere else, and it makes the Ranger even more of an all-weather, all-terrain machine. We love it, but regardless of which model Ranger XP 900 you choose, there is no bad choice.
Polaris Ranger XP 900 specifications – Base Unit
Engine Type: 875cc, liquid cooled, 4-Stroke Twin with Electronic Fuel Injection
Transmission/Final Drive Automatic PVT H/L/N/R/P; Shaft
Drive System Type: On-Demand True AWD/2WD/ VersaTrac Turf Mode
Front Suspension: Dual A-Arm 10.0" (25.4 cm) Travel
Rear Suspension: Dual A-Arm, IRS 10.0" (25.4 cm) Travel
Parking Brake: Park In-Transmission
Front Tires: 25 x 10-12; 489
Rear Tires: 25 x 11-12; 489
Bed Dimensions (L x W x H): 36.5 x 54 x 11.5" (93 x 137 x 29 cm)
Bed Capacity: 1,000 lb (453.6 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 10 gal (37.9 L)
Ground Clearance 12" (30.5 cm)
Overall Size (L x W x H): 116.5 x 60 x 76 in. (296 x 152 x 193 cm)
Payload Capacity: 1,500 lb (680.4 kg)
Person Capacity: 3
Wheelbase: 81" (206cm)
Dry Weight: 1,325 lb (602kg)
Hitch Towing Rating: 2,000 lb (907.2 kg)
Hitch Type: Standard/2" Receiver
Instrumentation: Digital Gauge, Speedometer, Odometer, Tachometer, Tripmeter, Hour Meter, Clock, Gear Indicator, Fuel Gauge, Hi-Temp/Low-Batt Lights, DC Outlets (2)
Lighting: 55W low/ 60W high, LED Tail
MSRP: $ 13,499
(In addition to above)
Electronic Power Steering Standard
Front Tires: 26 x 9-12; PXT
Rear Tires: 26 x 11-12; PXT
Wheels: Aluminum Black Xcelerator
ProFit Cab: Factory-installed molded doors with hinged windows, premium carpet lined roof, glass windshield, glass rear panel
Cab Interior Features: Factory-installed heater kit with defrost, heated seats, under seat seal kit, dome light, rearview mirror, NorthStar shift pattern
Cab Exterior Features: Factory-installed windshield wiper system
MSRP: $ 21,299