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2018 Polaris RZR RS1 Review

First Ride & Review Promise Kept
Written By: 
John Arens

When Polaris introduced the ACE chassis a few years back we were intrigued.  It was the first single seat machine from a major OEM since Hondas Pilot almost 25 years earlier.  Surely a new single-seater would surpass the Pilot in every way, still, we couldn’t help but feel the ACE platform was not all it could have been.  You didn’t have to look hard to discover the ACE is the mechanical marriage between the Sportsman ATV and the RZR 570, and it’s not all roses and bliss.  What it needed was a dedicated chassis and less compromise.  Now Polaris is introducing a machine with exactly that.  The new RZR RS1 is designed to deliver on all the promises of ACE and a whole lot more. 


   The new RZR RS1 ready to ride at ERX Motor Park


Compromise designs rarely work, and if Polaris was going to find a home for their potent 1000cc ProStar engine it would need its own chassis.  The RS1 chassis is similar in concept to the high performance RZR frames, with large diameter, high strength steel tubing, but in a slimmed down package.  The entire lower section of the chassis is fully welded, creating a more rigid frame with precise feel, and far fewer squeaks and groans.  The upper part of the chassis bolts on, which is as much for efficient shipping as anything else.  We really like how Polaris thought of other details as well, such as corner gussets with a large hole creating tie down points for trailering.  Nice job! 


Suicide doors open fully for easy access.  Notice the 4-point seat harness.

With only one seat to build around the RS1 is much narrower through the mid-section than every other RZR.  This is a huge advantage for the suspension, and Polaris was able to give the RS1 long A-arms in the front, and a trailing arm style rear end.  The advantage of longer suspension arms is less camber change through the shock stroke, and that means consistent handling on the trail.  Many of the suspension parts are shared with the RZR XP1000, but to keep handling nimble and quick the RS1 is fully 7” shorter than its two seat cousin but still 64 inches wide.  You now have a high horsepower, nimble machine that can rip through the woods and it still has 16” of wheel travel.      


   Racing around the ERX track

Underneath the bodywork of the RS1 is the beloved ProStar 1000cc engine, and the RS1 tuning package cranks out a claimed 110hp.  Lacking is the turbocharger, and frankly, it doesn’t need it.  We’ll gladly take the engine just as it comes and save the added expense.   We can’t begin to say how happy we were to find side panels that can be removed with no tools.  A couple rubber straps hold the rear body panels in place, and when it’s time to clean up after a ride they can be removed in seconds for complete engine access.  Whoever came up with this idea deserves a promotion!  On top of the engine are the air intake, the air filter, and a huge radiator with dual fans.  While the RZR and its spacious chassis offers better CVT belt access, it is still quite good on the RS1.


With the entire engine and cooling system parked at the rear of the RS1 the only systems under the front hood are the EPS steering, front brakes, and the electronics package.  Thankfully Polaris included their “plug and play”, easy access wiring package.  If you can charge a cell phone you can install a winch or light bar on this model.  Just plug it into the prewired terminals.  We LOVE it!  With no cargo bed in the back and much less bodywork in general, storage space is wherever designers could find it, and a small cargo box is under the front hood.  Inside the RS1 is where you want to be. 


  The RS1 in White


Overall we really like the look of the RZR RS1.  There is no doubt that it is a member of the RZR family rather than the ACE lineup, and the styling is definitely sporty and aggressive.  Climbing inside the RS1 is easy thanks to the suicide style doors that open fully.  The seats are straight from the XP1000, but the 4 point belts are definitely a nod towards the performance this machine is capable of.  Once settled into the seat everything is comfy and you are very secure.  You’re not coming out of this thing until you’re good and ready.


   The front of the RS1 shares many components with the RZR XP 1000

The interior styling of the RS1 is as well done and stylish as the outside.  It follows Polaris’s new styling motif, with a very Can-Am Maverick style instrument cluster that pivots with the steering wheel.  While they were at it, Polaris mounted the wheel slightly higher for better arm leverage, similar to the wheel location on a desert racing truck.  There is plenty of room inside the cockpit even with the accessory door pouches, and sight lines over the hood are excellent!  Since there is very little actual dash area, control switches were mounted on a small panel just off your right thigh.  The standard RZR gear shift lever is found there as well.  Down below is something completely new. 


Inside the cockpit of the RS1.  Notice the small dash, tilt wheel, and controls at far right

Many performance drivers like to drive with two feet, working both the throttle and the brake so quickly it looks like they could be Riverdance cast members.  The brake pedal is twice as wide as the normal RZR pedal, with a stepped area perfect for your left foot.  You can drive it with one foot, or, if you’re feeling all Robby Gordon you can drive with two. 


The RS1 is a blast on the trails.  It’s the first Side x Side where you can easily see the front wheels, making it much easier to go fast on tight trails.


We were excited to try the RS1 at Minnesota’s ERX Motor Park and on the surrounding trails.  In both cases it excelled. 


The first thing you notice about the RZR RS1 is that you are really strapped in.  There is no body shifting happening with this machine, and about all you are going to move is your arms to steer, and feet to work the pedals.  We spent most of the day driving it in two-footed fashion, making the most of the dual step brake pedal for quicker transition from full throttle to hard braking.  And at full throttle it responds extremely well.  Slam your foot down on the throttle and the CVT instantly responds, with no backshift lag.  Thankfully the brakes respond equally as well and you can drive this as aggressively as you have the skills for.  We never missed the RZR turbocharger and really don’t see a need for it.  No turbo – No care!  The engine and drivetrain respond extremely well.  Certainly shedding over 100 pounds from the XP platform helps.   


  We LOVE how the rear side panels remove easily thanks to rubber straps.  It makes washing the engine and rear access so much easier!

Most Side x Sides struggle on the trails.  It’s not where they were originally designed to go.  Let’s face it, many are nearly the size of a Jeep, and darting down a deer trail can be a white knuckle experience.  With the RZR RS1 that feeling is all but eliminated thanks to VASTLY improved sight lines.  The ability to see your front wheels instantly provides much more confidence.  You now have the view ATV riders enjoy with the ability to place your wheels exactly where you want them, with no guessing about whether you really will clear the trees.  Now you know!   Polaris also gave the RS1 a tighter steering ratio.  That means less hand movement and quicker steering response, further enhancing the nimble feel of a 64” wide machine.  Rarely do you have to take your hands off the wheel.  The power steering is calibrated very well for just enough input to help with steering without taking away trail feel, and it all adds up to very precise Side x Side, or whatever category the RS1 fits into.


  The RS1 does have some body roll, but thanks to the center seating position it feels very controlled and predictable.

With 16” of wheel travel we wondered about body roll, but with a center mounted seat and only one passenger to account for Polaris engineers were able to dial in the suspension much more effectively.  There is still a hint of body roll, but it feels extremely predictable and controlled thanks to the center seating.  The suspension handled all the smooth bumps easily, and the biggest jumps we could find were soaked up with no bottoming by the Walker Evans shocks.  Thankfully the fully welded chassis stayed quiet with no unusual squeaks, and it delivers a rigid, yet precise feel.  Overall engine noise was also quite acceptable.  There are a few things we noticed about the RS1 though and there is no getting around them.   


  The rear of the RS1.  Notice the muffler behind the rear beauty panel

Prepare to get muddy.  Think sport quad muddy.  Maybe a little less on your legs, but the open wheels pitch everything back, and aggressive MAXXIS tires shovel it into the cockpit even on straights, but especially through turns.  Pick your lines carefully and stock up on Tide pods when they are on sale.  You’ll also immediately need a rear view mirror.  Your rear view couldn’t be any more restricted if you wore a navy diving bell for a helmet, and turning your head reveals both the engine and cvt air intakes on the corner post, further blocking your view.  They would be MUCH better placed directly behind the driver’s helmet.  Finally, get the accessory side rock sliders.  With the open wheels you’ll need them for body side protection.


  The tilting gauge of the RS1.  The wheel also sits slightly higher.

Overall the RS1 is by far our favorite RZR.  It’s nimble, quick, very smooth, and ridiculously fun for one.  At the end of the day we still didn’t want to bring it back.  



With every new model we ask ourselves, who should buy this?  With the RS1 we also have to ask, what is it?  It’s not a Side x Side, not at Utility Terrain Vehicle, which would imply the ability to do work, and not branded as part of the ACE family, although it obviously shares the main trait, which is the ACE (implying single) seating.  And then there is the nagging question about who should buy the RS1.


Roosting through a corner on the RS1

As good as the RS1 is, it still has to find buyers and that may be its biggest problem.  It’s easy to share the adventure with your significant other in a traditional Side x Side, but with only seating for one that argument can become an argument.  If the thought was it may find a home with sport ATV riders getting to aged for handlebars, there may be some sales there, but with a cost that is likely to be twice that of an even sportier, more nimble, and overall easier to maintain, transport and store ATV, that is not an easy sell either.  The two primary reasons to buy a Side x Side are for shared recreation with your spouse / family, or to do work.  With the RS1 neither of those is possible, essentially making it a sport ATV with almost 4 times the weight, twice the cost, and half the thrills.  The answer for us is, we really don’t know who should own the RS1.  It’s a fun buggy, but it needs a very specific home.     


Check out the dual pad brake pedal.  You can drive this machine with two feet easily


The Polaris RZR RS1 sets a new standard that every other single seat machine to come will have to follow.  No longer will there be talk of the Pilot as the best single-seater ever, because it no longer is.  The RS1 is very well thought out and built, and in some ways is a “back to basics” machine for Polaris.  It’s a return to the no-compromises, glory days of RZR, and we’re glad to see the engineering team was turned loose to do something extraordinarily creative again.  The RS1 is what every ACE was meant to be.  Promise fulfilled!     

Put a group of racers together for pictures and this happens every time.

The front storage area on the RS1 is right under the front hood. Just below that is the electronics package.

A huge radiator with dual fans is just above the engine in the RS1.  Check out the LED tail light!


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