The Polaris ACE marked a different direction in the development of Side x Sides. The ACE wasn’t exactly an ATV, although it did appear to be the offspring of a mating between the RZR 570 and a Sportsman ATV. It wasn’t exactly a Side x Side either; even though it has a steering wheel, roll cage, and a bucket seat. One thing we knew for sure is that we needed to spend more time on, or maybe we should say “in” it. A long term test with the ACE would reveal its strengths and weaknesses, and one capability we did not anticipate.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
The ACE platform is nothing if not unique! Under the skin it is much like a Sportsman ATV in the front, and a RZR 570 from the seat on back. It’s even got a roll cage overhead, but that is as much for maintaining structural rigidity as it is driver protection. Overall size is barely bigger than a Sportsman ATV, with some specifications being identical. Suspension seems to be the biggest area of similarity, with both the ACE and the Sportsman 570 using MacPherson struts in the front, dual rear A-arms, hydraulic brakes, and the same tires. One feature unique to the ACE, though, is tie-rods that are forward of the A-arm. This is required for the throttle and brake pedals, and driver foot room.
Polaris didn’t just drop an existing engine into the ACE, but instead designed an all-new powerplant. At 337cc’s, it’s less than one cylinder on many of its ProStar engine brothers, but it is a modern 4-stroke in every way, with fuel injection keeping it primed and pumping. As with every Polaris, a CVT transmission keeps the wheels spinning and 4WD can be engaged with a dash mounted thumb button.
To keep riders safe, the ACE comes with a three point lap and shoulder belt, and nets offer protection to each side. Initially, we really appreciated the front storage box that is straight off the Sportsman ATV, but after many trail miles, we came to realize it blocks the view of the trail. A rear cargo deck offers ample space for hauling gear and by adding a sealed accessory storage box here, we could carry gear safely. Down below there is even a receiver hitch rated for 1500 pounds.
OFF TO PLAY
The ACE controls are easy to understand for new riders -exactly who the ACE is designed for. A dash mounted key gets the little engine spinning, and a nice display shows you information on speed, trip mileage, gear, etc. To the right of the seat is a gear shift lever. We snicked the ACE into HIGH gear and headed for the trails.
With only a 337cc engine behind it, the ACE isn’t exactly going to set any records for speed or acceleration and the clutch seems designed more for top speed than torque. Overall, it feels like a very light Side x Side, but a somewhat heavy utility ATV. The rear suspension features five way preload adjustable shocks and we never bottomed it, and the steering is predicable. It would run down sandy trails easily and hold its line without darting to either side of the trail. Rocky sections and deep whoops could get a little bouncy so you need to pick your line carefully, but then again, it’s not designed for racing. And it’s not really designed for somebody who just climbed out of a RZR 1000 either. That got us thinking that maybe we needed a new rider to evaluate the ACE from their perspective. We didn’t have to look far.
A NEW DRIVER
Joseph Arens has been on many trail riding adventures, but at 15 years old, he’s about ready to be road legal. What better place to learn some driving skills, without the distraction of competing traffic, than on the trail? The slightly smaller, moderately powered ACE was a perfect match and a weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula would be his test course. He would pilot his own vehicle, but would be watched by highly experienced riders.
Heading out for the first day on the trail, Joseph already showed he could handle the ACE, and he fell in line nicely with the group, neither going too fast nor falling behind. A familiar sand pit provided play time and a mini race course to turn laps. Before long it was back to the trail and a destination ride to a favorite swimming hole in the cool, clean waters of an old quarry. It was apparent his confidence was growing with every mile. On the second day of riding, he again had no problem on the trail, and was happy to push his boundaries with the ACE beyond his own experience level. At more than one stop, he was reminded to slow down a bit and the warning would generally take hold, at least until youthful exuberance would again creep in. At the end of the weekend, he had definitely gained in confidence and vehicle handling skill with no problems. It was experience gained on the safety of the trail where you can test braking, steering action, and feel free to spin your wheels without the hazards of the interstate. What we were most interested in was Joseph’s thoughts on the ACE.
What did you think of the ACE, Joseph? “It’s a very fun ride. It was easy to maneuver and the splash protection was good in the mud and water. You won’t get wet unless you really go fast.”
Do you think this helps you get ready to drive a car or truck? “It’s something to learn on first and learn how to operate before you head out in an expensive car in traffic.”
Is there anything you wish was different on the ACE? “I would like to move the seat up a little or the pedals down because I have long legs. Sometimes I had trouble making sure it was in the right gear too because the lever can be a little notchy.”
What would you add to the ACE to make it better for you? “I would like a mirror for backing up. I had trouble with seeing behind sometimes. And I would add a windshield for cold weather.”
Did you get used to the ACE and have a good time on it? “I did! It was fun on the trails, and I like it.”
THE LONG TERM
Maintaining the ACE is easy. There is a large dip stick on the right side of the engine, a small cartridge filter is just ahead of it, and a large air filter is located under the cargo bed. It couldn’t be easier, and it’s been extremely reliable. We’re also happy to report the engine always starts quickly and runs great, putting out a considerable amount of power for a 337cc machine. The only problem is Polaris didn’t have a lot of torque to work with so they tried to compensate with the clutch by having it engage at a higher RPM. That means it can sometimes be a little jerky, and it will also disengage at a higher RPM as you lift your foot off the throttle. Your best bet is to stay in the throttle, but that is easy to do on the ACE.
The ACE is a vehicle for those who don’t feel comfortable atop an ATV, or behind the wheel of a high horsepower Side x Side. It’s not ever going to be a racer, but it just may be the machine that kicks off a whole new category in the sport.
2016 POLARIS ACE SPECIFICATIONS
Engine: 337cc, Fuel Injected, liquid cooled, single cylinder 4-Stroke
Transmission/Final Drive: Automatic PVT P/R/N/L/H; Shaft with On-Demand AWD/2WD
Front Suspension: MacPherson Strut with 8.2" (20.8 cm) Travel
Rear Suspension: Dual A-Arm, Anti-Sway Bar 9.5" (24 cm) Travel
Front Tires: 25 x 8-12; 489 tires, stamped steel wheels
Wheelbase: 61.5 inches
Dry Weight: 830 lb.
Overall Size (L x W x H): 90" x 48" x 68" (229 cm x 122 cm x 173 cm)
Ground Clearance: 10.25"
Fuel Capacity: 5.25 gallons
Front/Rear Rack Capacity: 120 lb. (55 kg) / 240 lb. (110 kg)
Hitch/Towing: Standard/1.25" Receiver, 1500 lbs. towing
Lighting: Dual 50w Low Beam Bumper Lights, Dual Brakelights/Taillights
Instrumentation: Digital Gauge, Analog Speedometer, Odometer, Tachometer, Tripmeter, Gear Indicator, Fuel Gauge, AWD Indicator, Hi-Temp/Low-Batt Lights, DC Outlet
MSRP: $ 7,499 U.S.