Polaris Sportsman 400

The new Polaris Sportsman 400 was introduced to the New Zealand market during 2008 Fieldays and, after riding it, I’d say the future is already looking bright for one of the only non-Japanese farm ATV manufacturers

Riding the Sportsman 400 was an absolute blast! I enjoyed every moment, thanks to a really good power-to-weight ratio. The suspension package made it a delight to ride, as the Polaris soaked up all the bumps I could throw at it.

Our test ATV was kindly supplied by Ngatea Polaris dealer, Frank Fullerton, of Hauraki Plains Motors.

The engine capacity and chassis size of this new model fits right in the middle, where the Japanese brands sell most of the ATVs – the 400cc segment. ATVs in this class are neither heavy nor cumbersome, nor are they so light they are unable to tow anything.

Surprisingly, the powerplant on the Sportsman 400 is actually 455cc! And you can feel it too. Housed inside the medium-sized frame is a powerful liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine, which pumps out quite a bit of power considering the 271kg weight of the ATV.

With every push on the throttle, the Sportsman 400 would rocket away; it didn’t matter if it was uphill either. It had the ability to easily grunt up the hills and could pull pretty well going slowly up steep slopes, even from a stop.

The motor is fed by a large 34mm Mikuni carburettor but, even though it doesn’t quite have the absolute crispness and instant power delivery of a fuel injected engine like some of Polaris’ other models, its power output more than makes up for it.

Driving it all is the usual Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT) fully automated stepless transmission system with ‘On demand’ all-wheel drive. Meaning, the ATV is always in three-wheel drive, the two rear and the right front wheels. The fourth wheel automatically comes in when one of the others begins to slip. Or, you can drive it just in 2WD if you prefer. There is only one speed range in either forward or reverse on this model.

At one point during my test, I reversed up an almost impossibly steep dirt slope until the rear wheels spun up. Disappointed, as I wanted to go even further, I just pressed the yellow button on the left handlebar to kick in the reverse over-ride and 4WD drive, and up I went!

The Sportsman 400 doesn’t have the aid of the Polaris front wheel engine braking unit. I was however surprised to find that on its own, the Sportsman 400’s engine braking was sufficient to slow the ATV on all but the very steepest slopes, where the front and rear disc brakes came into their own, operated by the one left handlebar brake lever.

The front suspension is based on a MacPherson strut suspension system with 180mm of travel on five-way spring preload adjustable shocks, while the rear has class-leading 203mm travel independent shocks with a similar adjustment range, plus an anti-roll bar. There is no swingarm on this baby! This all translates to the best ride you’ll experience on a rough farm.

If anything, the Sportsman 400 felt a little ‘flighty’, but on reflection it is most likely because of the engine is the largest in the super competitive 400 class. Almost 80cc bigger than one manufacturer’s ‘400’.

Hauraki Plains Motors Ltd fitted our test ATV with the front and rear bull bars and towbar. The footwells are a good size and have a great non-slip tread pattern.

Polaris even takes care of the small things, like braided brake lines for better stopping. Under the front carrier is a large storage area to keep items waterproofed. Farmers who clock up the miles will appreciate the class-leading 17-litre fuel capacity too.

Carrying capacity up front is 31.8kg, with 45.4kg at the back for all those items you want to take out on the farm with you, or bring back.

Two thousand dollars less expensive than the already competitive $9995 (incl GST) Sportsman 400, is the Sportsman 300, which shares the same chassis. The two biggest changes are smaller diameter wheels and a 299cc air-cooled engine.

I’ve ridden most ATVs from the Polaris range the past six years or so, and the Sportsman 400 is the most farm-oriented ATV the American company has produced to date. It just adds another string to its bow.

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