Polaris Sportsman 800

ATV's are becoming bigger, bolder, and more like a second car than a farm hack. Dene Priestley spends a cross-country day with the biggest Polaris yet in their line-up of 21 models, the Sportsman 800.

An invite from Polaris to attend its latest Way Out Ride became even more attractive when the company mentioned I could do so on its “just arrived” Sportsman 800. I’d been impressed by the handling, ride quality and enthusiastic engine of the previous model Sportsman 700EFI, as were others, so what did the new bigger brother have in store?

Although sporting an all-new chassis, a real quick visual comparison shows the new 800 looks similar to the 700, with the addition of some real smart looking alloy wheels, and large capacity twin exhausts exiting the rear. The new bigger model does not replace the 700 in the line up; it is an additional and new king of the fleet. In checking out the specs the 800 is almost totally new from the ground up, with a wider front track, more aggressive styled bodywork, beefier running boards, new and more effective lighting (by 37 percent), better storage compartments, and of course extra power from the larger capacity even-firing Polaris in-house-built parallel twin.

A quick familiarisation before hitting the rolling terrain shows a comprehensive VDO display showing speed, rpm, fuel level, gear position and maintenance lights. To leave you to concentrate on where you’re headed, all of the Sportsman’s brakes are activated by the single front lever through braided hydraulic hoses, or you can choose to use just the back brakes by way of the standard foot operated pedal.

At the heart of the matter is the 760cc liquid-cooled, parallel twin cylinder four-stroke, with Bosch multi-port semi-sequential fuel injection, which starts instantly with the turn of a key and emits a soulful yet not offensive exhaust note at any rpm.

Hitting the trail

The first thing that impressed me was for quite a large machine, steering is in fact light by comparison – even on off camber tight turns. Over dry ruts and cow-pucked terrain, the 800 Sportsman provides a smooth soft-seated journey by way of its large well-padded cushion. Front MacPherson Strut suspension on the 800 has increased travel 20 percent, which not only adds to rider comfort, it also helps the front tyres stay in contact with the ground at all times.

At the rear the progressive-rate independent suspension has 240mm of travel and an anti-roll bar. This leaves the 800 with a very creditable and class leading overall ground clearance of 285mm. Steering is accurate and predictable both heading forwards or reversing. The single lever all-wheel hydraulic disc braking is stunning and hauls the Sportsman to a standstill in an instant, even on rolling descents.

To help carry odds and ends, the Sportsman has tough dust and watertight compartments, with lids that become extra luggage racks with plenty of hook or tie sown points. The carrying capacity of the front rack is 45kg, and the rear can support a substantial 91kg. The new towing receiver can handle lugging a trailer up to 681kg and a max tongue weight of 68kg.

For more information contact your nearest Polaris retailer.

SPECIFICATIONS Polaris Sportsman 800
Engine: 760cc liquid-cooled, parallel twin cylinder 4-stroke
Length: 2057mm
Width: 1168mm
Height: 1194mm
Wheelbase: 1289mm
Weight: 347kg dry
Fuel tank: 18 litres
Ground clearance: 285mm
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