2006 Polaris ATP 330 & Ranger
After many bike tests, Farm Trader’s Terry Stevenson still rates Polaris up there with the best. The ATP 330 and Ranger are no different.
After testing a dozen Polaris ATVs and SPVs (Special Performance Vehicle), I can still say its machines go as well as it claims and, in some cases, better. The big twin cylinder Sportsman 800 remains the best ATV I have ridden by far. Thanks to Ngatea Polaris dealer, Hauraki Plains Motors, I tested the latest 2006 ATP330 and 2006 Ranger on Andrew Gordon’s hilly Mangatarata property, near Ngatea.
The 2006 ATP330 now comes standard with cool looking iridescent blue paintwork – gone is the drab green. To better suit New Zealand farm conditions, Polaris has added a few features; one is a realigned drive train transfer case to reduce general wear and tear. The latest model has a unique four-wheel engine braking system thanks to a Visco-Lock front differential, which I put to the test on more than a few steep hills. In Polaris speak, the ATP330 is an All Terrain Pickup, with two quite similar models in the Pickup range. Housed inside the same chassis, the ATP500 has a larger single-cylinder liquid cooled 500cc engine with an impressive all-up load carrying capacity of 240kg.
The ATP330 is the sort of ATV that farmers can use and enjoy day in and day out. It has many features that would suit the type of work a lot of farmers carry out, but the best thing is the rear cargo box. With a maximum load capacity of 113kg, you can put almost anything inside the tiltable heavy-duty box knowing it’s likely to stay in. While it won’t easily take a small square hay bale, it would be great for tools, firewood, wet weather gear, chainsaw and safety equipment, or even the dog! Alternatively, the cargo box can be replaced with a full width flat tip-tray.
There is lots of storage space on the ATP machines, with a pair of deep two-litre soft drink sized compartments beside the seat and a large waterproof storage compartment under the front rack for the likes of fencing tools.
The 329cc single-cam air/oil cooled four-stroke engine (with fan) pushed the 326kg ATP330 along at a reasonable clip, obviously not as fast as the ATP500, however it has enough power to keep all but the serious farmer happy. Helping to protect the air-cooled engine is an oil cooler that is backed up with a fan for low-speed farm running to reduce overheating.
A belt drive controls the automatic Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT) system, so all an operator has to worry about is how much throttle to apply. Choose one of two forward speed ranges, then just get on and go! I’m pleased to say Polaris seemed to have addressed the hard to use and notchy hand gear change system, although it’s still not quite perfect.
I found the long 1422mm long wheelbase helped the quad climb hills easier. Not new but the handlebar switchable on-the-fly 2WD/4WD system makes short work of difficult terrain. Up front, the MacPherson Strut independent front suspension kept the ATV nice and smooth. With this superior system each front wheel moves almost straight up and down throughout its stroke, rather than toe in when weight goes on them. The benefit is additional stability at all times and particularly when ridden in hill country. Even over multiple ruts and huge bumps the ATP330 was easy to control because it wasn’t tossing the rider around so much.
A heavy fabricated single swingarm supports a single rear drive axle with five-way spring preload adjustable shocks. The combination of the two systems means the ATP330 was very stable when driven sideways along a hill.
Standard on all Polaris models I’ve tested are braided brake lines throughout the machine. They are more expensive than reinforced rubber brake lines but, because they never expand under braking (especially after a few years), the rider receives stronger and more consistent feel through the brake lever. The four front and rear disc brakes all work together off the left front brake lever, backing up instant decisions with short stopping distances. The rear foot brake controls the rear wheels only.
On balance the ATP330 represents a serious option for a hunter or farmer in the ATV market.
The 2006 Polaris Ranger is literally streets ahead of the last Ranger I drove two years ago. The latest model handles and accelerates far better thanks to the introduction of independent rear suspension and EFI. The Ranger is a 4x4 SPV utility vehicle that I found can go almost anywhere an ATV can, literally! It now has excellent performance and came up trumps under quite difficult sections.
In one example I drove up and down a near vertical rock face while checking out the healthy 281mm ground clearance – testing the strength of the skid plate more than a few times. But the real beauty of the Ranger is that anyone can get in and drive it.
With a liquid cooled 499cc single cylinder four-stroke engine, even three-up on the comfy bench seat the Ranger hauled up good-sized hills without any trouble. So much so, I kept wondering if there was a larger engine installed! The four-valve head, combined with the new for 2006 electronic fuel injection (EFI) system, meant the 499cc powerplant revved freely throughout the rev range. Polaris was the first to introduce EFI onto an ATV, and I’ve no doubt they haven’t looked back after fitting it onto the Ranger. Each time I accelerated the engine response was crisp and instant, with the biggest improvement coming when under load such as driving up a steep hill at half throttle and then flooring the accelerator. An added advantage is that the Ranger is now more fuel efficient, with Polaris claiming over 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption.
The switchable on-the-fly 2WD/4WD works just like my 4WD vehicle and the Hi/Low ratio gearbox makes driving the PVT automatic variable speed transmission Ranger simple, especially with the unique Polaris limited-slip diff-lock system when driven in muddy conditions.
The 539kg Ranger is not about to roll over easily thanks to its very wide 1250mm wheel track and long 1930mm wheelbase, although there is a roll cage and three seat belts for additional protection. Just like its ATV cousins, a MacPherson Strut independent front suspension system adorns the front end while the new independent rear suspension controls the rear, making for a much smoother ride. For heavy load carrying capability, such as a spray unit, the rear shocks can be manually inclined to a more vertical position because Polaris built in two top mounts for the shocks.
With the tailgate down, the rear tip tray can take a full size pallet (up to a maximum load of a huge 455kg), which must be an advantage to farmers who don’t want to rip up the farm with the tractor while carrying loads during winter.
Superior performance braided brake lines are used throughout the Ranger. The foot operated park brake mechanism has also been improved, which now clamps onto a brake disc connected to the drive shaft – rather than part of the wheel brake system.
The Ranger is a serious alternative for a farmer who wants to carry more than one person in safety, carry heavier loads than their ATV can handle, or tow a heavier trailer.
Polaris Ranger 4x4
Engine type: 4-valve single-cylinder, counterbalanced
Oil capacity: 1.9ltr
Fuel capacity: 30.3ltr
Transmission: Automatic PVT
Gear range: In-line, dual-range forward and reverse
Drive: Switch-engaged on-demand true 4-wheel shaft drive
Suspension front: MacPherson strut with 8in/20.3cm of travel
Suspension rear: Independent, 9in/22.9cm of travel
Turning radius: 376cm
Dry weight: 539kg
L x W x H: 287cm/152.4cm/190.5cm
Load capacity (box): 454kg
Vehicle payload capacity: 681kg
Engine Type: 4-stroke
Cooling: air w/ fan-assist oil cooler
Starting: electric w/ recoil backup
Drive system: Automatic PVT
Front suspension: MacPherson strut with 6.7/17 in/cm travel
Rear suspension: Swing arm with 6in/15.2cm travel
Dry weight: 326.8kg
Seat Height: 86.4cm
Fuel Capacity: 12.3L