Polaris Sportsman 500 ATV
The new Polaris Sportsman 500 goes like a cut-cat, writes Terry Stevenson and, as far as ATVs go, is pure riding luxury
Only last year the Polaris Sportsman 800 was the first fuel-injected farm quad produced in the world. It made a huge difference to the power and economy of the engine and now, Polaris has bridged the gap to offer the same EFI system on the 2006 Sportsman 500.
The Sportsman 500 goes like a cut-cat. It has a single cylinder, 499cc liquid-cooled powerplant with an oil cooler and fan - for slow running. The electric start (pull-start back-up) engine eats hills. Anywhere I went, including near impossibly steep inclines, the engine pulled the Sportsman 500 up there with crisp clear engine response. The EFI fuel injection system gives a stunning throttle response throughout the entire rev range, much more responsive than the carbureted 500 I rode a year ago. In fact, so much better I really wondered if it was the same bike! I felt that in any situation it would take me up a hill where others would definitely struggle.
It has a very smooth motor for an ATV and feels sheer luxury riding a machine, which is a lot smoother than your average ATV. With its power, it’s definitely a quad for farmers who want to carry larger items or to haul bigger trailers. And it’s fun to ride.
Once on the ATV, select high/low ratio with the forward/reverse/neutral and park lever and you’re in business. The switchable 4WD on the fly means you don’t have to stop in a paddock when you come up to a bog. The "just get on and go" variable speed unit hardly makes a noise and delivers the power to the ground at any speed. To help in that direction for better grip and wear rates, Polaris has upgraded to the Polaris EXP tyres. And if you ride fast or travel over lots of ruts, you’ll like the heavily serrated steel foot grips in the footwells.
Just like the bigger Sportsman 800, the entire machine is very smooth, both engine and chassis wise. The all-round independent suspension helps keep the wheels on the ground and the rider on the bike. They soak up the bumps as though they weren’t there… well almost. I went over many ruts and the whole frame stayed rigid as all four wheels clocked up a few kilometers of suspension travel! But perhaps more importantly, the anti-sway bar allows the rider to traverse slopes with a greater degree of security, as the bar prevents the ATV from sagging on the suspension corner, which has the greatest load on it. In plain English, the torsion bar allows the rear wheels to work straight up and down independently, so they won’t change their camber in and out during hill work. Riding along a steep hill sideways it didn’t want to tip over as easy as it should, thanks to its MacPherson Strut suspension system and that anti-roll torsion bar. I’m sure the wider wheel track of this larger than average ATV would help, too.
Stopping this heavyweight isn’t a problem either thanks to disc brakes on all four wheels with top of the line braided brake lines. The Sportsman 500 also has an automatic engine braking system which helps reduce downhill speeds on steep terrain.
On the practical side, the front and rear carriers have full width tie down rails, which are a good feature for securing difficult loads. There is a good storage box fitted into the rear of the bike, not to mention the large, waterproof, full width integral storage box which doubles as the front carrier. An adjustable headlight is fitted on handlebars for safer night work and white reverse lights are included at the back, which can be left on full-time at the flick of a dash switch for trailer work, etc.
To reduce reversing speeds, a handlebar-activated switch allows a reverse gear engine over-ride option. The dash has a speedo with analogue miles/kilometers per hour, and a digital odometer, tachometer, gear position, trip meter, and fuel indicator are housed in the same unit.
Gary Ridden of Polaris Industries NZ explains the Sportsman 500 advantages, "The beauty is now that we have EFI it is just so responsive, you touch the throttle and it does what it needs to do and there’s no hassle. Again, it’s more fuel efficient too," Ridden says. "The farmer who buys Sportsman 500 is doing a fairly high mileage where it’s a long way to the back of the farm and they want to get there fast. And not get off the bike at the end of the day and feel like they have been pounded to death because it’s quite rough."
The 2006 Sportsman 500 EFI will appeal to farmers wanting a bit more for their money and recreational users buy them to go hunting and fishing.
By Terry Stevenson
500 EFI SPECIFICATIONS
Engine Type 4-stroke
Displacement 499 cc
Carburetion 39mm Throttle Body
Starting Electric with recoil backup
Final Drive Shaft
Drive System Automatic PVT
EBS (Engine Braking System) Standard
Front Suspension MacPherson strut with 8.2"/20.8cm travel in/cm
Rear Suspension Fully independent, progressive rate with anti-roll bar; 9.5"/24.1cm travel in/cm
Front/Rear Brakes Single-lever hydraulic disc w/ hydraulic rear foot brake
Wheelbase 50.5/128.3 in/cm
Turning Radius (inside tire) 65/165.1 in/cm
Dry Weight 715/324.3 lbs/kg
Length/Width/Height 83x48x48 / 210.8x121.9x121.9 in/cm
Seat Height 33.8/85.7 in/cm
Fuel Capacity 4.13 / 15.6 U.S. gallons/L
Ground Clearance 11/27.9 in/cm