Test: Polaris X2
Two-seater all-terrain vehicles are not popular among conservative rural users but they might be if more operators examined the Polaris X2 and its relatives more closely.
The Polaris X2 is four inches longer than a standard Sportsman (236.8cm versus 211.4cm) and 29kg heavier (362kg versus 333kg). It's a big machine. It feels that way when you're sitting on it and the impression of bulk doesn't diminish when you're moving. It's a draft horse not a stock horse that prefers to travel in straight lines and doesn't care much for quick direction changes. There's no power-steering on this model and it's not an option. For lightly built riders, like my stick-figure daughter, the steering feels a little heavy, but for blokes it is medium range. The only time I felt the bulk was when I was backing and filling or zigzagging between trees.
Polaris has always made much of ride quality on its ATVs, and for good reason. Ride quality, or the lack of it, is a determining factor in the purchasing process, particularly among pampered recreational riders accustomed to getting what they want. Ride quality is excellent. The dual A-arm set-up has 22.9cm of travel up front and just over 26cm down the back. This amount of wheel movement enables the big Sportsman to float over most trail obstacles and there's little if any steering kickback. If some of your riding time is spent hunting or just trail riding for the pleasure of it, this is an ideal machine on which to do it. When ridden fast the X2 tends to under-steer, a lot, but it's not designed to be ridden fast so that's an observation not an accusation.
The engine in this ATV is the now legendary single cylinder, single overhead camshaft (SOHC) four-stroke of 549cc, and it is legendary because it is so damn reliable. It doesn't feel sporty, like Can-Ams 500 DPS, but then Polaris didn't intend it to. This engine will putt around at low speed all day without overheating and the noise level generated is unobtrusive. There's ample torque on tap when you have to climb something slippery and/or steep. While we're on the subject of engines, we liked the air filter arrangement. Some manufactures are determined to make filter maintenance difficult and even frustrating, but Polaris locates the huge air filter where it's easy to get at. Checking the engine oil level and coolant level is easy too.
The transmission is what you expect, a continuously variable auto transmission. Gear selection is made with a lo-o-o-o-ng stick-shift. It looks anachronistic, and it is, but it works better than many stubby stick-shifts. What I like about this Dr Who device is that it engages consistently. When you select another gear, you know what gear it is and that it actually engaged; the transmission doesn't tremble and clunk while making up its mind whether or not to comply with your command.
Cross-country performance is excellent. The Polaris four-wheel drive system is better than, Can-Am's, particularly when technical riding skill suddenly becomes important. The Polaris diff lock does not require several revolutions of a spinning wheel before it engages, or continued pressure on the throttle to keep it engaged.
With the 4WD button is pushed the transmission is actually in three-wheel drive, but when the transmission senses loss of traction it automatically engages the fourth wheel. There's 'turf mode' too; literally, one-wheel drive that prevents damage to sensitive surfaces.
The Polaris has single-lever braking in which all the wheel brakes are applied when the lever is pulled in. The only way to activate the rear brake alone is to step on the brake pedal. There's nothing wrong with this system and it certainly simplifies braking.
There's little to suggest that the alternative system, in which front and rear brakes are applied independently with two levers, would be any better. The brakes have plenty of feel and are quite strong. But they have to be; they're pulling up more than 800kg. However, and I've been banging on about this for years,
The throttle lever itself is too far from the handlebars when it begins the movement to accelerate, forcing your thumb to work at an awkward and uncomfortable angle.
If the lever were more in line with the bars when you start to accelerate, or close to it, the problem would be solved.
The X2 carries auto descent control (ADC), Polaris's means of limiting the speed on steep descents. We haven't always liked this system, because it hasn't always worked, but on the X2 it works very well. Engine braking is reasonable in high range 4WD and excellent in low range 4WD. Thus equipped, the big X2 will crawl down steep descents with no correction from the brakes.
The engine is dogged and reliable. The transmission operates smoothly. The ride quality is first rate and the Polaris does everything the maker says it will. With the exception of the silly throttle, and that we had difficulty getting the pillion seat to retract, everything worked as it was designed to.
- Great utility ATV
- Excellent 4WD system
- Plenty of storage space
- Awkward throttle setup
- Pillion seat difficult to retur
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