2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 Hunter Edition Review
The UTV craze, as it could be referred to these days, actually started back in the early 2000s with the advent of the Yamaha Rhino and the Polaris Ranger. Even further back than that, Kawasaki invented the Utility Terrain Vehicle with the MULE (did you know that MULE stands for “Multiple Use Light Equipment) in the late ‘80s and created a vehicle platform that could haul a significant amount of equipment in a dump bed and two people in the cab. The MULE was and continues to be a hit with the farming crowd, and the then-new Rhino and Ranger took that original MULE capability to a new level back in those early days.
Flash forward to 2017 and we no longer have the Rhino, but the Ranger is still around and setting the bar high for the utility UTV market. Capability has significantly increased since the early days of this vehicle, but one thing hasn’t changed – the Ranger is a utility vehicle that is built to help get everyday tasks completed around the farm easier and faster than ever.
The vehicle we recently spent a lot of seat time in is the 2017 model Polaris Ranger XP1000 Hunter’s Edition. This model year is the first time that a 999cc engine has been offered in the Ranger platform, and it pumps out a stout 80 horsepower from the twin-cylinder engine. Previously, the XP900 was the largest displacement Ranger in the lineup. One of the new 2017 features on this engine is the three-mode power selector, which allows drivers to select from Performance, Standard, or Work modes. This computer-controlled system dials in the mechanicals of the machine to best suit the type of driving you are doing at any given time. After doing some extended testing in each mode, we appreciate the system and believe it truly does change the power-output dynamics. However, we couldn’t help but leave it in Performance mode most of the time to get the most out of the engine.
A traditional CVT, belt-driven transmission provides the power connection from the engine to the wheels and does so through the following gear set: Park-Reverse-Neutral-High-Low. Yes, the risk of breaking a belt is still there, but buyers find confidence in the fact that Polaris has had many years to fine-tune their clutching system. I can confidently say that their clutching is spot on for all kinds of environments, whether you are towing, hauling, or going on a hunt in the woods. Polaris has also included several 4x4/differential features on this machine. The rear differential has two modes: “turf mode,” which unlocks it completely; and locked mode, which of course locks the rear wheels for the ultimate traction. Each of these modes and 4x4 engagement is all done via one rocker switch – handy!
Polaris included stout dual A-arms on the front and rear of the XP1000, and both ends include 10 inches of vertical movement through pre-load adjustable shocks. If you’re looking for more adjustability or capability to fine-tune the ride, you can look to other iterations of the XP1000 for those capabilities. For example, the Ranch Edition has a self-leveling system in the rear shocks so the vehicle stays level while towing a heavy trailer or hauling a significant load, but we’ll leave that review for another time.
As we move on up from the suspension and powertrain components, we find that this Ranger has the same large dump-bed that its cohorts feature. Yes, you can fit a full-size pallet in the back of this bed because it measures out 54 inches wide, but you’ll have to leave the tailgate down because the bed is only 36.5 inches long. The bedsides also measure out to be 11.5 inches tall, giving you plenty of room to stack items inside. One nifty feature about the bedsides is that they include quick attachment points for Polaris accessories. In our case, the gun scabbards are attached here and can be easily removed with the quick-disconnect system, A.K.A. Polaris’ Lock & Ride system. Not only are the gun scabbards a part of that accessory line, but you will also find over 1000 configurations to outfit your Ranger with the various Polaris accessories. Since these are all bought through the dealer, these accessories all come with a Polaris factory warranty as well.
Last but not least on the features list is the interior. The bench-style seat is bolstered slightly and features a storage cubby underneath the passenger-side seating area. The driver’s seat is adjustable and removable. One of the best aspects regarding the Ranger’s interior is the fact that is has so much storage. Everywhere you look on the front dash there is a storage compartment. And, most of them are different sizes too, so you can put all sorts of items in there. Also, there is a sealed glove box on the passenger side as well as cup holders for driver and passenger seats. For the driver, there is a clear view of the analog/digital instrument cluster through the adjustable steering wheel. The cluster features readouts on most machine vitals, including: speedometer, odometer, tachometer, tripmeter, clock, hour meter, gear indicator, fuel gauge, coolant temperature, voltmeter, service indicator, and seat belt reminder. For those who need to take their wireless devices with them, there are abundant 12V DC outlets located on the dash and within easy reach of the driver or passengers. Finally, the switches are located in easy-to-reach locations along the front of the dash, but we found that taller riders in the middle seat would accidentally hit their knees on the switches. Hopefully Polaris will move them to a more designated location out of reach of the middle seat with the next interior revision.
So, the real question is – how does it drive? Well, like a utility UTV. Actually, there is a lot more to it than that, so let’s get started.
When driving around the farm or out on the trail, the stock suspension is tuned to give you a plush ride. This Ranger doesn’t get upset by big bumps in the road – the chassis stays stable and planted on the ground. Don’t expect to do any big jumps in this bad boy. However, in Performance mode and without a trailer attached, the XP1000 engine really comes to life! While it’s not RZR-fast, the Ranger XP1000 has plenty of power to get from one side of the farm or jobsite to the other in a hurry. Do you need it over the XP900 Ranger? We can positively say that if you can afford the extra money, it’s worth it. You never know when that extra power will come in handy, whether you are on the farm or ripping around the local trails in search of the perfect hunt. We stretched the XP1000’s legs in the St. Anthony sand dunes this year and came away very impressed with the power of this machine. Like we said earlier, it isn’t RZR-fast, but it has plenty of power for doing your work around the farm and then taking it into the backwoods for some enjoyment on the trails. Or sand dunes, those work too!
The only glaring negative that we have run across in the driving dynamics of this vehicle is the slow steering. And, when we say “slow steering,” we mean way too slow. You could take an entire clock out of the system and then it would be okay. It’s to the point where driving quickly up and down trails becomes cumbersome because it is much more work to correct the vehicle from small slides and fun burnouts. And the bad part is, the XP1000 has enough power to make trail riding fun, but the painfully slow steering just limits the driver because the steering can’t keep up with the fun. We hope Polaris fixes this down the road.
In regards to the Hunter Edition package, we love the fact that it comes with a winch in the front. This Polaris-supplied accessory is necessary in any situation, and we found the rocker switch on the dash to be easy to work every time we used it. The gun scabbards in the bed are easy to open/close and are sturdy. The Polaris Pursuit camo paint pattern is great for hunting and for scratch resistance when running around the farm. The only thing we wish this car included right from the factory is a roof. Other than that, we appreciate most of the aspects of the XP1000, including the nice interior layout. This is a great package that has been with us through the sand dunes, trails, and out on the ranch.