In Hollywood, aging actors get facelifts to look younger and hopefully revitalize their career. At the very least, the plastic surgery could keep them on the “A list" another few years. ATVs are not that different than these large screen performers when it comes to alterations and trying to stay popular.
Take the Polaris Scrambler 500 4x4, for example. It has been wearing mostly the same outward appearance for years now and has survived the arrival of faster and hotter competition and a dismal economy. Regardless of its old-school appeal, this wheeler has a unique appearance, package and following. However, even Polaris realized it was in dire need of a facelift. That’s why for 2010, the Scrambler wears shiny plastic, a redesigned seat and lots of other changes. While some may think the Scrambler went to the same surgeon as Joan Rivers, I think its new image should be well-received and is truly sporty — a job well done.
But before I praise this machine too much, let’s take a closer look at all its changes, ride it and then give it a final grade. After all, surgery may erase a few years, but underneath it all people or an ATV’s age remains the same.
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2010 Changes for the Polaris Scrambler
The most obvious change is the plastic and the wider front bumper. Gone is the old pieced-together plastic package and robot-like twin headlights. In their place is a more stylish, Outlaw-inspired design that uses a single headlamp and integrated floorboards. The headlight is 28 percent stronger.
Another new item that is simple to spot is the seat. The old seat was pretty comfortable, but the chassis and plastic upgrades for 2010 warranted a change to the seat as well. The end result is perhaps the plushest seat in the entire sport quad industry. Its new contour, length and height can accommodate any riding style. Plus, the thicker seat foam gives it a couch-like feel and contributes (with suspension changes) to its new 35-inch seat height.
Once seated on the Scrambler, it will be simple to spot another update. This is the addition of a remote fuel gauge, which should help you keep an eye on the fuel tank’s larger capacity (up 1/2 gallon to 4 gallons).
Let’s remove the plastic and focus on the other changes, some are more significant than you may expect. The chassis was beefed up. This included improving the engine mounting and locations, alignment and increasing the thickness and durability of the skid protection. Front struts (castings) from the Sportsman, with separate front spindles for mounting the wheels, were added and have new springs to improve the ride.
The front Carlisle tires are now 23 x 8-12s instead of the old 23 x 7-10s. Although they are wider Polaris says the new tires have the same outer diameter and are mounted to a taller steel rim due to the use of the Sportsman’s front strut. The engineers reported that the model year ’09 Scrambler is about ½-inch narrower — since they used the Sportsman front rims, the wheels are spaced out ¼ inch.
The 500’s wheelbase is ½ inch longer because the machine squats differently with the new swing arm suspension spring, which was added to improve ride quality. The Scrambler 500, Trailblazer 330 and Trail Boss 330 are all sprung differently for overall ride quality and gross vehicle weight differences. However, all three models share the swing arm, frame and front struts (not the springs).
The Scrambler’s ground clearance fell from 5.5 inches to 4.75, but it’s still capable in rugged terrain. Polaris says the new eccentric chain skid protection — which it describes as “much improved” — ultimately dropped the ground clearance figure. In the specs, the Scrambler measures roughly two inches taller , but the Polaris engineering team says the handlebar height actually increased by ½ inch because they used Sportsman handlebars. And the bars can be rotated forward or backward and alter the overall height. The new handlebars work better for adding a windshield and other accessories, says Polaris.
Polaris also changed the brake system, incorporating Sportsman calipers, larger brake discs and a new master cylinder for improved bleeding capacity.
Hold on for Page 3 - Trail Performance
Even with all the updates and an impressive makeover, the Scrambler 500 4x4 feels very similar to the old model. This machine (like the Trailblazer 330) has a unique seating position. The Scrambler has more of a cruiser motorcycle feel and less like a crotch rocket. As a rider, your arms seem higher or raised compared to other sport models. Many sport quads put you in an “attack position” and you feel as though you're up over the bars and enticed to sit forward on the seat for cornering. The Scrambler is different. On it, you can sit anywhere on the lengthy perch and never feel like you’re in an attack position.
Also, under initial throttle the Scrambler’s rear end seems to "squat" or compress the rear shock. This movement heightened my sense of a forced posture. Since this model caters mostly to recreational riders, that’s probably not a bad thing. And in no way does it make it difficult to ride, just different.
When it comes to ergonomics, sans the seating position, the '09 Scrambler is cozy and relaxing and provides ample room for larger riders. The huge seat is like a mattress for your butt: A long, wide, low profile configuration with all-day comfort. The updated floorboards are wonderful and do a great job of dispersing water and loose soil. They also accommodate size 13 motocross boots with ease, so anyone with a normal over-the-ankle boot will have lots of room. My only suggestion is to reduce the height of the rear foot brake lever.
The 498cc four-stroke engine was left alone and that’s too bad. It remains somewhat sluggish off the start. The fun starts once the Scrambler’s Polaris Variable Transmission catches up. That’s when you can literally feel the acceleration. Just hang on and smile all the way to its top speed. Could it be faster? Yes. Does it really need to be? No. Unless you’re a hardcore racer, the top end will satisfy you. And if neither the low-end or top-end meet your needs, see the aftermarket for both clutching and engine mods.
You can ride aggressively on the Scrambler, but it’s heavy and can tire you out, despite its supple suspension and other comfortable attributes. Cornering is more challenging because it’s so large and tall and uses single-lever braking. The rider can’t select only the front brakes for setting up a corner. However, having the ability to select 2WD or 4WD for corners is great, especially when the trail conditions make traction tough. Having both the front and rear pull you around and through a corner can be better than trying to control the backend around slippery corners.
The thicker swing arm skid plate is very noticeable and a welcomed feature, but reduced the machine’s ground clearance. Regardless, it’s nice to know the chain and rear sprocket are better protected from rocks, stumps and hidden objects in the mud. The new front bumper is also much improved. Too bad the stock steel wheels aren’t stronger. When we received our test unit, it already had a slight rim ding. By the time we finished our half-day ride, the same wheel had another ding. The outer portions of the bumper provide “grabbing” spots to help lift the front end. This is a big deal for a machine that weighs around 600 pounds! Thank you Polaris.
Page 4 - Our Rating
Polaris has given the Scrambler new life and a better look to go with its versatile and simple-to-ride design. By sharing Sportsman parts, it’s more comfortable and probably sturdier, too (only a long-term test would say for sure). The neat thing about the Scrambler 500 is its ability to accept accessories. That upgrade list includes a hitch (rated to 850 pounds), front and rear racks, cargo boxes and a 1,500-pound winch. The 500’s sportier look and improvements are worth the $100 price increase ($6,299 to $6,399) from 2009 to 2010.
|• Versatile 4x4||• Heavy|
|• Unique package & ride||• Different handling and ergonomics|
|• Big comfort||• No low-end grunt|
|• Easy to ride||• Weak wheels|
|• Car-like attitude (Give it gas and steer)||• Rear fenders bend easily|
|• Much-improved look|
2010 POLARIS SCRAMBLER 500 4x4 ATV Specs
Type: Single-cylinder four-stroke
Fuel System: 40mm Mikuni CV carb
Final drive: Concentric chain (Rear), shaft (Front)
Transmission: Automatic PVT F/N/R
Drive system: On-Demand true AWD/2WD
Engine braking: System accessory
Front: MacPherson Strut with 8.2 in. (20.8 cm) travel
Rear: Suspension Progressive-Rate Swing arm with 10.5 in. (26.7 cm) travel
Front: Single-lever hydraulic disc
Rear: Hydraulic rear foot brake
Front, tires: Carlisle AT489 23 x 8-12
Rear, tires: Carlisle AT489 22 x 11-10
Wheels: Stamped steel
Parking brake: Park in transmission
Wheelbase: 48.5 in. (122 cm)
Claimed dry weight: 570 lbs. (259 kg.)
Length/width/height: 75 in./45 in./49 in. (190.5 cm/114.3 cm/124.5 cm)
Seat height: 35 in. (89 cm)
Ground clearance: 4.75 in. (12.1 cm)
Fuel tank: 4 gal. (15 ltr.)
Bed box, dimension/capacity: N/A
Front rack: N/A
Rear rack/box capacity: N/A
Payload capacity: N/A
Hitch Towing Rating: 850 lb. (385.6 kg.)
Cargo system: N/A
Instrumentation: N/R light, fuel gauge, high-temp light
Color: Indy Red
MSRP: $6,399 (as of 8/27/09)