2018 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 Review

On the hunt in Louisiana

Oct. 18, 2017 By Stephen Elmer

The same way guns revolutionized war, cars changed cities and horses gave way to tractors, off-road vehicles have changed the way we hunt. With the capability to transport crucial gear across some of the roughest terrain, ATVs and UTVS allow hunters to get into the field with their best equipment in tow without having to worry about straining against heavy, bulky items attached to their body.

We got to experience this capability first hand at the Honey Brake Lodge outside of Alexandria, LA, where a roughly 60-day waterfowl season means that every one of their off-road machines has a 5am wake up call for two months straight. Honey Brake has come to depend on UTVs to sustain its primary purpose, and the lodge only trusts one brand to get them to and from the blind every day: Polaris.

The Machines

As the alarm clock buzzed at 4:45am, mixed feelings greeted me. While I have been shooting guns since I was young, I had never aimed at anything alive with the intention of killing it. This day, that would change.

Read More: 2018 Polaris RZR XP Turbo EPS Dynamix Edition Review

Our first task was to load up the machines, and this is the first time that the utility and features of the new Polaris Ranger XP 1000 came into focus. With a large range of accessories, each Ranger was kitted out to carry all of our essentials. One of the machines even had air conditioning, a welcome escape from the Louisiana humidity.

Leading the way was a Ranger equipped with a light bar to help us see through the dark morning fog, hooked into a clever electrical busbar found right under the hood. This makes every electrical accessory plug and play, with most of the wiring taken care of right from the factory. It's these sorts of enhancements that make the Ranger 1000 XP so user friendly.

Two hardshell gun cases from Colpin were mounted to each machine, ready to transport our Savage shotguns to the duck blind safely. Colpin is an official supplier of Polaris accessories, which means that the gun cases they have designed work with the already convenient lock n' ride system in the bed of the Ranger. The hardshell cases we used simply slide into their mount and can easily be taken off when the time comes.

As for the actual mechanicals, plenty of upgrades have arrived for the 2018 Ranger that make it more formidable than ever. The first, and not least of which, is the powerplant. It's 1000 cc inline twin-cylinder engine that makes 82 horsepower, sent to the rear wheels or all four wheels. Holding the fuel is a larger 11.5 gallon tank, which means more time between fill ups.

Next is the suspension. Never one to sit still, Polaris has lifted the Ranger even more, now offering a full 13 inches of ground clearance, while wheel travel has increased to 11 inches all around.

By far though the biggest changes come inside the cab, where Polaris has used every possible spot in the dashboard to build in a cubby for holding odds and ends, not to mention six cup holders which are great for holding beverages or whatever else you may have. In my case, a lanyard of duck calls was tucked into the dash along with my DSLR camera, which fit comfortably in the large storage bin.

Both of the seats fold up to reveal plenty of extra storage as well, with a large bin available under the driver's seat and available floor space under the passenger seat.

The Hunt

The bark of the engine broke the morning silence, and we roared towards waiting boats that would take us out to the blind. An accessory windshield, fitted to our chosen unit for the morning kept the dust and chill out of the cab. Best of all, installation of something like a windshield takes mere minutes on the Ranger, making accessorizing your unit after purchase easy.

Driving out to the boats, it was obvious why the Ranger was in its element. Everything we could possibly need, including our guns, dogs, extra gear and even cameras, were all safe, secure and attached to the Ranger somewhere. Whether through an accessory like the gun scabbards or in the Ranger's generous storage space, which comes standard, you only need one vehicle to get you to your desired location, wherever that may be. And on the way, the driver can be hidden from the elements in an enclosed cab, entirely comfortable.

In this case, the Ranger delivered us to a pristine morning, overlooking the calm, fog-touched flats of Honey Brake. Though a heat wave kept the numbers of teal down, our blind of four hunters still managed to bring in eight birds, expertly retrieved by Stormin' Norman, one of many dogs trained to be a hunter's best friend.

The Ride

After our morning's hunt, we took the long way back to the lodge to feel exactly how the Ranger handles open trails. With those 11-inches of suspension travel in the front and rear A-arm suspension, the Ranger stays straight and composed over rough terrain at speed, and despite it appearing tall, cornering feels flat and ultimately calm. The power steering is boosted so that overall steering feel is on the light side, which means you're well insulated from the rough terrain outside. It borders on being numb, though Polaris lets just enough feedback into your hands to have a sense for what the Ranger is doing. Sound deadening keeps the engine's roar to non-annoying levels as well, making the experience inside all the more comfortable.

Jamming the throttle to the floor, especially in Performance mode, results in rapid acceleration with good pulling power throughout the rpm range. Switched into Normal mode, some of the throttle response is eased, making it easier to keep the Ranger smooth, while dropping the switch down to Work mode also dulls the throttle response but keeps torque up, best used when working in tight spots when you need to be precise.

Hooked to a 700-pound hey bale also did little to slow down the Ranger, which can pull up to 2,500 pounds. A two-inch hitch receiver in the back is another great feature, allowing the owner to use the same hitch that fits in most pickup trucks.

Nicely padded seats also help to keep occupants comfortable and a day of riding wasn't enough to make use sore, though they do offer little in the way of bolstering to keep you in place.


Prices for the Polaris Ranger 1000 XP start at $16,299 and climb up to $23,999 for the HVAC edition, which comes with a fully closed cab along with heating and air conditioning.

The Verdict

It's at a place like Honey Brake, where these machines work for a living every single day, that it's clear to see how the improvements made to the Ranger 1000 XP make life easier. With massive amounts of storage, a great accessory network, solid off-road clearance and a powerful engine, it seems there is little the Ranger 1000 XP can't do.

And somewhere out there, thousands of duck souls can attest to the fact that the machines at Honey Brake start up and work, every damn day.

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