Usually when I get to do ATV tests, it is under fairly controlled circumstances and over the span of a day or so. The manufacturer sets up a course or a trail system they feel best showcases the machine and we set off at a controlled pace. It’s a good way to show off a given vehicle, but I always think of how I’d use it on my own land. I never get to actually bring the machine home, though—until now.
The folks at Polaris were kind enough to offer me a long-term loan of their flagship Ranger UTV, the 2014 900 XP EPS. When I asked how long I could hold on to the machine for in June of this year, they just said to have it back by December. I figured I was on to something good—Polaris was confident enough in the Ranger to let a writer use and abuse the product for six months!
The Ranger 900 XP is the benchmark for all other UTVs in the industry, and with good reason. There are machines built for working and others for recreation. The 900 XP somewhat bridges that gap. The machine has loads of horsepower, an independent suspension, and excellent cargo capacity, making it capable of doing farm chores all day and then going for a fun trail ride in the afternoon.
The 900 (875cc) Prostar engine is a liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder, four-stroke pumping out 60 horsepower. The engine features the now-industry standard electronic fuel injection. It also sports what Polaris refers to as an Engine Management System, which provides optimal engine torque and power at all speeds and altitudes. The throttle response is very smooth and fuel consumption is outstanding for an engine of its size.
While not designed with going fast in mind like the RZR models, the Ranger 900 XP can hold its own when it comes to getting up and moving. Opening the machine up on a straightaway will get you up to 62 mph without much effort. On the flip side, the engine always makes the driver feel in control, even when creeping along at five mph through tight woods when hauling out firewood or setting up deer blinds.
The engine is very easy to access under the dump box, making maintenance very easy to do. Another manufacturer used the Ranger design as the basis for their new machine and it is easy to see why, simply from an ease-of-use standpoint.
The Ranger 900 XP has true One Demand all-wheel drive capability, along with standard two-wheel drive and a turf mode where only one rear wheel spins. This is all handled by a simple toggle switch on the dash. The transition from two- to all-wheel drive is seamless.
Suspension and handling
The Ranger 900 XP features independent front and rear suspensions, both with dual A-arms and 10 inches of travel. The shocks offer preload adjustability and the ride quality is outstanding. Big bumps are soaked up well, and small stuff isn’t felt at all by the driver or passengers. I took my retired mother, who has bad hips and knees, for a ride across a big field and we got it up to about 50 mph. She never complained a bit, thanks to how smooth the ride was.
The Ranger has 12 inches of ground clearance for clearing stumps, rocks, and ruts. The underside is smooth, so it doesn’t get hung up on ground clutter. I’ve already seen some kits offering increased suspension travel and more ground clearance. UTVs are just like trucks in that there are endless opportunities to lift ‘em up and redneck ‘em out. I love it!
The acronym EPS stands for “electronic power steering,” which is another common thing in the marketplace these days. Is the Ranger’s EPS the best on the market? No, not really, but it does work very well. You don’t get any hint of bump steer when traveling though ruts, humps, or other rough terrain. There is a tiny bit of push when turning at higher rates of speed, but it’s not bad and I never felt out of control. No complaints from me here.
The Ranger comes with a three-person bench seat that comfortably fits a driver and two passengers and provides enough support for all-day riding. The steering wheel is adjustable and the pedals are positioned very well, at least for me. I found the gas and brakes to be perfectly positioned, I never felt like I had to labor to move my foot to reach one or the other. The dial speedometer is right behind the wheel, just like on a truck, and all of the indicator lights are there as well. The simple toggle switches for the lights and the drive selection are close at hand, as is the drive select lever. There is a water-tight glove box that will hold a small tool kit, included, as well as your hat and a few other items. The dash has a cup holder on each side as well.
The seating position is very natural for a wide variety of riders. I took a lot of different folks for rides and let a few others drive the machine too. It works very well for everyone, regardless of their height or body shape. The seat belts are also comfortable, which was kind of a shock. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been really happy with UTV seat belts, but these are fine. I have no problem wearing one. There are three shoulder belts, one for each passenger too.
For doors, Polaris uses cargo nets that clip in to the roll cage. I like this as it keeps the people in the machine without the cramped feeling you can get from hard doors. I can see the nets fraying and tearing, and the clips breaking at some point. But for now, they are working great and are doing the job.
There are also two 12-volt power outlets in the dash. I have used them to power my cell phone charger and a few other gadgets. Very nice touch, Polaris!
The cargo box measures 36.5 inches long by 54 inches wide by 11.5 inches deep. I can throw a lot of gear in the back and often do. I have been using the Ranger extensively throughout hunting season so far and have hauled blinds, treestands, guns, bows, decoys, and other gear with no problems. I haven’t come close to the 1,500-pound payload capacity yet, but the season isn’t over. Of course, if I shoot that many deer, I’m thinking the conservation officers might be checking into me.
The Ranger 900 XP also has a two-inch receiver hitch for towing a trailer. I have been using a small trailer for hauling goose decoys out in the morning and you couldn’t even tell it was back there save for the noise of the trailer itself. The Ranger will tow up to 2,000 pounds. Not bad for a machine that weighs just over 1,300 pounds dry.
The air intake is up high, meaning you can really get the Ranger into some water before you have to worry about drowning the engine out.
The Ranger has 55-watt low beam and 60-watt high beam headlights. This is one chink in the armor of the Ranger 900 XP. The lows are too low and the high beams are woefully inadequate. For any serious nighttime use, you’re going to want additional lighting. Polaris sells lighting kits and the Ranger needs them.
There are tons of accessories available for the ranger both from Polaris and from the aftermarket. Enough so that you can customize the Ranger to your individual use and needs. I’m planning out what I’m going to install, and that may be for a later article.
You can use the Polaris website to build, visualize, and price your own dream Ranger. The machine is rather pricey, but compared to other machines on the market, it is close to being right in line with what’s out there and considering that the Ranger is the benchmark for UTVs, well, I think you get the picture.
If you’re in the market for a UTV, you should take a serious look at the 2014 Polaris Ranger 900 XP EPS. It offers comfort, ride quality, tons of horsepower, and proven durability, all from the Polaris factory in Minnesota. I’ve beat on my test unit for several months and it still looks and drives like brand new.
On a scale of one to five, with five being best, I gave the Ranger 5 stars all the way across. The only things I would change are the lighting and the price. The lighting can be over come and the price, well, it is what it is. It’s comparable to other UTVs, so it makes it hard to complain about it too much.
I recall buying my first ATV back in 1987. Yeah, I know I’m old, but it cost me $2,465 out the door. The ranger 900 XP starts out at just over $13,000 and goes up from there. The model I tested came in at $14,199. That’s a lot of money, but it just may be worth it. I have been using the Ranger almost every day around my property and farm for both hunting, working, and for fun riding around. I constantly find new uses for it. It’ll be tough to let it go back to Polaris!