We had a summer visitor at our home this year. And, when the visit ended my wife Jerrie and I considered counseling.
"When they pull my cold dead fingers off the steering wheel," was Jerrie's response when it was time to return the Browning Edition Polaris Ranger XP we'd used around our acreage most of the summer. "I had no idea how much I'd use it," she adds.
While we didn't take it to the mountains, or pull stumps out of swamps, we did use it daily in landscaping chores that included hauling tools, heavy limestone rocks, prairie hay, and potted plants. We used it to get in the deep woods to spray poison ivy, check on the neighbor's mail and pets, and look for a rocket we lost in nearby woods after an embarrassing July 4 incident.
WEIGHT TO PULL: The Ranger XP proved to be an excellent work tool, with enough guts and weight to pull logs, and enough agility to move around to many chores quickly.
The factory-installed Warn winch came in handy pulling logs onto a burn pile and hoisting a race boat on to a weigh scale hoist. In general, the Ranger proved an excellent, trouble-free guest that wasn't afraid of work or any challenge – including hauling two adults and a load of tools up the 45-degree back face of our pond dam, in two-wheel drive. As with other Polaris products, the Ranger has excellent engine braking coming back down those hills.
While testing was warm-weather only, the electronic fuel injection system on the 700 cc twin provided no-static starts, whenever: PERIOD. We've had a number of test vehicles in other summers and if they were carbureted, there was a warm-up time, or a choke to fiddle with: PERIOD. We like EFI! It's easy on fuel, too.
MOSSY OAK CAMO: While it's not the Stealth Bomber, the new Ranger XP Browning in Mossy Oak Breakup fits right in with the summer crosstimber woods in our area. The machine is quite capable of moving through the woods even in places where one might lead a horse.
The Ranger measures a full five feet wide, which makes it a little tough to haul without a larger-than-normal-utility-trailer or car hauler. Still, Polaris didn't design this utility vehicle to be pulled around.
With 500 pounds of payload in the dumping rear box (the same rating as the original military Jeep) and two-to-three adults on the bench seat, the Ranger will go just about anywhere and do just about anything asked. Independent suspension all the way 'round, push button on-demand 4WD, more than ample ground clearance and an intake and exhaust design which will allow fording up to about 21 inches of water make this an excellent off-roader's machine. If you push the limits too much, our copy of the Mossy Oak camo Ranger had a Warn winch with remote control to pull you out of all but the worst mistakes.
"Intuitive" is a good word to describe the Ranger XP. Automotive style brakes and accelerator, along with a very effective center mounted disc parking brake are familiar to anyone who's driven a car or truck in the past 50 years. The gear selector (which controls a constant velocity transmission) makes sense as you push it forward from reverse, through neutral and low to high. A 12-volt power point and the winch control are mounted along with the keyed ignition switch within easy driver's reach in middle of the dashboard. A large "glove compartment" rounds out the right side of the dash. Two conveniently-located cup holders adorn each side of the dash board.
WELL SPRUNG: MacPherson Struts in front and independent links in back give the Ranger XP an excellent ride and off-road ability.
The Ranger comes with a 2-inch receiver hitch for towing, and ours had a pair of nifty fiberglass gun cases (also camo colored) mounted just behind the very healthy Roll Over Protection System (ROPS).
Kicks? Of the negative kind, the Ranger might prove to be a chore to service due to engine placement and seats to remove and beds to lift. Also, if you have to transport it, you'd better make arrangements because of its size. Check, too, if you're going into government lands, which may have a width limit on off-road vehicles.
Still, the negative kicks are miniscule when you compare the positive kicks you'll get with the Ranger's dependability, nearly 45 miles per hour down the gravel road in high, more than adequate power, excellent (in our opinion) fuel economy, and a very user-friendly design. It has excellent handling characteristics on and off the road, and super lighting for night use. In fact, we're not really certain why it shouldn't be a road-legal vehicle.
The model we tested is priced at $12,099 with all the niceties, which puts it in the "pretty good used pickup truck" price range. Still, depending upon how you want to use it, the chores you do and the recreational pursuits you have, we think this and its less-expensive counterparts would be tough competitors in the class.
For more information, visit www.polarisindustries.com.
INTUITIVE: The controls of the Ranger are laid out much like that of an automobile and an owner's manual is not required to jump in and drive.
HILL HOLDER: The Ranger XP shares excellent engine braking prowess with other Polaris products we've tested. The full compression of the EFI 700 came to bear in this pond dam descent.