Four-wheeled two-seaters leave SUVS in their dust
MORE capable than any SUV, the Polaris Ranger RZR sideby-side vehicles are more fun than probably should be legal.
Polaris has introduced a new RZR each year since 2008. This year it is adding the narrowbody single-cylinder RZR 570, plus a four-seater for the family to enjoy.
All-terrain vehicles attract no import duty but there is a 5 per cent impost on side-by-side vehicles, despite there being no Australian maker to protect.
The RZR 570 is the new adult-sized entry level model at $12,995, about the same price as some dirt bikes.
The XP 900 starts at $23,495 for the Xtreme and the up-spec LE is $24,995.
The XP 4 900 LE four-seater is coming next month but the price is yet to be confirmed.
Engines are a new 567cc singlecylinder and a 875cc twin strong enough to propel even four occupants up most hills. A new continuously variable transmission keeps the revs in the optimum power band. The four-wheel-drive has low and high range and is switchable to two-wheel drive on the fly.
Both models have independent rear suspension with 229mm of travel on the 570 and a whopping 356mm on the 900.
The RZRS come with seat belts and roll-over protection cages and you can option them up with a roof, doors and even sound systems.
The huge brake discs are more than enough to stop a car, let alone a lightweight buggy.
Polaris drove to the middle of the Mojave Desert in California to demonstrate the largecapacity machines amid boulders, sharp gravel tracks and high-speed gritty sand trails with 1.5m whoops that can send driver and machine into a cartwheel.
Our mission: drive 50km at high speed across this terrain to a tavern for a chilli-cheese-dog lunch, then back without losing said lunch.
At about 10km we come upon our first series of whoops — which we don’t see until the last second because the bright late-morning sun bleaches out the white sand. The first reaction is to slam on the brakes and the vehicle decelerates rapidly.
We hit the first trench way too fast and brace for the expected crunch up front and corresponding bunny hop in the rear. Surprisingly, it dives in and out with little fuss.
Our Polaris instructor advises us to hit the whoops at speed. We attempt the next set without hitting the brakes and are astonished at how much better it handles the obstacle.
We even take on a set of offset whoops that tilt left and right at different intervals — it doesn’t send the buggy into a corkscrew to hell.
The four-seater scrapes over one whoop because of the longer wheelbase. The seats are comfortable and the passengers have not experienced one sideways head clash all day.
If you have access to private land — it needn’t be the size of the Mojave — ditch the expensive 4WD and grab one of these buggies.