Polaris made some big announcements for its 2020 product line. With new additions to the RZR and Sportsman line, it could be easy to overlook the release of the new mid-level RANGER 1000. Still, there are plenty of reasons why this might be one of the most important releases in the UTV marketplace in 2019.
The UTV and SXS marketplace has been explosive over the past few years. New manufacturers with new models constantly jockey for the titles of fastest, most powerful, longest suspension travel, and so on. With the race for higher performance, there has been an equal rapid increase in price.
With options, it’s not hard to find sports models that exceed the starting price of a full-size truck. The RANGER 1000 is not one of those models. Designed as a direct replacement for Polaris’ all-time-bestselling model, the RANGER XP 900, this model is all about providing a true workhorse at an affordable price.
1000cc engines are definitely not something new in the UTV market, or even in the RANGER lineup. 2018 saw the release of the RANGER XP 1000 with the most power ever offered under the RANGER name badge; it also carried a price tag of $16,899, $4,600 over the aging XP 900. The 2020 RANGER 1000 fills that gap, offering a 1000cc machine with starting price of only $12,999.
I recently got the chance to visit Polaris’ R&D facility in Minnesota and put the 1000 through the paces to get a deeper look at how they designed this model. Arriving at the test complex, it was clear that the company takes its field testing seriously. Several large obstacles were planted around a grassy field with paths leading to multiple trail heads dotting the tree line.
This was only a small sampling of the massive facility. Nonetheless, with over five miles of trails available, it would be a great chance to see what the newest member of the RANGER family was capable of.
The event started in a large white tent with a standard curtain pull for the first look at the model. Styling-wise, it was familiar at first glance, with many cues coming from the XP 1000. As I looked a little closer, I started to see where this model differs. Boasting 12 inches of ground clearance and 11 inches of suspension travel, it sits just a little shorter on its 26-inch tires than the XP.
As I moved to the interior, some of the XP’s features were again carried over. 18.6 gallons of storage are scattered throughout the cab in the form of multiple glove boxes, compartments and under-seat bins. The dash is simple, with a four-inch multifunction screen. Newly styled seats have more padding for more comfort on long days, and they follow the same functional design theme.
Moving around back, the familiar 1,000-pound-rated dump bed sees only subtle changes to previous models, with a slightly deeper design. Another familiar sight was the standard two-inch hitch receiver with a very impressive towing capacity of 2,500 pounds. After the initial walkaround, I really got the feeling that for the $3,XP 900 price drop, customers would get a truly updated and capable machine.
Soon, it was time to suit up and see if the 2020 RANGER 1000 was all work, or if it left some room for play. Cranking the all-new ProStar 1000 SOHC engine, I was curious on what to expect. The engine actually has a power drop from the previous XP 900 model. With a peak 61 hp and 55 lb-ft of torque, it really isn’t that impressive on paper. However, it’s what Polaris has done with that power that is very impressive.
Unlike some of the other high-revving 1000cc engines in the Polaris lineup, this engine is designed for smooth low-end performance. It didn’t take long to mentally wad up the concerns about the power drop and toss it aside. The new clutch system is very responsive. Any pressure on the fun peddle gets things going easily and once rolling, there is plenty of power to quickly pull a grin from the driver throughout the power band.
As I got going, I played follow-the-leader around the incline obstacles, which were easily handled by the 1000’s powerplant. Coming down the backside of the structures afforded the opportunity to let the powertrain control the descent and it handled the task well. Soon, our group started heading out onto the heavily wooded trails.
The ride was comfortable and stable at normal operating speeds. As I started to push, it was the first time I really felt a difference from higher models. The shorter travel of the suspension started to get noticeable in rougher terrain and rutted areas. It wasn’t unbearable by any means; with just a little self-control on the speed, the ride returned back to its normal level of comfort.
The first half of the trail consisted of loosely packed dirt and mud. It was easy to notice the tighter turning radius of this model as I rounded trees. Coming out of those tight turns, there was plenty of torque to pull out of corner and throw some dirt on my way through. This lower-speed area lended itself well to the 1000’s strengths. It was easy to see how this machine could shine in a working environment.
In between trail runs, I took some time to get hands on with some of the other features and available accessories. The hydraulically assisted dump bed lifted easily to reveal the powerplant. Polaris has engineered this area with the consumer in mind, providing easier access to the air filter and other user-serviceable parts.
Lifting the front body panel reveals a pre-wired power bar for accessories, including an optional winch. When it comes to accessories, Polaris has customers covered as well. From snow plows, light bars, body panels, and even a fully enclosed, air conditioned/heated model (called the “North Star”), there are definitely plenty of ways to make the RANGER fit one’s needs.
Soon, it was back to the trail. The second half of the trail was a little more dried out, as the tree cover cleared and offered some longer straightaways. On the first of these, it was time to get a feel for how the RANGER handled higher speeds. From just about any speed under 25, it is quick to accelerate without hesitation. As you reach around 35mph, the climb slows and you are reminded of the vehicle’s utility design. With the trail narrowing back down, a few ticks over 40 was as far as I was willing to push. Despite the power drop-off, the RANGER felt good and handling was always confident and stable.
With around 25 miles in the 1000, I really started to notice a lot of the little details that quickly add up to make this a great everyday utility side-by-side. It isn’t about over-the-top styling, it is about places to store and retrieve your gear easily with frequent stops throughout the day. It isn’t about perfectly bolstered seats that hold you in place, it is about seats that are comfortable and easy to hop in and out of.
When it comes down to it, it really is all about getting work done and having some fun along the way. And frankly, that’s one reason why the RANGER XP 900 was the best selling Polaris UTV of all time. The 2020 RANGER 1000 looks like it will live up to that tradition as well.
Starting at $12,999
Engine & Drivetrain
- 999cc SOHC ProStar Engine
- 61 horsepower
- 55 lb. ft. of low-end torque
Suspension and Handling
- 12 inches of ground clearance
- 10 inches of suspension travel
- 26-inch six-ply PXT tires
Amenities and Build
- 18.6 gallons of in-cab storage
- 25-percent Thicker seats
- Five more inches of room for easy entry and exit
- Driver and passenger under-seat storage
- Up to eight cup holders
- 25-percent more rigid one-piece chassis
- 50-percent more protection from skid plate and bumper
- Sealed bushings and bearings
- Quick-release grille for easy radiator access
- New easy-access air filter
For all the details and to check other RANGER models, visit ranger.polaris.com.