Testing the Polaris Ranger 4×4

Testing the Polaris Ranger 4×4

Burch, Monte

Sturdy, comfortable and convenient. Those three words describe the new Polaris Ranger 4×4 utility vehicle. Based on the Ranger 6×6 introduced in 1998 and applauded by hunters and other serious outdoor enthusiasts, the Ranger 4×4 has many of the same great features. Both 2002 models, the 6×6 and 4×4, have a number of improvements over the original 1998 model.

I’ve tested both the 6×6 and the

4×4, and the basic differences between the two are simply two fewer wheels, less length, shorter wheelbase, tighter turning radius and slightly less weight in the 4×4.

The 6×6 is truly a go-anywhere ATV, but I found the 4×4 to be just as offroad aggressive. I tested the unit for about 60 days last winter and used it to haul decoys to duck and goose blinds and to haul hay and feed to my cattle, the latter of which requires crossing a knee- to hip-high creek. We also hauled literally a ton of firewood. The weather was typical for Missouri with some snow and ice, lots of mud and cold weather. The Ranger 4×4 never hesitated to start during any of the chores.

I did find the 4×4 more maneuverable than the 6×6 I had previously tested. We were doing some timber-stand improvement on one section of the property, and snaking through the trees to pull out logs was easy.

Regardless of whether pulling logs or hauling heavy loads in wet terrain, the Ranger 4×4 had power to spare due to the Polaris Ranger engine. It’s a powerful, 30-h.p., 499-cc, four-valve, four-stroke powerplant with a counter balance. The engine is liquid-cooled with dry sump lubrication, 34 mm Mikini carburetor, 250-watt alternator and electric start.

The 4×4 is also easy to drive due to the automatic Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT), and On-Demand true four-wheel drive system. The PVT requires no shifting.You simply use a console-mounted E-Z-Shift selector to choose from either high or low, forward or reverse, step on the gas and go. Gear position is indicated by a lighted panel on the dash. Power is fed to the two rear wheels with a shaft drive, providing excellent traction for normal conditions. If conditions get tough, and additional traction is needed, you simply push a dash-mounted On-Demand 4WD drive switch. The Polaris system senses when the rear wheels lose traction, then automatically engages both front wheels, providing full torque utilizing the shaft drive. The rear wheels also feature a lockable rear differential. The PVT is a Dual-Sensing transmission that responds to both engine r.p.m. and vehicle torque requirements for superior backshifting in all riding conditions. We have a very steep “hill” where engine braking is tested on all the ATVs evaluated on our place. The Ranger 4×4 provides some of the best backshifting in the business. Top speed on the Ranger is 40 m.p.h., which is fairly fast for utility vehicles, but I didn’t experience any discomfort or tilting feeling on corners.

The ride is extremely comfortable due to the sophisticated front and rear suspension systems. The Polaris Ranger has an independent MacPherson strut front suspension that provides 6″ of travel. On some offroad boulder trails, I discovered the suspension also adds to the overall maneuverability, especially in rough terrain. The swing arm rear suspension has a pair of 1 “-bore gas shocks with 6” of travel. The suspension system is also easily adjusted to suit different driving conditions. The braking is extremely positive with four-wheel hydraulic disk brakes with a mechanical brake located on the console. In our tests, steering was also very good and with a positive feel.

At first glance, the heavy-duty, rugged plastic cargo box looks extremely high off the ground, and it is fairly high at 35″. Part of the height is due to the heavy duty shocks built to take a heavy load. Payload capacity is a whopping 1,500 lbs., which includes passengers and cargo box, and the vehicle will also tow 1,500 lbs. The bed tilts by moving a latch located on either side of the front of the bed. To re-engage, snap the bed back down.

About the only problem I found was with the tailgate. The unit, which drops down, is molded to match the cargo bed, with a single pin running through both. The problem is that bark, gravel and other items tend to get caught between the two. Creating a bigger opening in the hinge area would probably solve the problem.

lifting and tilting the cargo bed is easy, even with a fairly heavy load. I’ve tested similar utility vehicles and would, however, strongly suggest an electric dump bed if you intend to transport solid materials such as soil, rocks and firewood.

Extremely strong tubular steel is used for the cab frame around the seating area. I like the “roll-bar” type overhead protection offered as standard equipment on the Polaris Ranger vehicles. The heavy-duty frame doesn’t only provide protection, it also can be used to transport ladder stands intact to hunting sites. Like most utility vehicles, the driver uses automotive-style controls such as a steering wheel and foot pedals for the throttle and brake. The other problem I found is the foot pedal and brake tend to be located a bit out of position with the driver. This is due to the large front fender wells, and there probably isn’t any way of correcting the problem, but it is a bit annoying.

One improvement from the older models is a bench rather than bucket seats. The bench provides seating for two or more. Safety restraints and head rests are available for two passengers. A key start and 35-watt halogen dualbeam lights add to the dash controls. The instrument panel contains an hour meter, high-beam indicator, gear position indicator and hightemperature light.

The Polaris Ranger 4×4 comes in the standard Polaris green with vacuumformed hood and dash. Other features include a glove box and built-in beverage holders. An optional under-hood storage area is also available.

You can build on the basic Ranger unit with a wide variety of options. A windshield and windshield wipers can protect against some of the elements. An enclosed unit provides even more protection. Both hard-side cab and doors and a soft-side cab and doors are available.You can also add rearview mirror, side mirrors, floor mats and a cab heater-even a radio with speakers. A gun scabbard mount, bed stakes, tool box, ladder rack and 1 VV trailer hitch can be added to the bed. The optional brush guard, front plow, rear blade, winch and mount, generator and 75-gallon sprayer make the Ranger 4×4 extremely versatile.

Regardless of the activity, the Polaris Ranger 4×4 is a hard-working, easy-riding and -driving all-terrain utility vehicle that will do it all.

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: Polaris 2002 Ranger 4×4

MANUFACTURER: Polaris Industries (Dept. AR), 2100 Highway 55, Medina, MN 55340; (800) 765-2747; www.polarisindustries.com

ENGINE: 499-cc, four-valve, four-stroke

STARTING SYSTEM: electric key start

COOLING SYSTEM: liquid-cooled

TRANSMISSION: Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT); automatic-high, low and reverse

DRIVE TRAIN: push-button, On-Demand two- or four-wheel drive; lockable rear differential

SUSPENSION: front, independent with 6 1/4″ travel; rear swingarm, dual shock and spring with 6 1/4″ of travel

BRAKES: four-wheel hydraulic disc

INSTRUMENTS: gear indicator, brake light, hour meter, overheat, head light high/low beam

DIMENSIONS: width, 58″; height, 75″; length, 113″

GROUND CLEARANCE: 7″

LOAD CAPACITY: payload capacity, 1,500 lbs.; towing capacity, 1,500 lbs

DRY WEIGHT: 1,185 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY: eight gallons

PRICE: 58,799

Copyright National Rifle Association of America Sep 2002

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