With all the continued hype about the completely new Polaris Sportsman XP series as being the best ATV yet, we at ATVESCAPE wanted to have the chance to put some miles on another one. Based upon our test of the 2009 Sportsman XP 850 Tested- Polaris Sportsman 850 XP EPS , we concluded the hype and great reviews of the Polaris XP series was earned and deserved! The two words we used to describe the new Sportsman XP series after 600 miles on one in 10 days were “refined” and “smooth”. We expected no less of the newest test model from Polaris.
To mix things up, we asked for a two-seat 2010 Sportsman Touring 850. Polaris generously agreed to provide us one for a several month test. There was no doubt after our previous test of the Sportsman XP 850 we were going to love the suspension, new transmission clutching, and the new 850cc Polaris-built power plant. In the past three years or so, a few manufacturers have come to the ATV market with two seat ATVs. The real question we at ATVESCAPE have been trying to determine is whether or not it is feasible to provide a comfortable ride for a second person during a day-long ride on rough terrain. After many miles and several full-day rides, we have come to a conclusion: yes. . . most of the time.
For years ATV riders have seen (and participated in) the classic one-seat ATV turned into a two seat ATV for that special someone to ride along. Most of us have let our guard down on this and given in to trying this on occasion. There are two huge reasons why this is a bad approach. The first is it is extremely dangerous and the second is it is extremely uncomfortable! We have talked to many people who have rolled their ATVs because they had put a rider behind the driver, changed the center of gravity, and climbed a hill or gone around a corner a little fast. Having ridden a short distance this way, I can’t imagine doing this all day, particularly on rough terrain. Many a woman has sat silently in anguish all day long riding behind her man for the sake of love. Well after seeing this go on for a while, Polaris decided to answer rider number two’s prayers, and manufacture a two-up or two-seat ATV for all those uncomfortable riders out there.
No matter how many times we pick up a new ATV to test, it simply never gets old to us. We are ATVers and off-roaders. New machines built to tackle the wild make us giddy and excited (Yes, I did say “giddy”.) so I looked forward to the day Polaris said the Sportsman Touring 850 would be ready to be picked up. I knew as soon as I drove into the parking lot which one it was sitting out there, and it was fire engine red. I talked to the dealer for a little while, loaded this beast on the trailer, and immediately headed out to our Proving Grounds riding area to get to the riding part.
The 2010 Polaris Sportsman XP 850 Touring Edition is set up for two riders, and designed to cover distance. It has an 850cc SOHC twin-cylinder EFI engine, electronic power steering, the classic Polaris fully automatic PVT transmission, rolled independent suspension, on demand true all-wheel drive, active descent control, and an adjustable rear comfort-ride seat suspension. A Lock & Ride front rack storage enclosure is also included in the Touring model, along with cast-aluminum wheels to make this machine stand out.
The Sportsman XP 850 Touring comes standard with power steering. . . .
The first impression you get when you walk up to the Polaris Sportsman Touring 850 is that it has been designed for rider number two’s comfort (Rider number one’s comfort is a given: just look at his title.) Overall the Touring models have a 4 inch greater wheel base length, and are 3.25 inches longer overall. These two features properly distribute the weight of the riders, and add to the stability of the ATV. The ATV looks a little longer when you take it in, but it doesn’t look noticeably larger. There is a high-back contoured seat back on the elevated rear seat along with handholds, elevated foot rests, and cup holders for the rear passenger. The bottom part of the seat in the rear is also contoured for a rider’s legs, and is angled slightly back to make sure the rider doesn’t slide forward. Despite looking completely stupid, I sat in the rear seat in the parking lot to see what it was like stationary. My first impression was it should be very comfortable when riding back there, but that would be left to be determined on the trail.
The next thing you will notice is the 2010 Touring Edition XP shares the same body style and overall setup as its brother the new XP series Sportsman. The pod and body panels have the XP look and feel. This is all new for 2010, and, for that matter, the entire Touring Edition is completely new for 2010, with the exception of the gear shift knob.
Finally, you will notice the POWER STEERING works as soon as you turn the key on even if the ATV is stationary. If you have never used power steering before, it without a doubt leaves an impression on you. Having been several months without it, I was reminded immediately why I would never want to own a new ATV without it.
Between trips to the Proving Grounds, riding parks, and a couple of trips to National Forests in Arkansas, we have put many a mile on this machine and had a lot of fun in the process. We have cycled different riders on and off to get different perspectives as well.
I got to the riding area, unloaded the quad, grabbed the key, and prepared myself to have some fun. I was certainly not disappointed. When you climb aboard this beast, the first thing you will notice is the seat is not wide at the knees the way it is on most if not all utility quads. When I say it is not wide, it is substantially less wide resulting in the quad feeling much smaller and more nimble than it is. This is due to the engine being mounted longitudinally in the chassis. People say it feels more like a sport quad than a utility quad. Personally, I like this feel more than I do with my legs further apart. I know a couple of people who do not like this feel, but most will find it a welcome change.
I turned the key, and the engine growled to life with 850cc’s of power at my disposal. Knowing that much power is at your beck and call is a great feeling. I am not a guy who likes to go incredibly fast most of the time, but it is fun at times to open the throttle to let this engine breathe. If “fast all the time” is the kind of rider you are, then you will not be disappointed with this 850 engine. Press the throttle, and the ATV immediately begins to move without the jerk synonymous with the pre-XP suspension Sportsman models. The new clutching truly makes this machine smooth off the line even if you push it. The fact is the setup of the drive train is extremely refined. Make no mistake though; the ride is not in the least boring. On the contrary, when you jump on the throttle, this machine explodes like it has been shot out of a cannon.
Along with the power, the feel and cornering of this quad are solid. The suspension keeps you firmly planted squarely on the ground. I hit some corners at a good rate of speed, and the body roll was minimal. The Sportsman Touring 850 tracks itself through the corners. Point in the direction you want to go, and this beast will go. Other Sportsmans with the front strut setup can’t corner like the new double a-arm setup of the Sportsman XP series. The articulation of the suspension is better also. In climbing over rocks, the Sportsman feels stable even in off-camber situations.
The final item I noticed on the first ride is the pod display is updated like in all the XP models. It is all digital and has multiple screens and functions. It has two trip odometers which I found invaluable on multiday rides. To top it all off, the screen is easy to see both during the day and at night.
The Sportsman Touring 850 has so much power it causes pause. The 850cc twin cylinder in-line engine with fuel injection is built by Polaris, and was first released in 2009 for the XP series. It produces 70 horsepower, and as we talked about in the article on our 2009 Polaris Sportsman XP 850 (link to article) the power is applied in a refined way. The 850 engine is mounted longitudinally in the chassis which is a first in the XP series for Polaris. “Why did Polaris do this?” you may ask. The answer has to do with the driveline being straight, thus reducing vibration, and freeing up a lot of space at the riders feet and knees. This engine is a new generation of power and refinement in ride, and with EFI, altitude and temperature are adjusted for automatically.
Having been away from the 850 engine, it was great to return to it. This engine is amazingly refined, yet powerful. With the cc’s in ATV’s and UTV’s bumping up against the 1000cc’s mark, the question keeps popping up how much power is too much power? It all comes down to how it is applied and controlled. The 850cc Polaris engine does an excellent job at producing usable power while applying it in a controlled manner. There is power to spare in every situation we have thrown it into. In High range it simply goes over anything, even if you are crawling over the obstacle. I have taken this machine up several steep inclines, and it crawls them without any effort. Having great confidence in your ATV’s power is a comfort, particularly when you are doing steep hill climbs (or the occasional “mine is faster than yours” contest).
“What about sheer ‘throttle all the way forward’ power?” you may ask. Here is what all of us who have ridden this machine will say: “Hang on tight!” When you mash the thumb throttle on this Sportsman with the 850 engine underneath you, you will be cruising 60 MPH before you know it. Getting from a standstill to 60 MPH seems effortless on this machine. If you want to break the back tires loose, you can do it at will. The throttle on the XP series is smooth and well balanced between heavy and light. Ride after ride I have put miles on this Sportsman XP 850 Touring, and I never have been afraid the throttle was going to slip out of my control, or sudden applied power was going to cause me grief. There is nothing more unnerving than climbing a steep hill, and having a throttle which is too light causing the front end to come up. You just don’t have to worry about that on this machine. The throttle is simply balanced perfectly, and the rider can quickly adjust to its feel.
We do not feel this engine has too much power (What does that even mean?). The power is applied well to the wheels allowing for great control and a ton of fun. This motor would also be ideal for mud bogging, which we have not put it through. With so much low end torque, the 850 engine will be able to turn big aftermarket mud tires with power to spare. The power in the 850 engine makes for a fun and confident ride.
The Sportsman XP 850 Touring has the new improved transmission put into all the Sportsman XP models. The improvements to this transmission include a new roller-driven clutch taken from their snowmobile line, a more “usable” low gear, and a longer gear shifter. The transmission has five settings, including Park, Reverse, Neutral, High, and Low. The gears are operated by the gearshift on the driver’s right side. It is a fully automatic PVT system, and it operates smoothly and reliably. Polaris changed the ATV market when it introduced the fully automatic PVT transmission, and continues to improve upon it year after year. In all of our riding this machine, the transmission has worked well.
So what do the improvements mean for the rider? The new clutching allows for a faster clutch response, and faster back shifting according to Polaris. We found the new clutch is a significant improvement over the old transmission. When you shift into gear and start forward, there is the absence of the typical Polaris “jerk” when the clutch engages and the ATV begins to move forward. The only time we have noticed some “jerk” (and we were looking) is when you move from forward to reverse. Even in that scenario the jerk is less than in past Sportsmans. The improvements to this transmission are noticeable, and make the ride much more refined.
As far as the new low gear is concerned, these improvements translate into a more usable low gear. The low gear can be used up to 39 MPH rather than the recommended 7 MPH in past Sportsmans. This comes in handy when you are towing something in low gear since you can go faster. Let’s face it; nobody wants to go from point A to point B towing a trailer with a top speed of 7 MPH. The gear selector is definitely improved compared to earlier models. It has a better feel going from one gear to another, which makes it easier to use and gives you more confidence. You know you are dropping into the gear you are choosing, and with the longer shifter, it is easier to move from gear to gear. On the trail we found High gear has so much power that we don’t need to use Low gear. With two people on the Sportsman 850 XP Touring model, we used Low to do slow difficult rock crawling, deep mud riding, and to come up or down really steep inclines. In most all those cases, the riding could be done in High, but we wanted to know what this gear could do.
Engine braking on this machine as on all the XP models is greatly improved from in years past, and the Sportsman XP 850 Touring model was no exception to that rule. Even in High gear with two people on the machine, the engine braking with the new roller-clutch smoothly engaged when you let go of the throttle. Since the new roller clutch engages more smoothly, the ATV has less tendency to have the rear wheels lock up, causing you to ski and skid down steep inclines. The engine braking worked very well even down some really steep declines. We were, however, able to cause the rear wheels to lock up coming down some of those really steep ones; and we still felt in control of the skid. The Active Descent Control makes up for this as we will cover later. When you put it in Low gear and go down a steep decline, it will crawl down it as long as the tires have traction. To have confidence when going down a steep slope is invaluable, and the engine braking along with the Active Descent Control on this Sportsman gives you that comfortable feeling.
On Demand True All Wheel Drive
The Polaris Sportsman XP 850 Touring model uses the All Wheel Drive system that Polaris puts in all its mid and full size ATV’s and UTV’s. This system has three settings, which include 2X4, 4X4, and 4X4 with Active Descent Control, and is selectable with the thumb switch. The 2X4 mode keeps only the rear wheels turning with a locked rear axle just as you would expect. When you select 4X4 (at any speed), the Sportsman stays in 2 wheel drive until one of the rear wheels slips a quarter turn. When a rear wheel loses traction, the system engages the front axle automatically, and sends power to both front wheels equally. The front differential is a “locker” meaning both front wheels get equal power whether they have traction or not. The system then reverts back to 2 wheel drive when 4 wheel drive is no longer needed. The system also works in reverse, when 4X4 is selected, without having to hold down an “override button” the way it was in years past. We really see this as an improvement. Having explained how the system works, the simple version is you put it in 4X4 mode when you think you might need it (or all the time), and the Sportsman will engage 4 wheel drive when it is needed. Just put it in 4X4 and forget about it.
In the real world, how does this 4X4 system work? The Polaris 4X4 system works excellently in all situations. We have put thousands of miles on Polaris machines using this system, and it just works. It is nice to just put it into 4X4 and forget about it. In our testing the Sportsman 850 Touring model, we have taken it through the mud, rock crawling, serious hill climbs, and high speed trail riding, and the 4X4 worked perfectly. It engages when we need it and stays in 2 wheel drive when we don’t. I have heard other brand owners say they want to control when 4X4 is used and when it is not. That is fine with us, but the Polaris 4X4 system works so quickly that the lag time between 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive is completely unnoticeable. Anyone who uses the Polaris system can count on it to work flawlessly no matter what the situation.
Active Descent Control
Active Descent Control (ADC) is Polaris’ answer to being able to descend steep declines using all four wheels to hold you back. For years Polaris machine owners discovered only the rear wheels would engage the engine braking instead of all four wheels when descending a steep hill. When the rear wheels did engage, the momentum that had built up caused the rear wheels to lock and you would have to control the skid until you got to the bottom. ADC solved this issue when it was released about 3 or 4 years ago. When you select the 4X4 with ADC icon on the thumb selector switch, the ADC will engage all four wheels in conjunction with the engine braking to allow you to crawl down steep declines. When selected, the ADC will engage when you are going less than 15 MPH, and you release the throttle.
This is the third time we have been on a Polaris machine equipped with ADC, and it works very well. We would not have a Polaris machine without it. It works the way you want a system to work when you are descending a really steep hill, and you don’t want to die! We rarely use this setting as it is very heavy “engine braking”, and in regular trail riding it is too heavy. However when we do turn it on, it is because we need it, and it works to keep our descents in control. No more do we have to skid down a hill on the verge of being out-of-control. We actually had a steep enough hill we were descending where the ADC was locking and unlocking the wheels. In that situation we still felt confident it would hold us back, and it did. This is particularly true when you have a rider and the extra weight on the ATV. We would imagine that is the reason it comes standard on the Touring models. One thing to note; The ADC unit requires some maintenance to keep it working and working well. This does not deter us from having the system in the least, but just be aware of it.
The Sportsman 850 Touring now has the XP series suspension setup, which includes Rolled Independent Suspension in the back and dual a-arms in the front, as opposed to the formerly used McPherson strut setup in the front. The chassis is built from tubular steel rather than a combination of channeled and flat cross members for added rigidity. The rolled independent suspension means the rear suspension not only moves up and down but back and up. This back and up suspension motion keeps the back of the ATV from squatting under hard acceleration, helps keep the rear tires square with the trail when encountering obstacles, and smoothes the ride when you hit bumps as it absorbs more of the energy . The front has 9 inches of travel and the back has 10 inches of travel to soak up bumps with the best of them. All four shocks have 5 preloaded settings, so you can dial in your ride to your liking. The Sportsman 850 has 11.25 inches of ground clearance overall to help you get over the rough stuff. All of this translates into the best Sportsman ride yet for all aboard.
On the trail there are all kinds of conditions ATV’s go through. The fact is we have tried all sorts of terrain using the new Sportsman’s suspension and it has excelled through all of them. From the roughest rock (boulder) crawling in Colorado, fast hard pack trails, mud holes, whoops, and rocky fast trails, the Sportsman XP’s suspension works to provide a great ride. In corners you can push the throttle and the Sportsman just sticks the corner with very little body roll. With the seat width being 3 to 4 inches less at the knees and ankles than the previous model, you feel like you have more of a sport quad rather than a nearly 800lb utility quad. It is easy to ride aggressively on this ATV. Cornering is also predictable, meaning it is easy to get a feel for the Sportsman quickly, and then know what it will do as you push it. The fact that the ride is so smooth is quite noticeable. You expect to hit rocks and dips in the trail, and have that energy transferred to you as the rider. With this suspension set up, very little of the trail obstacles make it to you as the rider. You expect hitting the rock in the trail will cause you to bounce up a little, but the suspension soaks it up in most cases. This is a pleasant surprise. We have taken many a rock at higher speeds to see what would happen, and the suspension sucks it up. At the end of the day, even in really rocky environments, we were not fatigued. This is simply not the case on many quads, even with independent rear suspension. The Sportsman 850 Touring has an impressively smooth ride.
Let’s talk stability. The Sportsman 850 Touring is like a rock as far as keeping itself firmly planted on the ground is concerned. It has a 4 inch greater wheelbase than the regular one seat Sportsman XP 850. This makes for a very stable machine even when carrying a passenger. What a difference there is between riding an ATV made for one person and putting two people on it, compared to putting two people on an ATV designed for two riders. We found a firm and stable feel in high speed trail riding with two adult riders on this Sportsman. We took it up and down steep inclines with and without a passenger to see what it felt like. The passenger still had to do some leaning in the high speed riding and steep off-camber hill climbs. The Sportsman 850 Touring felt solid in all of these situations. With all the travel in the suspension, the off-camber riding still leaves you feeling confident you are going to stay on the ground. It takes effort to put this Sportsman in a spot where it begins to feel unstable. It can be done, but you are going to have to do it on purpose or in extreme conditions.
Based upon our experience with its factory settings, ground clearance is something you want to pay attention to with this machine. The “11.25 inches” number on the specs looks very good, but it also has an additional 4 inches of wheelbase when going over obstacles. I would imagine the 11.25 inches of ground clearance is with no one aboard the ATV, and with the shocks in the factory set position. Since discovering this we measured the ground clearance at 9 inches at the lowest part of the frame with no one aboard and set at the factory shock settings. We noticed on the very first ride with a passenger that we were hitting things in the trail below the 11.25 inch mark, and this came as a real surprise. With Polaris Sportsman ATV’s, like most full size ATV’s, you don’t really have to worry about ground clearance, and having to pick your spots on most trails. Typically it takes a seriously rocky trail to force you to be concerned about hitting the skids, but this is not the case on the Sportsman Touring model. We think it is easy to fix though. Just increase the tension on the adjustable shocks from the softest setting to a stiffer setting. This should help compensate for the weight of a passenger, and keep you off the skids. Just know if you are carrying a passenger you will want to identify what obstacles in the trail cause you to smack the skid plates, and adjust your riding accordingly.
Steering and Power Steering
On the Sportsman Touring 850 there are two notable changes when it comes to steering. The big and most notable item is the power steering or EPS (Electronic Power Steering) standard on the Sportsman Touring 850. According to Polaris, the EPS on the Sportsman offers 30% more assist than the leading competitor. We are not sure how they get that number, but we can tell you the power steering unit is fantastic. You can start the engine and move the handlebars with a finger when the ATV is stationary. Many power steering units do not work when the ATV is stationary. The EPS unit is also variable assist. This means the EPS unit will adjust the amount of assist based upon speed. We found the unit has much assist at slow speeds and then around 27 or 28 MPH gets noticeably heavier with less assist. At higher speeds there is more feedback to the rider from the terrain, and at slow speeds the steering is effortless even with a passenger. Steering at slower speeds also has less rider feedback from the trail, but once we got used to it, we really liked this. We love to rock crawl, and we were able to turn the handlebars with little effort even when we are up against a rock. The EPS system also soaks up kickback from the trail, which we will cover below. We love the power steering on the Polaris, and we love power steering in general.
Next, the Polaris 850 Touring has anti-kickback steering. By placing the steering axis inside the wheels and close to center, jolts to the wheels don’t translate to the handlebars and wrists of the rider the way they did in past models and on some competitive models. This new steering geometry works in conjunction with the EPS, and it takes a big trail obstacle to make you feel a bump in the handlebars. Rider fatigue is reduced because of all of the above improvements. As we put the miles on the Sportsman 850 Touring, the steering is one of the stand-out features of this machine. Steering this ATV is effortless with the EPS. We could pick a line we wanted to take through rocks and tree roots, hit them hard, and the handlebars barely let us know that we had hit anything. We tried to hit an obstacle hard enough to have the handlebars jerk, but we were unsuccessful in most cases. Bump steer just doesn’t happen on this ATV in 95% of conditions. There is less bounce when the front wheels go over an obstacle than when the rear wheels do. Our arms never did get a workout or feel worn out even after ten-hour rides. The steering setup on the Polaris is just good, and it has a “WOW” factor even after many miles.
Wheels and Tires
The Sportsman 850 Touring comes with 14” cast aluminum wheels that really make the ATV look sharp. On all the new Polaris XP-based models, Polaris is putting 14” wheels rather than 12” wheels. We believe there are most likely two explanations for this. One reason is with the new steering geometry, the long a arms come together in the middle of the wheel along with the disc-brakes being housed inside the wheel. All of the items need space, so 14” wheels allow for that. The other reason is probably because so many ATV riders put better looking aftermarket wheels on their ATV anyway, so why not go on and put nice wheels on the ATV from the factory. This is our guess anyway.
The Sportsman 850 Touring comes with Maxxis 26x8-14 tires on the front, and Maxxis 26x10-14 tires on the rear. The Maxxis tires have a tread which makes it really a hard pack trail tire. From what we can determine they are 2 ply tires, however these tires have impressed us on several rides now. The tread design has great hookup on hard pack trail or a harder surface, and the handling is good. I have no doubt these tires contribute to the great ride and cornering of this ATV. We have found these tires to be good on rocks as well. We took the Sportsman 850 Touring to a ride park which is known for chewing up tires. The terrain is extremely rocky with lots of hill climbs with sharp rocks on the trails. I have put about 6 tire plugs in my Polaris PXT tires at this park. I have also taken chunks of tread off good 6 and 8 ply tires at this park. The point is tire dependability is in the front of our minds when we ride there. These tires made it through the entire day with no problem, though we did have some tread missing when we headed home. Finally, though these tires are not mud tires, they do remarkably well in the mud. I am not talking about a mud bog, but mud on the trail, and a couple of mud holes (see the pictures). I would have thought the mud holes would have been tough to get through with these tires, but the tires pulled the ATV through. We only got stuck once and that was more because the ground clearance was hanging us up. All that said, these tires seem to be a well performing all around tire. We think for factory tires, they are some of the better durable and performing ones we have seen. For those of you who do not want to put after market tires on your new ATV, these tires suffice quite well.
The Sportsman 850 Touring has disc brakes on all four corners, which stop all of this power quickly and effectively. All four brakes are controlled by a single lever on the left handlebar. The rear brakes can be controlled separately with the foot peg on the driver’s right floorboard. You can grab the brake lever hard and the brakes bite hard, or you can gently squeeze them for a gentle stop. The brakes have a good firm feel, and bring the Sportsman to a solid stop. In all the years of riding Polaris machines, we never use the rear brake footpeg, and we personally like the single lever approach to the brakes. We are fully aware many people wish the front and rear brakes were separated on each handlebar. Being a utility quad designed to be simple and easy to use, a single brake lever makes sense to us, but “to each his own.” Either way, when you grab a brake lever you expect the ATV to come to a controlled stop, and these brakes do just that.
Ergonomics and Controls
Like most Polaris ATV’s, the Sportsman 850 Touring is laid out well, with all the controls easy to operate and located in well thought out locations. The instrument cluster is fully digital, easy to read both during the day and at night, and lets the rider know everything that is going on with the ATV at any given time. It includes an analog speedometer, digital odometer, tachometer, two trip meters (we really like this), hour meter, clock, service indicator, diagnostic indicator, gear indicator, fuel gauge, AWD indicator, hi-temp/low-battery lights, and finally a DC outlet. On the left handlebar you have the headlight controls, kill switch, reverse override button, and the single brake lever. On the right handlebar you have the thumb throttle, 2X4, 4X4, and 4X4 with Active Descent Control thumb switch. The gear lever is on the right side of the ATV forward of the right knee, and there is a foot pedal for the rear brakes on the floorboard on the driver’s right side.
As the Sportsman 850 Touring comes standard with a Lock & Ride cargo box in the front rack, it is important to pass that information on as well. We really like the rubber flip latches on this box as they are easy to use, and they do not shake loose over time. The lid is solid plastic with an aluminum frame, which makes it very sturdy. The cargo box holds 8.2 gallons, which in real world use is quite a bit. It is bigger than the built in storage of pre XP model year Sportsmans. We were able to fit snacks and gear with no problem. Of course the cargo box is molded to not hinder the pod’s headlight when in use, and it is Lock & Ride, so the cargo box installs literally in about 10 seconds. It has two Lock & Ride anchors, which hold the cargo box securely to the ATV with no rattling. This front cargo box is a real plus on the Sportsman 850 Touring.
Another item to note is the built-in tie down spots both on the front storage compartment and the rear rack. There are places in both front and rear rack locations which have what looks like grooves or gaps specifically designed for the hooks on bungee cords. These places sure look intentional to us, and they are in the perfect spots for securing gear.
Considering how close ATV’s are to automobiles, how easy it is to do basic maintenance on a machine should be a consideration when purchasing one. We all want to have our ATVs last as long as possible, and basic maintenance is key to accomplishing this. It seems for many years manufacturers engineered their products with less thought as to how the average rider would service them. Many times we have wished someone would have thought through putting the cross member of the frame directly above the sparkplug, and the hose clamp in that hard-to-reach spot! Serviceability has become an engineering priority in recent years, and this is evident on the Sportsman 850 Touring.
Polaris has definitely paid attention to the details on where items of basic maintenance are placed. Service points include air filter, engine oil, transmission and differential fluids, spark plugs, fuses, grease fittings, engine coolant, battery, and more. The great majority of these items are easy to access and to do the required maintenance. The air filter is housed directly under the seat, and is easily removed for cleaning or replacing. The engine oil fill hole, dipstick, and oil filter are accessed on the side of the ATV, without ever having to get under the ATV. The oil drain plug is located under the ATV, and there is a hole in the skid plate to get to it. The grease fittings on the suspension points are all on the top of the component not the bottom (this is simple and welcome touch), in places where appropriate. The radiator cap, overflow bottle, fuses, ADC reservoir, and radiator can be accessed by taking the front cargo box off (in less than 10 seconds). The differential drain plugs are removed from beneath or rear of the ATV, and have holes in the skid plates for draining. The fill plugs for the same are easy to reach, and relatively easy to fill. The battery is located under the passenger seat, and can be removed in about 1 minute. The only area of concern is the PVT, which is turned perpendicular to the ATV, on the back of the transmission. Though the belt life is set at 5000 miles, the workspace to change the belt is tight compared to pre XP chassis Sportsmans, which was located on the side. It could be a little tricky to get the cover off and change the belt. We at ATVESCAPE will give it a try and see. Overall it appears the service points for basic maintenance of the Sportsman 850 Touring are easy to access meaning more riders will actually do them! We will come out with a maintenance manual for this machine shortly.
Lock & Ride
Lock & Ride is Polaris’ line of accessories designed specifically to install and uninstall on their ATV’s in a few seconds. The front storage box, which comes standard on the Sportsman Touring 850 model is an example of that. We are fans of the Lock & Ride system, now that we have experienced it. Being able to install and uninstall accessories in seconds is a big deal. You can buy front and rear storage boxes, racks, gun scabbards, rack extenders, and other items to add to your ATV. The simplicity of taking these items on and off is well worth considering a Lock & Ride accessory.
NOW…….. having been over the machine in detail, we will take a breath and get to the question we started this article trying to answer! When we began, I said the question we at ATVESCAPE have wanted to answer is whether or not a passenger can ride in the rear seat all day on different kinds of terrain comfortably. I have now been in the passenger seat on the Sportsman Touring 850 XP for around 130 miles over different kinds of terrain from some mud, hard pack trail, hill climbs, and really rough and rocky terrain. From all of this I can honestly say I have a good feel for how the back seat rides. The answer to the question is that in most terrain and riding styles you can have a comfortable full day’s ride as the passenger on the Sportsman 850 Touring. Most of this is due to attention to detail for the rider’s comfort by the engineers at Polaris, and also for the overall suspension of the ATV.
First let’s take a look at the Sportsman 850 Touring passenger setup, and we will start with the seat itself. The seat is set above the driver seat by 3 to 4 inches. This is amazingly significant in the comfort level of the ride for the passenger. While riding in the passenger seat you can see! Your sight line is well above the driver’s head unless the driver is Abraham Lincoln. Next the seat is tilted slightly backward with the front of the seat having a slight incline, so the rider will not slide forward in normal riding conditions. The seat back is contoured for your back, and it is thick and padded well. The standout feature to the seat is the shock absorber at the base. This by itself would be great and a step above other two-up ATVs, but it is adjustable. You can adjust the setting on it to have more or less tension. Considering the difference in size from one person to another, this ability is imperative to the comfort of the rider. Props to Polaris for making the shock absorber adjustable. The seat is also removable with minimal effort. There is a loop you pull which release the entire passenger seat. Though you can remove the passenger seat quickly and easily, there is not really a way to remove the seat and then go ride as a one up machine without leaving a gap in the rear rack exposing the battery. We found that to be a needed capability, since a person would take this machine on trips with only one person. The spot where the seat sits has a gap and exposes the battery, when the seat is removed. Of course you can leave the seat on, but the lack of a large rear rack limits the amount of gear you can carry. On the 2011 Sportsman Touring models, Polaris has taken the next logical step, and produced an optional storage box which can be placed where the passenger seat sits, when two up riding is not required. That is a great improvement customers will now enjoy. Though we are not positive on this, we believe the new storage compartment will fit the 2010 models as well. The storage compartment not only is sealed, and snaps into the void when the second seat is removed, but it also creates a flat load deck on the back rack giving you tons of load space. Now you’re talking!
Two more critical components to rider comfort are the foot rests and handholds. The foot rests are elevated above the driver floorboards for a good place to brace yourself from, and the handholds allow for you to steady yourself along the trail. The handholds are large so they will fit any person’s hands as well as allow for the passenger to wear heavy gloves if the weather requires it. The icing on the cake is the two cup holders with adjustable straps to hold your drinks in place, and keep them from bouncing out on the trail. These cup holders are great even if you are not carrying a passenger. All of these items make the ride in most situations comfortable for a passenger despite the terrain.
On the trail and 130 miles or so in the passenger seat there were so many things I learned. When you first climb into the passenger seat you notice getting in and out of the seat is easy, when the driver is not on the ATV or at least has scooted up to the front. As you sit down, the seat back feels as though it fits your back and the slight tilt of the seat itself keeps you feeling securely in place. The seat is molded to fit your legs, which also makes you feel safe and secure. As you settle into the seat, the seat back gives a little, making you aware of the fact it has a shock absorber on it. This is noticeable immediately. The joke between the riders who rode in this seat was it reminds us of a Lazy Boy recliner.
On the trail the seat and seat back are very comfortable and supportive. The seat and seat back have plenty of cushion, so even on long rocky rides the seat doesn’t wear your back or backside out. Because of the tilt and contour of the seat, you stay firmly planted in the seat as you go over bumps and through turns. Even when hitting some small whoops, going over some good sized rocks, and coming down some really steep hills, I did not bounce forward in the seat. The seat itself needs to be adjusted to the passenger who will be spending the most time back there. On the factory settings I found the seat back to have too much give in it. When I hit a good bump I would swing back a little then come back forward. I learned not to put my weight on the seat back during a whoop or bump, which solved the problem. The real fun (I say that sarcastically) was doing steep hill climbs! The way the seat back had give in it, while I was leaning back on it, the seat back felt firm, but it felt like my back was on the ground. Now granted these were really steep hill climbs. When doing climbs like these you need to lean forward until you reach the top.
As the passenger you feel as though you are being chauffeured around. This is due to your site line being unobstructed. You can look around and particularly forward above the driver’s head to see what lies ahead of the ATV. I would say this gives you the impression you are on the ride and not merely being dragged along while viewing the back of the driver’s head. This also gives you the ability to smack him or her on the helmet when he is about to attempt something you don’t want them to do!
I found the footrests to be in a good location. I am about 5’6” to 5’7” depending on the shoes I am wearing, and I thought the passenger floorboards were in a very comfortable position. Their position left a slight bend in my knees while riding. I was able to leverage my legs to provide a better ride in certain riding situations. Other riders found them to be not as comfortable, and actually put their feet on the driver floorboards to stretch out once in a while. All of the other riders are taller than I am by several inches, and we think that is the reason some found them not as comfortable. So, our conclusion is the passenger footholds may not be in the perfect spot for everyone, but that is just the way it will be no matter where you put them.
As soon as you climb into the passenger seat you will grab the handholds on your right and left sides. The handholds have a solid feel, which gives you a confidence in your safety (depending on the driver). The handholds are made of a plastic which has just a little give where you grip them with your hands. The handles themselves have no noticeable give at all. We are impressed by the feel of the handholds. No matter what we went over, I felt I could use the handholds to smooth the ride and keep myself from moving around in the seat. They also helped me when the situation required me to use body English to compensate for what the trail was throwing at us.
The ride as the passenger is comfortable and solid. In almost every riding situation, I felt fully connected to the Sportsman 850 Touring. In higher speed trail riding, the ATV was firm underneath me and handled well. Even at times when the driver decided to bring the back end around (against my wishes), the ATV felt firm, had little noticeable body roll, and brought me along without feeling unstable. As you would expect, there is more body roll when you are carrying a passenger than when you are not. The suspension offers a solid stable feel for the passenger. As the passenger, you will want to use body English in sharp turns, tackling steep hills, and in some off camber situations. As we hit trails with some rocks, bumps, and whoops, the Sportsman does well to smooth the ride out. It greatly helps when the driver uses the throttle to smooth out the whoops and bumps for the passenger. When the ATV comes off of a large rock or whoop, and dives forward, that is when a sharp energy is transferred to the passenger. This can be minimized by using the footrests and handholds to absorb some of that energy. Also be aware when the ATV dives forward, you do not want to lean forward and smack your head on the head of the driver. When we traveled over the real rocky trails like the pictures show, the Sportsman felt stable and soaked up the bumps with relative ease as we were going slow. Again, on the real rough stuff the passenger will want to use the handholds and footrests to absorb some of the energy. Obviously, the Sportsman handles better without a passenger than with the added weight. However, it handles turns and terrain darn well even with a passenger.
In summary, we feel the passenger ride on the Sportsman 850 Touring is comfortable and firm. There is no doubt this Sportsman is engineered and built with the purpose of carrying a passenger. I felt one with the machine in almost every riding situation, and I didn’t feel like I had to work at staying in the seat. At the end of two full days of riding, I was not beat down from riding in the passenger seat. I want to drive rather than ride any day, but this was a feasible way to have an enjoyable time and still be a passenger.
Notable Items- Stand Out Features
Radiator and Radiator Placement-The radiator has a significantly larger capacity this year as the Touring 850 is a part of the new XP class of Polaris ATV’s. The location of the radiator is now high in the frame and out of the mud and water for the most part. The radiator is also tilted to aid in keeping debris out of it, and aiding in its ease of cleaning. These improvements are more significant than they sound. For years Polaris owners have experienced their ATV’s overheating because the radiator was placed low in the frame. Adding to the problem was how difficult it was to get to the radiator to clean it. Most of the time it required taking the entire front grill piece off in order to have access to really clean the radiator out well. Thank goodness Polaris listened to all of us, and made the design change. In fact, the entire 2011 Sportsman line now has the radiator positioned higher in the frame. This problem is now a thing of the past. Cleaning the radiator is painless now as well. Simply remove the front cargo box, then the radiator is accessible and tilted for easy cleaning. What an improvement! Thank you Polaris.
Attention To Detail- The level of quality and focus on the details is evident on the Sportsman. We are thrilled at the “little things” which show attention to details in engineering, producing a high quality ATV. The fuses are enclosed in a fuse box to keep the elements out. The radiator overflow bottle is tilted, so the marks on the bottle for proper levels are tilted as well for easy reading. The grease fittings on the suspension setup are located on the top and not bottom of the a-arm pivots where applicable. There is a tie-down point at the bottom of the front of the chassis. All of these are small items, but they show the level of thoughtful engineering going in to this Sportsman. The Sportsman line just keeps getting better and better.
Skid Plates- The Sportsman 850 Touring like all Sportsmans comes with well designed skid plates offering good underbody protection standard from the factory. This keeps Sportsman buyers from having to spend an additional $400 or so on good skids as is the case with some other manufacturers. There are steel plates under the drive train components and other important areas with a plastic cover running from the rear of the ATV to the front of the ATV. This offers excellent protection, which we “tried out” on our rides.
Seat Width- The space between the rider’s knees is unlike any other full size utility ATV on the market today, and it is so noticeable when you climb aboard the new XP Sportsmans. This makes for such a sportier feel for the driver. We can’t stress how different this is, so we encourage you to go to a Polaris dealer and climb on a Sportsman to understand what we are talking about.
Things We Would Improve
Ground Clearance- This is our number one and really only real “complaint” with this Sportsman model. With 10 inches of ground clearance on the specs, that sounds good. In reality, we found it to have 9 inches unloaded, and that is not enough. We really seemed to be hitting the skids quite a bit on the trail in the area under the passenger’s footrests, when there was a passenger aboard. Some of this can be offset by increasing the tension on the shocks. You can also go to aftermarket lift kits or shocks and springs to deal with this. From the factory settings, we would like to see an increase in ground clearance.
Adjustable Tension in the Seat Back- We would really like to see a way to increase the tension in the passenger seat back itself not just in the passenger seat as a whole. If there is a way to do this already, we apologize as we could not figure it out. We love the fact the passenger seat as a whole is on a shock and that shock is adjustable. Being able to “dial in” the give in the passenger seat back would be wonderful.
- Powerful refined engine
- Smooth transmission
- Passenger seat and seat back with adjustable shock and comfortable padding
- Great electronic power steering
- Stable suspension with lots of travel
The Sportsman series is a new breed of quality ATV. The 850 engine has tons of power, the transmission delivers that power in a smooth way, and the suspension makes the ride both comfortable and stable. Not only is this ATV fun to ride, but it is comfortable for both a driver and passenger. The answer to the question of whether or not a passenger can ride comfortably all day even in rough terrain is an overall enthusiastic “Yes!” What puts the new Polaris Sportsman series ATV’s, including the 850 Touring model, at the top of the ATV heap is the attention to the details. The engineers at Polaris have done their homework as to what consumers want both in an ATV and particularly in a two-up ATV. This niche market is a direct result of Polaris seeing a market opportunity and capitalizing on customer demand. The Polaris Sportsman XP lineup has won awards with its release in 2009, and it really does set the bar for what an ATV should be. We found a couple of items which could be improved, but we would definitely recommend this ATV. See you on the trail!
Check Out Our 2010 Sportsman XP 850 Touring Gallery
For more information on the Sportsman 850 Touring, check out the Polaris website here http://www.polarisindustries.com/en-us/atv-ranger/2011/touring-atv/sportsman-touring-850-eps/pages/overview.aspx
|Type||4-stroke SOHC, Twin Cyl.|
|Fuel System||EFI - 40mm Dual Throttle Bodies|
|Drive System||Automatic PVT, 2WD/AWD/AWD w/ADC|
|Active Descent Control||Standard|
|EPS (Power Steering)||Standard|
|Front Details||Dual A-arm|
|Rear Details||Dual A-arm - Rolled IRS|
|Front Brakes||Single-Lever Hydraulic Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Hydraulic rear foot brake|
|Tires & Wheels|
|Front Tires||26x8-14, Maxxis|
|Rear Tires||26x10-14, Maxxis|
|Dry Weight||798 lbs|
|Length/Width/Height (in.)||86.5 / 47.6 / 58.25|
|Fuel Capacity||4.5 gallons|
|Front Rack/Box Capacity||120 lbs.|
|Rear Rack Capacity||240 lbs.|
|Hitch Towing Rating||1,500 lb. / 680.4 kg|
|Unbraked Trailer Towing Capacity *||1,995 lb. / 905 kg|