Polaris Sportsman ACE- First Ride Test Hot
“What is it?” was the question asked by all of us as we pulled up to the Hidden Falls riding area in Marble Falls, TX, followed by a few “ooh’s and aah’s” as we caught our first glances at the brand new Polaris Sportsman ACE. Looking at an ATV with a steering wheel and bucket seat resulted in the word “interesting” coming from my mouth, as I exited the bus and walked up to the Polaris ACE. My mind raced as I tried to come to grips with what I was looking at. Was it an ATV, UTV, or something completely different? All of us media folks stared at the ACE wondering what to make of it. The ACE is nothing like I had ever seen, and that made it difficult to put into words what kind of category to place it in. After a few minutes of opening the side nets, crawling into the cab, staring at the steering wheel, roll bar, and cargo bed, we were called over to the Polaris engineer for him to give our group the low-down on this new machine. The ACE could be described as an ATV with a roll cage, bucket seat, and cargo bed, or it could be a single-seat UTV with a 48-inch width. The fact became clear rather quickly, however, that Polaris has created a new category of all-terrain-vehicle, and that new class of vehicle was sitting before us. After listening to the scoop on the ACE, I still didn’t know what to think, frankly, and only time behind the wheel would begin to clear it up for me. Whatever this class is, there is little doubt the ACE is revolutionary, and riding the ACE is addictive.
What Is It And Who It Is Designed For....
The Polaris engineers made it clear they wanted to develop an ATV that would require no learning curve in order to simply jump in and ride. They also mentioned they wanted to create something that would invite new people to this sport of all-terrain riding so many of us already enjoy. After a bunch of market research, the Polaris Sportsman ACE was born. The goal was to give the rider an ATV that could go wherever an ATV could go, but give the rider a sense of security and familiarity with its car-like features including a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, a bucket seat with seat belt, and a roll cage or ROPS. The engineers asked us to reserve judgement until after we climbed aboard and actually got some seat time on it.
Getting To Know It
Describing the Polaris ACE starts with saying it is actually a mere 3.5 inches more than the size of a two-seat ATV in length and at 48-inches, the same width as most full-size ATVs. This means it will fit nicely in the back of a pickup to make it easy to haul around. Powering the ACE is the brand spanking new ProStar32 engine built by Polaris, and, as its name implies, it produces 32 horsepower. It is a single-cylinder dual overhead cam design with EFI, and it has been designed to sip fuel but in a way that doesn’t compromise power. The ACE has a fully automatic PVT transmission with the positions of park, reverse, neutral, low and high just like most of the Polaris ATVs and UTVs. The suspension setup includes IRS with dual a-arms and 9.5-inches of travel in the rear, and a MacPherson strut setup with 8.2-inches of travel in the front. The ACE has the proven Polaris AWD 2x4/4x4 system to tackle whatever terrain you put in front of it. It has a full ROPS cage around the cab to provide protection for the rider, and metal skid plates underneath to protect the undercarriage from the trail. All day riding is provided for with its 5.25 gallon fuel tank, and there is storage with the built in storage box in front along with the cargo bed in back. The ACE is rated to tow 1500lbs to move trailers around with little effort, and offers an instrument cluster making the rider aware of everything important. Halogen lights make sure the fun continues after the sun goes down or before it comes up. The fact is, the Polaris ACE has the size attributes and benefits of an ATV, but also has all comfort, protection, and ease-of-use attributes of a UTV. The ACE also is a rugged off-road all terrain vehicle, that will take you where you want to go.
Climb In, Power Up, and Ride
In some strange way, the Polaris Sportsman ACE begs to be driven as you walk up to it. Climbing into the Polaris ACE is a different experience. Because the floor is flat all the way to the side, there is nothing to impede your foot into the cab the way some UTV and side-by-sides do. Just step into the ACE and sit down. The cab has plenty of room and wraps around you in a natural and comforting way. The ROPS offers protection, but in no way cramps the rider. The side nets are much easier to snap into place than many, and because of the cab setup, are never resting on the rider or in the way. All of the controls are taken in with just a glance. The transmission shifter is on the right of the bucket seat, and a cup holder is on the left. In front of you is the tilting steering wheel that can be adjusted by 3.5-inches to find that perfect spot, and did I mention the seat can be moved forward or back 4-inches for both the tall and short along with everyone in-between. The gas and brake pedals are set back with plenty of leg room. In fact, the foot room is monstrous, allowing plenty of room to move your feet around to find the best spot to rest them. The steering wheel has a natural feel as it is gripped to prepare for the ride. There is a DC outlet next to the AWD rocker switch. The position the rider turns the key starts the engine and determines whether the lights are on or off.
After learning about, then staring at, and sitting in the Polaris ACE, the only thing left was to answer the ACE’s call to drive it. With a turn of the key the engine rumbled to life, leaving me with 32 horsepower at my disposal, and the open trail. With a quick push of the throttle, the ACE lurched forward with purpose and away I went. The engine has low-end grunt along with power throughout its entire power band until it reaches its top end around 50 to 55 MPH. The power in the ProStar32 comes on strong right from the line, and when not at its top end, has power on tap when the throttle is mashed. I zoomed along on a road of sorts with a couple of turns thrown into the mix. The ACE had such a “natural feel" to it between the power, suspension, and steering, that it was incredibly easy to drive. Little time was taken before the ACE responded to my every whim as the driver. Cruising along the open road, the ACE wanted to get out and run with the 32 ponies on board, which included breaking the rear end loose in the corners with no effort at all. On the road the suspension stayed flat even in the corners, soaking up minor bumps with ease, and providing a secure ride. One of the thoughts that came to my head after only a minute or two behind the wheel was how fun, just absolute fun it was to drive the ACE.
In a short amount of time I decided I would ditch the road for an ATV-size trail, which is my favorite kind of trail, with some hills, rocks, and not very wide. Finding an ATV trail was the point at which I saw the vision Polaris saw in creating this new segment of ATV. The ACE is so easy to drive and has the benefits of a cab and steering wheel like a UTV, but, because of its size, can take someone on any ATV trail out there. Taking the Polaris ACE on an “ATV” trip with all ATVs poses no problem whatsoever. The Polaris ACE is brilliant! Rumbling down the ATV-sized trail proved the ACE was at home on these types of trails. Its width allowed me to stay in the center of the trail with room to spare on both sides, and to work the trail to find the line I wanted as if I were on an ATV. The suspension offered plenty of travel to go up and over what was in front of me, and to maneuver my way through some rough terrain. The ACE suspension offers 10.25-inches of ground clearance which is quite a bit. The one thing I did notice was the front-end tended to push in corners, but that can be expected with its MacPhearson strut setup. In fact, that “push” in the corners was a flashback to any of the Sportsmans with the same front-end setup as opposed to a dual a-arm front suspension found in the Sportsman XP series and Scramblers. This front-end setup also begins to get rough as you start going over more significant rocks in the trail as speed increases. The fact is the Polaris ACE will go over most terrain without problem and offers a pretty good ride, but lacks the finesse of the dual a-arm setup of XPs and RZRs.
At this point in the ride I decided the difficulty level of trail need to increase to see what the ACE could do, and off I went to more challenging trails. I found some steeper hill climbs and descents with ledges on them to test the stability and feel of the ACE. I reached up and put the ACE in AWD and forged into the beyond with rock ledges and steep hill climbs, As aways, the AWD system kicked on to give me added traction when I needed it, and I had no trouble going up and over most everything I tried. The first thing that stood out was how stable the ACE is, even in off-camber situations. Even having three wheels on the ground and more sideways on a hill than I like, the ACE felt firmly planted on the ground and stable. I was very impressed. I even took it on a sidehill, and it felt completely stable. The longer wheelbase helps with this. The next thing I noticed as I was descending steep grades is there is no engine braking on the ACE as of now. I would think this will change. The good news is the brakes are like the ones on the RZR 570 so there is plenty of stopping power. Not once did the brakes strain to rein in the ACE. The ACE had no trouble tackling serious riding with no complaints. The power, traction, braking, and suspension was present to convince me it can tackle whatever ATV trail is in front of it.
The time had come to head back to whence I came, so I found a road again after having 3 hours to put the Polaris Sportsman ACE through the paces in the hill country of Texas. On the way back I spent plenty of time sliding through corners and mashing the throttle time after time, all while thinking about this machine. I started out thinking the ACE looked like an “interesting” ATV/UTV, but, by the end of the ride, I wanted one. The ACE is SO MUCH FUN TO DRIVE! The engineers told us not to jump to conclusions about it, but ride it. The ACE is an entry level ATV both in its design and its price tag. It will set you back $7499, about the same as a Sportsman 570 with EPS. After riding the ACE for a while, I can’t help but want to ride it again….now. Despite being designed for ease of use, it is fun for both novices and experienced riders alike. There are plenty of people out there, male, female, young and old, which can use an ATV like the Polaris ACE, which feels natural to drive, has plenty of power, offers a comfortable ride along with a comfortable cab, and makes the driver feel one with the ATV. Best of all of these things, it is SO MUCH FUN TO DRIVE. I believe without a doubt Polaris is onto something with the Sportsman ACE and this is a home run for Polaris. Whether or not you are looking for a new ATV to add to your stable of ATVs and UTVs, go check out the Polaris Sportsman ACE. I believe this is just a glimpse into a new direction this incredible sport will offer, and the ACE platform will spawn many more machines to come.
ATVESCAPE Intro Article-The Polaris ACE- A Completely New Category Of ATV