2016 Polaris ACE 900 SP Review- Bring The Power Hot
"This ACE is a “driver’s” ACE and it will put a smile on your face like you wouldn’t believe."
It has been merely a year and half since Polaris rocked the ATV/side-by-side market by coming out with a completely new kind of vehicle in the Polaris ACE. Some applauded, some jeered, and some, including me, spent some quality time analyzing what the ACE was and what it wasn’t. After riding it, I became a believer that it was a hit. I still remember thinking it was one of the most fun rides I had ever had, after the first time I stepped into the cab and turned the key. Last year for 2015, Polaris introduced us to the ACE 570 with a more powerful 500-class engine, allowing for the ACE to “hang” with 500-class ATVs. Now what in the world might Polaris do in the ACE lineup for 2016? The answer is, of course, give it more power! Welcome the 60-horsepower ACE 900 SP, complete with a tuned-down 900 engine, meaning this ACE can now hang with the big-bore class of ATV and never look back. If power is what you want in an ACE, then power is what you get in the ACE 900 SP; and this engine in the ACE platform gives you a riding experience that you have never had before. This ACE is a “driver’s” ACE and it will put a smile on your face like you wouldn’t believe.
What is it and who is it for?
When the original ACE came out a year-and-a-half ago, the Polaris engineers explained it was designed for people who didn’t have experience in the off-road world, and who didn’t feel comfortable throwing their leg over a seat and grabbing a set of handlebars. Guess what: the ACE 900 is not for that kind of rider/driver. This ACE is like throwing a single seat on a rocket, strapping yourself in that seat, and then hitting the “red button” your mother told you not to hit, which in turn hurls you into space. For those of you who saw the most awesome Back To The Future Movies, think of driving this ACE similar to standing in front of that giant speaker stack with an electric guitar in your hand, and giving it an enthusiastic strum. The power of the ACE 900 SP opens doors in your driving soul that you have not opened before, and certainly not in an ACE. It is incredibly responsive to your right foot, and getting the front-end to come up for a whoop or jump is effortless on this machine. Sliding corners and breaking tires loose is all in a day’s ride. This is not an entry level ACE, but something totally different. This is a “driver’s” ACE. It comes with all the benefits of being able to go wherever an ATV goes, along with a steering wheel, roll cage, and bleeding power through four wheels. The ACE 900 SP is just a whole lot of fun. The ACE platform does have the ability to work similarly to that of an ATV, and it can take you on a great hunt, but people looking at the ACE 900 SP are looking for fun over function. If you want equal fun and function, get an ACE 570 with EPS. You get plenty of power and capability, and you save a few bucks. No, the ACE 900 SP is for those who want power, and it will not disappoint.
Will It Go There?
Besides power, the ACE 900 SP, like all ACE models, is as capable as an ATV in tackling the roughest terrain, and fitting into places only ATVs can go. It is nice to hit the tight wooded trails in the ACE that side-by-sides typically simply can’t go. It will walk itself up and over some extremely rough and rocky terrain, and the ride is surprisingly comfortable. It comes with EPS standard, and in the rough stuff the EPS is a must. Steering is effortless, so much so that at times it is hard to get very much feedback from the terrain. The EPS is easy to adjust to. All the ACE models sport the Polaris On-Demand All-Wheel-Drive system, and that is the “magic sauce” that makes traversing the tough trails or going through some serious mud possible. It is amazing where an ACE will go. The brakes have a strong feel to them, and work to stop things without any fuss. Unlike the other ACE models, the suspension on this ACE has front and rear sway bars to keep things tidy in the corners, which is a must considering the power and torque in this small package. As much fun as the ACE 900 SP is with 60 horsepower, you have to work to keep it under control at those higher speeds. The CVT engagement in the ACE has been dialed in to feel natural and controllable. You won’t find engine braking in this ACE though, which I wish was an option. When I first saw this 900 engine only pulled 60 horsepower rather than the RZR’s 75, I was a little disappointed. Having driven the ACE 900 SP, you don’t want more power because it has plenty that can get out ahead of you if you’re not careful.
"Having driven the ACE 900 SP, you don’t want more power because it has plenty that can get out ahead of you if you’re not careful."
If you can drive a car then you can drive an ACE as the interior layout is very similar.
What About The Interior?
Like your favorite easy-chair, the interior of the ACE gives a sense a protection along with comfort. Getting in and out is easy, particularly with the doors instead of irritating cargo nets. I find myself loving the doors, but hating the giant holes in them, since they let in plenty of “trail” to carry along with you on your journey. The seat is adjustable with a lever, and the seating position has a commanding feel to it. The dashboard is familiar, with an instrument cluster and a rocker switch for the AWD. The steering wheel is adjustable as well as comfortable to grip. Oh, and did I mention there is a cup holder alongside the driver? It is hard to find fault with the interior of an ACE with the exception of the position of the brake and gas pedal being so close together, which just feels odd. The ACE cab feels familiar and comfortable even for a day-long adventure.
There is storage under the front rack and then, of course, there is the cargo bed in the back from plenty of stuff.
Bringing It Together
The ACE SP 900 is a ton of fun, and this ACE rounds out the ACE offerings with a model for every ATV power segment. The ACE brings a familiarity to the ATV experience to those unfamiliar with a typical ATV experience, and it brings a different level of fun for those of us who love handlebars. This kind of horsepower strapped to the ACE platform raises the level of the fun that can be had in an ACE, and no one can complain about that. Of all the ACE models, the ACE 900 SP with its 60-horsepower engine brings the ACE to the level that speed/power demons want to play with. This ACE can play with the “big boys” in the power band, making the ACE 900 SP the model everyone will be scrambling to get hold of…me included.
I own two
My only real complaint about this vehicle is the heat it generates. Heat in the cab from radiator is not bad until the fan kicks on. Then it gets toasted. Heat from the exhaust on the rear of the cargo area is intense also. The plastic gets very hot! Polaris did put heat shields and heat tape just about everywhere around the engine and exhaust but the heat still transfers. And then you have to consider that this is not a car. You are sitting between the radiator and engine. And this big engine is shoe horned into place! With all that said, it sure is an exciting machine to pilot! Plenty of go!