With the 2007 launch of the stunning Polaris Ranger RZR 800
, the very first purebred sport side-by-side vehicle in the world, the entire industry had no other choice but to follow in the footsteps of the innovative manufacturer.
Today, the RZR 800 no longer has the playground all to itself and has to contend with the likes of the Kawasaki Teryx, Arctic Cat Prowler XTZ, Yamaha Rhino Sport Series and, most recently, the new Can-Am Commander X. After having tested every one of its direct competitors, we put the RZR through its paces once more on a torturous, obstacle-strewn, sand and mud circuit, to see if the returning champion could hold on to its title.
Singular engine and style
|It remains the only one to offer the high-octane thrills and performance of a Dune Buggy – with a dash of comfort, technology and reliability thrown in. (Photo: Matthieu Lambert/Moto123.com)
Still striking, the RZR 800’s looks are reminiscent of some Baja racing machines. Under this flamboyant body hides a fuel-injected, parallel twin engine whose pistons move up, move down and receive the spark simultaneously. This uncommon architecture favours low- and mid-rpm torque and creates a unique, almost bizarre, exhaust note that sounds like two single-cylinders growling in unison.
The Ranger RZR calls upon a continuously variable transmission that includes a short and long gear as well as a reverse gear and allows you to switch from 2WD to 4WD on the fly, at any speed.
Smooth as smooth can be
Built on a beefy steel tube chassis, the RZR 800 benefits from unparalleled stiffness on steep mule tracks. The dual A-arm front suspension coupled with the rolled rear suspension absorb every impact with the utmost composure.
What’s more, the RZR easily takes to the air and lands with confidence thanks to a mass distribution that creates a healthy, natural and easily controlled seat. On a trail peppered with booby traps of all kinds, from stumps to rocks to logs to dirt bumps, the RZR surprises at every turn. You’d think you’re cruising along on a moving sidewalk.
Compact, yes, but…
The vehicle is surprisingly spacious despite its compactness, especially seeing as the steering column and three-spoke steering wheel are height adjustable. The seats offer decent comfort thanks to good side and lumbar support.
|The vehicle is spacious despite its compactness, especially seeing as the steering column and three-spoke steering wheel are height adjustable. (Photo: Matthieu Lambert/Moto123.com)