West Virginia -
Polaris Sportsman 850 XP
Turning the key
on the Polaris Sportsman XP 850 twin and hearing
it rumble to life makes you want to go fast. There
is no denying that the 70 hp on tap is usable
for more then going flat out down a trail, but
let’s face it, we all dig power and speed!
If I didn’t have the Polaris Sportsman 550
XP sitting here for comparison, maybe some of
my thinking would not be so apparent, but I can’t
deny that a few key differences exist.
The weight difference between the two Polaris
models is roughly 42 pounds and you can feel
it. The 850 steers just a tad heavier but if
you use some of that 70 hp, you can make that
heavy feeling go away in most turns.
The 850 XP model shares the same suspension,
ergonomics and overall size as the 550 so the
difference in feel is clear and easy to point
out. If you had the advantage of having a chance
to ride both, you could hone in on which model
would suit you best, however either machine
will get the job done, you just have to decide
which job you need done!
Rotated the engine on the Sportsman
XP Models to allow for a narrower mid-section
chassis to improve rider comfort, and
it also allows for easy maintenance
with the spark plugs, oil fill, and
more easily accessible by removing the
That 70 hp will quickly get you moving and
again, the EFI that Polaris offers sure seemed
to do everything right, Power is smooth and
controllable and never seems to flatten out.
The clutch on our 850 model seemed almost perfect
for general riding and never gave us anything
but smooth transitions when the power was applied.
I used both models to ferry my bass boat around
on several occasions and the edge for towing
would obviously go to the more powerful 850.
It would be hard to say the machine had unusable
or to much power, its deceptively strong running
and very smooth.
The optional power steering unit is tucked
away on the Sportsman XP, which offers
variable assist which provides the least
steering effort at slow speeds and more
positive feedback and more resistance
at high speeds
Power steering is an option and it does work as
advertised. I don’t feel it working in a
normal ride, but when hitting stumps and such
it acts almost in the same manner as a steering
stabilizer as it reduces feedback to the bars.
It does come in handy for many of us that prefer
to have every option that adds comfort to our
riding and I can foresee power steering a must
if they keep pushing the size of these machines
higher as the weight will play heavily on you
after a long, tight and twisting trail or merely
muscling a large ATV around the yard doing chores.