Published on May 8th, 2017 | by Joe
2017 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Test Review: WITH VIDEO
Roosting on Polaris’ remarkably fun, highly refined, one-liter monster!
Over the past decade of reviewing Polaris 4×4 ATVs, we’ve come to expect machines that are for many riders, often second to none in their class. Already possessing arguably the best one-liter machine on the market, Polaris made a number of refinements to the 2017 Sportsman XP 1000, looking to improve performance, versatility, durability, comfort, and most notably, appearance.
We really dig the aggressive looking Matte Black version of the 2017 XP 1000. However, the more refined appearance of the metal flake, copper color painted plastic of the Matte Copper LE model, paired with its notably updated body styling, has quickly grown on us.
The XP is powered by a fuel-injected, 952cc, parallel twin-cylinder, Pro Star engine, featuring four-valves and single-overhead-cams per cylinder. For 2017, the engine received a redesigned exhaust system, boosting performance from a claimed 88 to 90hp; once again, allowing Polaris to claim top honors in the horsepower war.
An electronic drive-by-wire throttle has eliminated the throttle cable for 2017. A new, unique, 3 mode throttle control features three different throttle maps- work, standard, and performance- selected by the flip of a switch next to the instrument display. In work mode, the system reduces the amount of total throttle available. It feels like the engine only reaches half throttle spread over the entire throw of the throttle lever. This makes throttle control much easier for working at a slow speed. It also lets novices take the 1000 for a spin with less risk. Sport mode provides full throttle and is designed to reach it in a hurry providing the highest level of throttle response for aggressive riding. Standard mode also allows you to reach full throttle, but softens throttle response a bit. Standard is, perhaps, the best setting for long destination rides. We flipped back and forth, but would end up leaving ours in Sport mode, making the most of the beast for our entertainment and yours.
A CVT style Polaris Variable Transmission features high and low ranges, plus neutral, reverse, and park selected by a right side mounted shift lever. The drivetrain features Polaris’ top of the line goodies like their High-Performance AWD system and Active Descent Control. The drivetrain can be switched between two-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive, and all-wheel-drive with Active Descent Control engaged. Engine braking is available in all modes and delivers braking to two or four wheels depending on which mode you’re in. With Active-Descent-Control engaged, the Sportsman enjoys a much higher level of engine braking assistance at lower speeds, greatly reducing the demand on the brakes.
Clutching is responsive on the Sportsman helping harness all the engine’s horses. Roll on the gas and the clutch engages quickly at a lower RPM, allowing smooth acceleration from a dead stop, or crack the gas for drag racing, to lighten the front end, or to pitch it sideways and move earth exiting turns. Attacking the steepest hills with little to no run presents no challenge to the monster motor. Low-end and midrange power are ample rocketing you off the line. Power delivery is very smooth and manageable for a highly experienced rider, allowing you to make the most of available traction in steep, slick climbs.
Test Rider, Rob Ray, spent a couple days testing at East Fork MX Park in New Vienna, Ohio. The sweet smell of pine trees permeated the air as he raced around their tight hare scramble track. In the tight woods, the engine is surprisingly controllable in spite of being blisteringly fast. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in a tricky situation, standard and work throttle modes will further tame the beast. Growling around rutted, uneven hillsides, the engine never feels taxed, although we’d shift into low range in the tight stuff to prolong belt life.
Of course, everyone wants to know how fast it is. We’ve had the machine up to 78 mph on two occasions and felt like we had run out of runway before the Sportsman ran out of power. We believe 80mph is possible in spite of all the kind things we said about smoothness and manageability. That’s all coming from the perspective of an expert level rider. This machine is really as quick as you imagine it to be and will absolutely ruin your day if you don’t respect it. Yes, it’s surprisingly smooth, but it’s as nasty as you want it to be!
Polaris’ High-Performance AWD system is notably more responsive than their original system. It’s most beneficial at times when maintaining traction is mandatory for maintaining forward momentum. It also seems to improve handling where front end predictability is more important than sliding the rear end around.
Engine braking is effective and a welcomed benefit almost any time you’re working or riding at a normal pace. Some throttle junkies may want a bit less engine braking, but they learn to feather the gas entering turns. Active Descent Control allows you to nearly forget about the brakes, except for the sketchiest downhills. If you need to clear an obstacle or drop off on the way down, just crack the throttle.
When letting off the gas, test rider, Aaron Meyer, noticed a slight forward lurch on occasion just as the engine braking kicked in, perhaps caused by stored energy in the drive train. It’s something to be aware of when you’re riding a wheelie on the verge of the tipping point.
Handling and Suspension
Polaris left chassis geometry and suspension settings alone for 2017, although its Dual A-Arms now feature arched, high-clearance, lower arms at both ends, with the XP featuring a maximum ground clearance of 11.5”. Five-way, preload adjustable shocks control 9” of travel up front and 10.25” out back. Variable assist power steering is standard on all Sportsman XP 1000 models.
Cast aluminum wheels come wrapped in 27” Maxxis Vipr tires on the Matte Copper Limited Edition model, compared to 26” CSTs on the not so standard model. For the LE model, Polaris considered the 27’s to be more of a premium size, and they felt the Viprs offered increased traction and durability. They may also trade off a slightly higher center of gravity for a little smoother rolling through bumps.
The ATV measures in at a claimed 47.6” wide with a 53” wheelbase, and overall height of 50.75”. With Polaris estimating the dry weight of the Matte Copper LE model at 834 pounds, the Sportsman XP1K is seemingly the largest single-seat, 4×4 ATV on the market in nearly every way.
Suspension action is outstanding. Rocks and roots simply disappear as you traverse them, crawling along or at speed. Square edged hits from holes and larger obstacles are also amazingly well dampened. Our friends in Florida and out West may be surprised how well this monster quad soaks up moderately sized whoops, maintaining a straight and level attitude. We were able to get it out of shape and in some deeper, more widely spaced whoops, but this isn’t a sport ATV; it’s a huge heavyweight 4×4, albeit an extremely capable one when it comes to eating up rough terrain. 210-pound Rob Ray managed to lightly bottom the suspension landing from a few feet of air while mercilessly plowing his way into the upside of a two-foot deep ditch. Still, the ride was never harsh, even with the shocks in their softest factory settings.
The plush, long-travel suspension offers plenty of articulation, allowing the Sportsman to meld itself to rough, uneven terrain maximizing traction and control. There is some front-end dive under hard braking and a little front-end body roll if you brake entering turns. Adding a notch of preload to the front shocks reduces this. Get on the gas as you enter a turn and the XP feels rock solid and stable. Driving out of turns in AWD or pitching it sideways in two-wheel, even in their softest settings, the suspension and width keep the Sportsman feeling well planted on side-hills.
While the engine and suspension are well mannered in spite of their sporty, versatile performance, handling is a little on the rowdy side; perhaps, a bit too rowdy. On steep climbs, the Sportsman’s long wheelbase really helps keep the front end planted and pulling. We were attacking a virtual wall with no real run with amazing confidence after a run or two. In spite of its long wheelbase and wider turning radius, Polaris managed to make the big XP rather nimble and agile on tight, twisty trails. The front end has very little caster, resulting in quick responsive steering. Power steering assist is high at all speeds requiring very light steering effort and yielding very little bump feedback felt through the steering. At higher speeds, it can leave you feeling a bit disconnected from the trail. With just a hint of bump steer, the machine wants to wander a tiny bit on uneven bumps. Combined with responsive steering and super light steering effort, and at high speeds, the Sportsman can feel a bit twitchy. Questioning a number of expert riders, some really pick up on it; others hardly notice it. Leaving the drive system in AWD where the front wheels usually pulling adds a bit more steering predictability. Firmer suspension settings, less tire pressure, and a little toe-out also help settle the front-end at higher speeds. This setup also allowed us to more precisely pick a line at lower speeds without detracting from the Sportsman’s low-speed agility.
We suspect the extra 12 pounds of dry weight found on our LE model came from the larger, beefier Maxxis Vipr tires Although they definitely didn’t seem to hold back engine or suspension performance, the taller tires may help the machine roll more smoothly through small bumps.
Forward and lateral traction is ample on anything from hard pack, to muddy, rutted creek banks. Our only real complaint with the tires is that they rubbed the underside of the rear fenders lightly when using full suspension travel.
The XP is stopped by dual hydraulic disc brakes at both ends, utilizing steel braided brake lines. The handlebar mounted lever activates the brakes at both ends and is where the parking brake is located. The right side mounted foot brake operated the rear brake independently.
Braking feel is good and stopping power is decent. It’s easy to hold the machine back on steep descents. You can scrub off speed pretty quickly, but it takes a little room and lever pressure to slow this much mass down from 70 plus mph.
While the class leading rack capacity of 120 pounds front and 240 pounds rear remain unchanged, their functionality certainly has. To start with, both racks are now steel reinforced underneath. New, raised, removable tie-down points make securing loads much easier. The rear racks offer a total of 44 tie-down points, in addition to intelligently integrated bucket rings. Rubber sealed storage boxes under the racks offer six gallons of on-board storage. Towing capacity is at the front of the pack with its 1.25” hitch receiver rated to tow 1,500 pounds. There’s a 12 volt DC power outlet if you need power and the three-mode throttle control system’s work mode makes the monster manageable. All of this adds up to a more capable ATV for work, hunting, camping, or long, off-road excursions.
Fit and Finish
Polaris put a lot of effort into improving the cockpit to improve the relationship between rider and machine. The front of the quad was tucked in a bit to improve the rider’s sightline of the trail in front of the machine. The new dual-zone seat is narrower in the front and wider in the back allowing for a comfortable sitting position without hindering rider movement and control. The floorboards are now deeper, providing more room for your feet, and factory installed fender flares help better shelter you from flying mud and debris. We still wish the foot pegs were a bit taller, foot brake pedal a bit lower, and we were able to smash our fingers between the shift lever and the front fender if we weren’t careful. Throttle pull seemed well balanced, preventing you from making unwanted throttle inputs without being fatiguing.
The all-digital instrument display yields all of the usual info, speedometer, odometer, hour meter, trip meters, and more, plus the addition of The new dual-zone seat is narrower in the front and wider in the back allowing for a comfortable sitting position without hindering rider movement and control.
Dual front headlights and a single handlebar mounted headlight provide 150 watts of power each. You can run the lowers by themselves on low, or with the handlebar mounted light on high really allowing you to light up where you’re going at night. Brilliant LED rear tail and brake lights offer plenty of visibility in the dark or dust. While we can still find a few small details to snivel about, this is easily the most refined Sportsman to date.
If you are in the market for an ATV primarily for the purpose of getting work done. You could purchase two Sportsman 450 Utility editions for around the same price as one XP 1000 and get twice as much work done. With the Scrambler XP 1000 designed for pure sport 4×4 enthusiasts and the HIghLifter Edition dedicated to mud riding, the Sportsman XP 1000 is left as the all-terrain, multi-purpose, ATV in Polaris 1000cc class lineup. Offering such a high level of comfort, ride quality, agile handling, and excessive, yet manageable horsepower, the Sportsman beckons to be taken out on day long rides, loaded down with camping and or hunting gear, while delivering the horsepower needed to vanquish nearly any hill or opposing rider you encounter who doubts how powerful the Sportsman really is.
2017 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 Ratings
Summary: If you are in the market for an ATV primarily for the purpose of getting work done. You could purchase two Sportsman 450 Utility editions for around the same price as one XP 1000 and get twice as much work done. With the Scrambler XP 1000 designed for pure sport 4x4 enthusiasts and the HIghLifter Edition dedicated to mud riding, the Sportsman XP 1000 is left as the all-terrain, multi-purpose, ATV in Polaris 1000cc class lineup. Offering such a high level of comfort, ride quality, agile handling, and excessive, yet manageable horsepower, the Sportsman beckons to be taken out on day long rides, loaded down with camping and or hunting gear, while delivering the horsepower needed to vanquish nearly any hill or opposing rider you encounter who doubts how powerful the Sportsman really is.