The side-by-side world has evolved from modest farm-and-camp machines to souped-up trail running beasts. If you dive deep enough into the trail riding world, you can end up spending new-pickup-truck money on a high-end UTV.
But for most folks who just need a machine to get to their treestands, haul firewood, and handle work around deer camp, that level of trail performance is unnecessary.
That’s why I like the direction Polaris is going with the introduction of its Ranger 1000 line for 2020. The machine’s starting MSRP is $12,999 (which is very affordable in the world of modern UTVs), but it still packs in plenty of performance: 999cc SOHC ProStar engine, 61 Horsepower, 55 lb. ft. of low-end torque, and 2,500-pound towing capacity. I got to test drive the new Ranger (which is an evolution of the super-popular Ranger 900) a few weeks ago at the Polaris R&D; headquarters in Wyoming, Minnesota. A handful of other writers and I drove the Rangers through a test track that meandered through a hardwood, had long straight-aways through fields, and bounced over rock and log fields. (The Polaris guys asked us to not send the Rangers airborne off any of the ramps, and most of us complied.)
I got to ride along with a UTV racer who pushed the machine through the test track harder than any sane person would drive it at their hunting camp, and the Ranger took the abuse without fail. The point? This machine has more trail-riding capability than most of us will ever need. Those features include an updated full-body skid plate, 26 in. 6-Ply PXT 2 tires, and a beefy steel bumper with integrated plow and points.
If you want to drive around more buddies (and spend a more cash), Polaris is offering the Ranger Crew 1000. The company is also rolling out three factory packages for the Ranger 1000:
Winter Prep Package, starting at $2,000
- <strong>Includes:</strong> A heater kit, Polaris Pro HD 4,500-lb. winch and pre-installed cab seals
Back Country Package, starting at $2,800
- <strong>Includes:</strong> High-mount air intakes, arched A-arms, sealed electrical components, Polaris Pro HD 4,500-lb. winch, active descent control and a 20-percent stronger driveline
RIDE Command Package, starting at $2,500
- <strong>Includes:</strong> Sport Roof, Polaris Pro HD 4,500-lb. winch, plus Ride Command software that features Plow Mode, which automatically engages (lifts, drops, and drags) the plow based on the gear the vehicle is in, and Group Ride, which allows riders to stay connected on the trail.
I suspect most hunters will skip the bells and whistles (except the winch—everyone needs a winch) and just run the basic package. Thirteen thousand dollars isn’t chump change, but these days it’s a relative bargain for a quality machine that should last through years of hardwork at camp or on the farm.