First Drives

05 December 2011

Polaris Ranger RZR S 800 driven

The Polaris Ranger RZR S 800 is just the ATV to go muckraking in, sideways all the way

Abhinav Mishra
Car image

So, you’re part of the new breed of India’s expanding millionaires club, riding on the back of business acumen and a healthy economy (or maybe, simply, a big fat inheritance). You’re wealth has grown handsomely and you have expensive tastes, running across, among other things, watches, suits and of course, automobiles.

Speaking of automobiles, your primary chariot is more likely a German luxury limo or SUV, with a Honda or Toyota designated for errands and grocery shopping. For weekend trips to your farmhouse-with-acres-of-offroad-mud-and-inclines, sure, it’ll be nice to take the SUV, but if you don’t want to take a chance turning it turtle in a slush pond, may we recommend the Polaris Ranger RZR S 800.

Before the details on the S 800, a little bit of history. Polaris is a US-based adventure sports company, which makes ATVs, snowmobiles and products like the Ranger, which we drove in this story. The company also recently took ownership of the legendary Indian Motorcycles, and set up Victory Motorcycles in 1998.

Back to the S 800 – designed specifically to take on off-road terrain, it has a 760cc twin-cylinder engine that puts out 52bhp. The engine is placed behind the passenger seat to give the vehicle a lower center of gravity. This placement also makes the S 800 a sharp handler with good rough-terrain stability.

The S 800 looks much like a dune buggy, with flared wheel arches exposing a large suspension set-up, and a roll-cage to protect the occupants in case of a flip. The body is made of fibre-glass to keep weight in check. The design lines are aggressive and the S 800 looks like it means business.

The interiors are fairly spartan, with a plastic dashboard and a center console dominated by a big speedo, a handlebar for the passenger to hold on to as you put the vehicle through its paces, a headlight switch and a four-wheel-drive button. The four-wheel-drive can be engaged on the fly, so you don’t need to stop to put it into gear and then get moving again. The speedo doubles as a multi-info display, telling you everything from how much fuel you have left to which gear you are in.

The S 800 has a continuously variable transmission (CVT) quite like the one in your gearless scooter. The gear lever is nestled between the two passenger seats, and in typical ATV fashion, comes with Park, Reverse, Neutral and High and Low slots. Buckle up, slot the gear into High – and put some muscle into it because it doesn’t disengage from Park very easily. The engine sounds straight out of a motocross event and eager to be pushed. Climbing to speeds is not a problem since the S 800 weighs a mere 456kg.

Combine that with a 760cc, 52bhp motor, and the S 800 can reach 56kph in 3.8 seconds. That may not sound like much on-road, but off-road is a whole other ballgame, especially when you’re climbing steep inclines or going through heavy slush. The extra-wide tyres, developed specifically for the Ranger series, are handy in those conditions. And no matter how hard we pushed, through all sorts of terrain, the S 800 stayed unruffled.

Normally, after a few hours on an average off-roader, your insides tremble their way back into their natural anatomical positions. On the S 800, we drove around all day and couldn’t wait to get back on the trail. The steering is light and nimble, returning lots of feedback because of the absence of power assist.

The fixed seat holds an average-size adult comfortably, while the adjustable steering wheel maximises ergonomics. If you’re planning a spot of left foot braking, the seating position can be a bit odd, more like a Lancia Stratos, with your legs pointing at an approximately 85-degree angle. If there’s no hooliganry on the agenda, then the seating position will seem very conventional.

This flagship model of the Ranger Series has been doing very well across the world. Here in India, it’ll set you back a whopping Rs 15.63 lakh excluding VAT. If that’s out of your budget, there are more affordable variants, but if you must have ultimate thrills, get the S 800.

Sadly this’ll come to India as a Completely Built Unit made in Polaris’s US factory, so it’ll attract 110 per cent duty. So what goes for roughly Rs 6 lakh in the US will cost maybe thrice as much by the time it comes here. And it’ll take around 90 days to reach its proud owner.

Still, there’s a bright side. Polaris has planned for 11 dealerships and service centres across the country. That take some of the edge off the sticker shock, maybe?

Tags: polaris, ranger



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