Thursday, January 17, 2008

Polaris - the sport ATV company?

Known for making "the world's toughest ATVs", primarily heavy and rugged utility quads including those being used by the United States military, Polaris has rolled out perhaps the most complete line-up of high performance sport quads in the market, seemingly overnight.

Obviously, the thing that got me thinking about this has been the release of the two new Outlaw models this year, which I'll dig more into the Outlaw 525 IRS vs 525 S below.

To further my point, also consider the Polaris Ranger RZR side-by-side in the sport category, with Polaris continuing to distribute media releases on the racing accolades in the RZR. And while dated, one must not forget the Scrambler 4x4, which was the fastest 4x4 sport ATV on the market until the Can-Am Renegades showed up.

An Outlaw for every occasion!
Polaris has now purpose-built three distinct Outlaw models to perform in the big three terrains for 2008.

  • Outlaw 450MXR for the track

  • Outlaw 525 IRS for the trail

  • Outlaw 525 S for the dunes

Background - The Outlaw IRS was first released as a 500 in 2006 using the same Fuji-based motor and chassis as the existing Predator (more info on that machine below) at the time. While weight and gearing issues ended up being that machines handicap, it was the first independently rear suspended sport ATV in the world. And actually still is, since the brand new Honda TRX700 with IRS is not expected for a few more months anyway. Then last year, the Outlaw became a 525 with a new partnership with KTM bringing the race-proven 510cc KTM engine to the Polaris, and with it not only power gains but lower weight as well. It was the best choice Polaris could have made.

So we already know some things about the IRS-equipped Outlaw, and Polaris demos show the obvious difference between the Raptor 700 with 4 inches of ground clearance and the 525 IRS with 11 inches when trying to ride lengthwise over a log! The Outlaw 525 IRS does have more ground clearance than any other sport ATV currently offered and as such line selection will not be as crucial and the rear end will stay planted and not spin as much.

The more interesting question is which is better, the Outlaw 525 IRS or 525S? The Dirt Wheels crew tackled that very question in their February 2008 issue on page 52, riding both 525 quads in the dunes, through the woods and on the track . The biggest takeaway, and perhaps surprise...

"we came away from this comparison less impressed with the 525S and more impressed with the abilities of the IRS-equipped Outlaw"

This was the case even in the dunes, the 525S's supposed playground. Even though the lighter straight-axle machine was better in carving bowls and jumping razorbacks, its Maxxis Razr tires were not the best choice for floatation and is also more of a struggle to get the power to the ground, losing to the IRS version in drags up the hills. Go figure. But I guess others saw this dune potential in the Outlaw IRS, remember the Alba Outlaw project sand quad?

So suspension is the big difference in the two models, but there is one area where they had the same results...

"neither machine works very well on consistent whooped-out trails. The S model's rear shock tends to pack up quickly so the rider has to back off the gas. The extra weight of the IRS is also a hindrance in the deeper evenly spaced whoops"

As noted previously on the blog, the Outlaws come stock with a smaller airbox (due to chassis design), that in most cases will limit airflow and horsepower. Go to a WORCS race and you might see Doug Eichner's Outlaw 525 race quad has a completely modified intake system that accepts a standard and larger clamp-on air filter.

Regarding the Outlaw 450MXR, we know several shootouts are being conducted with the full class of 450 race quads, now eight strong not counting the non-traditional brands! We'll be bringing that to you. In the meantime, I can say that Polaris had .8 mile drag tests done by Environ Laboratories LLC with the following order of finish:

  1. Outlaw 450MXR

  2. Honda TRX450

  3. Yamaha YFZ450

  4. Kawasaki KFX450R

  5. Suzuki LT-R450

Take that for what its worth. The Outlaw does have some nice details, like Magura hydraulic clutch , stainless steel brake lines (don't expand so more braking power, also more reliable), Maxxis Rarz tires, Fox shock and more in addition to great power and performance potential.

Coming to a track near you
Then this announcement just the other day, that Polaris will triple their race team for 2008 in the company’s biggest effort in factory racing sponsorships, adds testament to their sport ATV focus. Polaris will have racers competing in the Grand National Cross Country series (GNCC), World Off Road Championship series (WORCS), World PowerSports Association (WPSA) and ITP QuadCross. “The addition of two new race quads, the Outlaw 525 S and Outlaw 450 MXR, and the existing Outlaw 525 IRS, gives our racers the advantage in the varying terrain of each series” said Justin Burke, race team coordinator for the ATV Division at Polaris.

I bet Polaris is hoping for different results than ATV Sport magazine had recently. They had been building an Outlaw IRS to race a couple GNCC and WORCS rounds for the Polaris Editors Cup. I guess the "toughest ATVs" might not carry over to the sport models? You can read about the 2 DNFs in 3 races and draw your own conclusions.

And don't forget the Predator just yet
Despite not being a big success due to tranny issues and handling woes, ATV Scene felt the Polaris Predator 500 was a very dependable and quite capable machine for the aggressive trail rider. So they figured it would make a great quad for their latest project (includes a newly posted video).

ATV Scene worked primarily with Rath Racing on several fixes (Daryl Rath raced a Predator for several seasons) including what I calculated to be around $2300 worth of bolt ons. The biggest complaint in the handling department was the rear shock where the “Anti Squat Rear Suspension” system - designed to prevent unwanted wheelies - did more harm than good elsewhere. The Predator’s stock rear shock would not let the rear end settle for acceleration out of turns, making the machine feel tippy. With Rath Racing's zero preload revalve kit installed, the rear end of the Predator stayed planted whether it was sliding or hooked up hard as well as allowing the rear end to squat in turns offering much improved stability.

The Predator is plagued by airbox issues much like the Outlaws above, in addition to using a cheap paper filter. In this case, ATV Scene used an adapter to integrate a foam air filter, which greatly improved air flow but makes it impossible to keep the airbox lid on, a potential problem for extremely wet conditions and water crossings.