It’s a great time to be a UTV fan with so many options, a huge aftermarket selection and an OEM accessories list that is impressive in its own right.
At the start of 2012 we received our first taste of the RZR XP4. This second generation Polaris 4-seater took everything we loved about the RZR4 800 and made it even better: It’s faster, has better suspension and allows you to share the joy of OHV with friends and family, plus it looks bad-ass. That is why we are naming the 2012 Polaris RZR XP4 900 our UTV of the year.
At the heart of the XP4 is a more powerful fuel-injected 875cc Parallel Twin engine combined with 13.5 inches of travel up front and 14-inches out back that together make for a formidable off-road weapon that just so happens to be capable of hauling three friends or family members along for the ride. Passenger accommodations are a little more than just the bare-bones essentials but things like comfortable high-back seats, shoulder belts and integrated cup holders along with the convenient grab bars make the RZR feel well thought out from start to finish.
Whether we were having a blast on the wooded trails or sandy dunes of the Pacific Northwest or kicking up dust in the Southwest desert we had a great time on the RZR XP4. We sampled both the base model and the LE (Limited Edition) version which comes equipped with factory (EPS) Electronic Power Steering, so we can tell you that while the non-EPS version is also a ton of fun the power steering makes a huge improvement in the driving experience. It’s the suspension, or the independent trailing arms on the back that set the RZR XP4 apart from rival machines. It soaks up rough terrain like a caddy over speed bumps and it seems almost unstoppable no matter what the obstacle is ahead of you. If it sounds like overly-gushing praise then we apologize.
There are flaws but like any machine you need to learn the limitations without putting yourself or passengers in danger. It can’t climb cliffs, but pretty close. It should be driven with caution at the dunes and we have broken a few pieces here and there as we pushed it past its limits. But that’s what we are paid to do. If you think this is a trophy truck with 4-seats you are wrong. It’s not indestructible but it will blow your mind how tough they are.
Consider the RZR XP4 a quarter scale trophy truck: It is that good. Plus, as much as we enjoy it in stock trim it has even more potential because it’s detuned for public consumption. Aftermarket companies like Dragonfire racing, Jagged X and Pro Armor have developed an impressive array of accessories, performance upgrades and bolt-on parts that allow you to customize a RZR to your personal needs. Think of it as the Family Man’s Barbie Fashion Mansion. You can add so much to it that it almost becomes an addiction and all your friends are going to be jealous once they see what you have hiding in the garage.
We had so much fun on the XP-series RZR that we are planning on producing a series of project UTV builds throughout 2013 so if you have the UTV-itis like we do, then we invite you to follow along as we customize a pair of XP4s in our search for the ultimate RZR. We promise it will be fun and offer some insight to what aftermarket parts work, what gives you the best bang for the buck and it gives us an excuse to get out and ride even more than usual.
By elevating the 4-seat performance UTV standards and the subsequent success that followed, Polaris and its XP4 900 has driven rival OEMs to jump on the bandwagon and start producing a bunch of up-spec four-seat family movers in an effort to ride the wave created by Polaris over the past five years. The powersports industry and the public have embraced the burgeoning UTV class and all of us members of the OHV family are better off because of it.
Motorcycle USA Best of 2012 Awards
Rider of the Year 2012: Max Biaggi
Manufacturer of the Year 2012: KTM
Best Cruiser 2012: Ducati Diavel
Best Sportbike 2012: BMW S1000RR
Best Street Bike 2012: Triumph Speed Triple R
Best Touring Motorcycle 2012: BMW K1600 GTL
Best Adventure Motorcycle 2012: Triumph Tiger Explorer
Best Enduro 2012: Beta 450 RR
Best Dual Sport 2012: Kawasaki KLR650
Best Motocross Motorcycle 2012: Kawasaki KX450F
Best ATV 2012: Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT
Best UTV 2012: Polaris RZR XP4 900
Motorcycle of the Year 2012: Kawasaki ZX-14R