has made a big name for itself in the side-by-side market with its popular RZR series. The powersports giant offers utilitarian vehicles in the standard Ranger lineup, but was the first company to offer a UTV designed specifically for sport enthusiasts. First it was the compact original RZR which offered access to standard 50-inch ATV trails. Then came the RZR S with a High-Output motor, wider stance and longer, adjustable suspension. For 2010, Polaris introduced another industry-first by stretching the RZR platform, adding another set of passenger seats and bringing side-by-side fun to the whole family with the RZR 4. It’s the first factory-built machine of its kind.
With the same motor as the RZR S, there’s no doubt that grin-inducing performance is in store. A 760cc High-Output Parallel Twin puts out a claimed 55 horsepower. We’d like more (about 80 hp sounds good), but the current arrangement is capable of pushing four grown men through the sand. We ask for more power with a level of caution, because honestly it could get a lot of riders into big trouble if it were any faster. Using stock tires (aired down) we found the RZR had enough power to easily get around the dunes, but the throttle was constantly pinned, regardless of how many passengers were onboard. The digital tach showed a peak of around 6150 rpm and we almost never dropped below about 5600 unless stopping or riding through the parking lot. Top speed in the dunes was about 45 mph using the Maxxis tires, and we hit everything at that speed – jumps, whoops, berms and dune grass.
The RZR 4 uses a PVT transmission with Park, Reverse and Low/High drive settings. Selectable 2WD or on-demand AWD is operated on-the-fly via a simple toggle switch on the center of the dash, right next to a similar on/off switch for the headlight and a 12-volt accessory plug. We played around in 2WD just to see what it would do, but for effective sand riding we used AWD almost exclusively. It works well enough that we reached the top of all but the steepest dunes, and we never got stuck with the 11.5 inches of ground clearance.
Steering with the rear end is very effective with such a long wheelbase, but it requires carrying quite a bit of speed.
The fuel-injected, four-valve engine propels a much larger machine than the standard RZR or RZR S. Standard 2-seaters have had extra seat accessories for years, but when installed in the bed, adding that extra weight high on the chassis spells danger. They just aren’t designed for it. Polaris started at the chassis level and stretched the frame section between the tires. The wheelbase is lengthened by 26 inches to 106 which provides room for the extra seats and makes the RZR 4 very stable at speed. Much of that can be credited to the upgraded Fox Racing shocks. We were able to hit the whoop roads on the dunes at top speed without any problem, even skimming through some sections. Mostly what kept the RZR 4 from getting on top of more whoops is the wheelbase and weight. It's longer than most of the machines that created the moguls, so it tends to catch the backsides. Because the RZR 4 is so long, additional power would help the driver steer with the rear end, which would be useful in some situations. For the most part it doesn’t feel its length in the tighter dune trails. We did have to use reverse on several occasions and avoided the tightest, nastiest networks for fear of dropping into an inescapable hole. Paddle tires and a winch would make us bolder.
The front end uses chromoly upper A-arms and the rear uses IRS with an anti-sway bar. Preload- and compression-adjustable Fox Podium X 2.0 shocks suspend all four corners with 12 inches of travel. The engine is mounted in the rear and all four passengers are placed in front of the rear wheels, which makes for impressive handling. We smashed our way down whoop roads, splashed through holes and jumped as far as possible and the shocks handled everything in comfort, never making us feel out of control.
Fox Podium X 2.0 Shocks handle the suspension duties. Preload
adjustment is crucial when carrying extra passengers or cargo.
Cranking down the springs two turns on the front end made an immediate improvement in the already excellent handling with more control at the steering wheel and better precision. The same treatment for the rear was felt most on bumps and jumps rather than turning, but it too was better. Carrying four grown men is hard on the suspension, but the racing components are up to the task. Even with high-grade components like these, there is still noticeable shock fade under hard riding, particularly when loaded to full occupant capacity, and it sets in rather quickly. Once the shocks heat up, body roll is much greater and it’s especially noticeable in the rear end. This is a factor that the driver must take into careful consideration, as we learned.
The suspension on the RZR 4 is amazing, no question, but it has limits. Unfortunately, we found them. We’re not proud of the fact that we tipped over, but since it happened we might as well talk about it. Our scenario was a left-hand bowl turn on a steep dune, which made for some great front-wheel roost and photos. We barreled into the dune, losing speed all the way up before cranking the wheel and coming back down – scrubbing speed from the low 40’s to about 15 mph at the apex. The maneuver was performed multiple times for the cameraman without incident, but with the throttle smashed and the wheel cranked, the stable 60.5-inch width was overcome and we tipped uphill. Once it landed on its side, our momentum completely stopped and we started back down the dune, almost in slow motion. It stopped after 1.5 rolls. Had I been quick enough with the throttle when it first flopped right-side up, it might have driven out of it
Exploding berm shots are great, but remember that the RZR 4 isn't invincible.
All three riders emerged unscathed, as did the machine. The only indication that the RZR had rolled was a minutely displaced body panel, roughly ¼-inch, otherwise it was impossible to tell. Much of this is due to the soft nature of sand and that we essentially stopped all momentum by going uphill. It’s doubtful the machine would fare as well if this had happened in dirt at 40 mph.
The three-point seat belts did a great job of holding us in. One of the riders was suspended entirely by his belt when it came to rest, though with the performance capabilities of this UTV, we’d still like to see four-point harnesses. The roll cage held its shape and everyone utilized the provided handholds to keep their arms inside the vehicle. Polaris’ safety nets did their job as well. Being tucked inside a cage gives a definite sense of security, but just remember that these things aren’t invincible – and neither are you or your passengers, so ride responsibly.
Weighing a claimed 1255 pounds dry, it took all of us to get it righted. The RZR had sat nearly inverted for several minutes while we disembarked and collected ourselves. Once it was back on four wheels, we waited another few minutes during a visual inspection and then twisted the ignition key. It fired right up and ran perfectly for the remainder of the day.
The plastic body panels with automotive-style paint, graphics and fender flares are all very durable. The same goes for the underbody paint. We try to avoid saltwater at all costs, but Winchester Bay is where the Umpqua River dumps into the Pacific, so the riding area is littered with errant fresh-water ponds and puddles that hide among trails and between dunes. We splashed through a few and found that the protection from the fender flares is fairly minimal. This will play a bigger role in muddy terrain, which we’ll put to the test as we continue to log miles. There have been no signs of sandblasting or rust from the salty environment.
All four seats are simple to remove by lifting a latch in the rear of each, a handy feature for cleaning or if you want to sit around a campfire once the riding is finished. The bucket seats are adjustable via screws on the underside to make more or less room for any passenger. A tilt steering wheel makes the driver’s cockpit more comfortable, and a front passenger T-grab helps the shotgun rider stay in control. Rear passengers have a grab bar that extends all the way across the back of the front seats, though riding in the back is a bit tight for full-sized men. The rubber pads that protect passengers’ knees from the front seat frames vibrate and fall out often, meaning our knees got a little banged up. The solution is to zip-tie them on. Speaking of banged up, aggressive driving in the tight trails requires speedy hands on the steering wheel. I smashed my left elbow against the roll cage hard enough that I had to stop driving for a minute. We taped on some foam, but it should come standard.
The side net fasteners and the web straps they are attached to are wimpy. They need to be beefed up considerably.
A pricetag of $15,000 seems steep, but considering what you would pay for a four-seat sand rail, plus the added versatility of going on dirt trails, rocky deserts and mud bogs, and the RZR 4 starts to make more sense. It’s a fantastic way for families to get out and enjoy off-road motorsports. The RZR 4 is available only in the Robby Gordon Edition graphics and comes with four-spoke cast aluminum wheels. The 12-inch Black Bruiser wheels are wrapped in 26-inch Maxxis Bighorn tires, so it looks as good as it performs. Our trips to the dunes were met with plenty of interest from other sand enthusiasts.
Towing capacity is 1500 pounds and the 42 x 22-inch bed with Polaris’ Lock-and-Ride technology can hold up to 300 pounds. This could be the ultimate camping rig. The cup holders are phenomenal but a glovebox of some kind would be very useful. Limited storage is available under the faux carbon fiber hood, but it requires getting out of the vehicle to access it. The wish list also includes a flag mount – since it’s designed for dune riding, after all. A horn would be nice too, but only because we drive around grinning like morons the entire time and often feel the urge to honk at fellow riders.
Exploring the sand dunes was a complete blast with the RZR 4. The only thing higher than the performance threshold is the fun factor.This is a factory four-seater without compromises, and that means the UTV market just found a new niche.
Major things we’d like to see changed are the fuel tank, harnesses and side net clasps. Considering that the RZR 4 is likely carrying more weight than a two-seater, and the motor is constantly run at high rpm, there should be more fuel capacity than the 7.25 gallons which is standard for all RZR models. Seven hours of run time and over 50 miles in the sand used about two tanks. The RZR 4 pushes the driver to go faster and try new obstacles, so it really needs four-point harnesses. As for the side nets, each has two plastic, three-prong fasteners, of which we’ve broken three total. Being that these are literally the riders’ safety net during rollovers, these should be much heavier duty.
We’ve racked up some time in the dirt as well. The report from those rides will come once we’ve collected additional seat time and can evaluate the long-term performance and reliability. For now, the RZR 4 is unlike anything else available. Only the aftermarket had come up with solutions to the two-person UTV limit, and they aren’t always a safe option. Offering the RZR 4 makes Polaris seem unbelievably bold, but in actuality it’s a smart move. Polaris has gone about it sensibly with a chassis and suspension that work and a motor that’s fun. As the first manufacturer to offer extra human cargo capacity, Polaris is meeting an important demand from the public. Regardless of how many passengers come along, driving the RZR 4 is some of the most motorized fun we've had this year.