Polaris recently introduced its redesigned Sportsman 550 XP. Unfortunately, an accident sidelined this vehicle before all the drivers could finish testing it. But the drivers who did score the ATV were impressed. One driver put it on top of the group of smaller vehicles.

Big on the list of positive attributes of the new Sportsman was the vehicle's power in loaded hauling and pulling as well as comfort and four-wheelin' performance. It drove and rode well in the hill work, through the barrels, and on the trails. All the drivers were able to score it in the maintenance and service category, where it ranked second.

Although this vehicle doesn't have power steering, its steering is smooth. “The Polaris faked me out like it had power steering,” Shirley Hodgen remarked.

Scott Veenker agreed the steering felt like power steering. “The wheels are larger to allow Polaris to move the centers of the wheels closer to the kingpins so you don't feel the bumps and jars of riding,” he explained. His one complaint was the vehicle's shifting. He said that, because the gearshift is on a straight line, he couldn't feel where a gear was located.

The Sportsman XP also has just one hand brake. “At first I thought this was a great idea,” Bakken remarked. “But then I discovered I have more control over the machine if I brake a little in the back and in the front. So I was always reaching for that other brake and wasn't finding it.”

On this redesigned model, Polaris also turned the engine sideways to provide more leg and feet room. The company also installed on the Sportsman an active descent control (ADC) switch that automatically slows the vehicle when it is headed down a hill. The drivers approved of the ADC.

VERDICT

In a limited test, the Sportsman 550 XP proved its worth with its easy steering, vehicle comfort and attention to simple maintenance and service. Plus the vehicle is designed to handle several accessories and attachments. Figure in a competitive price, and the Sportsman is a smart buy.