Four-wheeler from Polaris offers improved power, performance and value.

The flagship of Polaris's 19-model ATV lineup, the Sportsman 500, sports a bigger engine and other functional improvements for 2001.

At least that's what the marketing folks impressed upon us scribes/drivers before we were turned loose behind the handlebars of the new Sportsman 500 H.O. (High-Output). And after some saddle time, it became apparent that those marketing and PR types weren't just blowing smoke. Polaris truly has improved on the best-selling ATV in its class. But unlike with many "improved" products, Polaris did not increase the price; it remains $6,999.

The Sportsman's most noticeable change is its larger, 499-cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve, four-stroke engine that provides 20% more power. The powerplant isn't new to Polaris because it's the same model that powers its sport cousin, the Scrambler 500. To go with this power, the company improved the Sportsman's handling on rough terrain by improving the steering geometry and components. And to help stop the machine, the single-lever, all-wheel hydraulic disc brakes now have a new master cylinder, heat-treated discs and improved pads for longer life.

Pulling power. Shifting into ranges (high, low, reverse) has been improved on this automatic, four-wheel, independent shaft drive machine. The clutch has been improved for better low-end pulling power. The cover that houses the belt has been redesigned to eliminate past problems with cover melting and belt slipping. And for 2001, an unlimited lifetime "installed" belt warranty is standard.

Other standard features that have driven the sale of almost one million Polaris ATVs since 1985 include a renowned independent rear suspension, an automatic dual-sensing (torque and speed) Polaris variable transmission with engine braking system, a thumb-switch engage-on-demand true 4-wd, MacPherson strut front suspension and an industry-leading 11-in. ground clearance.

And for farmers and ranchers needing to cross water, added protection of the automatic tranny makes water intake no longer a problem. For more information on the Sportsman 500 H.O., see your local dealer, call 800/765-2747 or circle 211.

New tools for work. Also at this late June event, Polaris demonstrated its wide variety of attachments and implements designed to get the full productivity of its ATVs. The 2001 collection includes front-mount and pull-behind brush and finishing cut mowers, sweepers, turf aerators, electric implement lift for plows, racks and storage boxes, dump carts, wagons, tough bumpers, windshields, tow bar, lifts and a tire machine. For a catalog, call 800/765-2747 or circle 212.