Polaris reworks three models to complete its new lineup. The biggest surprise at Polaris' recent media day was from a vehicle not technically an ATV. The company unveiled a revamped 6-wd machine that plays like a recreational ATV and works like a utility model. The Sportsman 6x6 replaces Polaris' previous 6-wd model called the Big Boss.

In addition to the 6-wd makeover, the company announced two new, moderately priced ATVs: the Xplorer 4x4 and the Scrambler 400 2x4 .

The new, year-2000 ATV models were shown to the media near the company's headquarters in Roseau, MN. Celebrating 45 years of business, Polaris makes no secrets about its future. It intends to become the dominant brand in ATVs and personal watercraft while maintaining its number one position in snowmobiles.

General manager and son of a Polaris founder, Mitchell Johnson says the Minnesota-grown snowmobile company plans to increase sales from $1.2 billion in 1998 to $2 billion by 2002 and $3 billion by 2007. Johnson says they will achieve this hefty growth through several new approaches. For example, the company is hiring a new sales force to handle parts, garments and accessories. New effort will go into developing international markets for their products and alliances or acquisitions of other companies are possible. Also adding to the bottom line is a customer financial service rolled out to dealers last winter.

The most recent new models and ATV upgrades were tested in a northern Minnesota state forest. These models as well as several of Polaris' models introduced last winter were available to run over miles of trails.

Six-wheel-drive revisited. Polaris first introduced the 6x6 model several years ago. Now the company made it better, improving performance and changing ergonomics. The new model, Sportsman 6x6, showed no signs of sluggish performance. It easily kept up with the 4-wd ATVs and sport models during the 12-mile runs in the forest. The Sportsman model also provided a smoother ride than the other ATVs.

Polaris engineer Scott Ostroski is proud of the reworked Sportsman 6x6. "We wanted to make it more recreational while keeping the work aspects," he explains.

So the engineers changed the drive system to concentric drive that allows more power delivery to the wheels. The rear suspension is not affected by engine torque and the new drive maintains consistent chain tension.

The engineers also changed the ergonomics, including the seat and handlebar positions. The gas tank increased from 31/2 to 41/4 gal. on the new model. The result is a comfortable, easy-to-handle vehicle.

The Sportsman 6x6 features a 500-cc, 4-valve, 4-stroke engine with automatic shifting. Polaris provides true 6-wd, which senses when the rear wheels lose traction and then engages the front wheels with full torque. A thumb switch changes the vehicle from 4-wd to 6-wd.

The rear cargo box is made of a resilient, molded plastic to eliminate rust or chipped paint problems. The box holds 800 lbs. of cargo. A tow hitch can handle 1,225-lbs. capacity. Price: $7,499.

Value priced Xplorer 4x4. A 250-cc, air-cooled engine makes the new Xplorer 4x4 an economy version of the Polaris model Xplorer 400. The full-sized, 4-wd ATV comes equipped with all the features of the 400 model, including the Polarison-demand, true 4-wd system, a long-travel rear suspension, MacPherson strut 6.7-in. front suspension, automatic transmission and concentric drive system.

The Xplorer 4x4 works well for light work, trail riding and hunting. Price: $4,399.

Polaris engineers also changed some features of the Scrambler 400 2x4 model in their sports line. They increased the rear suspension to a full 101/2 in. to improve the vehicle's speed and handling ability. Two adjustable, separate springs also were added to the rear suspension. Price: $4,949.

For more information, contact Polaris Sales Inc., Dept. FIN, 1225 Hwy. 169, Minneapolis, MN 55441, 612/542-0500.