When you see one at a desert race sitting next to a full-tilt Trophy Truck most UTVs look almost fragile, like something that was built for the SEMA show but never intended for real use. Yet looks can be deceiving. The UTV is quickly becoming one of the most popular off-road racing vehicles because of its extreme capability, speed, and most of all, its ability to take the toughest punishment and still get you to the finish line.
To give you an idea of how tough these vehicles are, a Bombardier Can-Am just won its class at the grueling Dakar Rally in South America, finishing the 14 stages from Lima, Peru to Cordoba, Argentina in 72 hours, 44 minutes and six seconds. Of the 11 entries in the UTV class, three were Bombardiers, three were Yamahas, and five were made by Polaris.
What is a side-by-side, anyway?
The term side-by-side (sometimes SXS) covers a broad category of vehicles, from a gardener’s micro-truck to a desert racer. The desert racing versions are more properly called MOHUVs, for Multipurpose Off-Highway Utility Vehicle. There are many different brands on the market, but Polarisis leading the charge into affordable off-road racing with several different models of its popular RZR (pronounced Razor) and a factory-backed racing effort.
The anatomy of a MOHUV is pretty simple. The vehicle is built around a tube frame with rollover protection, and a few plastic body panels to help keep some of the rocks outside the vehicle. The part you care more about is the driveline. The most basic Polaris RZR you’d want to use for racing is the XP, powered by a 1000cc ProStar two-cylinder engine with 110 horsepower. There are less expensive 45- and 75-horsepower models, but they’re not affordable enough to justify the power loss.
The RZR uses an on-demand all-wheel drive system, which makes it primarily a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with the ability to transfer torque to the front wheels as needed for traction. Fully loaded with driver and passenger, you’re looking at about 1700 pounds. With the Polaris’ continuously variable transmission, you’ve got plenty of power at all times for about $17,999. But if that’s not enough, you can move up to the RZR XP Turbo, with 168 horsepower for $19,999. That’s money well spent, right there.
The real magic of the RZR comes with the suspension. It looks positively spindly, with slender rods holding the wheels out past the corners of the vehicle, but it’s the hardiest part of the Polaris. The leggy suspension design gives you a huge range of motion, which keeps the wheels in contact with uneven ground.
You’ve got your choice of three different shock setups. You can go with the basic needle valve shocks, and they’re very good. Depending on the terrain, that may be all you need. If you’re running around on powder like I did at Coral Pink Sand Dunes state park in Utah, the RZR will be silky smooth. On the rough rocks of the Mint 400 course outside Las Vegas, not so much. You can upgrade to Fox internal bypass shocks with five separate compression zones for about $3,000 more, but the RZR you want has Polaris’ new Dynamix active suspension. All-in with the turbo engine, it’s $25,999.
Read more at the source: Digitaltrends.com