Some would say the Polaris Ranger is the grandfather of side-by-sides since it’s been around for the last twenty-two years. Its evolution is what’s made the Ranger the triple threat that it is today, excelling in utility, comfort, and off-roading.
The Ranger collection has grown exceptionally over the years. With over 63 different models, sub-models, special editions, and upgrades, it would be impossible to cover them all. This brief overview of the Ranger’s history will give you an idea of the innovational change it has undergone.
For the purpose of this article, we have to think about the the Ranger in the context of what Polaris was doing at the time. In the 1990s, Sportsman ATVs were Polaris’ only off-road vehicle. The Sportsman boosted Polaris’ sales, making them one of the fastest growing companies at the time.
Two decades ago, the Ranger 6X6 was a mere concept. On the heels of their success, Edgar Hetteen, co-founder of Polaris, sat down with Mitchell Johnson, the son of Polaris’ other co-founder, and imagined what a side-by-side ATV would look like. The fruit of their conversations became the Ranger 6×6. Hetteen loved riding the Sportsman, and like most riders, he wanted to share the experience, which inspired the idea of a side-by-side ATV. They had no idea their conversation would begin a revolution for the side-by-side industry.
The Ranger 6X6 went from concept development to the production line in two short years.
To qualify as an off-road vehicle, the first generation of the Polaris Ranger was manufactured and sold as a 6×6. This Ranger offered good speed, a comfortable ride, and an easier handling experience. This first set of upgrades gave the Ranger the power to carry more weight than any other utility hauler on the market.
Polaris took the next six years and perfected their craft, thus making the mid-2000s a pivotal point for Polaris riders. Polaris wanted to make sure customers were riding comfortably, which is why they added dual A-Arm rear suspension. A larger powertrain was also added for increased power. Did these upgrades give Polaris the leg up on the most powerful UTV? We believe so. Farmers and ranchers alike began to see the need for a machine like this, increasing its popularity.
Additionally, Polaris introduced the Lock and Ride Box accessory, which transformed the Ranger’s comfort by equipping it with a secure place for the rider’s tools and cargo. It features a waterproof design made of molded plastic. The box’s interior is divided into sections providing different size compartments for whatever you need to store.
We’re a decade into the Ranger lineup. The Ranger 800 gets released as a 6X6 and a 4X4. This is where we started to see the Ranger used for commercial use. Military, police and fire departments use them for patrol, disaster relief, and search and rescues. Colleges were using them for hauling sports equipment and grounds keeping.
Over the next 8 years,14 different sub-models and special editions were added to the Ranger collection.
Some say the Ranger 800 took Polaris from being one of the leaders in the UTV industry to the leader in the industry.
This leaves us asking—does Polaris have any competition?
At this time the answer is no. Comparably, no one is even close to Polaris in sales. Polaris’ total sales for the year of 2009 was roughly $1.5 million, and the Ranger made 5/8 of those sales.
Polaris smashed their own standards with this next level model—the Polaris Ranger XP 900. This new Ranger was the first to use the ProStar 900 engine, making it the most powerful Ranger to date. Do you see the common theme here? Power is everything with this monster utility vehicle. This engine was industry leading with 60 HP and pumped out incredible torque to make the hardest pulls. The power of this engine was shown at the Polaris Industries 2013 Model Media Convention when they hooked the Ranger XP 900 to a dump truck.
It seems every couple of years Polaris is producing more power and improving the quality of their cabs. Polaris redesigned the Ranger’s already existing adjustable seat belts, under-seated storage, and engine placement. These changes included an all-new chassis, flip-up seat storage, restyled dashboard, and a larger gas tank. The engine was placed under the cargo box rather than under the seat, increasing the wheelbase to 5” and ground clearance to 12.” This turned what was already comfortable to luxurious.
In 2017, Polaris celebrated rolling the one-millionth Ranger machine off the production line.
The off-road industry had flourished in the last two decades, and Polaris continued to push the envelope with the Polaris Ranger XP 1000. This development was a huge feat for Polaris with more than a hundred improvements made over the Ranger XP 900.
Not even a year later, the Ranger Crew XP 1000 was released. With the perfect combination of comfort, convenience, and power, the Ranger Crew XP 1000 was able to do the biggest jobs—making it the king of utility side-by-sides. This Ranger was designed to haul extra gear, tow larger trailers, and transport more people.
With this machine came upgrades. It came equipped with new seats, a full-body skid plate, 27” Pro Armor Tires, and a 999cc ProStar engine with 82 HP.
Today, you can purchase a stock Ranger Crew XP 1000 for $20,399. That’s a little on the higher end for base models around this time.
In the following years, something we’d only heard rumor of finally came to fruition.
Polaris has taken today’s technology advancements and applied them to their craft, giving us the Ranger XP Kinetic. This is Polaris’ first electric UTV, and it comes with a high dollar sign.
As you look at the specs of the Ranger XP Kinetic, you can see it’s one powerful machine. What are the advantages of having an electric engine?
Electric motors are simple! There is very little energy lost in the friction between moving parts compared to the moving components of a combustion engine. An electrical motor reacts instantly with tons of torque when the accelerator is pushed.
There’s no gas. Save your reward points at the pump, and lower your maintenance bill. Since an electric vehicle runs on electric and not gas, you don’t have oil, oil filters, or spark plugs. This decreases the cost you would normally spend on gas and the upkeep of your Ranger.
An electric engine also means it’s quiet. This keeps you from having to shout over the engine and allows you to easily carry a conversation. This machine can also given hunters a leg up in the woods—carrying gear to their hunting spots without disturbing what may be their next bag.
As Polaris puts it: “In Ranger country, we believe hard work makes you stronger, days are measured by what gets done and the great outdoors is the best soul cleanser in the world.“ The Ranger has been trusted by farmers, ranchers, hunters, homeowners, and the off-road enthusiasts for the last twenty-plus years. As enthusiasts ourselves, we have high expectations for what’s to come with the Polaris Ranger.
If the last two decades came from a mere conversation between two Polaris employees, then what are we to expect from Polaris in two more decades? We believe this can also be said for the UTV industry as whole. We have seen a massive expansion in the off-roading world.
These are exciting times! The evolution of the Ranger has not only changed a single utility machine, but is continuing to set an expectation for all utility vehicles to come.