2010 Polaris Sportsman XP 550 Touring Review 0

Polaris has put A-arms on the front of its ATVs! Global warming is proven a hoax as Hell freezes over. What will happen next, separate front and rear brake controls? A normal 4-wheel drive system? Pigs fly? Nothing is going to surprise us anymore as Polaris continues to expand its lineup while all the other manufacturers go into hiding!

Polaris introduced a host of new changes including A-arms, longitudinal engine and transmissions and other evolutionary changes to its new XP line of Sportsman quads in 2009. Now, for 2010 it has expanded that same line of development to the two-seat Touring models.

A-arms give the XP more controlled wheel travel with less camber gain as it moves up through its stroke.

A-arms give the XP more controlled wheel travel with less camber gain as it moves up through its stroke.

It’s pretty easy to spot the differences in the XP models. First of all – they’re great-looking – especially with how the new racks wrap into the fenders. But the biggest news is that the front suspension now has dual A-arms that provide a full nine inches of more precise wheel travel. What’s the big deal you ask with front A-arms? Well, the best part of this change is that A-arms give the XP more controlled wheel travel with less camber gain as it moves up through its stroke. That means they steer the ATV less and let you control it more! In addition, the front arms have also been designed with less offset to the wheels so that the center of the wheel and tire is located at the center of the steering geometry. This results in less kickback through the handlebars when hitting uneven terrain, or rocks and stumps, with the tire. Also new are the 14-inch wheels and tires. And while they may not improve handling or steering, they do look good!

On the rear, the A-arms have been modified with what is referred to as “roll.” This means that the arms’ mounting points are angled so that the rear tires move slightly rearward as they move upward, thus making the upward travel of the wheel a less abrupt movement when hitting obstacles. The rear suspension has 10.25 inches of useful travel, and there are now preload adjustable shocks on both the front and rear. So, unlike past Sportmans, where you only had preload adjustability on the rear, the XP’s front shocks can be stiffened for hauling bigger loads or even when attaching a snowplow in the winter months. The change to A-arms also opens the door for installing better aftermarket shocks on the XP.

All these changes are not just made to look good. They make a huge difference in the feel of the ATV out on the trails. It’s much more responsive and less like trying to control a La-Z-Boy with wheels.

Another big change that you don’t readily see, but that makes a really big difference in the feel and handling of the XP, is the new engine. The engine now sits longitudinally in the frame making it a much narrower package. But there are other changes as well. The SOHC, 550cc single cylinder engine is fuel-injected for easy starting and smooth running at any elevation or weather condition. Rated at 42 horsepower, the new engine is powerful enough to carry two people and all their gear up almost any mountain trail.

Because the engine now sits 90-degrees from what it was in the past, means that the CVT transmission on the XP rests behind the engine rather than alongside it. That new arrangement makes the XP a whopping eight inches narrower than the old, standard Sportsman. And all that added narrowness is located just where it was needed the most.

Climbing on the XP, you’ll quickly notice just how thin it is, now feeling more like a regular ATV (dare I even say sport quad?) as you can sit on the XP without the bowlegged sensation of a skinny cowboy riding a fat horse. That loss of girth makes it much easier for the rider to move around in the saddle to shift their weight for better control. But Polaris lovers rest easy, although the seat is very narrow at the front, it fills out toward the back with plenty of that good-old Sportsman cush for those long rides in the saddle. Other than making the machine narrower, the longitudinal placement of the engine and transmission also has the advantage of being more efficient as the crankshaft now turns in the same plane as the driveshafts.

Both the engine and transmission are rubber-mounted in the frame for less vibration and noise transfer to the rider. The chassis is also completely new and a total departure from Sportsmans of the past. Where the old frames were a combination of square tubing and stamped steel pieces, the new frame is a double-cradle of round tubing. Not only a stronger and lighter frame, but better looking as well.

The battery is located under the pop-off seat with the terminals within easy reach for checking, charging or just attaching a float-charger. The air filter is under a cover where the fuel tank used to be, and can be accessed by removing the seat. The 4.5-gallon fuel tank has been moved lower and in front of the engine’s cylinder. All this help to centralize and lower the main weight of the Sportsman, again all in an effort to make it handle better and be more responsive and nimble to maneuver in difficult terrain.

The gauges too have been revised, now being a completely digital unit that includes a speedometer, odometer, tachometer, dual trip odometers, hour meter, clock, gear indicator, fuel gauge, and warning lights for temperature and battery condition.

Also new this year is the availability of Electric Power Steering (EPS) as an option. While the value of power steering can be argued on most ATVs, the addition of EPS on a two-seat quad is an unequivocal asset! The true value of the EPS system can be found at the end of an all-day ride. Coming down a long, steep and rocky trail with all the weight of a two-seat ATV on the front wheels can take its toll on tired arms. The power steering makes it all a breeze with the stabilizing effect definitely keeping the rocks and ruts from ripping the handlebars from your hands. Although the unit provides less feel than we prefer, that may change with the addition of better, more aggressive tires. Time will tell on that.

Okay, so it’s all-new and great looking, but does it work any better than the old style Sportsman out on the trails? If you liked the old Polaris will you still like the new one? Well, like the previous model, it’s still incredibly comfortable and easy to ride on more open trails, but now, thanks to all the changes, it’s more nimble and easier to ride when the going gets rough. Remember though, at a bit over 770 pounds, it’s still a very heavy machine to muscle around in tighter spots and in those off-camber situations.

Although the CVT transmission works incredibly once you’re moving, getting it from a standstill continues to require far too many revs. We much prefer a transmission to hook up quickly, right off of idle. And finally there’s a Polaris 4WD system that works in reverse without having to push a button! Now if they could just make the engine braking go to all four wheels. That continues to be every test rider’s biggest complaint about Polaris’ of all sorts. At least the ADC (Automatic Decent Control) allows the engine braking to go to all wheels when 4WD is engaged. Unfortunately the ADC only works when you are going less than 15mph and have no throttle applied. This all could be solved if Polaris would just make the switch to a conventional 4WD system. At the least I imagine they’ll soon have ADC work all the time, and at any speed. For now, the longer wheelbase of the Touring helps keep the ATV more inline on those steep declines.

And it’s that longer wheelbase that we really like. Not only does it make the Touring a much more stable platform when there’re two people onboard, but even ridden solo, it has a more planted feel everywhere – in the rough stuff, climbing, descents, and even sidehill. The only downside we found to the added four inches of wheelbase is the increase in territory that’s required to turn around. Fortunately, it’s seldom as big of a problem as we thought it might be.

Polaris Sportsman has always been comfortable and capable ATVs, and the XP takes those assets and builds on them.

Polaris Sportsman has always been comfortable and capable ATVs, and the XP takes those assets and builds on them.

With all the changes made to the new XP, we do wish that Polaris would have continued their practice of putting top-level tires on the machine. The standard bias-ply Maxxis tires that come on the Touring are okay, but the XP would certainly benefit from the addition of a tire like the PXT radial.

Polaris Sportsman has always been comfortable and capable ATVs, and the XP takes those assets and builds on them. So, if you’re a Polaris Sportsman fan you’ll most likely find the new XP to be the best you’ve ever ridden. And if you’ve never been a Polaris fan, then you’ll be amazed by a ride on the new XP Touring. While it still has a few of Polaris’ peculiar features, they have become less overwhelming.

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