By Casey Cordeiro
While the UTVs with all of the horsepower and suspension travel rack up most of the press time these days, there are some silent slayers in the sport side-by-side world that are ready to take on the gnarliest terrain you can find behind the steering wheel. This is especially apparent when we look at the 60” category of sport side-by-sides.
Case-in-point, the Polaris RZR S 1000 is quite a capable machine, even with a width of only 60”. While it might be slightly narrower, that doesn’t mean that it is lacking any features. The RZR S still has a 100 horsepower churning out of the ProStar 1000 engine (999cc), and the automatic PVT transmission puts this available power to the ground in a very effective way. Credit the superb clutching in the RZR S for the power transfer, and you can also credit the capable on-demand 4WD system for ensuring that you get up and over obstacles in your path with all 4 wheels spinning at the same time.
We recently closed the quarter doors and buckled ourselves into one of these RZR S 1000’s to see if this fairly unchanged machine could still hold its own in the 60” category. With the aforementioned features providing the backbone to this vehicle, the RZR S is also loaded with other traditional RZR goodies.
The interior layout is one of those traditional RZR-specific goodies. With an open cockpit and clean space to be situated, the RZR S interior is inviting but a bit bland when compared to the latest RZR interior designs (like what is now found in the RZR XP lineup). The centrally located instrument cluster still gives both the driver and passenger a clean and clear view at all of the machine’s vitals, but we hope it is upgraded in the next year or so to include the more driver-centric unit found in the XP models. Speaking of the driver-centric design that Polaris knows how to put together so well, one of our favorite things about the RZR lineup is the great sight lines out of the front of the vehicle. The slightly elevated interior of the RZR S gives you stellar sight lines in the rocks, up and down sand dunes, on tree-lined trails, and in the muddy terrain, all of which have been in our testing locations. This taller sitting position not only allows the driver to see better, but the commanding view keeps you more aware of what is ahead of you and ultimately safer on the trail.
As far as interior storage is concerned, the passenger side includes an enclosed glove box that holds a large amount of items in it, including dust masks, 4-5 water bottles if needed, a smaller tool kit, and other trail essentials. For both driver and passenger, traditional RZR seats are found in the cockpit with the driver side also featuring a seat slider for adjustment. The seats offer good, but not great, side and bottom cushion bolstering. In concept, the sliding seat is a great feature to have on a stock machine – most people don’t upgrade their stock seats (at least not right away). However, we wish the stock Polaris seats had a more sturdy frame attaching them to the seat base, and we would also like to see the seat sliders upgraded for easier adjustment fore and aft. If you get the sliders filled with mud or sand, it is tough to get them to slide. One way to keep the mud and sand out of the cab would be to include a set of full half doors from the factory – this should be standard on any sport UTV, really. The quarter doors do their job of keeping you inside the vehicle, but the full half doors would be a huge improvement. Luckily the aftermarket has options for these essential items. Even with these small gripes, it is safe to say that the interior is still comfortable, it’s just not the class of the field like it once was.
Like all other RZR models in the Polaris lineup, the RZR S 1000 comes with a large rear cargo area that can fit essentials like full size coolers, spare parts, a first aid kit, extra tie downs, and more. Four metal tie down spots in the cargo area give riders a sturdy place to tie down their items. We appreciate the higher bed sides compared to some competitive units, especially when the trail gets rough and you want to make sure your items stay in the bed.
One major thing to note about the RZR S 1000 is that all of the maintenance items are easy to access on this machine. Polaris engineers always take this into account with their vehicle designs, and the RZR S 1000 is a machine that allows you to get to all maintenance areas with ease. The air filter is under the cargo bed; all of the oil drains have openings in the factory metal skid plates (engine, transmission, and differentials); the belt is easy to change; the front hood has an accessory wiring bus bar under it that is ready for your add-on electrical items; and the electronics are all easy to access in case you have an issue on the trail. These might seem like little things, but they are all big things to consider when you’re buying a new vehicle. The RZR S 1000 is laid out well in this regard.
Similar to many other RZR vehicles, this RZR S 1000 starts up with a distinct parallel twin cylinder sound. Driver and passenger will appreciate the fact that the engine is fairly quiet at idle. When gliding along the trail at full song, the engine remains quieter then competitive units, giving you the opportunity to chat easier and enjoy the sights and sounds around you more, especially with the open cockpit. From the driver’s seat, I really like how the RZR S 1000 is clutched in the way that it can cruise at about 40 mph without being raspy right behind your ears. Plus, this engine is tuned to deliver performance throughout the rev range. Every time you stab the throttle from idle, the machine takes off with a swiftness that is not found in competitive units in this category. Roaring to life and really hitting its stride around the 40mph mark, the RZR S 1000 will soar past 60 mph with relative ease. The quick electric power steering on this vehicle gives the driver ultimate control – quick adjustments to changing terrain are easily made no matter how fast you’re traveling. And, with an engine that revs this freely and pulls all the way from the bottom to the top of the RPM range, it truly is a blast to drive. Corners are easily navigated and prepped for – turn in is precise, and the flick-ability of the RZR S is extremely fun on twisty trails. At 1255 pounds dry, this RZR S feels very light on its feet, and this translates to the driver with thrills for days, especially with such a nimble chassis. Slow it down and the great nightlines allowed us to tackle rock climbs with ease and precision, picking our ideal line through the rocks with ease.
Not only is this RZR S legal for many trails around the country with its 60” width, but the compact width combines with a shorter overall wheelbase of 79” to really underscore the maneuverability of this UTV. While the bigger machines with larger tires get up and over the rocks easier (the stock tires on the RZR S 1000 are GBC Dirt Commanders measuring out to 27” in diameter), it is easier in the RZR S to pick lines and make adjustments over the rock crawls. For either new or seasoned drivers, this handling prowess and easy maneuverability on the trail are very welcomed features.
Just as fast as things get going on the trail, the driver can bring them to a stop with hydraulic disc brakes on all four corners. The discs are squeezed via dual piston calipers on the front and rear wheels. Overall brake pedal feel is quite positive with an initial amount of pedal throw that gives way to a very positive brake feel midway into the pedal. Full lockup can be achieved with a firm push, and it’s easy to modulate the in-between to dial in your braking into turns.
So, it turns well, the power is great for this size of machine, it stops well, and the interior could use a little work but it holds up well in its respective category. What’s not to like about this UTV?
Well, behind the interior, the suspension could use the most work on this RZR S 1000. It’s not that the suspension is horribly bad, but the Polaris engineers tuned the Walker Evans needle shocks, which are a great pair of compression-adjustable piggyback reservoir units, for a sporty ride over all-out comfort. All suspension travel numbers lead the 60” segment – there is 12.25” of movement in the front and 13.2” in the rear. I don’t know about you guys, but there are days when I want to blast through the trails, and there are also days when I want to cruise and enjoy the scenery a bit more. In this day and age when washboard roads and stutter bumps are all the more common because of locked rear differentials on virtually all sport UTVs, a balanced suspension system that takes out the little bumps and still gives you high speed, bump absorbing travel is welcomed. This is a tall order to ask for in one set of shocks, no doubt, but it has been done before, and it can be done again in a stock suspension setup. The RZR S 1000 is most happy above 35-40 mph over the small bumps, and it takes the big hits and dips with ease. Plus, with a stiffer overall single rate spring setup and front & rear sway-bars, it corners flat and allows the driver to really push the vehicle through the turns. Again, great handling prowess. However, if you’re going to cruise the trails and enjoy places like Moab all the time at slower speeds, you’re going to find that the stock suspension is a bit harsh for many different terrains and doesn’t allow the machine to do much “absorbing” of the bumps. The washboard roads give you the jiggles unless you are driving quite fast (again, over 35-40 mph). Unfortunately, no matter how much I adjusted the stock compression clickers, I couldn’t get the ride to smooth out. However, we have to remember that all drivers who want sporty ride and handling prowess will really like this UTV, but that has the be the priority over a more balanced suspension effort. The Can-Am Maverick Sport is a competitive machine that happens to be a prime example of a sport 60” UTV that has been setup from the factory to do it all well in the suspension department. So, we know it can be done.
With many 60” width restricted trails at riding areas these days, the RZR S 1000 is a great vehicle with very few compromises. It is a blast to drive on the trails at high speed, and it can haul many of your favorite items with you on day-long adventures.
If you’re looking for a machine that can tackle all kinds of different terrains with plenty of power on tap, this is a great sport UTV to put on your shopping list. Plus, it is easily modified to make even better with your own custom touches. Retailing at $17,999 MSRP, the Polaris RZR S 1000 is a hoot to drive, and we look forward to jumping behind the wheel again.
We’ll see you on the trails!