Story by Seth Fargher, Photos by Seth Fargher and Seth Snider
Since relocating to the east coast a few years ago, I’ve been slow to venture out and explore the riding opportunities that my particular area has to offer. Thanks to a few generous OEMs who’ve supplied demo units, I’ve had the means (and the excuse) to start exploring and as you’d expect, I have been kicking myself for waiting so long.
Most recently I’ve commandeered a 2018 Polaris GENERAL 1000 EPS Ride Command Edition and if I’m honest, I’m not really a “bells and whistles” kind of guy. For the longest time, “special edition” meant shiny wheels and bold new graphics. If the machine runs and performs well, excess creature comforts and electronic features don’t enhance my enjoyment. Or so I thought. Now a couple of rides in, I’ve discovered how incredibly useful the various features of the Ride Command system are and the winch saved the day after getting into a sketchy situation on some particularly steep and wet rocks.
For the inaugural break in, I headed to Carolina Adventure World (CAW) as it’s the closest off-road park with a significant amount of trails. In total the park includes around 90 miles of trails open to ATVs and UTVs, with an additional 10 miles of single track. It also includes a banked oval dirt track and a 300 foot drag strip complete with a Christmas tree. In case you’re wondering, 66 MPH. That’s the top speed I hit and while I think it had more to give, the drag strip did not.
Since this was the first trip out, I figured I’d get acquainted with the Ride Command system and allow it to map out our course for the day. To my surprise, many of the trails were already populated on the display as Polaris has preprogrammed hundred of riding destinations from around the nation in the system. This would prove useful as the day wore on and we could see where we had and hadn’t ridden.
Most of Carolina Adventure World is hard packed clay which means it dries out quick and is slicker than snot when it’s wet. I visited the day after the area had received its first rain in quite some time which made for unique driving conditions. Two wheel drive had us sliding around almost every turn. For that reason we kept it in four wheel drive for most of the day and could still break it loose when necessary.
In my opinion, the Polaris GENERAL is the ideal machine for the types of trails that Carolina Adventure World has to offer. It’s like a trail machine with a little more horsepower and a slightly wider footprint. The 100 horsepower engine is plenty quick enough to get you up to speed and unless you’re one of the top UTV racers, it’s hard to imagine anyone needing much more than that here. The trails aren’t overly tight like many other east coast riding areas so you won’t feel claustrophobic despite the machine’s 62.5 inch width. Despite being an inch and a half narrower than the RZR 1000 and Turbo models, I didn’t feel in danger of tipping over, even when the back end would break loose, likely due to the front and rear sway bars.
We started our little adventure with the aim of riding the permitter of the park as that would give us the longest, uninterrupted path. The welcome center, camping area, parking lot, dirt oval track and drag strip are situation at the north end of the park. Pretty much everything else is south of there.
Trail 4 is the longest and makes up the majority of the perimeter before it runs into a service road that takes you down to Beaver Lake. This is definitely a nice waypoint and gives you sort of a destination to aim for. From what we could tell, trail 4 also provides the most change in elevation. There are a lot of speed bumps on this portion of trail as well that will tempt you to punch the gas and catch some air but use caution; they’re designed to help with water runoff so you can never be sure what’s on the other side. We bottomed out the suspension a few times doing just that.
The three position FOX Podium 2.0 QS3 Shocks with 12 inches of front suspension travel and 13 in the rear is a better suspension setup than you’ll find on any trail model. To be fair, this isn’t classified as a trail machine, but we’re doing a trail review on it and as such, the suspension works incredibly well. The hard clay at CAW creates lots of choppy breaking bumps which, in most cases, we could pass over without even feeling, even with the suspension set on its stiffest setting. I couldn’t tell a huge difference between the three settings accept for on harsher hits like landing from a jump or a significant G-out.
Carolina Adventure World isn’t overly technical but there are a few fun rocky sections and one area with several severely rutted out hillclimbs that will more than test your machine. Between the ruts, the rocks and the trees, I’m not even sure a UTV could make it up some of them but it would fun to watch someone try.
Prior to this trip I would have filed the winch in the “not necessary” category. I don’t enjoy riding in the type of mud that necessitates the use of a winch so I really didn’t think I’d ever have need of it. As it turns out I was wrong and am now incredibly thankful for it after getting hung up in a particularly rocky portion of the trail. Because we were on a pretty decent incline, I wanted to avoid backing down if at all possible and with the rocks being wet, the tires were struggling for traction. No problem, we just wrapped the winch line around a tree and viola!
Despite struggling to get traction on the wet rocks, I’m actually quite impressed with the incredibly aggressive MAXXIS Coronado tires. While playing around on a follow up trip to CAW, the GENERAL walked right up the exact same rock section with barely a slip. On another severely rutted portion of the trail, I was able to straddle the gulley running down the trail with just a portion of the tire tread contacting the ground and it stuck like glue.
As for fit and finish, the GENERAL 1000 EPS Ride Command edition has one of the most comfortable cockpits I’ve been in. The seat offers plenty of adjustment for taller people like me to get comfortable and the dash, with its digital display and the additional 7 inch ride command touch screen, looks more like something out of an automobile. All the features of Ride Command are very much reminiscent of an automobile, and then some. Thanks to the GPS, we could record our route and compare it to the map we had been given and then double back to any trails we had missed. We weren’t able to cover the entire park in the time we had, but we certainly put a dent in it.
Other features like the 8 speaker audio system, blue tooth connectivity for making calls or receiving texts and the front and rear cameras are all standard issue on this machine and really lend to the feeling that you’re driving an automobile. I keep describing the machine to other people as sort of the Cadillac of the UTV world which isn’t an exaggeration…it has more features than most of the automobile’s I’ve driven.
The Ride Command system can be a little intimidating at first because it’s capable of so much. It takes a little trial and error to get things like your phone and GoPro cameras synched up but it’s hard to beat the convenience of controlling your camera without leaving the cockpit or answer a text message without digging out your phone.
At $21,499 the Polaris GENERAL EPS Ride Command edition is $5,200 more than the base model GENERAL. That price includes the upgraded FOX Podium 2.0 QS3 Shocks, the front bumper and winch, a roof, MAXXIS Coronado tires, an 8 speaker audio system, front and rear wired cameras and all the other benefits of the Ride Command system including ride stat tracking, a group ride feature, in vehicle communications (additional headset required) and a built in GPS. Add all of that up and you’d be well above the $5,000 that the GENERAL Ride Command edition costs from the factory.
Taking all of that into consideration and knowing the type of terrain that exists here on the east coast, I’m incredibly impressed with this Sport-Rec side by side that I pretty much consider a Sport UTV. It just so happens to have a dump bed and a trailer hitch witch I’m sure will come in handy from time to time.
As for Carolina Adventure World, it’s well worth a few hours drive to spend a day exploring and even further if you can make a long weekend of it. The trails are mostly all one way so you don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic and a network of access roads intersect the park so you’re never more than a short ride back to camp. I’m not sure if its my interpretation of the map or perhaps some of the trails aren’t quite as well marked as they could be but I did wined up turned around a time or two.
As a whole, Carolina Adventure World provides more than enough diversity to keep you entertained for a long weekend or in my case, provide a shakedown of a new machine. One word of advice, take advantage of the machine wash area and rinse as much of that red clay off before you hit the road. Once it dries it’s as hard as a rock!