By Cody Hooper
Clean, lightweight, and effective
It’s easy to go overboard with bolt-ons. As a normal UTV build progresses for the average owner, more and more creature comforts get added. Stereos, lighting, cages, seats, wheels, tires, suspension, bumpers- it all adds up fast. Starting with a 2017 RZR XP4 Turbo, which weighs in the neighborhood of 1,700 pounds from the factory, it’s easy to end up with a porker of a UTV cresting the 2,000 pound mark or greater.
The problem with weight is that it’s the enemy of performance. A car that feels lightning-fast with just a driver behind the wheel can feel downright sluggish when it’s loaded up with three more passengers. Suspension gets softer, belts don’t last as long, and handling prowess dulls. Our aim with this particular 2017 RZR XP4 was to build a high performance, long-wheelbase RZR while keeping the weight in check; we enlisted the help of vehicle masters TMW Offroad to make the project a reality.
The build started off as a brand new (read 0 mile) 2017 RZR XP4 Turbo, which was promptly stripped to a carcass of its former self to begin the build. On the design sheet, there were many small modifications necessary to make this car right- including the affectionately named “Mooch Delete Kit”, which consists of removing the rear seats and converting the back half of the cab into a covered storage compartment. With the seats out of the way, TMW managed to move both front seats back over 3 inches, stretching the legroom to an incredibly comfortable level. The cage was manufactured using their shorty design, which is a bumperless cage that ends in the bed. A full aluminum sheet trunk was cut and placed in the rear of the bed, giving the RZR an extremely sleek look to match the rear seat storage compartments.
This build drew some inspiration from the long-gone Jagged X RZR XP900, which used a factory 4 seat frame with a rear seat delete in exchange for storage capacity. We had some incredible trips in that car just 5 short years ago, and it has stuck with us ever since. TMW also built an easily removable, automotive-grade glass windshield for colder weather trips. This convenient add-on removes with 8 allen-head screws in about two minutes, and can be stored in the truck or trailer.
In an effort to centralize even more of the car’s mass, all of the normal bed-mounted storage items were moved into the newly renovated back seat. Storage boxes for tools, water, food, jackets, spare belts, and more are now easily swappable through the rear hatch door, allowing us to easily take what we need without overloading the car. We debated on a long travel kit for the car as well, but the added weight penalty wasn’t something we were willing to live with. Instead, we turned to Reid Nordin at Walker Evans Racing for some help in the suspension department.
Walker supplied a full set of aluminum piggyback Velocity Series shocks for the front and rear of this RZR, as well as their trick Walker Link rear sway bar ends. The 2.5” Velocity Series shocks feature high and low speed compression adjustability, using a combination of Walker’s stepped needle valve and proprietary piggyback placement to create a perfect balance of plushness and bottoming resistance. The shocks are 100% made in the USA, with 7/8” stainless steel shafts and hard anodized bodies for durability.
The dual-rate shocks that Walker shipped us were nearly perfect out of the box- all we did was change some spring preload and clicker settings and put the throttle through the floorboard. Out back, the “Walker Link” sway bar ends provide some give in small chop where a swaybar would normally produce a harsher ride. Small side to side oscillations are dealt with completely before the swaybar comes into play by allowing the end links to soak up some of the movement. It’s a small part that makes a very big difference in feel.
After TMW’s beautiful cage and sheetmetal work was finished, the car headed over to XTC Power Products to be fitted with one of their custom wiring kits. We used a PCS-64 wiring kit in this RZR, which includes a fully assembled 6 switch electrical system that makes any and all future electronic accessory installs a piece of cake. We compare the kit to a Painless system for a car restoration- plug the box into power and ground, mount the fuse block, run the switches to the dash, and simply plug all of your accessories into the power block. It makes wiring clean and effortless, and every UTV should have one in it.
Lastly, the car was rolled into the Wolf Designs shop for the wrap install. This custom-printed pearl white and teal wrap was drafted up by Wolf in their design lab. We were aiming for retro colors with a fresh twist, and Wolf absolutely delivered. The light blue accents set the car off, and we can’t take it anywhere without someone commenting on the color scheme. Wolf’s attention to detail is incredible, as all of the graphic elements are high-resolution and crisp, with no odd artifacting or traces of color bleeding. The car also received a custom set of color-matched vinyl and suede seats from the crew at Triple X seats. Their Venom model seats are a slim, lightweight, and comfortable option for the RZR. The soft lower bolsters make getting in and out more comfortable than some of the other seats we have used, and the stitch work is incredible. The pleated suede center sections look beautiful with the contrasting materials, and the seat storage packs up front are great for cell phones, water bottles, or tools. Assault Industries lent us a hand by sending over a giant box full of their accessories. We bolted on a set of their new B2 Bomber billet side mirrors, a center rear view mirror, shift knob, tie rods, radius rods, steering wheel, fire extinguisher, harnesses, and a custom 3” steering column extension to bring the wheel back to the proper distance from the seatback. With the RZR’s passenger compartment stretched, even the tallest of drivers no longer have an issue smacking their knees on the dash or shifter. It’s quite a bit more comfortable no matter how tall you are, as your legs are more stretched out, and the wheel is brought closer to your chest. The modifications make the car very comfortable to drive long distances in, and you don’t end the day with any bruises on your legs from banging up against the dash! Weller Racing tuned the car using a DynoJet Power Commander system, and with the HMF Titan exhaust, it really woke the car up. This car flat-out scoots, leaving even our supercharged YXZ1000R in its wake. With the stock clutching, we were slipping the belt pretty badly at high RPM, so we went with an off-the-shelf EPI clutch kit to solve the issue. Backshift is now quite a bit stronger in on/off throttle situations, allowing you to get back into the power a little earlier when you stab the skinny pedal. The car makes wonderful noises from the HMF Titan duals, and while they are quiet, they provide a smooth, rich bark that is more than easy to live with.
This car spent the couple of few weeks post-makeover at Idaho’s premier dune destination, St. Anthony. We loaded it up with our YXZ1000R project car and made the 1,000+ mile trek to Idaho Dunes RV Park just outside Rexburg for a week of fun at the UTV Invasion event. We had a blast, and the only issue with the car was one blown belt after a few spirited high-speed runs, jumps, and some filming in a high-speed whoop section (this was before the EPI kit was installed). After that, it attended the Sand Sports Super Show in Costa Mesa, California in the STI Tire & Wheel booth. Since then, it has been used solely in the deserts of Southern California. TMW’s knack for cage design really pays off when you get this thing out into the hills. With the relatively tall windshield opening, visibility is great, even sitting further back in the cab. The doors use the factory latches, opening and closing effortlessly. We have zero discernable vibration or rattle coming from the sheetmetal bed, which is a testament to TMW’s fit and finish. The car has been a blast, with our only concern coming from keeping it from getting too scratched up!
Sticking with a stock-travel machine really worked out for us with this build. Using the Walker Velocity shocks, the car absolutely obliterates terrain at speed, maintaining composure far past the point that a shorter, 2-seat RZR could. The extra wheelbase and rearward seating make this RZR feel slightly similar to a Can-Am X3, although you sit a bit higher in the RZR. All of the electronics in the car have performed flawlessly as well- the radio and intercom system never skips a beat, that big JBL sound bar can be heard clearly at 60+ mph, and the KC Hilites Flex bar is infallible.
With just a tune, exhaust, and clutch kit, this RZR is undeniably fast. The 2017 RZRs were quite a bit faster than their first-year counterparts from the factory, and the little tweaking we did to this car really woke it up. Full-throttle stretches down a tight trail for a few seconds routinely lead to carrying far too much speed into a corner, especially with the windshield in place. Just taking away that single element (airflow through the front of the cage), you lose a big chunk of your perception of speed. We have routinely looked down at the gauge cluster to check our speed on tight desert trails, and it’s not uncommon to see the car bumping the 80 mph mark with relative ease. Between 20 and 60 mph, there isn’t another car in our fleet that will keep up.
The neck-stretching acceleration isn’t the best thing about this car- the balance is. With some tuning help from Walker Evans, and some mass relocation from TMW, this car feels like it rotates around a ball-bearing pivot between the front seats. You can actually feel the difference in weight distribution in rough terrain, where the car feels more planted and controlled in fore/aft bucking motions. It’s no more plush than a standard XP4 the way we have the suspension set up, but it will take a lot more of a beating before it starts to reach its limits. The Walker Velocity Series shocks are a force to be reckoned with in the dunes, allowing you to slam through transitions and G-outs without worry of bottoming. For now, we plan to keep this car in the fleet and put some miles on it. It’s a true testament to a simple concept: build it right, keep the weight low, and prioritize tuning and suspension over sheer speed. The car works great just about everywhere, and really erases the miles during a long trip. The one thing we aren’t happy with? The distance we are limited to using the stock 10 gallon tank!
CAGE: TMW OFFROAD VENOM X4 SHORTY
TIN WORK: TMW OFFROAD CUSTOM 3-DOOR REAR SHEETMETAL KIT
DOORS: TMW SIDEWINDER FULL DOORS
WHIPS: QUICK LIGHT 4 FOOT LED LIGHTED WHIPS
SEATS: TRIPLE X CUSTOM VENOM SEATS
TIE RODS: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES TURRET STYLE
RADIUS RODS: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES HIGH CLEARANCE
SAND WHEELS: RACELINE RHINO 14” BEADLOCKS
SAND TIRES: FRONT 32” BUFFED SKAT TRACK, REAR 31” STU BLACK BIRD 16 PADDLE COMP CUT
DIRT WHEELS: STI HD9 BEADLOCK
DIRT TIRES: STI ENDURO XT/S 30/9.5-R14
FRONT SHOCKS: WALKER EVANS RACING VELOCITY SERIES 2.5 PIGGYBACKS
REAR SHOCKS: WALKER EVANS RACING VELOCITY SERIES 2.5 PIGGYBACKS
SWAYBAR LINKS: WALKER EVANS WALKER LINKS
CLUTCHING: EPI SPORT KIT BELT: OEM POLARIS
ECU: DYNOJET POWER COMMANDER TUNED BY WELLER RACING
WRAP: WOLF DESIGNS CUSTOM GOLD FLAKE PEARL
LIGHT BAR: KC HILITES 30” FLEX BAR
SHIFTER: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES HELLFIRE
GRILL: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES HELLFIRE
FIRE EXTINGUISHER: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES
EXHAUST: HMF TITAN STAINLESS SLIP ON
STEREO: JBL UB4100 BLUETOOTH SOUND BAR
RADIO: RUGGED RADIOS RM-60
INTERCOM: RUGGED RADIOS RRP660+
FRESH AIR SYSTEM: RUGGED RADIOS M3 TWO-PERSON AIR PUMPER
WIRING: XTC POWER PRODUCTS PCS-64
WINDSHIELD: TMW FULL LAMINATED GLASS
HARNESSES: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES 2” 5 POINT HARNESS
MIRRORS: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES BOMBER B2 BILLET
STEERING WHEEL: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES TOMAHAWK
OTHER PARTS: ASSAULT 3” STEERING COLUMN EXTENDER, TMW CUSTOM STORAGE RACK, IN2DIRT ASSEMBLED TOOL AND PARTS BINS FOR UNDER REAR HATCH