Finally! The Rangers get tilt steering, new adjustable coil over front suspension and a host of refinements.
In 2009, Polaris has really paid attention to what consumers have wanted in their Ranger line up. To begin, let’s just make a list of updated items on the exciting redesigned Ranger 4×4 and XP:
• Completely redesigned body providing a much sportier, aggressive look
• HD Front Bumper with inset light mounting points, tow hooks and tie down points
• Fixed main hood with flip-up center, providing good access to electronics
• No more front struts = Welcome all new adjustable coil over front suspension
• 2” more front suspension travel
• 50% easier steering effort
• 140% more usable storage and 50% more than nearest competitor
• Larger cup holders in better location
• Removable sealed under seat storage = No more side opening door under driver’s seat
• Tilt steering wheel that’s centered in front of the driver instead of off-center
• Improved seating geometry = 8 degrees more lean-back to the seat with small side bolsters
• Repositioned parking brake
And, as if that wasn’t enough for the Ranger product line, there’s a new version of the Ranger XP called the Ranger HD! So, what is the Ranger HD, you ask? Well, it’s Polaris’s answer to the ultimate do-everything ranch or construction utility vehicle. Here’s what items it adds to the drastically updated Ranger XP:
• Variable Power Assisted Steering = Literally pinky finger effort is all it takes
• Self Leveling Nivomat Rear Suspension = Full ground clearance up to maximum payload
• Optional Lift and Carry System
So, now that we’ve cut to the chase and given you all the updates up front, let’s describe what some of these updates have done for the drivability of the new Rangers. To start, let’s talk about the new front suspension of the Rangers. If you’ve ever driven a Ranger XP before, you know that the suspension, especially up front, is very plush but offers no adjustability. That has proven awesome in slow speed situations like mud riding or rock crawling, but when the speeds increase, being able to adjust the shocks is paramount for keeping a good ride quality. In the past Ranger models, you couldn’t do anything about the stiffness of the front suspension. This year, Polaris eliminated the front struts and replaced it with dual A-arms and coil over shocks. What does this mean? Well, this opens up the long travel market quite a bit for the Rangers. Not only that, you have the same level of adjustment in the front as you do the rear. Plus, you can move the upper shock mounting locations outward or inward to increase shock dampening. By moving the upper shock mount outward, essentially what’s happening is that the motion ratio is increasing. What does this mean exactly? Well, in the case of you having the same spring and dampening inside the shock, it means you can carry more weight and the dampening is more effective or stiffer. The only downside is there’s slightly less wheel travel, because the shock shaft moves more for each inch of wheel travel. For example, if the motion ratio of the shock in the inward most position is .6, this means for every inch of wheel travel the shock moves .6”. If you move the shock’s mounting position outward and the motion ratio say changes to .7, instead of .6, this ultimately means that with a 6” shock stroke you would lose approximately 1.5” of wheel travel. Now, this has just been an explanation of how it works and not true numbers for the Polaris. It’s probably not that drastic on the Ranger, but the nice thing is now you don’t have to run rubber spring spacers when running a plow, because all you have to do is move out the upper shock mount and stiffen the spring preload.
The second most noticeable changes made to the Rangers this year is by way of ergonomics, and Polaris really delivered what consumers wanted. I swear they updated everything the consumers wanted, except for maybe the engine being the bigger 800 that we would all love to have. No more bus-like steering wheel that’s off center from where you sit. Now you have a nice tilt steering wheel similar to the one in the RZR that is directly in front of the driver. On top of that, for those long rides, you can now relax even more with 50% less steering effort required. The second most noticeable thing is the extra 8 degrees of angle to the back of the bench seat. This definitely added to the comfort of driving the new Rangers. Not only that, the seats now have slightly more contour to them, which is designed to keep the drivers and passengers better planted and comfortable. Although nice, you still find yourself trying to hold yourself in more than a bucket seat. But, the advantage a bench seat has over the buckets is 3-row seating. Make sure you read the accessory section, because there are some new accessories that really increase the comfort of the Rangers. In addition, by way of ergonomics, Polaris added a little separator on the floorboard to prevent the middle passenger from getting in the way of the gas pedal. The two other things that definitely need mentioning are the much larger cup holders and 140% more usable storage than last year. You’ll notice in some of the pictures that there are all kinds of places to put gear in the Rangers, not that it was much of a problem before.
The last things to point out on the Rangers are the styling and overall functionality changes made to the exterior. To start, Polaris did a fantastic job this year in changing the styling of the new Rangers. It has a much more aggressive body style that doesn’t just look good, either. Up front, not only did they change the hood design drastically, they also shortened it a few inches. What does this do, you ask? Well, when you sit down in the new Ranger, you have more leg and knee room, which is a very welcome improvement for us taller drivers and passengers. Secondly, with the new pop-up hood, you now have easy access to the stock battery, but also a pre-molded location for a second battery for all those interested in adding major electrical accessories. There’s also pre-molded places for your winch electronics, as well. This brings me to the very front of the Ranger. Ever wondered where the best place is to tie down your Ranger? Well, this year, Polaris made built-in tie-down locations along with tow hooks and inset light mounting points for aftermarket lights.
So, now that we’ve talked about all the nice additions to the new Rangers, you’re probably wondering how it drove, right? Well, needless to say, the engineered changes to the Ranger this year make it almost a totally different machine. Upon initially stepping on the gas and beginning to maneuver the vehicle up the trails, you’ll notice right off the steering takes less effort. The power delivery feels relatively the same as last year, but one thing they did this year is change the gas pedal to further enhance slow speed drivability. The first half of the gas pedal stroke only opens the throttle body ¼ of the way. The last half of the pedal stroke opens the throttle the remaining ¾ of the way. So, essentially, you’ll notice that feathering the throttle at slow speeds, whether rock crawling or traversing a technical trail, you’ll find is just like a car…smooth as silk. And, most noticeably you’ll begin to realize you’re not driving your grandpa’s farm utility vehicle anymore. The front suspension really gives the new Rangers a sporty feel to them with precise steering and a firmer, sportier valving setup to absorb the bigger bumps at higher speeds. At slow speeds, it’s definitely firmer than previous models, but not by too much. I noticed that for whatever reason, whether it was the front steering geometry or weight bias, but you could really flick the rear end of the Rangers around into nice controllable power slides, which was nearly impossible with past year’s models. Overall, Polaris really delivered with the 2009 Rangers.
Review By: UTV Off-Road Magazine