The 2021 Polaris RZR Trail goes where most side-by-sides can’t
Five years ago I spent a few days from Mexico drive a Can-Am Maverick X3 X RS side-by-side. This jumble of names translates to “Baja factory runner,” and Baja strollers are wide. This X3 is six feet wide, which aside from increasing stability, looks cool as hell, like a predatory creature from another galaxy, or a Team Associated RC off-road at 1: 1 scale. The next year I rode a standard 64-inch-wide Polaris RZR during Joey Logano’s race, and I thought to myself, “If only that sucker was wider, I would have triumphed over this turn and I wouldn’t have made a NASCAR driver laugh at me. ”(At least, not for that reason.) But wisdom comes with winters, and I’m now here to tell you that a wide side-to-side isn’t whatever you want. No friends. Trail width is where it is. By that I mean 50 inches. Narrow is the new wide.
Now if you live in the sprawling Great West and your backyard looks like Tatooine, then buy the largest machine you can find. But if you live in an area I’ll call “everywhere else” your trails will include trees, locks, and rocks, not all of them spaced more than 64 inches apart, let alone 72 inches. Enter the track width machine, as the Polaris RZR 2021 Trail, which packs the all-terrain essentials – all-wheel drive, 75-horsepower twin-cylinder engine, Fox suspension – into a slim package. Not only will the dang thing squeeze through the trees, but it will also fit in the bed of a regular full-size pickup truck. And the only thing better than Bring a trailer is No need for a trailer.
To take advantage of the tidy dimensions of the Trail, I took it to a place that is normally not very user-friendly: Devil’s crest, in Sanford, North Carolina. The place is all-terrain bike-centric, with a busy motocross track and two-stroke cackling echoing through the trees every Sunday. I’m pretty sure the RZR wouldn’t be welcome on the MX trail, but there is also a nice five mile trail loop through the surrounding woods. Legend has it that this trail started out as a single track for mountain bikes before evolving into a slightly wider single track for dirt bikes and ATVs. Needless to say the trail is one way so once you get there you are on your way. Trees crowd around every corner as the path winds through the forest, and the two wooden bridges are generously sized for two-wheeled vehicles. Four wheels? If you are wider than 50 inches, you had better learn to ride stunts on two wheels like Travis Pastrana.
Speaking of which, he also touted the virtues of slim side-to-side when I visited him last year at his personal off-road playground, Pastranaland. He has a loop through the woods where everyone is battling for the best lap time in the Can-Ams he drives. It’s not a particularly narrow track – plenty of room for a 72 inch machine – but he told me the fastest times are with a 64 inch machine. “Those eight inches make a difference,” he said. “It’s eight inches longer to take a better line through the trees.” Or, as is the case at Devil’s Ridge, to fit between the trees.
The RZR uses a CVT with high and low range and selectable rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. I went on high-end all-wheel drive with my friend Giuseppe following in his Can-Am Maverick (a 50 inch trail model as well). With the 875cc twin developing 75 horsepower against around 1,300 pounds of weight, the Trail accelerates with a ferocity exaggerated by the proximity of the trees. With an endless succession of blind wedges and longleaf pines streaking inches from your doorstep, 20 mph feels like Warp Zone in Mint 400.
While the trail appears to be lowered next to something like a RZR XP 1000, it nevertheless offers 11 inches of ground clearance and 10 inches of suspension travel from its Fox Podium 2.0 coil-sprung shocks. Translation: In situations where you think you might need to slow down, like a rock strewn climb, you can actually speed up and seemingly jump over the trail’s rubbish. And the RZR’s CVT, like that of the Yamaha Wolverine, provides engine braking when you release the throttle, to the point that fast, smooth sections of track don’t require much use of the brake pedal. Some side-by-side vehicles are reluctant to turn with all-wheel drive engaged, but this one is nimble and eager to seek the interior line. I guess even in AWD mode the majority of the torque goes to the rear axle.
My main complaint, which applies to most side-by-side vehicles, is that I consider CVTs to be The Big Bang Theory of transmissions — popular, but I don’t understand why. This one works well on a trail, where you’re constantly shifting gears – hey, you’re never in the wrong gear. But if you find yourself on a fire road or other constant-revving situations, the engine will go up to around 4,500 rpm and stay there, while a real gearbox would allow you to shift gears. and relax. Plus, the shift paddles are fun. Going down a bend is fun. But if you want a track-width side-by-side, you get one with a CVT. The Honda Talon (six-speed dual-clutch) and the Yamaha YXZ1000 (five-speed sequential) are both at least 64 inches wide.
Normally, looping Devil’s Ridge on an ATV or side-by-side requires frequent stops to let off-road bikes pass – no matter how fast you go, it probably won’t be fast enough for maniacs on KTMs. the. But today, we are not really stopping traffic. Recent rain has made the trail muddy and bikers have to make their way through these spots if they don’t want to cross a bog. Meanwhile, with solid doors and a tight tub (there are removable drains in the floor), I stay clean despite the occasional dips in a quagmire. It’s a luxury to go in the mud without carrying the terrain home.
When it’s time to tidy up, I park the RZR in my six foot wide trailer, then take advantage of another advantage of the width of the trail: I can actually open the door to exit. Normally the side-by-side clutters the walls of the trailer so that you have to pull a Dukes of Hazzard move to go up or down. Such flexibility is not necessary here.
The RZR Trail starts at $ 13,499 for a Sport model, which puts it on the more affordable end of the side-by-side spectrum. This one is the Ultimate ($ 17,499), which includes goodies like a Rockford Fosgate sound system and a beefed up navigation system and rear view camera. And no, it won’t win a drag race with a 181 horsepower RZR Pro XP, but it will likely go wherever its larger, more expensive siblings can go. And also a lot of places where they can’t.
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