The UTVUnderground 2021 Polaris RZR Pro XP Ultimate Shakedown
Alright here’s the two minute history lesson on the RZR. Thirteen years ago Polaris did something that no one expected them to do. They introduced a variation on the wildly successful Ranger utility vehicle – called the “Ranger RZR”. They did this to add a sport model variation to the Ranger lineup – but quickly realized that they had birthed an entirely new category of side by side – the SPORT UTV. Well…ALMOST. There were some previous stabs at sport UTV’s by major OEMs – such as the Honda Odyssey, and later the Pilot. (Which incidentally led to Class 34 and 44 in SCORE desert racing and Mickey Thompson stadium racing.) But when Polaris launched the first RZR in 2008 they really planted the seed for where we are today. That first machine ran a 760cc motor with 52 horsepower – less than 1/4th of the power that most UTV’s come standard with today. BUT – it was the blueprint for an evolution that has now spanned over a decade of engineering excellence. Here’s a quick snapshot of the RZR lineage, which is really impressive when you look at how far they have come in such a short period of time:
2008 – Ranger RZR 800
2009 – RZR S 800 & 170
2011 – RZR XP 900
2012 – RZR 570
2014 – RZR XP 1000
2016 – RZR XP Turbo
2018 – RZR Turbo S DYNAMIX, RS1
2020 – Pro XP DYNAMIX 2.0
Within a few years of the 2008 debut Polaris was making big improvements on power with the XP model in 2011. Then in 2012 they extended the line with the introduction of the smaller 570. By model year 2014 the RZR had advanced enough that it was picked to be the centerpiece of a four year viral video dynasty dubbed XP1K featuring RJ Anderson. And by 2016 Polaris introduced the first turbocharged model. Two short years later they came out with the Turbo S – which was an absolute game changer in terms of its strength and size, as well as the Dynamix suspension system and the single seat RS1. And finally for 2020 they once again expanded the RZR line with the Pro XP series, and revealed the second generation of the Dynamix shocks.
So that is how we got here – nearly a decade and a half of innovation, testing, manufacturing excellence, and yes some bumps along the road. But if you walk into any Polaris dealership today you can still pick up a RZR 170 for the kids, a 50” 570 for the older kids, three versions of the 60” 900, and two of the 900 S. There’s a S 1000, single seat RS1, two versions of the XP 1000, a well equipped 64” RZR XP Turbo, and now three iterations of the RZR PRO XP line – and that’s not even counting the special editions and four seat models! It’s enough to make your head spin. But at the very very top…the tippy top of that lineup is the brand new 2021 Pro XP Ultimate
This 2021 RZR Pro XP is technically the 14th model year for the RZR. The Pro XP line was completely new for 2020 and it received rave reviews when it launched – especially in the midwest because of the more narrow 64” stance as opposed to the 72” width of the Turbo S – it’s predecessor. Despite the fact that the specs seem the same and the appearance hasn’t changed too much these machines have received extensive upgrades for 2021. We’ll get to those in a second. But in terms of the Pro XP lineup – these turbocharged, 181 horsepower machines – are available in three trim levels, Sport, Premium and Ultimate. The Sport model is the base. The Premium package adds Ride Command, Rockford Fosgate audio, LED accent lighting, six point harnesses and telescoping wheel. While the Ultimate model adds Dynamix 2.0 – the computer controlled suspension system.
Back in October Polaris shipped us a nicely broken-in Pro XP Ultimate with about 700 miles on it – in Matte Titanium Metallic! Though some people griped about the look of this machine when it launched we have to say it has really grown on us. When you step back and really look at it – it does not feel like it needs a new roll cage. That’s probably the biggest immediate take away. It really looks ready to ride. It sports the same chassis as last year, it’s a 96” wheelbase and 64” width sitting on 30” MAXXIS Carnivore tires. But Polaris somehow managed to make their new wheels 18% lighter to improve acceleration and suspension performance. Pretty slick. Personally we’re not a fan of vented doors but they do compliment the line of the machine and closeoff inserts are only a few hundred bucks for a pair. New this year are door latch bumper updates prevent doors from rattling. The bed box on these machines have come a long way in terms of setup for different boxes. There’s a forward and rear storage box for this machine that adds a ton of sealed storage for the trail. Definitely worth exploring when you’re sorting out the rear end. Polaris also has a spare tire carrier. In fact there are 20 additional accessories available for Pro XP models, including the RIGID Chase Light with eleven selectable modes and new doors and windshields for more cab options to boost rider comfort.
The other notable exterior updates are the material used for the engine intake – which is now blow molded, resulting in improved durability at higher temperatures, increasing the ability to go full throttle longer. AND, improved rear shock guards which now feature sides that index to the shock to help avoid rotation. Finally the updated rear tender springs last longer and improve suspension performance.
MOTOR + TRANS:
The Pro XP Ultimate has a turbocharged 925cc, 4-stroke engine with dual overhead cams and twin cylinders. It’s the same tired and true electronic fuel injected 181 horsepower motor and automatic on-demand all-wheel drive transmission that Polaris has had so much success with these past ten plus years. Most of the competition in the 64” category is at or near 900 to 925cc and 180 to 195 horsepower – but Polaris is less concerned about leading the specs in these categories and more focused than ever with making a more driveable machine. We’ll get into how the motor feels in a minute, but suffice to say this vehicle has a massive amount of power and is incredibly responsive.
When we tested the 2020 Pro XP in Las Vegas in the summer of 2019 for its debut the suspension felt a bit overwhelmed. Granted our test machine was dealing with two full grown men slamming through some of the roughest desert in the country. But compared to the Turbo S we felt that some more work needed to be done to make up for the smaller tire size. Well the Dynamix 2.0 system addresses that and does so very elegantly. The combination of the FOX 2.5 Podium Live Valve shocks with Bottom-Out Control AND the high clearance A-arms up front and high clearance radius rods in the back make for 20” of usable travel and frankly just a very smooth ride. This time around we were really impressed with the ride!
OK so what’s going on with the interior of these machines? In a word – comfort. One of the most overlooked and underrated features of any sport UTV is comfort. There was a metric ton of effort put into the Pro XP cockpit and they improved that even more for 2021. The adjustability of things like the seat – both the slider and the angle adjustment, and the tilt and telescoping steering are the first thing you notice when you sit down. It can be tough to accommodate guys who are pushing 300 pounds and well over six feet tall as well as those half our size, but somehow Polaris has done that. The overall seat comfort and storage are great. There are nice sightlines, it’s a really comfortable steering wheel size…It’s just a comfortable car to sit in.
A lot of the updates to this machine are evident while sitting in the driver’s seat. The Pro XP Premium trim now comes with Ride Command with integrated 7-inch touch display and Rockford Fosgate audio. That used to be standard issue for the Ultimate model only. Speaking of Ride Command there are a host of new features with the recent software update including some slick WiFi compatibility, Group Ride Messaging, Auto volume Control, AND updated gauge indicators. There are now configurable gauges and the new “Follow Mode” function for Group Ride. By selecting the leader of a group, this new feature allows riders to leave a track on the map that can be followed by others. That’s not Pro XP or even RZR specific but it’s nice to know all of that is standard at this price point.
On the audio side the Rockford Fosgate audio system has nearly three times the volume output, better bass response, and better sound quality at higher volumes. But if you really want to go all out you’ll want to pick up the Rockford Stage 4 audio upgrade which adds a sub and two more massive speakers right behind the headrest! And last but not least, all 2021 RZRs now come with a built-in trickle charge port in the dash to make it easy to maintain your battery. We ride our machines constantly so this isn’t much of an issue for us, but for those who take months off at a time due to weather, this is a nice little feature.
To do a proper shakedown on any vehicle you really need to ride it for months and months and work with it in a variety of conditions. Alternatively, you can tap a two time off-road champion like Corbin Leaverton to drive the hell out of a machine with you for a day and really put it through its paces. Corbin wrapped up his second WORCS championship recently and we thought he’d be the perfect person to help us shakedown the new Pro XP. We met in Ocotillo and started with some heavy whoops to test the new Dynamix 2.0 suspension, as well as the overall drivability of the machine.
The Dynamix 2.0 system is phenomenal on the new Pro XP’s. I am a big guy and I don’t like being slammed around in the passenger seat. But in these new machines the combination of the comfortable seat and harness, and the suspension feel like the stability of a much wider machine but with a much more nimble stance. It’s an amazing feeling to see the Dynamix system firm up the outside shocks in a corner, while softening the inside. That not only translates to less body roll but it the thick chop you can get up on top of the whoops and hold it faster, for longer.
Polaris also allows stacking so if you’re braking and cornering you’ll see different settings on the front vs. rear and inside vs. outside and they stack on top of one another…you can pretty easily see this on the 7” display if you turn the key all the way on, leave the shifter in P and hit the brakes and turn the steering wheel in sport mode for example. You’ll see the front outside corner as the firmest one and the rear inside as the softest with the other two adjusted in between depending on how hard you’re cornering. Overall the Dynamix system is pretty awesome and one of those features that riders of all levels can learn to depend on.
We raced down into some of the washes to test the steering and handling of the machine next, and it’s in these conditions that you really feel that sweet spot of wheelbase and turning radius. If the larger 72” machines with 32” tires or bigger are your thing god bless ya! But for a lot of riders the more nimble and powerful snappiness of these new Pro XP’s is the ticket. We spent hours rocketing around these tight washes dodging giant boulders, sand piles, and zipping through narrow canyons. The Pro XP has a 6” longer wheelbase than an XP Turbo, but because it has a tighter turning radius…you get the better ride comfort of the longer wheelbase. It’s even more nimble than previous models and way more nimble than the longer wheelbase competition.
The braking on the car was incredible too. We stopped on a dime several times from full speed runs and it never felt like the machine was out of our control. Polaris says they have improved the clutch alignment to reduce shift effort. And there were some mods to the air intake to keep things cool as well. We were racing around in 75 degree weather so we weren’t really able to test these machines under hot desert conditions yet. But overheating hasn’t been an issue for the Pro XP thus far.
We got a chance to use some of the Ride Command features and man have they come a long way. We love the digital gauges and seeing Dynamix in action was awesome too. I’m not sure why Polaris can make such an awesome 7” screen that works with gloves and Apple can’t with the iPhone but we’ll take it. We’re looking forward to using more of the group ride features in the future as well.
With a MSRP of $28,499 the Pro XP Ultimate is the most expensive machine in the Polaris arsenal, and on the market when compared to other 64” machines. The Maverick X3 X DS Turbo RR is priced at just over $25K for example, and has a similar powerband. But the Maverick X3 was built and introduced four plus years ago as a 72” machine – whereas the Pro XP was designed from the ground up as a 64” rocket. And that makes a world of difference at high speeds in the chop as you can see in our Shakedown video.
So what’s the verdict on the new 2021 PRO XP Ultimate? We love it. In fact it’s changed how we feel about the Pro XP platform. We were Turbo S die hard hold outs, last year even with some of the newer Pro XP features but between the Dynamix 2.0 and other improvements it’s pretty clear you can one-stop-shop with Polaris right now and build an amazing vehicle at a very affordable price. Gone are the days of needing a long travel kit, new cage, stereo system, and aftermarket cargo cases. It’s all right there at the dealer now with plenty of upgrade options as you go. Knowing the guys and gals at Polaris this is not the last Pro XP update and we all know something even more exciting is around the corner. But you can pick up a new Pro XP with the confidence it’s going to hold its value for years to come. We’re looking forward to driving this new machine for the season and hope to see you all out on the trail! Stay safe!
• Most refined and nimble Sport UTV on the market
• Big motor with lots of power – more than most will even need
• Comes stock with a roof, 30” tires, Ride Command, and Stereo
• Dynamix 2.0 Suspension is fantastic
• Interior well finished and laid out perfectly
• Pricier than other 64” machines on the market
• Some minor refinement still needed
• Additional cost for things like door inserts
The 2021 Polaris RZR Pro XP Ultimate is the perfect machine for those looking to buy the very best of the best in the Sport UTV category. It’s incredibly powerful, agile and nimble and has the best turning radius in class. It’s a well built evolutionary step for Polaris and has lots of features that make it trail ready and tons of fun to drive in the sand, mud and rocks. For those who want a graceful rocket ship with lots of comfort in a ready-to-ride package this is it. This may be the best 64” 2-seat sport UTV on the market right now.
Appearance – 5
Interior – 5
Ride Comfort – 5
Power – 5
Reliability – 5
Polaris are junk.