Published on January 27th, 2014 | by Joe
2014 Polaris Sportsman ACE 325 First Test: with VIDEO
A new take on an old concept yields a fun, entry-level machine like no other.
Back in the 1980s, Honda offered several single-seat, caged vehicles: the Odyssey 250 and 350, and the 400 Pilot. These two-stroke machines were a lot of fun, but their two-wheel-drive designs were somewhat limiting for trail use. The 1989 Pilot 400 retailed for $8,999, a staggering price tag for the time, which undoubtedly contributed to the machine’s early demise from the market.
Fast forward 24 years, and Polaris has become a dominant force in the off-road market, thanks, in part, to its successful line of RZR side-by-sides and Sportsman ATV models. Recently, Polaris turned its attention to capturing a bigger piece of the pie in the entry-level ATV market. Rather than simply designing another conventional ride-on model, they decided to rewrite the rules by designing and building a caged ride-in vehicle similar to the old Odysseys, but with four-stroke power, two or four-wheel-drive, and greater cargo capacity. The result is the 2014 Polaris Sportsman Ace 325.
What is it?
Polaris classifies the new Sportsman Ace as an ATV; however, we can’t quite wrap our heads around this. It’s clearly not a side-by-side, and it’s not really a utility vehicle(UTV), and while it may be capable of “all terrain”, it’s not a conventional ride-on ATV. It’s a single seat car for which we don’t think there is really a classification yet.
While the machine is all new, it does borrow much of its technology and design from other Polaris vehicles. This is obvious when looking at the body work of the machine.
The new lower chassis combines with a new ROPS cage.A McPherson strut front-end is similar to the one used on many Polaris ATV models. The dual A-arm and sway bar-equipped rear end is borrowed from the RZR 570. The front struts control 8.2 inches of suspension travel, while the preload-adjustable rear shocks control 9.8 inches of movement.
The machine is powered by a new water-cooled, 325cc Pro Star 32 engine that’s claimed to put out 32hp. The engine features a four-valve, single-overhead-cam design, which is a rather high-performance design for an engine of this displacement. The cylinder is lined with nickel for reduced friction and better heat dissipation. Fuel is delivered to the engine by electronic fuel injection, so cold starts and altitude changes shouldn’t be an issue.
The transmission is borrowed from the heavier, higher horsepower RZR 570 so it should easily hold up in the Ace.It features a fully automatic, high and low forward ranges, plus neutral, reverse, and park.The drive system features both two and all-wheel-drive.
As you would expect in a car, or on any Polaris vehicle, the Ace features four-wheel braking.
Hoping to attract a number of females sitting on the sidelines who are intimidated by riding a conventional ATV on rough terrain, and knowing that guys would eagerly want to put the Ace to the test, Polaris made sure that the ergonomics were as versatile as the vehicle. Like the RZR models, the steering wheel is tilt adjustable. Like the RZR 1000, the Ace features an automotive-style seat adjustment system.
At 48 inches wide, the Ace is the same width as the Sportsman quads. The engine was moved back in the chassis, and the wheelbase was stretched 11 inches to 61.5 inches long for added stability and to make room for the sit-in cockpit. The weight of the cage and additional length of the car add up to an 835 pound dry weight; 133 pounds heavier than the Sportsman 570 quad.
Polaris recently invited us out to the Hidden Valley Ride Park near Marble Falls, Texas, to put this exciting new model to the test.
Test rider, Rob Ray, helped us put the Ace to the test, dressed in his Fly Racing F2 Helmet and Fly Racing Kinetic pants and jersey.
Stepping into the machine, the adjustable tilt steering wheel and adjustable seat make setting up the cockpit’s ergonomics a breeze for riders of most sizes. The brake and gas pedal are located by your right foot, where you would expect them. The little ridge running down the center of the floor board may annoy riders with large feet, but didn’t hamper reaching the brake pedal.The transmission’s range selector is easily reached, located by your right hip. The turn-key starter and two-wheel, all-wheel-drive selector switch is located on the dash panel.
Rolling on the gas, the 325cc Pro Star 32 engine pulls gently off the line. Low-end power is pretty mellow and shouldn’t overwhelm even complete novices. Entering the midrange, the engine continues pulling steadily, but it feels a little sleepy for experienced riders. Most EPA-compliant stock engines start signing off early in the upper RPMs, so just when you think the Ace is lacking in the engine department, it pleasantly surprises you with a controllable, but very noticeable, surge of top-end power. The engine’s top-end surge gives it a sporty feeling that makes the Ace fun for experienced drivers.
We regularly utilized the transmission’s low range for rock crawling. The clutch engages at very low speeds in low range, allowing you to crawl along, providing plenty of responsiveness for crawling over rock ledges or small logs. In low range, the machine tops out around 25mph.
The engine’s top end rush makes the machine fun in wide-open spaces, and allows you to get out of corners at a good clip. In high range, we got the Ace up to 45mph on one straight, and heard of another 200-pound editor getting his unit up to around 50mph.
The Ace provides a greater level of stability than you might expect. With a longer wheelbase, lower seat height, and ¾ inch lower ride height than the ride-on Sportsman 570, the machine’s center of gravity has been kept pretty low, despite having a roll cage.It feels very planted on climbs and descents and never felt tippy on the side-hills we encountered. You can pitch it sideways out of corners in gravel or mud; however, there isn’t quite enough width or horsepower to break the back end loose in high traction corners without running the possibility of two-wheeling. Like any four-wheeled machine, there is a tipping point, but we felt the Ace was plenty stable for aggressive driving on most trails.
Steering effort is pretty light, as is bump feedback felt through the steering. The Ace does a good job of going where it’s pointed with little pushing and no hint of over-steer.On loose corners, Rob loved braking hard, then steering in to set the car up for the turn. After getting back in the gas, he would let the steering wheel slip through his fingers as the front end straightened itself out, seemingly knowing where to go.The steering requires a little more management on uneven, washed out sections that might want to make the front end wander, but overall, its steering is predictable.
The selectable all-wheel-drive system operates in two-wheel drive, unless the rear wheels start spinning, at which point the front wheels kick in providing four-wheel-drive. After you chop the throttle and get back in the gas, the system will revert back to two-wheel-drive unless the rear wheels start spinning again. Having that all-wheel-drive option is super important in a ride-in vehicle you plan to be riding on sometimes muddy or very rocky trails.If the old Honda Odyssey had offered it, it might have been more popular and stuck around longer. Polaris got it right.
Rob’s favorite part of the machine’s performance was its suspension. It soaked up rocks, was plush on small drop-offs, and never bottomed when getting a little air. The suspension is fully capable of dealing with the performance of the engine, which makes the car fun to drive, regardless of your skill level.Our video revealed a little body roll exiting corners, which we may have been able to tune out somewhat with the rear shocks’ preload adjustment and a little more time.Although we weren’t provided with the terrain to find out for sure, we believe hammering whoops could get a little sketchy due to the compact dimensions of the car, but it isn’t designed for that.
Braking performance was also quite good. You could easily modulate the vehicle’s speed on descents, and lock all four wheels up in the loose stuff.
Despite its ¾ inch lower ride height, we were surprised at some of the obstacles we straddled with the Ace’s 10.25 inches of ground clearance.We only framed out a couple of times and never managed to get hung up.
While we liked the appearance of the Ace, some skeptics on the Internet are already judging its performance, based on its dimensions and looks alone. Coming into the test with an open mind, we finished our day blabbering about how much fun the machine was to drive. Rob was looking to buy a new ATV for his wife, Cheryl, prior to the event and was set on buying her an Ace by the time it was all over. After seeing video of the unit, Cheryl was ready to kick her new car out of the garage to make room for it.
While we’re not quite sure what it is, we think it’s a cool machine that is right on target for its intended market, and a lot of fun for everyone else.
|Name||2014 Sportsman Ace|
|Price||$7499 US, $8499 CAN|
|Engine Type||4-Stroke DOHC Single Cylinder|
|Displacement||Title: Horsepower, Copy: 32HP|
|Fuel System||Electronic Fuel Injection|
|Transmission/Final Drive||Automatic PVT P/R/N/L/H; Shaft|
|Drive System||On-Demand True AWD/2WD|
|Engine Braking System||N/A|
|Active Descent Control||N/A|
|Front Suspension||MacPherson Strut With 8.2″ (20.8 cm) Travel|
|Rear Suspension||Dual A-Arm, Anti-Sway Bar 9.5″ (24 cm) Travel|
|Front/Rear Brakes||4-Wheel Hydraulic Disc with Dual-Bore Front Calipers|
|Parking Brake||Park in Transmission|
|Tires / Wheels|
|Front Tires||25 x 8-12; 489|
|Rear Tires||25 x 10-12; 489|
|Dimensions / Capacities|
|Dry Weight||835 lb|
|Overall Vehicle Size (L x W x H)||90″ x 48″ x 68″|
|Fuel Capacity||5.25 gallons|
|Front/Rear Rack or Box Capacity||120 lb (55 kg)/240 lb (110 kg)|
|Payload Capacity||575 lbs (261 kg)|
|Hitch Towing Rating||1,500 lb|
|Unbraked Trailer Towing Capacity||N/A|
|Cargo System||Lock & Ride|
|Lighting||Halogen, 55W low/ 60W high|
|Electronic Power Steering||N/A|
|Instrumentation||Digital Gauge, Analog Speedometer, Odometer, Tachometer, Tripmeter, Gear Indicator, Fuel Gauge, AWD Indicator, Hi-Temp/Low-Batt Lights, DC Outlet|
2014 Polaris Sportsman ACE 325: Ratings
Summary: While we liked the appearance of the Ace, some skeptics on the Internet are already judging its performance, based on its dimensions and looks alone. Coming into the test with an open mind, we finished our day blabbering about how much fun the machine was to drive. Rob was looking to buy a new ATV for his wife, Cheryl, prior to the event and was set on buying her an Ace by the time it was all over. After seeing video of the unit, Cheryl was ready to kick her new car out of the garage to make room for it.