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TEXT: Sandeep Goswami (Old Fox)
Photos: Sundeep Gajjar (Motographer)/ Ashish Guliani
Mud-slinging, with all its negative connotations, was never as much fun as it was when done astride a machine that’s a pro at it. A powerful, nimble, capable, tough and aggressive machine like the Polaris RZR 800S for example. ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles) are in every sense true to their name, capable of taking you though almost anything the lie of the land throws up short of climbing over rock walls and ascending mountains. Anything that constitutes a trail and is wide enough for its four wheels is fair game for the likes of the 800S. In fact in evolved markets for the ATV’s they are rated according to the their wheel track – the 50 inch ones capable of taking the tighter trails while the 60 inch ones needing the regular trails that allow jeeps and buggies. The RZR 800S incidentally is a 60 incher.
The 800 was once the big brother in the Sport side by side ATV world though is now superseded by the more powerful 900’s and 1000’s. But the presence of bigger brethren in no way undermines its superlative capabilities. Powered by a 760cc high-output twin cylinder 4-stroke engine that is liquid cooled and belts out a healthy 55 bhp, most of it accessible at low rpm’s as is the tree-stump pulling torque right from tick-over speeds. Capable of blistering acceleration on off-road flats notching up 60 kmph in less than 5 seconds, the 800S is just as adept at climbing out of deep holes and ascending up slopes where the driver only gets to see the sky while the 800S does the climbing! More on that later though. Lets take a wordy walk-around of the vehicle and get to know it before climbing in and flinging it around. Or will it be the other way round with the 800 flinging us around!
What you notice foremost on your first encounter with the RZR 800S is its size and stance. Big and butch. The fat all-terrain tyres, tall roll-cage, the hornet-face twin lamps up front flanking the radiator grille all suspended on a visually exposed and complex looking suspension. But above all the vehicle exudes purpose. Quite like ‘take me where you fear treading on foot’. The RZR looks toughness personified with even the plastics feeling and appearing ‘muscular’ to coin an expression. Inside the roll cage the seats provide enough space for both the driver and the passenger. The harness and the side-retaining nets work in tandem with the contoured seats and the roll-cage in making the occupants feel well fitted in and safe through the range of antics that the RZR can be put through. The tilt-adjustable steering gives the option of somewhat more room for the six-footers and plus who might feel the seating to be a trifle tight. The 60 inch wheel track and the 70 inch wheel base provide it with enough stability to be poled around with gay abandon both by the trained expert and the timid amateur. The 27 inch Bighorns give excellent traction and contribute substantially to the suspension cushioning. The 12 inch ground clearance is enough to take you over almost anything without even the thought of side-stepping it occurring.
Add to the ground clearance the 12 inches of suspension travel through the dual A arm front suspension and a similar dual A arm bolstered by a anti-roll bar at the rear. This independent suspension system allows the 800S to climb with one wheel and traverse a ditch with the other and still keep the traction flowing through the tyres. The on-demand 2WD/4WD shift on the fly option is a real boon. The 2WD high ratios suffice for most off-road work with the low ratio or the 4WD needed when either climbing over tricky rocks or climbing steep gradients. The driver has at his disposal the Polaris variable Transmission, a version of the usual CVT thing but one optimized for extreme low end torque by Polaris. The ‘gear lever’ on the right hand side of the steering wheel can be shifted through Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. The low and high forward ranges are between themselves are sufficient to pull you out of any tight spot you find yourself in, be it so in terms of gradient, traction, slush or sand. Clutch engagement is a trifle abrupt owing more to the hefty torque that comes in even at very low rpms.
Settled in the seat with the harness up tight and the retaining nets latched (don’t forget that helmet please), you face a minimalist fascia that has a slot for the ignition key, a digital display for gear position, fuel level and an analogue speedo in the same housing. Alongside are switches for selecting 2WD/4WD, one for the headlights, a 12v charging socket and yes, a couple of cup holders! Ensure the shifter in P (Park) position and turn the ignition key to bring the 760cc twin to life. And it comes alive soon enough with a low rumble and settles to a lumpy but steady idle so typical of big pistons thrashing about. The engine responds to the throttle pedal inputs with alacrity. Shifting to Drive and pressing the throttle gets you underway with a decisiveness that is neck snapping if you have a heavy right foot. The tyres grip with nary a slip and the 464 kg hulk gathers speed with a vengeance irrespective of what lies in its tracks. The direct unassisted steering gives good feedback and feeds in just the right amount of resistance to inputs. The 800 S steers precisely almost belying the presence of loose mud and rocks under its wheels. The suspension smothers the undulations and only the big jumps and whumps get past and through to the occupants. The passenger side has a very useful grab handle on the dash in front that is adjustable for reach. The seats though are not adjustable quickly though can be moved forward and back a bit by unbolting and re-bolting on additional mounting holes.
2 wheel drive is where the real fun is as it allows you to drift wild on loose surfaces. Just apply full lock to the steering wheel and floor that throttle for the inside wheel to start spinning madly for traction while the outside one powers through. Correction opposite lock and you shoot off straight at a blistering pace. Fun huh! The gradeability is nothing short of fantastic for some not accustomed to ATV antics. Descending down slopes where you only see the ground coming up and climbing up slopes when only the sky is visible are everyday stuff for the 800S. Turning radius is pretty tight and rare are times when you need to three-point in a tight spot. The high ground clearance gets even better by straddling the high spots and the well protected underbelly makes for a feeling of further security on the roughest of terrain. The shock absorbers are adjustable for preload and the spring rates have been selected so well that rare would be a need for any further adjustability for the ordinary mortals who would ride it. In fact the rebound damping was so quick that we really had to work hard at getting even the front wheels up in the air on a bump. The moment the wheels were unloaded the suspension would extend to full length and make contact with the ground.
The brakes, for an off-road vehicle, have astounding retardation prowess. We wonder where the tyres and the brakes get the kind of traction for that kind of phenomenal braking that 800 S displays. Hydraulic discs both up front and rear allied with steel braided brake lines do this fabulous job of stopping this hulk on the proverbial dime. Pedal feedback is also good and braking can be accurately graded underfoot. The ATV can be hitched to a 800 kilo load on a trailer if need be.
An outstanding machine purpose built and standing true to it to the core. A machine that lets you go where you wouldn’t possibly want to walk (through knee deep slush for example) and then some more. The ability of the RZR 800S to climb or descend on slopes that seem difficult to handle even on foot in nothing short of astounding. And the user-friendliness of the engine, chassis and the controls makes it as much a fun machine for the novice as it is useful for the expert.
Not being street legal, you do not need to pay any registration fee on buying one. Of course you cannot drive them around on public roads. But then who would buy an RZR 800S to drive to office huh!