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Polaris eyes desert dominance with the 2018 Polaris RZR XP Turbo S

Do you like to go fast, test your driving skills, and holler a lot when you’re having a blast? If the answer is yes, and you’re OK with big clouds of dust, we have the what you’re looking for.

The steps are simple. Get in the driver’s seat of a Polaris RZR XP Turbo S, strap on a full face helmet, tighten the four-point safety harness, push the start button, and put the transmission in drive. Aim the RZR with boost-assisted power steering, step on the accelerator, and let your ride do all the work.

Sounds simple, right? That’s about all it takes to drive this formidable desert racing machine. Point, shoot, and go like hell. There is a bit more to it, depending on how fast and how hard you want to go, but with the Turbo S, there’s not much else you need to know.

Desert trail driving means rough, uneven surfaces, surprisingly sudden turns, and — as we mentioned — lost of dust. If you’re not in the lead position, you have to hang back, because rising dust trails cut your visibility drastically.

There’s also lots of hollering. It must be an involuntary human reaction, as many in our group of 40 odd journalists and Polaris personnel spontaneously hollered and yelled with excitement whenever we got up to speed, navigated tricky turns, and caught air.

The RZR’s Dynamix suspension responds to surface changes quickly to smooth out most bumps, but the side-by-side vehicle (a reference to the seating arrangement) still obeys the laws of physics. If you get overzealous and land extra hard, which we did a handful of times in five hours of enthusiastic driving, bottoming out the new RZR’s gargantuan 25 inches of suspension just elicits more hollering.

‘Nastiest RZR ever’

Billed by Polaris as “the nastiest RZR ever,” the XP Turbo S can take you places you didn’t think you could go off-road, at speeds you didn’t think you could handle. Unless you’re a professional desert racer, you will not outdrive the RZR XP Turbo S.

Unless you’re a professional desert racer, you will not outdrive the RZR XP Turbo S.

Polaris added the hot Dynamix Active Suspension to the already steaming RZR XP Turbo EPS last year, creating the Polaris RZR XP Turbo EPS Dynamix. The suspension’s central computer unit tracks nine factors using sensors in each of the vehicle’s four wheels. Based on the aggregate input, the suspension adjusts up to 200 times a second in three drive modes — comfort, sport, and firm.

Comfort mode is for easy, slow rides — like at the end of the day. Sport mode has a firmer suspension baseline to absorb minor bumps and dips so you can go faster without being thrashed about. Firm mode locks it all down and is best employed by experts and pros.

The Dynamix setup self-adjusts continuously to keep you stable in turns, and while braking, and accelerating, so you can maintain control while driving fast. Even when you’re airborne and landing hard, Dynamix adjusts automatically to help maintain control.

A bumpy — and fun — ride

In my earlier experience on the Mojave Desert’s barely-there trails west of Las Vegas in October 2017, I didn’t know what to expect. After an hour of rolling along in comfort mode, I clicked over to sport mode and discovered the fun of wailing down trails in a side-by-side. The suspension of the EPS Dynamix helped me drive like I knew what I was doing.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Taking turns with an experienced co-pilot in the RZR XP Turbo S put my earlier drives in a new perspective. The lastest side-by-side was so tight and capable, we both drove much faster most of the time than I remembered ever driving in the EPS Dynamix. When I rode shotgun, I had a chance to watch the right front tire bobbing up and down as the Dynamix suspension did its thing. The amount of travel was astounding, especially since little of it transferred to the driver and passenger seats.

I also learned quickly not to grab the passenger handle tight, brace my feet, and push my back into the seat during fast descents and jumps. Being one with a side-by-side’s frame wasn’t a great idea. Sitting loosely and holding onto the handle was much more comfortable when we hit bottom or landed.

The RZR’s transmission does the shifting for you, all you need to do is steer and apply the gas and brakes.

Because the RZR’s transmission does the shifting for you, all you need to do is steer and apply the gas and brakes. I was reminded quickly why Polaris didn’t need to add a more beefed-up engine to the new RZR — the existing turbo-charged twin-cylinder mill has more than enough power to blast up and over any surface you encounter.

At the end of the day, happy and dusty, we returned the RZR XP Turbo S to the starting location. I walked away wondering how much skill and practice it would take to drive the Turbo S to anywhere near its capabilities.

A brand-new platform

The original Dynamix model added tricked-out suspension wizardry to an existing model. In the interim, Polaris was busy designing a brand-new platform.

The 2018 Polaris RZR XP Turbo S ($27,500 to start) is the first machine with the new platform. Almost everything is different with this model from past RZRs, except the engine and transmission. Polaris uses the same two-cylinder, 168-horsepower, liquid-cooled 925cc ProStar Turbo high-output engine with 114-pound-feet of torque and the Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT) combination on all RZR Turbo models. The current Turbo lineup also includes the RZR XP Turbo ($20,000 starting price), the RZR XP Turbo Fox Edition ($23,000 starting), and the RZR ZP Turbo Dynamix Edition ($26,000 starting).

Now we get to the differences. The RZR XP Turbo S rides on huge 32-inch tires, larger than supplied on any other production side-by-side model on the market. Over-sized tires add significant forces that threaten a vehicle’s structural integrity, especially in hard driving. Because Polaris wanted the large tires, it made other changes that strengthened the RZR XP Turbo S platform by 300 percent. The company says everything is stronger with the Turbo S, including the frame, reinforced structural arms, the roll cage, and aluminum roof.

The new design is 72 inches wide, eight inches bigger than the other models, which is a significant factor in handling stability. The RZR XP Turbo S has 16 inches of ground clearance, with a full 25 inches of usable suspension travel front and rear.

The 2018 Polaris RZR XP Turbo S is the first machine utilizing Polaris’ new platform. Almost everything is different with this model from past RZRs, except the engine and transmission.

The extreme performance, true on-demand AWD/2WD drivetrain is coupled with Fox 3.0 IBP Live Valve Shocks.  An updated version of the Dynamix Active Suspension on this model has greater sensitivity and faster reaction times than the original version. This model also has aggressively modified throttle mapping and boosted power steering assistance.

The re-engineered cockpit has a new driving position for increased sightlines and comfortable, race-inspired ergonomics. Four-point harnesses and a Sparco Flat-Bottom steering wheel keep you stay in position and in control. LED lights front and back help with visibility and include a front lighting signature Polaris describes as “visually assaulting.”

The Polaris glove-friendly Ride Command System for navigation and extensive vehicle information and feedback is also standard. You can also use the Ride Command System’s GPS with your smartphone via Bluetooth or USB connection. AM and FM radio and weather channels are also included.

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
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