72-Hours with the 2024 Polaris XPEDITION

Dragoon

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May 16, 2023
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About ten years ago, I resigned my position at an adventure motorcycle company, left my apartment in Seattle, Washington, loaded most of my things into a storage unit, and set off in my van for the better part of a year. Packed in with a friend for a bit, we wandered down the west coast looking for waves – surfing and camping out of my old Econoline. Shortly thereafter, my new girlfriend climbed inside. She and I traveled the rest of the West, up from Arizona, through New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, making our way back to Washington where my journey had begun. The van itself was a basic build – a bed fabricated from two-by-fours, some insulation and a wire cabinet I came across at IKEA.

At that time, van-life and the hashtag which preceded it had just made their proverbial mark on the internet. What followed was an oversaturation of custom builds and wood cabinetry, oceanfront yoga exercises and those long exposed images of the night sky. A new travel genre was born, and maybe the flame for vehicle-based travel reignited to some degree. In the process, however, many people felt their van dwellings couldn’t take them far enough into remote areas. Soon, full-size vans with Quigley and Sportsmobile 4×4 conversions were the thing to have. But those are big dollar buys, and for a lot of folks a Toyota with a roof-top tent soon became the object of desire. Enter the Overlander.

But for many, most perhaps, the Overland lifestyle isn’t an everyday occurance, and the task of owning and outfitting a full-size vehicle for an adventure means sacrifices must be made in regard to what goes into your garage. Polaris, having kept their eye on the Overland space for some time, saw a vacancy that could be filled for a lot of interested parties. Internally, they intended their latest project to provide customers with a vehicle capable of a 72-hour adventure, carrying a driver and as many as four passengers (the first time a UTV has had a five-seat capacity), as well as all their equipment into the backcountry for a long weekend away. Enter the Polaris XPEDITION!

At first glance, the Polaris XPEDITION looks a lot like the General, a vehicle Polaris has seen much success with over the years. We even used that platform to build the ultimate taco truck (read about that build here). But as much as we love the General for its undeniable utility, what’s underneath the Polaris XPEDITION is all-new and shares almost no components with the beloved General. In development for nearly five years, the fresh chassis needed to be extraordinarily stiff to support the fully enclosed cab, plus be capable of carrying a lot more equipment than your typical UTV.

With a 1,000-lb total payload, the Polaris XPEDITION was developed to take a lot of kit into the wilderness, all while the passengers enjoy the creature comforts of a sealed cabin, which includes an HVAC system with A/C and heat, and a factory installed JBL sound system (available on the Ultimate and NorthStar models) which switches the cockpit into ‘party mode’ with the turn of a dial. At 2,700-lbs this UTV is no welterweight, however the added pounds are surprisingly not that noticeable at speed. Sure, acceleration is a bit dim when compared to the all-new RZR XP which sports the same 114-hp ProStar II 1,000cc parallel-twin engine. But you can’t deny the machine still has plenty of get-up-and-go, even when we packed it down with all our gear – including the factory roof-top tent which, mounted to a Rhino-Racks roof rack, adds an additional 130-lbs to the top of the rig.

But all of these are just numbers on the internet. And while that can compose an expectation, it cannot properly describe the experience we had behind the wheel. To test Polaris’ theory, we traveled to St. George, UT where their team unveiled the Polaris XPEDITION to a crowd of journalists, influencers and media personalities who were eager to see a land-roving UTV in the flesh. An entirely new vehicle for an entirely new segment of the powersport world. The cloak came off and what lay beneath was a vehicle designed and tested to take on the most difficult trails, while simultaneously carrying you, your loved ones and all the equipment you might need for an adventure. Two variations were on display, the XP and ADV.

Both models are available as two and five-seat variants, with the XP incorporating a dumping cargo box that measures 30″ long, while the ADV has either a 36″ or 63″ fully enclosed rear cargo box. I opted for the five-seat XP with the NorthStar trim package, providing an enclosed cab, HVAC system, RIDE COMMAND and an insane JBL Trail Pro audio system. Drinks were followed by dinner and an early night for everyone. The next morning, we traveled to Mesquite, NV where we loaded up with water, sunscreen, our gear bags and a few snacks for the road. What lay ahead was a 100-mile off-road ride to Bar 10 Ranch on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, a route that would provide varying terrain that would put my Polaris XPEDITION XP to the test in every way imaginable.

Outfitted with the aforementioned rooftop tent, the vessel looked like it might lean a little heavy into quicker corners and possibly not carry as much speed as a side-by-side without one. But within the first few miles of our ride, I couldn’t tell the tent was attached. And I was pitching this thing around like the lighter, arguably more nimble RZR XP we tested a few weeks earlier, which shares the same 114-hp ProStar II 1,000cc parallel-twin engine. But there is a difference. Luxuries within the cab were some of the first things I noticed. The air-conditioning system equipped on the NorthStar models kept me cool all day long, even as temperatures closed in on 90-degrees Fahrenheit.

Additionally, when I decided to drive as close as I could to the tailgate of my colleague, Aaron, the HVAC system kept nearly all of his dust outside where it belonged. The tilt steering wheel and plush seats allowed me to cozy up quickly, and the power windows offered fresh air flow when I wasn’t riding the bumper of another unit. The windshield also flips forward with a quick-release lever so that you can have an open air UTV experience when the weather permits. That said, the windshield wiper and washer fluid system did pay dividends when we encountered some rain late in the day.

The seven-inch touch screen infotainment system with RIDE COMMAND is nearly flawless, providing GPS navigation, on the fly info about the rig, and with the new Group Ride feature enabled, connects you and your friends so that you can communicate on the trail with ease. It also provides a sort of hare and hound experience where you can chase your friends’ track as they lead out ahead of you. That feature was a lot of fun when I backed off of Aaron to avoid the dust but could still see how far ahead he was and which direction he was headed.

At speed, the ProStar motor was singing at 7,000 RPM in order to keep the pace that I pushed. The interior was definitely noisy when my foot was matted to the floor, however the twin dash, tweeters, and rear speaker along with a 10″ subwoofer from JBL did help to drown out the whine as the engine peaked around 8,000 RPM – as I toggled between 2WD and 4WD with a simple flip of a switch. And this meant I could tackle the tougher stuff in 4WD without having to make a stop to move between ride modes, of which there are a few. There’s a one-wheel-drive “Turf” mode intended to not disrupt a field in agricultural settings.

In 2WD it is a little loose, especially when pushing into tight corners at speed. The back end would walk out a bit, but at no point did I feel like the rig wanted to tip or overextend itself. The chassis was incredible, continuing to grow my confidence. And it only became better when I shifted into 4WD for the remainder of the ride. Hitting deep, crossed-up rain ruts didn’t bother the Polaris XPEDITION one bit. And when we encountered long, steep hills littered with boulders and big, gray stones, pushing the transmission into 4-Low made it feel nearly unstoppable. Not once did it struggle for traction, with the motor offering plenty of low-end grunt to get over the larger obstacles. Back into 4H and 4WD, I put my foot down again, drifting the five-seater through dusty corners, absolutely unphased by the added weight of the Rhino-Rack and rooftop tent.

All 14 inches of travel provided by the FOX Podium QS3 Shocks was used throughout the ride, especially when obstacles were met without much consideration for entry speed. I was impressed with vehicle stability and control, especially when you consider the Polaris XPEDITION XP likely tipped the scale at nearly 2900-lbs, equipped. Part of that weight, however, is due to the fact that the rig has a 12.5-gallon fuel tank, the largest one fashioned to a UTV to date. Polaris claims a 200-mile range, however we saw the fuel light kick on around 115 miles into our ride. The fact that my foot was firmly placing the go-fast pedal into the floorboard all day likely didn’t help extend the range, though.
 
Adaptability is what Polaris hoped to achieve with this modern product line. They wanted a UTV which could check a lot of boxes – from ripping dirt roads and climbing over rocky obstacles to traveling through no-man’s land fully-loaded with camping equipment and adventure accessories. Polaris even has a complete line of add-ons designed for a variety of activities, all of which can be easily attached to the rig via their Lock-and-Ride Max system. As the day drew long and the sun settled to the west, we came into camp at Bar 10 Ranch right as a nasty rainstorm had started. With the windshield latched and windows up, the comfort of an enclosed cab became all too clear, especially when the sweep vehicles came rolling into camp, the riders completely soaked through from the sudden surge.

Once the weather settled a bit, we parked atop a nearby hill and unfurled our rooftop tents, which took only a matter of minutes. Inside was a firm comfortable mattress, a small window at the top to allow in natural light but keep the weather out, and a folding aluminum ladder so that I could climb into the tent when the time came. We enjoyed dinner around the campfire, chatted about just how capable these vehicles were, in tough terrain and the fast sweeping dirt roads which lead to the North Rim. The all-new chassis was developed to withstand the load of an overland adventure while providing the much-needed stability when driving with authority. Going from 2WD to 4WD on-the-fly was another feature we were collectively excited about. But maybe not as much as the insane amount of noise the JBL sound system offered…

When the time came to climb into my abode and turn out the lights, the realization that we’d traveled more than 100-miles through the Arizona backcountry to the rim of the Grand Canyon at a pace which would blow the doors off of a traditional Overland vehicle, all while carrying the needed essentials for a weekend long campout really struck home. The next morning the smell of hot coffee and maple-soaked bacon brought all of us back around the campfire for one final meal. Returning the tent to its closed and ready-to-ride position was even easier than setting it up the night before. After eggs and some much-needed caffeine, I loaded my gear back into the vehicle, fired up the stereo, rolled up the windows and turned on the A/C for the final voyage back to civilization. Comfort is a drug some people say, and in this case I’m a complete addict.

Reflecting on my time traveling and living out of my van, I realized unless you’re moving, the vanlife isn’t much more than living in a very small RV. Add to that equation the cost of an Overland vehicle, as well as the risks you might encounter taking your only rig, and sometimes home, off road and into the wasteland, and the Polaris XPEDITION begins to make a lot of sense. No, it’s not right for an around-the-world adventure, but for those seeking 72-hours of solitude, with friends and family, a cooler full of beer, and a good night’s sleep all packed into one fun, incredibly capable package, the Polaris XPEDITION is the answer. And for many, if not most, it will take you further and put a bigger smile on your face than just about anything in the Overland space. I’ll bet on it.

Click here to read the original article and see LOTS of amazing photos of the new Xpedition!
 
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