60 Inches Of Trail Riding Finesse
Words and Photos: Brandon Bunch
The more time I spend driving UTVs, the more I realize not every one of them needs to be a two hundred horsepower turbocharged monster. I used to think for any situation, “Well isn’t it better to have more power and not need it, rather than have less power and need more?” but after many miles in many different UTVs, that’s no longer true for me. Sure, certain extreme situations might be better faced with more power—like giant soft and loose hills, or maybe you’ve just have to be the fastest guy in your group of buddies that loves breaking parts with an expendable budget. However if you’re just cruising the dusty washes of some desolate desert basin, or running tight and twisty forest trails with the goal of exploring new terrain with a smile on your face, I’d say one hundred horsepower is all you need.
And that’s exactly what this new 2021 Polaris RZR Trail S 1000 Ultimate has. With 100 horsepower and a dry weight of 1360 lbs, it certainly has the power to weight ratio to be a trail ripper. So I thought, why not take it to the trails of Williams, AZ? I love the flowy trails that wind through the trees there, and they just happened to receive a snow storm in the days leading up to this trip. The day of our ride forecasted for a high of 63 degrees, so it all sounded perfect. Well this fool from the desert didn’t know that snowfall with warm weather means rapidly melting snow and mud, so to my surprise we found trails flowing with water and dirt the consistency of brownie batter. I even became stuck in my Toyota 4Runner with Trail S on trailer in tow, and had to unload the UTV to get it out. It looked just like nice damp dirt, but it wasn’t. I was a fish out of water.
We weren’t going to let a little mud be a wrench in our gears though, so Elizabeth and I finally found some firm ground to park on, unloaded the pint-sized RZR (again) and hit the trails. As we cruised away from the trailer, it became apparent that this new Trail S is a very refined UTV. Smooth clutching and an easy to modulate throttle combined to deliver consistent acceleration from a stop—so smooth that it almost feels electric. Maybe too smooth if you’re looking for snappy sporty throttle response, but the power and torque offered by the 1000cc parallel twin still made it easy to put the thing sideways on the muddy and snowy trails. The linear throttle does however have the huge benefit of making the drive easy and comfortable, even if traversing boulder riddled terrain at low speeds where it can be more difficult to maintain steady throttle input.
The chassis and suspension felt just as refined as the powertrain, with the Trail S making the most out of it’s 60” track width. It shares its chassis with the smaller 50” wide Trail, but longer travel suspension is fitted to extend the width. Combined with the more aggressive fenders, bulging doors, radius roof and wrap-around rear cage, the wide stance gives the Trail S a pretty sporty look that’s backed up with the performance delivered from the compression adjustable 2” Walker Evans shocks. These shocks are fitted to the Trail S Premium and Ultimate models, and the 12.25” front and 13.2” rear wheel travel delivered by the dual-a-arm suspension is well controlled by them. A few cross washes made me nervous that we’d bottom out and buck, but the shocks held up and reacted predictably. The ride over the rocky and root-filled rough terrain was pretty compliant and body roll was very minimal even when catching traction after sliding through a fast slippery turn. I could controllably flick the UTV from corner to corner like a miniature rally car thanks to the short 79” wheelbase, but it did feel a bit too short at higher speeds—at least in these loose conditions. But zipping through the tight and twisty sections is where the Trail S handled with finesse, and that’s definitely what this machine is best at.
The fun handling nature of this little UTV was easily enjoyed from the cab as we cruised along listening to the 400w Rockford Fosgate stereo that comes equipped on the Trail S Ultimate model. With its two kick panel mounted speakers, the stereo is just loud enough to hear at speed with a helmet on and is operated through the Ride Command system and its 7” touchscreen. The GPS system and trail mapping has improved over the years, and with trail names on screen, it was useful for searching out and navigating to some of the trails that I wanted to run. The Ride Command screen is mounted up in the middle of a familiar RZR XP style dash that actually felt a bit tall, and seemed far away, but I am only five foot nine so it’s easy for me to feel small. It is clear that Polaris has made an effort to create a comfortable space for larger riders, as the cockpit of the Trail S feels roomier than that of a RZR XP 1000, even with the smaller footprint. The roomy cab means that space was taken up somewhere else, and that place was the bed. The cargo area is still roomy enough to easily take a tool bag plus a small to medium size cooler, but you’d want to add on some storage options if you were tackling multi-day rides…
Right out of the box the new Trail S Ultimate is immediately ready to supply enjoyment and smiles to drivers of all skill levels. It’s easy to drive and comfortable when you want to cruise, yet can handle being driven hard and delivers a fun, fast, and nimble driving experience in the process. Elizabeth and I both had a ton of fun sliding the S around on the rough and slippery trails we were faced with, and really did just enjoy the ride. It’s quiet and smooth with little to no obnoxious noise, vibration, or harshness, and overall, it feels very mature. Polaris has a ton of time invested into refining the features that are present on this machine, and it shows. This fully loaded trail machine starts at $18,999 MSRP, which is definitely at the higher end of the price spectrum for this class, but it’s also at the top of its class for the features and performance delivered. The UTV industry as a whole is coming of age and beginning to deliver vehicles that are closer and closer to automotive-grade in terms of fit, finish, and performance. It’s exciting to see this evolution take place, as we are all the winners at the end of the day, and we can’t wait to put in more hours behind the wheel of the RZR Trail S.