The New Go-To Utility Workhorse
Riding into the Sunset with the 2024 Polaris Ranger XD 1500
Words: Staff of UTV Sports
Photos Provided by Polaris ORV
When Polaris announced the new Ranger XD 1500, it promised some serious utility. With a 1500lb bed capacity as well as 3500lb of towing on tap for the model, it was immediately obvious this was going to be a utilitarian workhorse. Polaris themselves describe it as a new category in the industry, and with the capability promised it’s not surprising.
In many ways, the specifications on this Ranger read more like those of a full truck. Going to Three Forks Ranch in Wyoming to check out the new model would provide the perfect environment to put it to the test, get some serious time behind the wheel and see what exactly this new category of SXS has in store for riders.
The first thing apparent with the new Ranger XD 1500 is that it comes with a plethora of new parts. With an entirely new design, and practically no parts shared with the Ranger XP, the new XD cabin feels much more spacious. The dashboard itself is flatter and doesn’t protrude as much into the cabin as well.
One notable quirk was that the button to activate the hydraulic bed lift was placed on the door where your knee could easily activate it while driving. It’s questionable whether it is a safety issue, but it did happen a few times. Another welcome addition comes in the form of a well-deserved cupholder, placed at the top of the bed rails against the cab. Finally giving a much-needed place to keep a drink.
Inside this much more spacious cabin is a whole host of styling cues and features that feel much more automotive than something we are typically used to seeing in an SXS, as well as some other features having been further refined. The power window switch is now at home in the dash rather than the doors, which adds some great convenience.
Moving your attention down to the shifter, you notice that it has a much more refined, shorter throw to the shifts, with the absence of high/low gears and neutral. The door handles themselves are also much more automotive in styling and feel, and while the doors still hinge from the back, the seals themselves work much better than the outgoing model.
With the other comforts the XD has to offer, the HVAC system feels drastically improved compared to the XP. The “Medium” setting now feels roughly equivalent to what the outgoing model felt like on full blast, and it has several options for where you can direct the air as well, including a defrost for the windshield.
There is also a cabin air filter now, so you can keep a lot more dust out of the cabin when running the air. The air system feels like it could tackle even the Arizona summer, with heats up to 120 degrees, and still be comfortable. Taking a closer look at the exterior of the Polar Ranger XD 1500, it has a whole new look for a Ranger, and with the increased bed capacity, the bed’s dimensions have also expanded by 50%.
To accommodate that increase in size, there is even an exterior step on the side to help you get up there – no more standing on a tire! Integrated into the rear gate is also a bottle opener, which is something that can certainly come in handy (as always, better to have one and not need it and so on).
As for what driving this new XD feels like, it offers plenty of new features. With the new transmission being much more like an automotive CVT, it is now an enclosed, liquid-cooled system with service intervals and it is not something you can do a belt swap on during a ride. Gone are the days of packing a spare belt.
Not only that, this machine features the first-ever vacuum-boosted brakes on a SXS on the XD to create some real aggressive braking performance. This makes sense when you consider the 1500lb bed capacity and 3500lb towing capacity, all that weight means you need some extra stopping power onboard as well.
It takes a bit of adjustment, without any load in the vehicle it really bites into the brakes and below around 20 miles an hour you feel the engine braking going at a good clip.
The new XD is also a good bit heavier than the old XP was, and considering that weight, you do gain the towing and bed capacity to match, but you can feel the difference behind the wheel. The cabin itself is much quieter than the old model, with virtually no audible transmission or chassis noise, but still the typical assortment of trail noise. Again, lending to a more refined, automotive experience.
You technically still have a neutral option, but it’s now engaged from a pull handle underneath the steering wheel. Less of a useable selection, and not something you can engage on someone’s vehicle on the fly to push it somewhere- ending a fun prank, you could play with the outgoing model.
The new transmission forgoes having a low-range option on the gear selector, now you can select a tow/haul mode from a turn-style knob. The transfer case now features push-button options for 1WD, 3WD, and the typical 4WD. This transmission also now has a lockout, meaning much like your car, you can’t change gears without the car being on and your foot on the brake.
You also get a hill assist with the new model, which works quite nicely to hold the vehicle in place with your foot off the brake on descents and inclines. The new transmission also lets the vehicle crawl forward at idle, which means you aren’t pulsing the throttle to move around on easy terrain. The only noticeable kink with the hill assist was that you had to be sitting in the vehicle with your belt buckled for it to engage or stay engaged. This is a considerable drawback since you can’t use the hill assist to do a driver swap or otherwise get out of the vehicle.
As for the experience, Three Forks Ranch was the perfect place to test out this new Ranger. With a clear focus on the utility and working life in this model, getting to run it through its paces on an actual working ranch provided the perfect backdrop. With free range of around 100 miles of trail in the XD, I had plenty of time and experience to see how it would fit in an environment like this. With additional activities including long-range rifle shooting out to 1,000 yards, and some obligatory fly fishing, the Ranger XD worked for all of it.
Polaris also showed off a wide array of available accessories, with most of them offering a specific ranch or utility focus, specifically as “Farm”, “Ranch”, and “Hunt” packages, but none seemed like something I would find too useful in the Southwest. They all still had serious utility, with options for things like a snowplow or other task-specific alterations being made available.
All in all, the new Ranger XD 1500 has a clear focus and execution, being the new utility workhorse is a daunting mantle to take on, especially with such a capable predecessor. However, the new additions to the model and a focus on automotive functionality and styling mean it’s a far easier transition for someone to make to driving- especially in a work environment. And that incredible 1500lb bed on a hydraulic lift offers a lot of possible uses for this Ranger.
The whole Ranger XD feels overhauled in a way that still accomplishes its utility tasks but does so with more refinement and comfort available to the operator. Essentially, it’s a SXS that can be cross-shopped against a truck but is arguably more comfortable and capable in its own right- which certainly means it is in a category of its own.