At speed or under load, HCR suspension parts are built to withstand the rigors of off-road travel. They have a reputation for toughness which elevates any of the compatible side-by-side platforms. And while so many of their builds are meant for performance, sometimes utility is the catalyst for customization…
Not too long ago, when considering a ‘vehicle’ for serious hauling over great distances, grass-powered hybrids were all the rage. Part horse, part donkey, the mule was the preferred choice for the working class – fast enough to make miles but not win races. Sturdy enough to carry a load and a passenger. Graceful at scaling cliff sides or trotting down dried-up, rocky arroyos. Loyal like a steed and smart like an ass.
They were the perfect all-terrain vessel in the age before combustion engines to transport supplies to anywhere your heart desired. (Or the job commanded.) The ability to carry important supplies anywhere they were needed is one of the key reasons why a mule was considered such a prized possession and remains the mascot of the United States Army.
Fast-forward to the present, and our tastes in transport have changed a little. Moving from carts and carriages to cars and trucks, and it’s now the age of the UTV, which handles our various day-to-day demands – everything but meets State safety standards for driving in traffic.
Using Polaris’ Ranger XP 1000 Northstar edition as the foundation, HCR Suspension has built themselves the modern-day mule. A sturdy, reliable pack-animal which can traverse any terra challenge you throw at it. Packing tons of gear and supplies for a voyage to just about anywhere you can imagine. Perhaps not at the terrific speeds as some other models in the Polaris lineup. But this Ranger is a petrol-powered workhorse.
With a travel itinerary that reads like a world conquest, this Ranger has been to more places than it hasn’t. From Mud events in the South up through the Oregon Coast before its premiere at SEMA. HCR has made plenty of use of their cherry red rambler. With its next stop being the HCR’ SxS Adventure Rally on the Rocks, this Ranger has yet to settle on a parking spot. So why all the fuss? What is HCR so eager to show off?
For one thing, this Northstar is the life of the party. It has everything it takes to eat, drink and be merry just about anywhere on Earth. And then can tote your leftovers out in stealth-mode. While this Ranger already has the ‘legs’ to take you where you want to go, it can also carry all your essentials and thensome. That of course includes an integrated grill for some gourmet trail snacks as well as ample room for kitchen and dining supplies (and beer).
The camp chef BBQ looks right at home on the rear of the XP. With a nice flush fit, it doesn’t have an overly imposing presence on the vehicle either, simply sitting securely on the tailgate waiting for you to call it a day and fire it up for dinner. An enticing reminder of what’s to come. The idea of wrapping up a long day in HCR’s Northstar seems more like a celebration of a job well done than merely the end of a hard day in the saddle. Arguably, one of the better parts of riding is cracking cold ones with your friends, grilling up hotdogs, tacos or whatever carnivorous treats call you and recanting the toughest, most butt-puckering obstacles everyone encountered. And HCR’s rig will let you go from driver’s side to campsite anywhere it comes to a stop.
And getting there isn’t going to be nearly as disagreeable as its older four-legged predecessor. With stylish, plush leather seats, accessories, and room for the whole gang, the HCR Polaris has more than enough creature comforts to make a big journey most bearable. The Ranger makes a statement in primal red paint and tan interior, rivaling the classic Ferrari’s brilliant appearance, but it’s unlikely the factory in Maranello could dream up a beauty as utilitarian and functional as this.
To go anywhere and do it with purpose, the most important area one should pay attention to is the suspension setup. HCR had this covered with their long travel kit. Extending the wheels out to 72” wide and having custom valved shocks, the added inches gives travel way more room to play, giving the Northstar (and other Rangers) a massive jump from the OEM iteration, offering a ludicrous amount of capability to this already utility vehicle. With internal gussets and high-strength materials, the whole setup is built for punishment.
Putting it all into motion is a set of Raceline wheels wrapped in some serious 35” BFGoodrich rubber. All blacked-out, their rugged looks are a perfect complement to capability. An aggressive, grippy system like this is intended to tackle numerous hurdles off-road with style and grace – manhandling rock faces, ledges, shale, silt, or anything slick, then still opening up into an outdoor diner with the party supplies unscathed. A machine built for fun, as much as it was for function, its meaty tread takes you up to the highest peaks without cracking an egg, all while playing your send it! soundtrack. Thanks to the Rockford Fosgate stereo system, you can blast a rhythm while blasting down a trail.
HCR didn’t want to wind down when the sun began to set, so they made sure nothing as silly as the nightfall stops a full day of side-by-side hooliganism. They have this Ranger fitted with a whole host of KC Lites. Throwing out stellar power and reach to exit that taco soiree with the utmost safety. It’s a bonus they happen to look right at home on this scarlet monster. It almost feels unnatural overcoming obstacles with such ease, night or day. A vehicle empowering you to go places which you could have sworn were impassable. A hybrid of ideas, like if a tank made babies with an Escalade. Slap some tracks on it, and all the seasons become your playground – if not at least allowing you to work through the winter.
With a relatively lower power engine and lower top speed, this Ranger isn’t built to be ripping through the deserts of Baja gunning for a podium finish. But because it gives up that speed to take you further and haul plenty of gear. Which is why HCR gave the car ample storage for those indecisive packs. A full assortment of Rhino racks leaves everything well secured and at a ridiculous payload for a single UTV. Plenty of tie-down points and layers to just stack whatever you could imagine needing onto it. The racks provide a great deal of usable space with a small caveat of possibly some difficulty stowing bulkier items, but certainly, a welcome trade if that means carrying more securely fastened cargo.
This whole SxS feels perfectly tailored to the task of conquering the new world, something any cowboy or settler would have been proud to have by their side for a long journey into the West. The combination of all-terrain firepower and pack-mule capacity alongside a comfy and attractive interior makes it a no-brainer kind of build for serious (or… not so serious) applications. Having the kind of endurance, stamina, skill and fortitude required for the long-haul, this lone Ranger feels like the hero of the Old West, reborn for the 21st century.