Polaris RZR RS-1 long term review part 1 (Project Gold Digger)July 10, 2019
These are the fine words that came out of my mouth after a few hour driving this… this.. er… Whatever should we categorize thing thing as? For the sake of not going off on a long and boring think tank, well call it a UTV.
Polaris has gotten us used to high performance turbo UTVs in the past couple of years and I’ve enjoyed sampling their latest and greatest creations. They are just so cool, fast and can take on some really serious terrain like ruts, whoops and the occasional high speed jump without even breaking a sweat at speeds that would wreck any pickup truck or Jeep.
There’s a hefty price tag that comes along with this kind of hardware… like 32 grand Canadian! Holy moly! Most of us working folks can only dream of buying such a machine without having to sell a kidney or put down a second mortgage on the house. And that my friends is when you’ll have to deal with your significant other’s VETO in most cases.
A few years ago when Polaris came up with the ACE single seaters, I waited in vain to see a high performance version, sure they had the 900sp, but it wasn’t wide enough, then, the 900xc with 60 inches came along and even though it finally had a decent suspension, it wasn’t at the level I was craving for.
That’s until now…What if I told you that you can access the level of performance of the big boys in a machine that will cost you roughly 18 grand? Yup, no bull!
Say hello to my little friend, the RZR RS-1!
Now that’s wut I was talkin’ ‘bout Willis! A full on Supersport with 21 inches of suspension travel, precise steering and a screaming 999cc parallel twin cylinder engine! Thing thing is a BEAST! 1st time you approach it live in person, it looks a little funky when you’re used to the two seaters RZRs with only one door on the left. Don’t let the offbeat styling fool ya, it will grow on you faster than you can slam that gas pedal to the floor!
Open that door, step inside and get ready for something really cool! You can see both front wheels while riding! If this does’nt get the sparks flying in your UTV brain, you’re probably brain dead (lol!). The seat is typical from high end RZRs and is comfy with a generous amount of side bolstering to keep you in place when turning sharply. Trust me, you’ll need all of it. What a great cockpit, because this is exactly what it feels like, a single seat open wheel race car cockpit.
Apart from the instrument cluster being modern, the rest of the interior is nothing to call home about. AWD, lights and the ignition switch and that’s it. There are some provisions for switches on the right panel below the ignition but no more. Zero and I mean Z-E-R-O storage inside .. Guess well have to look if there’s something available in the Polaris accessory catalogue because the little sealed cubby hole under the hood is going to get tight in a jiffy.
Start the engine and the familiar rumble of the Prostar 999cc twin makes my inner kid jump up and down with anticipation. Oh shoot! That infamous shifter is back to haunt me… Gosh I hate these, the’re so wonky and imprecise. I really don’t like these, but hey, I’m nitpicking here. Slam it in High range and go!
I was in for a rude awakening. Come now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve known this engine ever since it came out back in 2014 and I’ve always liked it in the RZR XP 1000 but for some reason the RS-1 just packs more punch. Why? It’s only 108 pounds lighter dry than the XP. 0 to 100 kph is a joke and takes off faster than Jason’s Cherokee SRT8, so it’s great. Powerful, responsive and class leading midrange torque I love so much from the Prostar.
It’s fast enough to get you in a heap of trouble. This ain’t no ACE!
The CVT engagement is perfectly tuned but it does’nt feel like the XP1000’s CVT. It’s engagement is much sharper and transition from the primary to secondary is much more in tune with the engine’s output. In short engine and CVT is a perfect score in the RS-1 in stock form. Honestly, I was expecting no less with the RS-1 CVT being the same unit as the new Turbo S.
Air intake on the RS-1 for both engine and CVT is located high in an airbox behind the rear roof line. That, I like very much. Clean colder air means more power for the engine and better cooling for the CVT: Brilliant! It ain’t beautiful but it sure is better than anything else in the Polaris lineaup.
-Hey Polaris, do this with all high performance RZRs please and thank you.
Now this is where things get very interesting if you like going fast in almost every type of terrain. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Quebec ATV federation’s summer Jamboree on the last weekend of June in beautiful Sept-Iles Qc. Located on the north shore of the St-Laurence river about a 7 hour drive north of Quebec city on route 138.
This is ATVing country at it’s best! Hundreds of ATVers we’re in town to ride the local trail system and I had high expectations. I was not disappointed. From hardpack dirt with ruts, whoops and rocks to huge sandy dunes. I was going to enjoy this ride, A LOT!
Lacking the huge power of the turbo S the RS-1 makes up with ultra sharp steering and a suspension setup that is near flawless. I love Polaris’s EPS systems for their simplicity, not overly assisted and keeps you in complete control and feel of what the front wheels are doing, at all times. No mushy, smooshy feeling here, it works so good you totally forget about it. That’s when you know it doing things right.
The Walker Evans shocks with 2 inch valves and 16 point clickers are perfectly mated to the dual springs and are a snap to adjust. We played with it throughout the weekend and took an inch of preload out from the rear shocks, clickers at 8 in the front and 12 in the back from 0 and we’ve left it there ever since. I would maybe have liked a 2.5 inch Fox QS3 shock setup though, but again, that’s being picky and would influence the bottom line on pricing witch is what will draw customers to this model. I can only dream how it would handle with a set of custom Elka Stage 5 or King Shocks 3.0s… LET THE MODS BEGIN!
After a couple of hundred kilometers we decided to got at it hard. We had our Shogun project UTV with us (2016 Yamaha YXZ 1000R SE2 manual shift) which is a heavily modded race ready unit that is our refence point in N/A Supersport UTVs. Let me tell ya, Jason, who was driving the Shogun was supremely confident (can I say cocky?) he was going to open up a large can of whoopass on the RS-1. Well, er… NOT!
Holy smokes! The RS-1 was hanging right behind the Shogun and Jason (who is a professional driver) just could not shake me off his rear end in the tight stuff no matter what he tried. I on the other hand was working hard too. But what a hoot people! I have a grin on my face while writing this remembering the pure adrenaline rush of concentrated fun I had.
The 1 is a temperamental UTV. It does not like being driven like you stole it. It likes finesse, precise smooth but sharp steering input. Mash the throttle to the floor all you want, the ECU will respond with what it thinks should be proper but match that with proper steering input and the CVT that responds so well to throttle inputs = wow!
I forgot about one important thing: Brakes! No matter how fast a machine can go, the most important component is the braking system. If it can’t stop, the thing is a dud. If the pedal feel or modulation is not spot on, you guessed it, it’s a dud. The 1 does not disappoint here either. Brake modulation is perfectly where I like it and very powerful when the pedal is mashed.
One thing i’m still very iify about is the funky double brake pedal. WHY? Ok I get it, left foot braking while driving like a maniac. It actually works great for left foot braking and I used it throughout the weekend but why is the right pedal so high? It feels like it’s six inches higher than the gas pedal making for weird transitions between gas and brake. If you’re going to make a double brake pedal, make them really separate with the left brake pedal used for rear biased braking for those sharp turn where you’d like the rear end to swing out for faster. The way it’s setup didn’t work for me on the right side and that rear brake bias just wasn’t there enough to take full advantage of my left leg doing 90% of the braking. It’s not a dealbreaker because the brakes work so well but… gimme rear bias on the left and regular front biased on the left and it would be the UTV world’s best brake setup ever.
Now, back to the trails.
Taking on 24 inch whoops at 100 kph without skipping a beat is a feat on it’s own without the XP Turbo’s Dynamix shocks. What a ride! It’s just a joy to drive at speed knowing it can take on pretty much anything trails can through at it. I’m impressed! I do not impress easily having sampled all of the Supersport UTVs available on the market nowadays.
The RS-1 is a perception machine. Now, let me explain, it lets you see and feel everything and it’s as near to perfection as the 110 hp mill will let it get to but, the feeling this UTV gives you for the amount of money you’ll spend is the best value for the buck on the market bar none in 2019. Nothing even comes close in this price range.
The RS-1 is a step up in the non turbo high performance UTV market and it’s a force to be reckoned with. Don’t let the short wheelbase and the small snout fool ya. It’s dead serious about performance!
There are a few thing I don’t like about it in all seriousness. Here’s a short list:
– The brake pedal setup
What were they thinking? I already talked about it so, well let it be.
– The front wheels versus mud, sand, water.
Unless you’re riding on asphalt, hardpack or gravel all the time in dry conditions you won’t have anything to say but water, mud, sand is another story. I LOVE seeing the front wheels when rock crawling (yeah it’s very good at that too) but when things get wet, you’re in for a sample of what you’re riding thrown right on your face and torso as soon as your turn the wheel, it gets old and annoying real fast. Run to your dealer and get the extended fender kit! I just ordered it this morning.
– The seat:
Yeah, I know I was raving about it earlier but, I’m going to be a little picky here. The bolstering is good but the seat base and center or the dorsal lack a little bit in the cushioning department. It’s great for an hour or so of riding but go at it for a full day and you’ll wish for a suspension seat… Guess it’s back to the Polaris accessory catalogue for me.
– Total lack of storage
Again ive talked about it so well make this short. Catalogue again, we’re ordered the door bag and storage pockets that should suffice. We’ll tell you about these in the next article.
Seeing the front wheels is one the the coolest features of the RS-1, WHOOOPIE! That’s until you ride in mud, water or just humid dirt or sand and turn the steering wheel sharply. You’re in for a shower of whatever your front tires are chewing up. Wear goggles of a closed offroad helmet. Fortunaly, Polaris offers some very nice fender extensions as an optional dealer installed accessory (you can DIY it too). We think it should have them from the factory though.
Now for the good stuff most guys don’t talk about in their reviews:
Under the instrument cluster shroud is a fused power distribution center with sealed connectors that can supply either constant or switched power for accessories. You can order the custom connectors from your dealer and it makes it a no brainer to get power to your electrical add ons.
Yup I’m really going to talk about this as I have noticed quite a few improvements in fit and finish. Weld quality is improved on the frame and major components like the swingarms. I’ve seen a lot of shoddy powder coating work in the last couple of years from many tier one manufacturers and the jobs looks right on for this unit. No matter what the performance level, at the prices manufacturers are asking for these big boy toys, shoody workmanship is not excusable. This example is what I expect from a manufacturer like Polaris: Quality.
Most of the RZRs I’ve sampled since 2015 have been plagued with annoying vibrations in the floor and seat pan while accelerating. That condition comes most often from the front driveshaft center bearing bushing. It varies from unit to unit but the RS-1, like the Turbo S does not have this condition AT ALL. I’m going to take a closer look. BTW the front diff is pulled from the Turbo S unit and tracks wonderfully right too.
FINALLY someone though about this! Most high performance UTVs come with Maxxis Bighorn 2.0s. All around great lightweight radial that everyone knows by its signature look but… They are wayyyy to easy to destroy on hardpack or pavement. The bighorn originals have way more meat on them with 40% bigger blocks and stiffer sidewalls, This tire is an important part on why the RS-1 handles so well. Thanks Polaris!
If you’re in the market for a supersport UTV and you NEVER have a passenger on board or like to go out riding with your buddies or your significant other want to drive too. Take a very close look at the RS-1. For 18 grand, you’re simply not going to get any better than this. The 1 is an incredible value for every dollar spent.
It loves to go fast and rewards a driver that is smooth and precise. It’s also an excellent trail machine at a more sedate pace where you’ll enjoy the driving position except for that brake pedal that need some getting used to. It’s just that good. If you have a dealer nearby that has one on the lot, just go and see for yourself.
Now, here’s the kicker!
We are keeping the RS-1, yup, we loved it so much we are buying this exact unit after our long term review. Chopping, painting, powdercoating, we are going to make this exceptional UTV look like a million bucks!
Everybody the knows me know that I’m a Can-Am guy. I won’t B.S. you by being politically correct and saying all makes models are all good because they ain’t. But the RS-1 is a drivers machine and I will score it as such. I have not smiled so much riding a UTV in a long time. My face still hurts.
MSRP: 18 299$ cdn
Best features: 64” Width. 110 HP. 29” Tires. 21” Travel suspension, sharp precise steering and PRICING!
ATVGUYS Score: 4.9 / 5
Special thanks go out to:
And Polaris of Canada