Polaris Sportsman 500

"Big" and "cushy" are adjectives often used when referring to automatic 4x4 ATVs, but those words wouldn't be appropriate for the Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O.RSE.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Polaris Sportsman 500
"Big" and "cushy" are adjectives often used when referring to automatic 4x4 ATVs, but those words wouldn't be appropriate for the Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O.RSE. ("H.O." refers to the high-output 499cc engine. "RSE" stands for "Remington Special Edition.") This ATV is rigged for the outdoorsman who likes an aggressive ride, and by that we mean it's stiff -- a welcome suspension characteristic when trail conditions get rough, but a wrist-wrencher when you're riding over obstacles. The Polaris Sportsman 500 meets rugged terrain with its MacPherson-strut front suspension, fully independent rear end and good undercarriage clearance. It even looks macho: This package sports a Mossy Oak Break-Up camo job, large front and rear rack extenders and stout front and rear tube bumpers.

Although we like the awesome power and impressive 1,225-pound towing capacity, our test model failed on downhill slopes. With the transmission in 4-LO and while employing multiple techniques (such as adjusting the throttle and brakes), steep descents on snow and mud were a little scary because the front wheels wouldn't lock into the drive train; as a result, the front wheels spun as freely as they would in two-wheel drive. This problem persisted even when we were driving uphill with the ATV in reverse.

Overall, the Sportsman 500 H.O.RSE is a serious trail machine with a lot of power, good traction and a rough-and-ready suspension system. The inability of the front wheels to lock in on steep downhill slopes is a significant drawback; however, those outdoorsmen who like to be "one" with the trail might find that this is the automatic 4x4 for which they've been looking. (763-542-2314)