ATV Review: Polaris Sportsman 450 H.O. EPS
This all-wheel drive ATV has just the right amount of power for farm work and hunting small- to medium-sized properties
I live and hunt on a small farm where budgets are tight and the work is never-ending. My goal each day is to get as many tasks accomplished as I can in as little time for the least amount of money possible. Enter the Polaris Sportsman 450 H.O. EPS. This machine makes a wide variety of projects easier and less time consuming. From hauling grain bags from the truck to the shed for our livestock to dragging a field to plant a food plot, it was able to do what I needed it do around the homestead this spring.
The Sportsman 450 H.O. has been completely redesigned for 2021. Polaris took some major strides to make the all-wheel-drive ATV stronger, quieter, and more user-friendly than before. Here’s a closer look at the new 450 EPS.
Polaris Power Rating
As hunters, most of us need an ATV that can haul heavy loads, pull a trailer, and plant a field. All those tasks take a powerful engine.
The Sportsman 450 H.O. is a little deceptive compared to other brands’ 450-class ATVs because it’s not a true 450. The Sportsman has a 499cc Prostar 4-stroke single, overhead-cam engine that produces 33-horsepower. There are a couple of reasons Polaris did this. For one, it is marketed as a 450, so being 50cc’s bigger gives it a little edge on the competition. And two, Polaris calling it a 450 helps reduce confusion for the consumer when comparing it on the showroom floor next to Polaris’ popular, and more powerful Sportsman 570.
I found, the 450 has more than enough power for whatever job I had in store for it (within reason). We connected a Kolpin Dirtworks system to the 450 for tilling food plots (a very worthwhile investment) and found it capable of working land that was already loose. I wouldn’t recommend using the 450 to take on land already overgrown with grass and weeds, but if you have a spot you’ve worked over before, or have a buddy come over with a tractor and plow, you can certainly use the Sportsman to till up on those food plots.
Making Short Work of Big Jobs
One of our big projects this spring was planting trees. We planted red pine as a wind break and cedar around our pond for privacy. The Sportsman took what could have been a back-breaking, miserable job and made quick work of it. We loaded the red pine on the front rack and the cedar on the rear, which did not even come close to the 270-pound load capacity (you can put up to 180 pounds of weight on the rear rack, which os plenty for a field-dressed Michigan buck). We filled our OxCart trailer with water and had a mobile tree-planting operation. That allowed us to plant and water a few hundred trees over multiple acres of property in only a few hours.
The new design of the Sportsman’s racks includes a sealed storage area under the front rack. We threw in some marking flags for the trees, along with some basic hand tools that you always seem to need for major projects. It also works well for hauling a couple extra trail cameras to put out just in case you run across a rub line.
With the Sportsman’s 48-inch overall width, it’s easy to navigate through the woods. If you see some signs of deer activity, you can stop and pop a camera onto a tree and never even have to get off the machine. My husband likes to give me shit about it, but I can quickly put up more cameras than he can, and my Michigan deer was bigger than his last season.
A Custom Fit
Like any good tool, being able to customize you ATV for a specific job is important. We added a winch and snowplow to the 450. Thanks to the factory-installed winch and plow mount plates, it’s an easy install. We set aside a whole afternoon but only needed about an hour from start to finish. A winch is a must-have accessory for any ATV that will be doing work in the woods, and Polaris makes a nice 3,500 Pro winch that comes with synthetic rope and a wireless remote. The Sportsman is prewired for the winch and with the plate already part of the frame, installation was a snap. It has a rapid recovery feature that spools the line on quickly. We mainly used it to move our chicken coop around. I also got the ATV stuck a few times, so having the winch meant I could get it out of a muddy field without having to inconvenience anyone.
Since we live in an area that gets plenty of snow, the plow came in handy. It cleared our driveway in minutes as opposed to the hours it might take with a snowblower, depending on snow depth. Polaris has the plow mount essentially built into the frame, and the plow unit just snaps on. All you have to do is attach the winch and you’re ready to go.
The 450 Has Limits
There are a few drawbacks to the Sportsman 450. The biggest one is something that Polaris has done for a long time. the trailer hitch is a 1¼-inch instead of a 2-inch receiver. It’s not a big deal, but it does mean you have to go out and buy a new hitch if you want to trailer anything. It seems a little weak, especially considering that the 450’s towing capacity increased to 1,350 pounds for 2021. It’s a small thing, but it’s time Polaris offer both hitch options with its machines. There’s nothing worse than loading the ATV on the trailer during duck season, getting to a field and realizing that you forgot to swap in the 2-inch hitch. Then you just have to hope your 2-inch truck hitch isn’t rusted or frozen in place. It’s just an unnecessary pain in the ass.
The tires are okay for hard surfaces. They are 25-inch P373 Polaris tires on 12-inch wheels, with a 6-ply construction. They are tough and get decent traction on roads, but they’re not very good in the snow and mud. Plowing snow quickly made me realize that the 450 needed an aftermarket tire upgrade. I know from talking to our local dealership that the first thing most people do when they buy an ATV or UTV is switch the tires to something that better suits their needs. We have a set of Sedona Bucksnort tires on our personal ATV, and they perform much better than the Polaris stock tires.
Is the Polaris Sportsman 450 a Good Buy?
At one point or another, we’ve had every size of ATV on the market come through our farm. If you need a lot of horsepower, or just want to go really fast, there are the 1,000cc-class monsters that can scream down the trail with your truck in-tow. But that’s not the type of machine most hunters need, though they are a lot of fun to ride. I found the power and handling of the 450 to be perfect if you need a solid all-around ATV that can handle a small- to medium-sized hunting property.
It has good ground clearance (11.5 inches), and it handled all of the many ruts on our property with ease. Polaris also re-worked the suspension to make the ride much smother. The on-demand all-wheel system can sense wheel spin and delivers traction to the tires when they need it. Also, the 9.5-inch rear travel and sealed bushings make for a more durable suspension and better ride.
Polaris relocated the battery inside the front wheel well, a major plus for ease of access. The old battery location was not good. I have small hands, and even then, I couldn’t easily reach under the machine to get jumper cables on the battery in order to jump start it after my son left the key in the on position overnight. If you do buy this machine, I recommend spending the extra money for the EPS (electronic power steering). It makes handling much better and less taxing on you if you’re riding all day.
The power, handling ,and styling of the 450 combine to make a solid, all-around ATV you should consider when looking for a mid-sized machine. There are a couple of package options you can get as well if you’re looking for an ATV designed for specific applications.
The Utility package adds metal racks and a rear power port along with a special front bumper that has a built-in front receiver hitch. The Trail package adds bumpers and a winch. We opted to get the standard 450 H.O. EPS and add our own accessories to fit our needs. There are tons to choose from that Polaris offers, as well as aftermarket upgrades. That’s one of the awesome things about ATVs—you can customize them. As long as you don’t need the added power of an 850cc or 1,000cc engine, the Polaris Sportsman 450 H.O. EPS can do what you need it to.
Polaris Sportsman 450 H.O. EPS Spec Chart
Engine: 499cc SOHC single-cylinder, liquid-cooled four stroke; Horsepower: 33; Transmission: Automatic PVT with P/R/N/H/L; Fuel: Electronic fuel injection; Overall Width: 48 inches; Ground Clearance: 11.5 inches; Front Suspension: Sealed MacPherson Strut, 8.2 inches; Rear Suspension: Dual A-arm independent, 9.5 inches; Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons; Wheelbase: 50.5 inches; Rack capacity: 90 lbs. front, 180 lbs. rear; Towing capacity: 1,350 lbs.; MSRP: $7,449