ATV Review: 2014 Polaris Sportsman ACE

2014 Polaris Sportsman ACE
MSRP: Starts at $7,499

The Polaris Ace features an innovative hybrid design that shatters the stereotypical ATV and UTV definitions we've all grown accustomed to. With the footprint and dimensions of a traditional ATV and the ability to be piloted like a typical UTV/SxS, this machine has the capability to reach a whole new audience that would likely have never given a conventional ATV a consideration.

The Ace is powered by a 327cc ProStar power plant dubbed the ProStar 32 for its claimed 32 horsepower output. When I first heard the specs, the small 327cc engine sounded lame. This engine is a perfect example of why you shouldn't have judged a book by its cover. The ProStar 32 single-cylinder engine is potent, and is likely the perfect size for this machine. Power is impressive, but not enough to get a novice into trouble too easily. I found the Pro Star 32 to be an excellent choice for technical trail riding.

The Ace features Polaris' On-Demand True All-Wheel Drive systems. When engaged, power is transferred to the front wheels whenever rear wheel slippage is detected. When traction is regained, the system disengages power to the front wheels and begins to monitor again for slippage.

The suspension resembles the older style Sportsman design, with struts up front and a dual a-arm rear suspension. The Ace is comfortable at normal trail speeds. Push it to the limits on harsh terrain and the Ace obviously runs out of travel much quicker than its long travel RZR brethren. The Ace has a ride quality similar to the Sportsman ATV, but it's not rider active: being strapped into the seat didn't allow me to use my body weight and position to affect the handling like a typical ATV. Since the option for me to stand and use my legs like shock absorbers wasn't possible, I learned to slow down for the big hits rather than pin it. The short wheelbase and narrow 48-inch width make the Ace super easy to negotiate tight trails, but it also required me to negotiate gnarly terrain with a bit more grace than a traditional ATV. The Ace also exhibits a bit of understeer at slow speeds, causing the front end to push a bit.

The single-seat cockpit is no-nonsense, which is a compliment. There's not much room to put a bunch of fancy niceties, so the Polaris design team kept it simple. An adjustable seat, gear shifter, tilt steering wheel, center mounted gauge pod, seatbelt, and a few switches pretty much sums it up. Given its small size, my 6-foot-2-inch frame fit really well.

I feel one of the Ace's biggest assets is the $7,500 price point. There's no question this machine will attract novice users who are not able to safely ride an ATV, and those not willing or able to deal with the size of a typical UTV. This machine is a godsend for disabled or elderly sportsmen, while still entertaining enough to attract hardcore off-roaders like me. I can't wait to see the aftermarket jump on this design. I sense long travel kits, big bore head swaps, and a growing list of other aftermarket accessories.

Under the front rack lives a large, water-resistant storage compartment capable of swallowing snacks, water, and a heavy jacket. The racks also feature Polaris' Lock & Ride compatibility. In my testing, the Ace's hauling prowess is much further in line with a typical ATV than a UTV/SxS.

Over the past few years, I've heard rumors of a single-seat UTV in development. Honda tried it back in the '80s, although that machine was better suited for the dunes than for hunting a trophy buck. Fortunately, the rumors turned out to be true and all evidence suggests Polaris won't have any trouble selling this machine. The Ace is reasonably priced, has all-wheel drive, offers rollover protection, and is easy for a novice off-roader to get out and explore. In essence, the Polaris Ace should be just about as easy to sell as .22 ammunition on the shelves at Walmart.
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Hits:_
- Innovative hybrid design is a friendly starting platform for novice off-roaders.
- Small size make tight trail access simple.
- ProStar 32 engine offers great performance and efficiency.
- $7,500 is a bargain basement price.
- It is a blast to drive.

Misses:
- Front struts are old-school technology that don't allow caster/camber change throughout the travel stroke, which can cause the front end to push.
- No premium model with options like EPS, aluminum wheels, or additional colors available at this time.