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I was driving a 2025 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 when I had to slow down, not for a rock or other typical obstacle, but because there was an ostrich on the road. The nearly 6-foot bird slowed our train of UTVs to a crawl as it followed the road for over 100 yards. Finally, the big bird cut off the trail, disappearing into the dense brush as quickly as it had appeared. The whole sequence would have been unusual if I didn’t already know I was in Texas.

My test ride of the new Polaris Ranger NorthStar rig occurred at the Ox Ranch in Uvalde. With over 18,000 acres of rocky west Texas terrain, it proved the perfect ground for testing UTVs. The conditions were dry, dusty, and hot. Over the hours I spent inside the 2025 Ranger, it quickly became apparent that Polaris didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel this year. Instead, they focused primarily on quality-of-life improvements.

The result? the smoothest-driving Ranger I’ve ever driven. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I put the machine into gear. After a week of testing, I can confirm the updates and new features Polaris added to its workhorse are well worth it.

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Quick Overview

Specs

  • Weight: 1,437 lbs
  • Dimensions: 120” x 66” x 79”
  • Engine: 4-Stroke Twin Cylinder SOHC
  • Transmission: Gen 2 Automatic PVT
  • Horsepower: 82
  • Ground Clearance: 12”
  • Payload Capacity: 1,500 Pounds
  • Towing Capacity: 2,500 Pounds

What’s Changed

Most of the changes to the 2025 Rangers are subtle. At first, I didn’t notice the front hood and grill redesign. The front grill is smaller and looks more aggressive. These machines have the same 999cc, 4-stroke twin-cylinder engine. The horsepower, weight, dimensions, fuel capacity, tow rating, and payload capacity are identical to last year’s models. The most notable outward appearance change here is the beefed-up 29-inch tires that give an additional inch of ground clearance. One must look closely to find the other differences. 

The updates to the new Ranger aren’t easy to find, but they make a big difference. (Photo/Travis Smola)

“We made over 100 improvements to this full-size lineup over the past few years,” Polaris’ Ranger Product Manager Chris Hendricks said during a brief presentation. “We’ve made even more for 25.”

Polaris completely redesigned the transmission system and power steering, giving them a return-to-center function like an automobile. A new bumper is already pre-drilled for accessory integration, and all the seals on the cab doors have been redesigned. 

Testing Results and Analysis

Transmission

Last year, I found the Polaris claims of one-finger shifting with the Ranger XD 1500 slightly exaggerated. Moving the stick is still not that easy, but this updated Gen 2 transmission is the best Polaris has built yet. Specifically, Polaris added more bushings and bearings and beefed up the shift forks. They also made some of the shaft grooves more precise. Subsequently, there’s less play in the shift lever. Additionally, the lever is slightly more vertical on these new machines. It’s smoother and more accessible to shift from park to high gear than previous models. I never had an issue hitting the intended gear; it always felt crisp.  

I had a blast driving the new Ranger across the Texas desert. (Photo/Travis Smola)

Ride and Steering

I found that the overall ride in the 2025 Ranger XP 1000 was a lot smoother. There is noticeably less vibration in the whole vehicle. I love the power steering on this machine. It pairs perfectly with the transmission and is easily the best steering Polaris has ever put on a Ranger. It’s never been this effortless to corner. The return to center feature gives it the feel of a modern pickup truck. 

Combined with the smooth transmission, this new Ranger rides much closer to their crossover General than ever before. The Ranger has always been Polaris’s workhorse model. I’ve previously heard other powersports writers dismiss any comfort factor for this machine. However, I must admit that this machine is a thoroughly comfortable and enjoyable recreational ride. 

Suspension and Tires

There isn’t much to add about either of these features. The dual A-arm suspension still makes for an incredibly smooth ride. This machine floats over smaller ruts and bumps like they aren’t even there, and we found plenty of those throughout the Ox Ranch as the ride progressed.

I noticed the new 29-inch Pro Armor X-Terrain tires seem to have more bite to them. They felt much more aggressive on hill climbs and during faster acceleration. Combined with the decent control system, it feels pretty secure going down steep hills. 

The suspension system of the Ranger continues to be a standout. (Photo/Travis Smola)

The tires are 2 inches bigger and offer a little more ground clearance. However, the machine’s size won’t be as jolting to Ranger veterans as the XD 1500. In truth, I didn’t notice the tires were slightly more prominent until the engineers pointed it out. The extra ground clearance was excellent on the rougher parts of the trail and the water crossings we hit. 

The new 29-inch tires are more aggressive. (Photo/Travis Smola)

Cab Features

The overall design of the interior hasn’t changed much. However, Polaris’ engineers nailed the redesign of all the door seams. While the NorthStar cab system has always been sound, tiny bits of dust seemed to always find their way into the interior. That’s not an issue anymore. These rubber seams are noticeably thicker and seal shut with authority. The variable compressor and cabin filter on the AC system help with that, too. I was shocked at how clean the cab was at the end of the day.

One of my favorite updates in the cab is that the the power window controls moved to the door. On previous Rangers, Polaris always put the buttons in the center console, similar to a Jeep Wrangler. I’m not a Jeep driver, so I always found myself hunting for the controls on older models. Reaching over to the door as I would in my truck feels much more intuitive. 

Polaris also migrated the JBL Trail Pro audio system over from the XD 1500. This sound system is a significant upgrade in sound quality from prior models.  

The dash layout is still familiar in 2025. (Photo/Travis Smola)

Everything else in the cab should feel familiar to veteran Polaris drivers. The flat bench seat is comfortable and easy to slide across. The wiper, lights, and drive mode controls are still easy to operate. The 7-inch Ride Command display screen remains a nifty and helpful feature for navigating and communicating with others in your group. I was the second vehicle in line during our ride and quickly lost the lead Ranger when I got stuck behind the ostrich. A glance at the map screen helped me find where the lead vehicle turned off at the next junction. 

Dump Box

I’m still not thrilled with the dump box mechanism. It’s a piston-operated bed that dumps via a manual handle. This handle is plenty functional for most users. However, it might be hard for anyone with physical limitations to use. It makes me wonder why Polaris hasn’t standardized a factory model with an electronic box lift like its competitors. I’m sure they’ve heard requests for a factory-installed electronic dump, making it even more puzzling. 

Exterior Features and Colors

I only got to drive the Ranger 1000 Northstar Edition on this trip. However, Polaris showcased other 2025 models at the ranch. This year, accessories are largely standardized. All the 1000 and XP 1000 models will now have a redesigned roof and come equipped with a Polaris winch and 4,500-pound synthetic rope. Those fitted with cab net doors are updated with a new single-latch connection system, making this door style more manageable to use.

For 2025, Polaris has introduced some new color schemes—including black. The engineers told me that the brand has been hesitant to offer a black UTV because of how it shows dust and mud. However, due to popular demand, they finally decided to introduce onyx black this year. I think the new blue slate metallic smoke scheme that I drove looked very sharp in person.

Polaris finally introduced a black color scheme by popular demand. (Photo/Travis Smola)

After a multi-year absence, Polaris is also bringing back the Ranger Crew XP 1000 Texas Edition in standard and NorthStar configurations. These machines come fully decked out with complete Ride Command and winch packages. They are also offered in a bronze pearl metallic color scheme exclusive to the Texas Edition. 

Price

It’s not a secret that the Ranger remains an expensive machine. However, I see this as more of a symptom of the times than Polaris jacking up the price. In truth, the price is comparable to competitors’ machines with many of the same features. Some of the engineers acknowledged the price points during our event. They’ve heard the complaints before. Unfortunately, they told me it’s difficult to lower the price without sacrificing the quality of the parts and the components. 

Verdict

This new Polaris Northstar Edition is easily the best I’ve ever driven. The improved transmission, better cab, and responsive steering make driving this machine a true joy. It’s hard to believe how much Polaris has improved the quality of the ride in just a few short years. The new Ranger is another winner worthy of a look for anyone seeking a machine capable of work and play. 

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