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Side by side UTV manufacturers have been blurring the lines between pickup truck and dedicated off-road vehicle for several years now. Expect the new Polaris Ranger XD 1500 to blur that line even more. After having it in development for close to seven years, Polaris is touting this new Ranger as the workhorse of their lineup—which makes sense considering it sports more horsepower and torque than we would have thought possible in a UTV.

I recently got the chance to spend a few hours driving the new Ranger XD 1500 over a variety of terrain types at the storied Three Forks Ranch on the Colorado and Wyoming border. Here’s what my honest review of the new machine after thoroughly beating the heck out of it in the high desert.

Polaris Ranger XD 1500 Overview

The XD 1500 upscales almost every aspect of the Ranger platform. Travis Smola


  • Weight: 2,800 lbs (3-seat)
  • Dimensions: 137” x 64” x 78”
  • Engine: 1498cc 4-stroke DOHC Triple Cylinder
  • Transmission: Steeldrive automatic
  • Horsepower: 110 HP
  • Torque: 105 pounds-foot
  • Ground Clearance: 15”
  • Payload Capacity: 1,705 lbs
  • Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs


  • Unrivaled horsepower and torque
  • Incredible ground clearance
  • Surprisingly smooth ride
  • Beefed up parts and components
  • Great legroom and driver comfort


  • Big weight increase over XP models
  • Expensive

The Ranger XD 1500 doesn’t look too different from Polaris’ standard XP 1000 models. The XD stands for “extreme duty.” It’s the same width, and roughly the same height. But the new machine is slightly longer and much heavier. Honestly, I couldn’t tell much of a difference size-wise—until I saw the XP and the XD sitting next to each other. The XD basically looks like a Ranger on steroids. The A-arm suspension, the shocks, tires, bumpers, and bed box are all supersized on the XD 1500.

The new steel belt drive is designed to need little to no maintenance. Travis Smola

Polaris has majorly upgraded the power with a 1500cc four-stroke engine that puts the power of 110 ponies at your disposal. Sporting 105 pounds-foot of torque, this machine has a new “Steeldrive” transmission. Polaris went with a steel belt instead of rubber to eliminate most maintenance on the drive.

The new Ranger now has directional airflow controls just like a truck. Travis Smola

Another major highlight is the newly redesigned enclosed cab and HVAC system. Such a system isn’t new for the Ranger. The company has been offering this feature for years. However, this is the first time you’ll get five different settings for air flow, just like a pickup truck or car. Polaris also added a recirculation setting that draws and recycles the air through the cab instead of the outside. It helps further seal the cab from the elements.

What I Like About the Polaris Ranger XD 1500

The standard Ranger XD 1500 has an open cab and net doors. Travis Smola

I’ve driven nearly every UTV in the Polaris lineup at one point or another. And I honestly didn’t think Polaris could improve the handling of their Ranger platform any more than they already had, especially considering how everything on the 1500 is bigger than the XP 1000. I was wrong.

Pushing the accelerator on the 1500 was a rather pleasant surprise no matter what driving mode you’ve set. As you might expect, the new engine gives this Ranger much more pep than the 1000. But at the same time, the ride is somehow smoother. I would compare it to their “cross” platform General more than the standard Ranger models in terms of ride.

Every aspect of the new Ranger’s suspension has been massively upgraded. Travis Smola

I wasn’t too surprised by the suspension of this new Ranger as I’ve been a fan of Polaris’ suspension systems for some time now. It really soaks up every rut, rock, and bump with ease thanks to the 15 inches of ground clearance. The 30-inch tires help greatly with getting this thing over obstacles. These tires are beasts. They help the machine effortlessly float over rocky terrain without ever once hearing something hit the skid plate.

The new tires on the Ranger 1500 are massive and add a lot to the ground clearance. Travis Smola

Even though this machine has much larger tires than other Ranger offerings, the power steering operates quite effortlessly. This UTV has a much tighter turn radius than previous models I’ve driven. During our testing, we had some steep, rocky hill climbing and descending at elevations over 7,500 feet. This is where the hill assist, and descent control comes into play. Take your foot off the accelerator on the way up, and the vehicle will stop in place automatically. I tried it on the descent of one hill and it worked like a charm. It’s a nice little safety feature and peace of mind for more technically challenging hills.

Northstar Cab System

The interior is slightly more roomy than a standard Polaris XP 1000. Travis Smola

The signature feature of Polaris’ Northstar editions has always been the enclosed cab systems. With the 1500, Polaris has redesigned the whole thing, and it seems to seal up better than ever before. Even after a full day of riding in very dusty conditions, there was barely any in the cab of the machine I was driving. I can’t remember the last time I went off-roading and didn’t get dirty. The 1500 is the exception. Combine that with an excellent heating and air conditioning system, and you’ve got an extremely comfortable ride. In fact, it wasn’t until I was out of the cab participating in other activities that I realized just how warm it was outside.

While I felt like the standard XP 1000 already has a decent amount of legroom, I was happy to see the 1500 has just a hair more space. That’s good news for people like me who are at least 6 feet tall. Add in an impressive new JBL sound system and full integration with Polaris’ ride command screen features, and it’s a complete package. I wanted to slap a license plate on this thing and drive it back to Michigan. It was roomier and more comfortable than the plane seats I had to endure the next day flying home.

Ride Command serves as the central hub of information for the Ranger 1500. Travis Smola

Almost everything about this Ranger has been redesigned, right down to the push-open front window. It’s a lot easier to operate now, and it locks in a semi-open position with just a crack for better airflow if you don’t want to run the AC. Even the doors feel smoother to open and close.

Hauling and Accessories

The new, larger bed box holds a ton of gear and accessories. Travis Smola

Polaris has redesigned all their accessories for the Ranger 1500 and they completely loaded the bed to demonstrate its capabilities. From gun cases to a bevy of holders for hand tools, they’ve got you covered as far as work and play goes. The 3,500-pound towing capacity is simply mind-boggling. Polaris added a plug in the rear bed that makes it simple to attach a sprayer or other accessory. I can see this being a popular machine to use with food plots.

The new Ranger’s accessory systems can be completely customized. Travis Smola

For hunters, I discovered a unique new feature while playing around with the Ride Command system. Polaris has added a feature that allows you to view trail camera photos on the machine’s 7-inch screen. Speaking of Ride Command, I also appreciate the ability to send a text message to the other machines in your group. I’m not sure if that’s a new feature or not, but it’s a solid way to stay connected while hunting, especially in places without cell phone signal.

What I Don’t Like About the Polaris Ranger XD 1500

I had few issues with the 1500 during a nearly five-hour test ride. Travis Smola

In truth, there’s not a whole lot of things to nitpick with the 1500. I did experience a major issue with the machine’s front and rear backup cameras. They both completely quit working during the test, for seemingly no real reason. I’ll give Polaris some leeway on that because the machines we were driving were pre-production models. Some still had some issues to be worked out.

Effortless shifting is another one of Polaris’ big selling points for this machine. One of the Polaris engineers at the event said it would shift with just one finger. It’s a lot smoother than the XP 1000, but I found that one finger claim was a slight exaggeration. While it’s not a stiff shift by any means, it’s also not that easy to put into drive.

I liked the power windows on this machine, but I wish the controls were on the door instead of the center console. It’s probably a simplicity of wiring thing, but window controls don’t feel quite natural in the middle of the dash. I had to hunt for them every time I opened the window.

The Extreme Duty seems to have upped the ante on everything with Ranger, including the price. Travis Smola

It’s a minor complaint, but the machine is a little bit heavier due to the beefier components. When compared to the XP 1000, it’s only a difference of a few hundred pounds. While that’s not a big change, it could be enough that some people’s trailers can no longer haul it.

Finally, the price tag for a fully decked out Northstar model is a huge jump of nearly $12,000 over an XP 1000. We understand that’s a necessity for jump given the cost of the materials involved. But the $40,000 to $50,000 price tag can be a lot to stomach.

Polaris Ranger XD 1500: Final Thoughts

The Ranger XD 1500 might be the best-driving UTV Polaris has ever produced. Travis Smola

Out of all the Polaris side-by-sides I’ve driven over the years, the Ranger XD 1500 might be my favorite, which is not what I was expecting from a larger work-focused machine. Expect a lot of Polaris’ competitors to take some cues from this machine going forward. It’s easy to see the seven years of work that went into this design because there’s little here the engineers didn’t think about ahead of time. Considering the larger size of everything on this machine, I was surprised this is the smoothest UTV I’ve ever driven, even when you shift the drive mode out of comfort and into “sport” mode. Polaris has truly produced a machine that plays as hard as it works.

For more information, see the Polaris Off-Road website.

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