POLARIS SCRAMBLER: MIXED EMOTIONS

After logging some saddle time on the Polaris Scrambler, I have to admit – I have mixed feelings about this ATV.

On one hand, it boasts the meat and potatoes of what you want in an ATV. Powerful engine, class leading ride quality and handling, true all-wheel drive and a reasonably sporty appearance. At the same time though, its feature list falls so short of norms in this segment that we’re left scratching our heads. Let’s break it down.

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The 2011 Polaris Scrambler features the same 498cc high output carbureted engine as the Sportsman Classic 500 HO. This engine is snappy, provides ample jam at each squeeze and in no way left our pilots poopy-faced or whining for more power.

Plus, Polaris essentially put the McPherson strut front end on the map, which contributes heavily to the Scrambler’s superior ride quality and handling. Seriously, it absolutely kicks butt for an ATV in this semi-crossover class putting it head and shoulders above the Arctic Cat XC 450i in this area.

However, here’s the rub. The Scrambler’s feature list is so disappointing; the average “entry level” buyer could fall out of love with this ATV in a hurry.

Though the Scrambler is equipped with Polaris’ All-Wheel Drive system, it lacks low range and more importantly ground clearance, thanks to a solid rear axle, 23-inch sporty tires and the absence of IRS. Sure AWD is as sweet as ice cream on a hot day, but its not going to deliver everything you need while you’re out on the trails if the rear end gets hung up. You only need to get stuck in the mud and make the long walk back to camp once to realize the importance these missing features can have on your riding experience.

Further to this, why no PARK feature? It’s available on the Sportsman lineup along with low range, however the Scrambler is only equipped with High, Neutral and Reverse. We think Park and Low Range would be wise additions and could soften the disappointment over the lack of IRS.

What’s also disappointing is the absence of a gauge cluster. The digital instrumentation found on the Sportsman is excellent, however this feature is missing altogether on the Scrambler. Heck, even the sport-specific Yamaha Raptor now comes with a sweet digital gauge cluster. We just think this is one feature Polaris could’ve bolted on without too much trouble.

On the other side of the fence, the Scrambler is nearly 140 pounds lighter than the Sportsman 500 HO and it is the very absence of these features that contribute substantially to this weight difference. However, the price discrepancy between the ATVs is so significant, we have to try not to think about it just so we can sleep at night.

Polaris has proven time and again that it won’t be a category loser. Bottom line is we have to think Polaris engineers will lean heavily on this hot ATV’s rich history and make some tweaks and adjustments to eventually put it on the top of the pile so it over-delivers to the market. For the time being though, The Scrambler will endure purely by its roots – solid engine performance and great handling.

Mike Lester
Mike Lester
Mike Lester is Staff Photographer and Digital Content Manager for Dirt Trax TV. He is also a Contributing Editor and Guest Correspondent on the show.

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