2013 Polaris Scrambler 850: Like a Sportsman on Steroids

Published in the April 2013 Issue April 2013 Mark Bourbeau

The new-for-2013 Polaris Scrambler 850 is quite literally black and white but not just in color. It’s also crystal clear who the market segment (riders) this ATV is targeted for.

The 2013 Scrambler XP H.O., offered in the base trim of white or the upscale Limited Edition package cloaked in Stealth Black, is geared toward the ATV rider who craves bigger power and a sport-tuned suspension with a four-wheel drive package. This thing is like possessed. A Sportsman on steroids was the sensation we felt as we racked up a few miles on the LE, slip-slidin’ around on the trail system at the Bull Run Guest Ranch, also known as the Rockpile (trust us, there is a reason for that namesake) Ranch, close to Cascade, MT.

Before ever firing the machine up, you can’t help notice the looks of the Scrambler. Some may question the very aggressive look of the new Scrambler as it is one of those “love it” or “hate it” kind of looks. We’re still not sure which camp we’re in, although we definitely shy away from the “hate it that much” camp. The machine does come across as a bit “boxy” looking to us.

However, fire it, throw a leg over it and take off and you’ll be saying, “Who cares about looks?” Just one test drive of the high output EFI twin crankin’ out 77 hp and sounds that are pretty badass thanks to its stainless steel sport exhaust, and all of a sudden we were wondering if the looks were a little deceiving.


Mud And Rocks

Our test ride consisted basically of mud and rocks, so high speed runs were rare, although we did see 60-plus on the speedo more than once and that was with incredible ease. Good low end grunt is also prevalent as this Scrambler will indeed wheelie up and carry it as long as you can ride it, as was demonstrated by one of the Polaris personnel.

The 850 twin H.O. is the biggest engine Polaris makes for its ATV line and is the same powerplant you’ll find in the Sportsman 850. The 850 is a four-stroke high-output SOHC twin with EFI and liquid-cooling. Polaris bumped up the power output of the 850 for the Sportsman in model year 2012 and expanded its use for 2013 by using that engine in the new Scrambler.

The exclusive On-Demand, true all-wheel drive system with engine braking performed flawlessly in keeping control and moving forward amidst our extreme testing conditions of not only mud and rocks, but also creek crossings with boulders along with the steep inclines/declines we experienced throughout the Rockpile trails.

In our mind, the LE package donned with the Electronic Power Steering and Fox Shocks is a must, more so for the former than the latter. The EPS and exclusive anti-kickback steering provided a handle that is, well, shall we say, easy on the thumb and wrist, not to mention just plain easy, even when you are hustlin’ through the rough terrain, especially the rock-ridden creek beds.


Is It Worth The Extra $?

There is an argument to be made for spending the extra $2,500 (difference between the base Scrambler and LE model) for EPS. Of course, that price tag includes Fox Podium X Shocks, digital gauges, aluminum wheels, dual LED headlights and hand guards, not just EPS. Those are the differences between the base model and LE.

The base model uses Sachs shocks but both models offer the same front (9 inches) and rear (10.25 inches) travel. Both models also utilize a dual A-arm front and rear suspension with the rear being a rolled independent suspension. The Scrambler also offers 11 inches of ground clearance, something we found quite handy when crossing the boulder-strewn creeks. We didn’t clear everything but most everything.

A nice feature of this sport-orientated machine that makes it even more trail ride friendly is the ability to pack some goods along aboard a small back rack and platform on the front with slots and tie-down points. The front rack can hold up to 25 lbs. and the rear 50 lbs.

One other thing we found impressive—but are sure not everyone thinks the way we do—is this beast will sling the mud like nobody’s business. Some riders avoid mud at all costs if they can, but the day we rode the Rockpile trails, we did so in a steady rain that created a quagmire everywhere, especially the trails. There was no way of avoiding the mud. We didn’t mind because the Scrambler just ate up those conditions.

If you saw the “Trail’s End” picture in the spring issue of Dirt Toys Magazine (“Our Own Personal Mud Nationals,” page 54), then you saw the conditions we’re talking about. We had a blast and we can definitely vouch for the “sportier ride” of the Scrambler even in the mud as well as tout the power of the engine and the need for all-wheel/four-wheel drive. They were a must that day.

Polaris answered the call for those riders looking for a sportier version of the Sportsman, and those ATV off-roaders who latch onto one won’t be disappointed.

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