ACE Up Their Sleeve

Polaris unveils unique new vehicle

Published in the July 2014 Issue July 2014 Powersport News Lane Lindstrom

You might chuckle if we tell you Polaris’ latest vehicle for the off-road crowd could very well be the company’s ACE in the hole. Yea, kind of cheesy.

Cheesy yes, but we think Polaris just might chuckle all the way to the bank on this one.

At the media introduction of the ACE this past winter near Marble Falls, TX, one Polaris official told the group that Polaris’ consumer research found the company wasn’t serving all its riders.

What? Really? A company that practically owns the side-by-side market not serving all its riders? That was almost unbelievable to hear and then digest.

But after seeing and driving the new Sportsman ACE—the latest in a string of new model intros from Polaris over the past year or so—it’s not so hard to see where this vehicle fits in the overall market.

And Polaris officials were clear in explaining the purpose of the ACE. “This is targeted at the guy entering the sport, not the high adrenaline junkie,” one Polaris official said.

Think of the genius of melding the nimbleness and relatively small size of an ATV with the stability and creature comforts of a side-by-side. That’s the ACE. We debated long and hard about using the word “stability” in referring to the ACE when comparing it to a traditional ATV. Some (mostly enemies of the off-road industry) will read that to say that ATVs are not stable. That’s not what we’re saying or implying at all.

Four Challenges

Polaris posed four challenges to its engineers when they were tasked with designing a new vehicle. Of the four—1) fun and capable, 2) comfortable, 3) had to build confidence to that rider who might be coming into our sport, and 4) had to be competitive—it was No. 3 that really stuck in our mind as one of the biggest benefits of this side-by-side/ATV combo.

If you look at the ACE from the perspective of a first-time rider or someone who might be getting a little older and finds it’s not as easy to climb up and on an ATV, or who doesn’t really want a full-blown side-by-side, the new Polaris vehicle would be quite attractive and not intimidating.

It is, as Polaris is quick to point out, a very different riding experience. No doubt. When we first wrote about the ACE on our website and in the last issue of Dirt Toys, we made a comment about sliding into the seat of the new Sportsman ACE. It feels even kind of odd just saying that.

But that’s exactly what you do. You slide into a bucket seat, complete with a three-point seat belt. The high-backed bucket seat is adjustable (four inches forward and aft) and allows the driver to sit low in the chassis compared to higher up on an ATV. Other side-by-side characteristics include a unique ROPS cab frame and adjustable (3.5 inches of adjustment) steering wheel. Then there is the gas pedal and brake pedal. The seat and steering wheel are the same as what you’ll find in a RZR 570. The 4-wheel hydraulic disc brake system is also the same as what is found on a RZR 570.

Rider Centric

When you’re in the seat of the ACE, you’re sitting in the middle of the vehicle, like an ATV (rider centric as Polaris calls it), but have the side-by-side experience of the bucket seat, steering wheel, ROPS and seat belt. One other feature that may not necessarily classify as a “confidence builder” but as more of a creature comfort, is that the floor plan is pretty flat, meaning it’s easy to swing your legs in and out of the vehicle. And there is no lip or edge on the floorboard that you have to step over to get into the vehicle.  

Polaris engineers nailed the “confidence” challenge.

The ACE has a new engine specific just to this vehicle—a ProStar 32, with the 32 signifying the horsepower rating of the machine. According to Polaris, the 325cc DOHC, single-cylinder ProStar 32 puts out more power than the Sportsman 400 and about the same power as the Ranger 500 EFI. The engine, which is mounted behind the seat, also features electronic fuel injection and has an internal counter-balance shaft to minimize vibration.

Granted, you’re not going to set any land speed records in the ACE, but then, that’s not what it was designed and built for. However, the ProStar 32 had enough power to scoot around on the trails and terrain in the Hidden Falls Adventure Park near Marble Falls, which, if you’re not aware, is in Texas’ hill country. It’s not like we were riding on wide, paved trails—far from it. We rode over rocks and boulders, up small rock walls, along narrow trails lined with brush and trees, through deep ruts and over loose dirt and through a creek.

Going from 2WD to 4WD was as easy as flipping a toggle switch, and with the vehicle’s On Demand All Wheel Drive, which automatically engages when the vehicle needs more forward traction and then reverts back to two-wheel drive automatically when the AWD is no longer needed, the ACE makes traversing most any terrain fairly easy if the horsepower is up to it.


The transmission has a high and low setting, along with reverse and neutral, with the shifter located next to the right hand side of the seat. The shifter is smooth and easy to slip into gear and we like having the gear indicator on the gauge. The gauge is a bit smallish and hard to read while driving, but it gets the job done.

There is no engine braking and no power steering but we admit, even though we are big proponents of electronic power steering, that the ACE steers light.

Partly because of how low you sit in the chassis (read: low center of gravity) and a very good suspension, we always felt connected to the trail and like how stable the ACE feels, especially over the rocky terrain and in the creek bed. And because you’re planted in the center of the vehicle the balance feels very good as well.

There are 10.5 inches of ground clearance and 8.2 inches of travel up front with 9.5 inches in back. The front suspension features MacPherson struts with the geometry of the suspension very close to that of other four-wheelers in the Sportsman ATV class. The dual A-arm rear suspension has an anti-sway bar and is the same geometry and has the same components as the RZR 570.

Some of the ACE’s dimensions are similar to a Sportsman ATV. For example, the ACE is the same width as an ATV (about 48 inches) but the length is 6.5 inches longer than a one-up Sportsman (actually closer to the length of a two-up Sportsman, which is four inches shorter). At 61.5 inches, the ACE wheelbase is 5.5 inches longer than a two-up Sportsman. So it has a bigger footprint than the Sportsman ATVs, which helps account for its increased feeling of stability.  

More Comparisons

As for weight, the ACE has a dry weight of 835 lbs., compared to the Sportsman 400’s 688 lbs. and non-EPS RZR 570 at 1,059 lbs.

The rear cargo box measures 18 by 35 inches and there is 2.8 gallons of semi-dry storage onboard so you do have some carrying capabilities. The ACE also has a towing capacity of 1500 lbs.

We can’t really talk about the ACE without touching on the price, which is $7,499. Since it really has no competition from other manufacturers, we can compare it to other Polaris vehicles to show how price-competitive it is. For example, the Sportsman 400 H.O. is $5,699, the Sportsman 550 EPS $8,699 and the RZR 570 $10,299. With the ACE’s competitive MSRP, Polaris officials said they “wanted to appeal to existing customers and new customers.” That price tag will definitely grab some attention.

For its intended rider/driver and for what it is designed for, the ACE is a great vehicle. The fun factor is high and the uniqueness of the ACE something that will garner attention for a very long time.

So while it may be a bit cheesy to say this vehicle is Polaris’ ACE in the hole, the company did a masterful job of unleashing another off-road gem.


Polaris ACE

Engine: DOHC, 4 valves, 4-stroke

Displacement: 325cc

Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injection

Cooling: Liquid

Fuel Capacity: 5.25 gallons


Transmission: Automatic PVT P/R/N/L/H

Drive: On-Demand True AWD/2WD/4WD


Front Suspension: MacPherson Strut, 8.2 inches travel

Rear Suspension: Dual A-arm, anti-sway bar, 9.5 inches travel


Brakes: 4-wheel hydraulic disc with dual-bore front calipers


Front Tires: 25 x 8-12 Carlisle

Rear Tires: 25 x 10-12 Carlisle


Wheelbase: 61.5 inches

Length: 90 inches

Width: 48 inches

Height: 68 inches

Ground Clearance: 10.25 inches

Dry Weight: 835 lbs.

Payload Capacity: 575 lbs.

Hitch Towing Rating: 1,500 lbs.

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