Ace in the Whole

Published in the December 2014 Issue December 2014 Mark Bourbeau

Well, here we go again bringing up the cheesy “Ace in the Hole” lead ... kinda. We drove the 2014 model of the Ace in Texas last winter and were pleasantly surprised with the whole concept of the Ace and how it handled itself as we tested it in the Hill Country of Texas.

With the 2015 model year upon us and with a few months under its drive belt, the Ace has established itself as the model Polaris is touting as ideal for the novice to dirt powersports (as well as perfect for anyone who wants the feel of an ATV but the amenities of a side-by-side) and a vehicle that isn’t intimidating either in price or ease of operation.

Obviously, the size of the machine, including the foot print and centric rider position, are the only similarities to the Sportsman from an operating standpoint, whereas the cockpit layout with a low seat position, steering wheel, foot pedal controls and a roll cage are all RZRish, making the transition for experienced side-by-siders more natural than that for an ATVer.

At the 2015 model press intro, held at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch in southern Utah, our hands-on experience with the newest Ace was on the impressive side of expectations as we finally got to drive the Ace, in the whole. You see, we have reason to believe that the Ace 570 was supposed to be the original Ace introduced back in Texas. That’s a bit of speculation on our part but that speculation is based on some pretty good and reliable rumors.


Suspicions Confirmed

Instead, Polaris introduced the Ace with a 32-horsepower ProStar engine. After that product unveiling, our suspicions were confirmed when the Ace 570 was unveiled this summer.

That’s why we say, once we got some seat time in the Ace 570, we felt like we were getting the whole experience.

The ProStar 570 is a 45-horsepower single cylinder powerplant with dual overhead cams, four valves and automotive-style fuel injection. Don’t get us wrong; we think the 32-horsepower ProStar originally introduced to the consumer is a fine option for true beginners and/or low elevations, but the 570 has that extra grunt that we like and powers up the Ace to work much more efficiently under more extreme conditions including weight of load, terrain and altitude.

There might have been a few folks who thought the original Ace was a bit underpowered with the 32 hp, but they are forgetting who the first Ace was designed and built for. The Ace 570 is just one more option for someone who wants a bit more power but not that much more—the extra 13 horses won’t intimidate most folks, even those new to the sport.


Test Drive

The 570 that we drove on the Zion Ponderosa trail system ran real well and we felt it had snappy acceleration regardless of the terrain situations we found around 6,500 feet, the average elevation we tested this vehicle. We saw 50 plus mph on the speedo while running the county gravel road. We found the added power adds to the riding experience of the Ace, allowing us to tackle a little tougher terrain than the original Ace could handle. Hey, 10 plus extra horsepower may not seem like a big change to veteran dirt riders, but it is only working with 32 to start out.

When all things are considered, we think the Ace is a great outside-the-box option that offers an added a sense of security compared to an ATV. It has all the safety features of side-by-sides with low center of gravity seating, seatbelts, side screens and a roll cage, which all factor in as confidence builders.

Again, those who are veteran off-trail riders seem to take many of those things for granted, but look at them from a novice rider’s viewpoint. Those simple features add to the riding experience.

Zeroing in on the cockpit, it has more than ample room for a 5-foot-9, 175-pound pilot and the tilt adjustable steering just makes for easier ingress/egress. The tilt steering wheel does fit the hands well, the info display is just ok when on the move and the accessory rocker toggles are a nice feature along with the functional drink bottle holder.


Typical Polaris Feel

The ride and drivability of the Ace is the typical Polaris positive feel and sporty performance sans Electronic Power Steering. We found the steering effort to be on the lighter side, even when the machine sits static, yet the 570 can accelerate quick enough that you can find yourself playing catch-up and swattin’ flies.

The longer wheelbase of the Ace compared to the Sportsman does tend to track better yet the ride is status quo for the value segment with 10.25 inches of ground clearance and 9.5 inches of double A-arm suspension travel in the back and 8.2 inches of MacPherson strut travel in the front.

We understand that to keep things affordable, you have to forgo the creature comfort bells and whistles that we have come to expect from Polaris, and we have obviously become a bit spoiled over the years. However, one feature we believe would be beneficial to the Ace and its driver, and is more of a safety item than an amenity, is an engine braking system. You forget how much some EBS helps machine control and changes incline descents until you operate a machine without it and have to resort to an old school riding technique of keeping the clutches hooked up to the belt to minimize free wheeling and brake riding.

The 2015 Ace 570 is available in two color options, White Lightning or Voodoo Blue. Its base price of $8,499 is a thousand dollars more than the 32-horsepower Ace.

Is this the final Ace in the hole for Polaris or is the 570 the whole experience when it comes to the hybrid ATV/side-by-side vehicle? Time will tell.

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