POLARIS SPORTSMAN 450 H.O. TEST!

Fortunately for ATV fans, manufacturers are trying as hard to outdo each other at the entry-level end of the market as they are at the big-bore 4×4 end. The new Polaris Sportsman 450 H.O. gets you in 4WD with a 567cc engine like the Sportsman 570s for just $5999, so we got one for a full test to see what it could do.

WHAT’S NEW?
The 2016 450 H.O. is powered by a 567cc, double-overhead-cam, four-valve engine with 31 horsepower. That’s only 1 horsepower more than the 2015 325cc Sportsman ETX, but the extra displacement fattens up the low-end and midrange power. Different fuel and ignition mapping allow the 567cc single to make 44 horsepower in the Sportsman 570. Plugging the $425 570 engine control module into the 450 isn’t worth the gamble, since it voids your warranty, and the 570 is only $600 more than the 450. The new 450 shares a lot with the 2015 Sportsman ETX. The chassis and bodywork are identical, but the new 450 offers more in several key areas for the same $5999 price. There’s more suspension travel—8.2 inches up front compared to 6.7—and the 450’s rear springs are softer. The 450 also has more ground clearance (10.5 inches versus 9 inches), and the 450 has a more deeply padded seat too.

HOW DOES COST COMPARE?
The Sportsman 450 and Hisun’s Forge 500 are both $5999. The Sportsman 450 EPS is $6799. CFMoto’s CForce 500 is $5149. Honda’s base Rancher 420, Kymco’s MXU 450 and the Arctic Cat Alterra 450 all sell for the same at $6199. CanAm’s Outlander 450L is $6399.

WHAT KIND OF TRANSMISSION DOES IT HAVE?
A fully automatic, belt-type continuously variable transmission (CVT) with high, low, neutral, reverse and park positions. This is the simplest type of transmission to use, but the shift lever doesn’t have the greatest feel; it’s notchy and a little vague. But, it works. The transmission has no engine braking feature, but it only freewheels if you’re completely off the throttle. The park position holds the machine securely on hills.

WHAT’S THE 4WD SYSTEM LIKE?
It’s the same system the big Polaris 4x4s have—selectable 2WD/4WD with an automatic-locking front differential. Most smaller 4x4s offer selectable 2WD/4WD but don’t have locking front differentials.

The Sportsman 450’s double-overhead-cam, four-valve engine actually displaces 567cc, the same as the Sportsman 570. It’s tuned for more low and midrange torque, though, so it puts out 31 horsepower; the 570 makes 44.

HOW POWERFUL IS IT?
As you might guess, the 567cc Sportsman 450 accelerates really well for a 450-class 4×4, and it has more than enough motor to tackle steep hills and challenging terrain.

HOW DOES THE POWER DELIVERY WORK ON THE TRAIL?
The Polaris’ power isn’t armstretching, but it has meaty low and midrange power that doesn’t quit on hills or soft terrain. It’s amazing where this thing will go. The Sportsman 450 is all about smoothness. Punching the throttle only results in powerslides where traction is scarce. That’s a good thing for riders who prefer even, predictable power delivery, and it makes for sure progress in technical terrain and slick conditions.

HOW DOES IT HANDLE?
It’s stable and predictable. The 450 is 40 pounds heavier and a bit taller than the Sportsman ETX, due to the increased front suspension travel, so it’s a bit less agile, but it has no bad handling traits, such as too much body roll or sudden turn-in. The base 450 doesn’t have power steering, but the steering effort isn’t heavy unless you’re in 4WD and the automatic front differential locks.

The Sportsman 450’s McPherson-strut front suspension has 8.2 inches of travel, up from 6.7 on the Sportsman ETX.

WHAT KIND OF SUSPENSION DOES IT HAVE?
Up front, there are nonadjustable MacPherson struts with 8.2 inches of travel. In the rear, it’s double A-arms and spring preload-adjustable shocks with 9.5 inches of travel. A rear sway bar limits body roll.

Double-A-arm rear suspension provides 9.5 inches of travel. Softer springs and thicker seat foam offer a smoother ride than the Sportsman ETX.

HOW DOES THE SUSPENSION WORK?
It provides a better ride than we would expect from a budget 4×4. The Sportsman 450’s suspension can’t match the compliance of the best ATVs out there, but performance on small bumps is very good, and there’s enough suspension stroke to handle big bumps at higher speeds. The suspension settings are on target, so the 450 offers a good balance of comfort and capability in rough terrain and at higher speeds.

HOW IS IT ON HILLS?
It’s gutsy. We climbed some genuinely challenging hills with the 450—the kind you don’t find at every riding area. We needed to use full throttle frequently on tough climbs, but the Sportsman didn’t struggle. For a machine of its size, it really impressed us. Going back down, we had to work around the Sportsman’s lack of engine braking. With just a touch of throttle, the transmission engages to help slow the machine, but it only slows the rear wheels, even in 4WD. Fortunately, the linked front and rear brakes provide plenty of slowing power, just not as much control as separate front and rear brake levers.

Most small 4x4s don’t have locking front differentials. The Sportsman ETX has an automaticlocking differential much like those used on larger Polaris ATVs.

HOW IS IT FOR MUD AND WATER?
Most mud bogs and water crossings are no problem. The Sportsman 450 has enough power, ground clearance and 4WD grip to slog through typical wet, sloppy trail obstacles. The engine and transmission are well-waterproofed, and the bodywork keeps the rider well-protected too. Some bigger machines have a bit more ground clearance, so you’ll want to watch whom you follow into those really spooky-looking mud bogs, especially when they’re deeply rutted.

The Sportsman’s slim midsection and the new, more deeply padded seat add comfort

HOW ARE THE DETAILS?
Pretty impressive for an inexpensive 4×4. The Sportsman 450 has very good headlights and a handy third handlebar mounted light. There’s a big storage area under the front rack and another between the taillights. The Polaris has a slimmer, more comfortable midsection than many ATVs. The shift lever is notchy and a little vague, but it works.

There’s a big storage area under the front rack and another between the taillights.

WHAT’S OUR FINAL ANSWER?
At a glance, the 2016 Sportsman 450 H.O. may look like a renamed Sportsman ETX, but it’s a better machine with more power, suspension and comfort. The price is the same, which makes this impressive, inexpensive 4×4 even more desirable.

SPECS
POLARIS SPORTSMAN 450 H.O. 4X4
ENGINE/TRANSMISSION
Engine type ..Liquid-cooled, 4-valve, DOHC EFI 4-stroke
Displacement ………………………………………….567cc
Bore x stroke ……………………………99mm x 73.6mm
Compression ratio …………………………………….. 10:1
Lubrication system …………………………….. Wet sump
Induction …………………………. 46mm EFI throttle body
Starting/back-up ………………………………Electric/none
Starting procedure ……….. Turn key while holding brake
Air filter:
Type ……………………….. Pleated paper with pre-filter Access Release seat and 6 quick release; loosen clamp
Transmission ………………………… CVT auto w/hi/lo/rev
Reverse procedure………………………..Pull lever to “R”
Drive system . 2WD/4WD with automatic front diff-lock
Final drive ………………………………………………..Shaft
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES/WEIGHTS
Fuel capacity ………………………………………… 4.5 gal.
Wheelbase ……………………………………………… 50.5”
Overall length/width/height …………………..83”/48”/46”
Seat height …………………………………………… 33.25”
Ground clearance ……………………………………… 10.5”
Dry weight …………………………………………….702 lb.
Rack capacity (f/r)……………………………….90/180 lb.
Towing capacity ………………………………….. 1,225 lb.
Trailer hitch ………………………………….1.25” receiver
ROLLING CHASSIS
Frame …………………………….Steel round/square tube
Suspension/wheel travel:
Front ……………….McPherson strut w/ adj. prel./8.2”
Rear …………… Dual A-arms w/ prel.-adj. shocks/9.5”
Brakes/actuation:
Front …………………… Hydraulic discs/ left-hand lever
Rear …………………….. Hydraulic disc/right-foot pedal
Parking . Transmission park position/left-hand lever/lock
Tires:
Front …………………………………….. 24×8-12 NS388
Rear ……………………………………. 24×10-12 NS388
DETAILS
Lighting:
Front ………………………. (3) 50W halogen headlights
Rear ………………………………….Dual tail/brake lights
Instrumentation …….. Analog speedo, digital odo, tach, trip (2), hour, fuel gauge, gear/drive indicators, low battery, hi-temp light
Colors …………………………. Velocity Blue, Sage Green
Minimum recommended operator age ……………….. 16
Suggested retail price ……………………………… $5999
Contact ………………………….. Polaris, (800)-POLARIS