— It’s hard to believe, but the Polaris RZR 800 was introduced 10 years ago! It was the first sport UTV, and because it was 50 inches wide, it was also the first trail-width UTV. The original RZR 800 was a huge hit, but many performance-minded drivers wanted a wider machine with more suspension travel. Polaris introduced the RZR S 800 just a year later, and its 60-inch width and then-unheard-of 12 inches of front- and rear-suspension travel made it the most radical production machine of its time. Chris Pino drives a well-cared-for 2012 example of the RZR S 800 he recently bought used, and he let us take the wheel to see what yesterday’s performance benchmark feels like today.
Before Polaris introduced its ProStar, eight-valve, double-overhead-cam inline twin for RZR UTVs, the go-to engine was a 760cc, pushrod, two-valve-per-cylinder model. The version in the RZR S 800 makes 53 horsepower—quite a step down from today’s RZR S 900, which makes 75 horsepower.
Surprisingly, the RZR S 800 is faster than we expected. We’re so used to the higher horsepower of today’s RZRs, we were prepared to be underwhelmed by the 800’s power, but the machine pulls well. The 800 hasn’t got the top-end punch of today’s RZR S 900, but it has a strong low end and midrange pull with decent top-end power. It’s more than powerful enough for tight trails and has plenty of torque for hilly terrain. It’s also impressively smooth and quiet. The engine in Chris Pino’s RZR is stock, except for a K&N filter in the stock airbox. He’s pleased with the machine’s performance—and we can see why.
The reliability of the engine and transmission is impressive too. In 2500 miles, the engine has never needed more than regular oil changes, and Chris believes the machine is still on its original drive belt. Chris also changed the coolant when he bought the machine from the previous owner.
WHAT KIND OF SUSPENSION DOES IT HAVE?
Double A-arms front and rear with a rear sway bar. The RZR S 800 LE came with the best suspension offered on the RZR S 800—Fox piggyback reservoir shocks with adjustable compression damping and spring preload. Some models came with non-reservoir shocks that only offered adjustable spring preload. They worked well, but they were far less tunable and non-rebuildable. To be sure the suspension performance was at the level the RZR S was known for, Chris had the 2500-mile-old shocks serviced.
Twelve inches of suspension travel may not sound amazing today, but on the trail, it does a great job. Chris mostly rides tight trails and rarely needs more travel. In terms of ride quality, the suspension is completely up to modern standards within its limits. It’s compliant and handles big bumps and G-outs well. The only sign of harshness is from the steering. Chris’ RZR is a non-power-steering model with wheel spacers, and a fair amount of feedback from bumps makes it through the steering wheel.
Chris bought his machine used, and it came with a number of nice extras. Aluminum Pro Armor full doors with cutouts for extra visibility offer more convenience and protection than the original nets. A custom-made cage from Killer Fabrication includes intrusion bars and a roof and adds to the machine’s rugged looks. Side mirrors and a rear-view mirror were added to the cage. Simpson harnesses keep the rider and passenger securely in place. SuperATV brush guards give the RZR extra protection, and an Arsenal light bar makes night rides safer. Chris added a Bluetooth stereo unit and speakers. The wheels and tires are stock.
OUR REVIVAL REACTION
UTV technology has come a long way, but a great machine like the RZR S 800 stands up well in the light of modern performance standards in conditions that suit its size, suspension and power. If you can find a machine like this, especially a nicely accessorized one in outstanding condition, it could be a perfect way to get a well-outfitted 800 for less than the price of a new, smaller model. Chris bought his machine with a trailer, so he puts the cost of his RZR S at about $9000. That’s a very affordable way to get behind the wheel of a 60-inch-wide sport UTV!
PROJECT POLARIS RZR S 800
Pro Armor doors: $550, www.proarmor.com
SuperATV front brush guard: $249,
SuperATV rear bumper: $200, www.superatv.com
Simpson harnesses: $110, www.simpsonraceproducts.com
Killer Off-Road Fabrications cage & roof: (805) 727-0551
K&N air filter: $69, www.knfilters.com
Universal mirror kit: $129
Arsenal light bar: $100, www.amazon.com