As we can now attest, these two parties joining forces can create some real fireworks. The Polaris R&D Proving Grounds, in a small town outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, served as a fitting playground. As you'd expect it to be. Just look at who owns this property. On the grass outside the vast facility's main office building was a fleet of new Ranger XP Kinetics for us to play with. Before we set off, Polaris personnel spoke with the press on site about their eagerness to prove they could fulfill the needs of their native gasoline-powered loving clientele and people desiring an electric alternative.
As mentioned above, the heart and soul of the Kinetic XP is a Zero Motorcycles-derived battery-EV powertrain that shares a large degree of functionality with their proprietary brushless DC electric motorcycle powertrains. In short, it's 15 years' worth of experience in lightweight electric drivetrains pairing up with an industry leader in 4x4 UTVs and off-road vehicles. The results of their efforts are nothing short of profound.
Polaris comes out of the gate strong with a special drivetrain energy rating of 28.9 kWh on the battery specifically for the top-of-the-line Ranger UTV application. Models lower down in the model lineup settle for a 14.9 kWh unit, both are lithium-ion batteries. The estimated battery range from full to zero for either package of 80 miles (128.75 km) with the Ultimate and 40 miles (64.3 km) with lower trims beats many highway-approved passenger EVs from only a handful of years ago.
What does that translate to out in the dirt, sand, and gravel of the Minnesota forest? Well, if the fastest, meanest-looking thing you've ever driven is a crossover SUV, it both feels and looks like the fastest and most badass-looking thing you've ever driven in your life. It's immediately obvious within the first few seconds of looking at the Kinetic KPs front fascia that it's an electric vehicle. With smooth, sculpted plastic taking the place of grille slits for the engine's radiator makes for an exterior that fits into the family tree quite well. All while remaining unique and special looking with its little, subtle changes. As it turns out, those little things add up fast.
Climbing inside this electric UTV reveals a remarkably more automotive-looking interior than anyone who's only ever driven a car could have ever guessed. Sitting inside the cabin of the Kinetic XP could be a mind-blowing experience if you were expecting something more spartan. Plush foam bench seats are accented in a supple but durable vinyl material that almost tricks the brain into thinking you're in a normal car.
The XP Kinetic's interior is tied together with a seven-inch multitouch infotainment display complete with Polaris' proprietary RideCommand+ software and matching smartphone app. From here, you can track your and your buddy's vehicles if they're also using the app using the integrated GPS with 75,000 miles (120,701 km) of pre-loaded trails across North America. You can also check the health status of vital components and read battering charging information while pairing your smartphone to its Bluetooth system for some killer riding jams. The added USB and power plug sockets in the rear bed can only aid in productivity.
Tesla Model S Plaid or Lucid Air to ever take the form of a UTV, they also did so to the tune of a delightful little whirring noise from the Zero Motorcycles electric motor.
If you were expecting this vehicle to sound like a pencil sharpener or a food blender, you'd be dead wrong. But in a total one-up move compared to the equivalent ICE-powered Ranger, the noise level inside the cabin of the electric XP Kinetic was downright tolerable. Indeed, knowing that some UTV riders using gas engines are forced to either shout over the sound of the engine or use wireless earpieces to talk to one another makes the idea of a quieter EV all the more salivating. It just makes things all the wilder when a bolt of torque seemingly from the hands of Mt Olympus throws you back in your seat when you put your foot down in this thing.
Braking and handling were acceptable if just a bit spongey on the initial pressing of the brake pedal with your foot. Happily, the Kinetic's brake-regen system seemed to do a good job of taking care of the rest. Wheel articulation is available for days via coil spring suspension at all four corners with matching disk brakes. 4x4 UTVs need lots of ground clearance by nature, and not a single obstacle from trees to small boulders and inlined dusty, sandy hills like an oversized pre-school sandbox didn't stop any XP Kinetics in the fleet from ticking without skipping a beat.
With sand in our helmets and adrenaline in our veins, we finally began to understand how others who've driven this UTV so far entered it thinking EVs, be they cars or something else, were all junk, only to exit wanting to buy one. That said, that's going to run you a pretty penny. With MSRPs starting at $24,999 for the Premium edition for the base model and $29,999 for the magnificently equipped Ultimate edition, the final price was $34,139 as presented with all the extras for that day's outing. for the delightfully equipped Ulitmate edition, you could buy a decent road-legal car for that money. But remember, UTV stands for a utility vehicle. Safe to say, most people who own one of these are going to be making their money back with a lot of hard, laborious work.
Especially after taking a brief spin in the equivalent XP1000 gasoline UTV, in which legitimate screaming was needed to communicate with the passenger, we'd take the electric XP Kinetic every day of the week. The EV happens to be almost 30 horsepower more powerful. 110, to the XP1000's 82. If that isn't a mic-drop moment, we don't know what is. But just in case you're not convinced, we leave with this statement. Gasoline-powered UTVs may be completely irrelevant in five years, that's how great this vehicle is. Easy five out of five stars in this category. Exorbitant price notwithstanding.
Check out more in-depth reviews and test drives right here on autoevolution.