Here's Why Your First Side-By-Side UTV Should Be All-Electric, It's Not Why You Think

Polaris Ranger ICE and EV 22 photos
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
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Until yesterday morning, I'd hardly ever seen a side-by-side vehicle before, let alone sat in or driven one. I simply didn't live in a part of the country conducive to owning a vehicle like that. But I was given the great privilege of being invited by Polaris to their R&D facility and proving grounds outside Minneapolis to finally take one for a spin.
On hand that afternoon were two of Polaris' finest contemporary side-by-sides. One was the all-new, all-electric Ranger XP Kinetic, and the other was the ICE-powered Ranger XP 1000 Texas Edition. An in-depth review of the Ranger XP Kinetic is coming very soon. But for now, I'd like to simply focus on one thing. On first impressions, the average non-off-roading enthusiast would probably think the difference between ICE and EVs in something as trivial as a side-by-side wouldn't be all that important.

Well, friends, I'm here to tell you that you couldn't be more wrong. The differences between the XP Kinetic and the XP-1000 are like the differences between night and day, summer and winter, or yin and yang. One clearly has more potential in the long run than the other, and you might not necessarily agree with my opinion. Even so, I urge you to listen if you're like me and never got within ten feet of a side-by-side before but still might want to buy one.

On a strictly automotive level, most people's opinions about choosing between ICE or EVs are largely already set in stone. There are simply some people who will never, and we mean ever, so much as sit behind the wheel of an EV, let alone buy one. But you have to consider something, in this case, it's that these two machines aren't cars. As Polaris personnel were all too eager to tell me, so many people who thought this way got behind the wheel of the Ranger XP Kinetic at the testing grounds, and all but a few exited wanting to buy one.

From a strictly aesthetic perspective, there's not much between the XP Kinetic and the XP 1000. But those subtle differences sure do add up fast. Of course, a lack of a radiator up front means the front clip in the XP Kinetic looks slightly different from the XP 1000. This was an intentional design choice, but the differences only intensified on closer inspection. That may sound like the biggest "duh" statement in history but trust us. The differences come in ways you may not expect.

For one thing, the Ranger XP Kinetic is actually considerably more powerful than its ICE-powered cousin. 110 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque compared to the XP-1000's 82 horsepower and 61 lb-ft of torque. Better still, all that glorious torque is available instantaneously. The end result is simple, one of these two side-by-sides trounces the others in straight line acceleration. We'll let you folks be the judges of who you think that is. Here's a hint, it's not the ICE version.

Further still, most Rivian and Tesla haters will point to the fact EVs hardly make any noise as their main gripe with the things. In their minds, the life-like snarls and burbles native to internal combustion engines are more important to the driving experience than any other factor, end of discussion. Well, we're happy to say that the Ranger XP Kinetic does not sound like a food blender.

It may not be an exact apples-to-apples comparison, but the rhythmic hum from the electric motor combined with a unique tire noise makes for a sound that mimics that of internal combustion without being at all overwhelming. Granted, I never got to drive the XP Kinetic with a passenger in the seat next to me. But after trying to converse with a Polaris personnel member while driving the XP-1000 via screaming, I have to imagine it'd be much easier in the Ranger EV.

Keep in mind that the Ranger line is marketed as a true-to-form utility vehicle. Though it surely works beautifully as an off-road toy, as was plainly demonstrated to me that day, its buyers will likely be using it for hauling stuff around on their farm properties or work sites. In this role, a side-by-side that doesn't burn nearly as much, if any, fuel at idle ensures these people can stay out working for longer and get the job done faster. Allowing you to be able to go do some hooning when the work is all done.

Polaris Ranger EV vs ICE
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
Of course, there are other things to consider when buying a side-by-side. Things like, of course, the price. It must be said, general affordability is one area the Kinetic XP falls well short.

With a starting price of $29,999 before taxes and fees for the base model and rising from there, you could easily buy a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla for the same money. With a base price of $21,799 for the XP 1000 Texas Edition, the difference between the two is, well, profound.

That surely makes the decision between the two side-by-sides a lot trickier. But with prices aside, there are simply too many upsides with the all-new Ranger XP Kinetic over its ICE sibling for us to recommend it over the EV.

That's without the benefits of a non-polluting EV the auto industry insists on shoving down our throats as the driving force behind the switch away from petroleum taken into account, mind you. So if you thought that was going to be our rationale for our decision, guess again. Besides, when/if most European nations, U.S. States, and Canadian Provinces ban the use of ICE-powered utility and recreation vehicles in the  future, Ranger XP Kinetic buyers will be largely unaffected. That in itself speaks volumes.

Polaris Ranger EV vs ICE
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
Many thanks to Polaris for what turned out to be one spectacular afternoon. Check back soon for our formal review of the Polaris Ranger XP Kinetic real soon here on autoevolution.
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