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Hunting Illustrated Spring 2002: Polaris Sportsman 700

Home > Magazine > Spring 2002 Issue > Polaris Sportsman 700
Polaris Sportsman 700
by David King
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"If you like big ATV's that can pack an elk out with ease and isn't afraid of any kind of terrain, take a close look at the new Sportsman 700."

  When Kawasaki introduced the Prairie 650 they were the first to jump into the big bore 4x4 utility market. You knew Polaris wouldn't be too far behind. Polaris has been the leader and innovator in the 4x4 utility market. Years ago, Polaris launched the Sportsman 500 4x4. This was the ultimate ATV for the hunting industry: easy to ride, automatic transmission, strong power, a 4-wheel drive system that gave true front wheel drive lock, and a smooth ride unparalleled in the industry. It has taken longer than we expected, but the other manufacturers have finally copied Polaris enough to make the big bore ATV race one heated battle. It didn't take long for Polaris to again launch itself ahead of the game and introduce the "biggest ATV" on the market. Polaris is betting on the "bigger is better" mentality and are confident they can maintain their King of Quad status with the new Sportsman 700 Twin. All of these additions and improvements are nice, but this is not what makes the new Sportsman the biggest ATV ever.

What's New

    It is only after you look at the spec sheet that you begin to notice all of the changes Polaris has made to the Sportsman. There is an improved instrument panel with the basic "needle" speedometer, digital display that includes the gear you are in, odometer, timer, when you need a tune-up and a bunch of other stuff we weren't quite sure of. Polaris eliminated the conventional push start button and went the way of the automobile, adding a keyed ignition and a simple pullout choke lever. We felt one of the biggest improvements was the in-line shift lever. Instead of the shift up and down and up and out method, the new hand lever is all up and down in a smooth motion from high range to park. With this new system we didn't have any of the gear grinding we found on past Polaris ATVs.

    Polaris developed an American- made 683 cc, even-firing parallel four-stroke twin engine that is the largest displacement engine ever put under the seat of a stock ATV. To handle this engine, Polaris redesigned the frame and transmission, beefed up the independent suspension, and added a bigger 30A-h 12-volt battery. The battery certainly needs to be bigger and better because Polaris did not include a backup starting system. When all is said and done, there is no doubt this ATV is big. One thing Polaris did not use during the designing of the Sportsman 700 was a bathroom scale. When you add big and strong you also get another thing- heavy! The 700 weighs in at a hefty 740 pounds dry, which is almost 50 pounds heavier than the Sportsman 500 and 140 pounds heavier than the Kawasaki Prairie 650 and Yamaha Grizzly 660.     When you jump in the saddle, one thing is really clear; this is a big machine. This thought was immediately reinforced while trying to lift the beast into the trailer.

Time To Go Riding

    Firing up the motor was a snap and you could instantly tell from the hum of the engine that this was not your typical Sportsman 500. After a slight delay in throttle response, the Sportsman 700 moves and it moves quickly. It isn't going to blow your socks off, but it definitely has more ponies under the hood allowing for a much improved throttle response.

    Because of the awesome traction the Rawhide tires give you, popping the front tires off the ground on pavement isn't a problem. After just a few moments in the seat you know you are going to have a fun, smooth ride. Polaris has always been on top with their rear independent suspension and they came through again on the new 700. The rear suspension is almost perfect, but you could immediately tell they had to stiffen the back up a bit to handle the extra weight. Everything we threw at it was soaked up in style. Unfortunately, the front end is not quite up to par, but will give you an excellent ride with moderate speeds. Because of the weight of the machine, the front end has to work overtime and can comfortably handle only so much at the higher speeds. There is some slight pushing in the corners at the higher speeds that also affect the handling. One of our testers felt the seat was too wide and wasn't quite as comfortable on long rides as it could be. This affected his ability to handle and control the ATV with his weight in turns and off-camber situations.

    Another of the first things you notice when looking at this machine are the cool tires. They almost look like after market tires and rims, giving it a clean non-stock look. Overall it adds that nice finishing touch and style that says, "Don't mess with me". This is a look that we liked and the tires performed as well as they looked. The deep lug tread design will get you out of most situations you dare get into; the combination of Polaris' On-Demand four-wheel drive system and the gnarly tires can get you out of any situation if you can hang on tight enough. We love the 4-wheel drive system and still feel it is the best out there, however, when the front wheels bite in lock mode it can become a handful if you are not ready. The deep-tread tires also aid in some great ground clearance and we did not encounter any problems going over the nasty stuff. They helped when blasting through deep snow as well. In case you encounter big rocks, Polaris has added a full-length steel skid plate protecting the undercarriage.

    When you have a 700 four-stroke engine and over 700 pounds barreling down a hill, you really hope you can stop. There were mixed feelings between our testers on the brakes. In general, all of us felt the single lever braking system was easy to use and still gives you the stopping power you need. However, in some of our test situations, like going straight down a slick-rock cliff, we felt the brakes and engine braking were overworked because of the machine's weight. We need to point this out, because if you plan to ride hard, and be in sticky steep situations, descending steep hills can get a bit scary. The engine braking cannot hold back the machine without skidding the back wheels, which in turn requires a lot of work on the left single brake lever.

Do You Want to Ride or Drive

    The Polaris 700 is big, and depending on the style of riding you like to do, there can be some benefits of having such a machine. For starters, this ATV has the biggest towing and rack capacity of any 4-wheeler. This means this ATV will be the one you want to use to pack out that big elk or haul that load of hay on the farm. We also feel this would make a great snowplow machine because of the weight, tires, and 4-wheel drive system. Big is good, but can also be a hindrance if you want to go full-throttle down the gully and up rock infested, off-camber hills that requires a lot of body English to keep all four wheels on the ground. For our style of riding, we like to go all out regardless of what the trail ahead looks like and we could see some limitations. However, there are some great benefits depending on what you are looking for in a big-bore 4x4 ATV.

Is Bigger Better

    Polaris has come up with a nice package and we like Polaris' commitment to staying in the game when it comes to innovation and pushing the limits. How much did we really like the new Sportsman 700? A lot! But if you will read between the lines a bit you can tell we had some concerns over the weight factor. For most riders this is not going to be a serious issue and the Sportsman 700 will perform flawlessly for you.

    Can the Sportsman 700 reclaim its throne as King of Quads in this heated battle of big bore utility 4x4s? It is going to be tough to beat, but we need to get a leg over the Yamaha 660 before we can truly start coming to any conclusions. The engine, brakes and handling would be improved if the Sportsman simply lost a few pounds. Polaris has gone all out to make this the biggest and strongest ATV on the market. If you need a little more getup than the Sportsman 500 and want to intimidate everyone in your hunting party, then this choice is a no brainer.The Score Sheet

Test Rider Notes

I liked the overall ride. This is a typical Polaris ride. A little heavy, but the extra power does compensate for it. I have had problems with past Polaris batteries and like the bigger battery. This will really benefit those who like to add a winch and other electrical accessories. There are good improvements to the shifting and electric starting.
I have been a fan of the Polaris ride and 4-wheel drive system for years. Still has the smoothest ride out there. Loved the shifting, tires, suspension, lights and racks. Being their top of the line machine, I would like it to go on a major diet and narrow up the engine at the feet. It also is desperately in need of 4-wheel engine braking and stronger brakes..
My expectations were high going into this, but the Polaris 700 delivered with only some minor changes I would make. The motor is smooth and I can't imagine what this engine could kick out if this machine lost about 50 pounds. I loved the deep lug tires. Lose some weight and improve the engine braking and I would be really excited.

Specs / Rating

Polaris Sportsman 700 Rating
Rear-independent suspension; smooth ride; 4-wheel drive system; deep lug tires; strong power
Cons: Weight; engine braking and brakes need improvements
Rating - 4 out of 5
Displacement.....683 cc
Cooling .......Liquid-cooled
Engine Type..... 4-valve, 4-stroke, even-firing
parallel twin
Carburetion.....34 mm - CV Mikuni
Fuel Capacity...... 4.75 gal/17.9 ltr
Starting System..... Electric start
Alternator..... 300 watts
Drive System... 4-wheel independent shaft
Transmission.... Automatic PVT(Polaris Variable Transmission) with EBS (Engine Braking System)
Gear Range...... E-Z shift high/low/reverse and park
Front Wheel Drive...... Thumb-switch engage On-Demand true 4-wheel shaft drive
Rear Wheel Drive... Shaft drive
Front Suspension Type... MacPherson strut with 6.7 in/17.0 cm of travel
Rear Suspension Type..... Progressive rate with 9.5 in/24.1 cm of travel
Front Brakes.... Single-lever hydraulic disc
Rear Brakes..... Hydraulic rear foot brake
Parking Brake......Hydraulic lock, all wheel; Transmission Park
Front Tire.... 25 x 8-12 (5 psi)
Rear Tire..... 25 x 11-12 (5 psi)
Wheelbase..... 50.75 in/128.9 cm
Turning Radius (Approximate).... 76 in/193.0 cm
Dry Weight..... 740 lbs/335.6 kgs
Length..... 85 in/215.9 cm
Width...... 46 in/116.8 cm
Height......... 47 in/119.4 cm
Front Rack Capacity.... 90 lbs/40.8 kgs
Rear Rack Capacity...... 200 lbs/91.3 kgs
Hitch Towing Capacity...... 1500 lbs/680.4 kgs
Instruments.....Speedometer / Odometer, Hourmeter, Trip Odometer, High Beam Indicator, Neutral/Reverse Light, High Temperature Light
MSRP (U.S.$)... $7,399
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