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.
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.
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
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.