2009 Polaris Sportsman XP ATV

Everything new except for the shifter knob

Jul. 24, 2008 By Ricky Sosebee

Polaris has discontinued a few items in their arsenal but they have also redeveloped the most-sought-after ones, to the point of scrapping the old style and bringing in the totally new.

When we were told the new Sportsman XP would have a totally redesigned engine and another displacement replacement, it began to get our attention. Twin cylinders hide under the plastic of the big 850, and a 550 single-cylinder engine is now ready for those less likely to need the big guns. The XP version of the Sportsman quad has new shiny clothes and is dressed up to go out anywhere. The engine has been engineered to create 70 claimed horsepower in the 850XP, and the 550XP is quoted at a more modest 40 horsepower. Both the 850 and the 550 are electronically fuel injected. There is power steering available as an option on the new Sportsman XP models also.

More Room

polaris sportman xp atv engineThe rider position has been adjusted dramatically. The seat is now an incredible five inches narrower in the front, giving you plenty of room to move around on the saddle. The rear of the seat however, still maintains its broad comfortable feel, ideal for long rides.

Polaris gained the space by turning the engine in the 850XP north/south - which means instead of having the engine in a traditional placement, the new design slimmed up the center of the quad to gain the rider more mobility. The single cylinder 550 was skinny enough to make the placement into the new XP frame design.

The floorboards are bigger, with Polaris engineers claiming an amazing 33-percent increase. This is something we have been waiting for on from Polaris. It's always good to have more space on a utility quad and protection from the obstacles you might encounter on the trail.

polaris sportsman xp atv front viewTrailability

Speaking of trails, the front of the new Polaris Sportsman XP had a dramatic makeover, starting with trail-ability features. These include a 20-percent larger radiator, which will certainly be beneficial to hardcore mud riders. Another great idea from Polaris was to raise the radiator over 4 3/4 inches to get it up out of harm's way. I know this doesn’t sound like much but when you are drowning your ATV in a deep bog or just playing in the mud, you need the radiator as high as you can get it. This will also lessen the likelyhood of having large objects such as tree branches and rocks from being thrown into the most critical item on the front of your quad.

Getting stuck is inevitable in the world of off road riding, and with the lower winch mounting that Polaris has engineered into the '09 Sportsman XP, it going to get easier to get out of those spots. Lowering the winch point of an ATV gives the user more leverage and it helps the overall performance of the winch, according to Polaris. I personally like to have a winch on every four wheeler I own because you just never know when you will need it.

As with the winch, the front lower section of the Sportsman has also been chopped and channeled to give the XP a better approach angle. The front sweep from bottom to the center of the front bumper has been tweaked five degrees to get your front wheels up into the obstacle before bottoming into it with the front end. This will be great in rocky sections on those black diamond trails.

The all-new chassis has the highest claimed ground clearance of any quad and some of the best suspension travel. The front end of the new XP has nine inches of front travel and is suspended by dual a-arms, which is another great improvement. The steering axis has also been moved as close to the center of the tire as possible. The logic behind this is that the steering will now have an anti-kickback effect, making the Sportsman easier to handle in rough terrain.

The rear has 10.25 inches of travel. The team of minds at Polaris also came up with what they call their "rolled" independent rear suspension. Rolled refers to the fact that the suspension is tipped back four degrees, so when the wheel moves upward it also has a backward movement as well. This gives better rough terrain bump absorbtion and a much smoother ride overall.

Hauling and Storage

polaris sportsman xp atv storageThe front and rear “lock and ride” rack features are very innovative. Between the front and rear rack, there are about 100 built-in tie-down spots. These racks are easily removed and there are 65 new accessories for the racks. Removing the front rack reveals a ton of serviceable items including the radiator, fuse box and a few others. There is a monsterous sealed storage box in the rear as well.

The item that caught my eye on the rear of the new Sportsman was a huge intergrated pull-bar just below the storage box. Polaris claims this thing will support up to one-and-a-half times the quad's weight. This will come in handy if I need to tow any of my buddies or to get myself out of a jam. Great stuff.

polaris sportsman 850 xp digital dashDash and Controls

Active Descent Control, ADC, gives better control on those steep knarly hills to keep the quad under you, instead of you under the quad. The ADC combined with engine braking gives the rider more confidence in those precarious times.

The new digital dash shows information that is invaluable on the trail. It gives up the fuel level, a speedometer, tachometer and clock. It also lets you know when your Sportsman is in need of service and let's you know what gear or 4x4 position you are in. And did we mention its large enough for even the weakest eyes to see? Speaking of being able to see, there are three lights on the new XP, giving you a total of 150 watts of lighting power.

polaris sportsman xp atv

Continue on to Page 2 for Ride Impressions

Ride Impressions

polaris sportsman xp atv rear suspensionWith the rain not letting up all day it was apparent we would have to test in the optimal conditions for the features now new to the 2009 Sportsman XP’s.

My first ride was on the 850XP, which was the largest cubic inch of the Sportsman line. The engine has a smooth and progressive feel to the power output. The power is definitely there for the asking. We had no trouble opening up this Sportsman in the long wide sections, but did it feel like 70 Horsepower? Not really. Of course I didn’t look back to see how much Minnesota land I was screeding into the atmosphere either. I’d say its possible to be turning 70 at the crank though. I can tell you there is plenty of power, and if its not, just visit your local aftermarket farm to get more ponies by the dollar.

The suspension soaked up the majority of rocks and stumps we encountered and was quite plush. Needing some firmness was our only thought but that’s not a bad thing - the suspension has adjustability for those who seek it. The Sportsman did clear many obstacles in the trails that I thought were going to rip the bottom of the quad apart.

I felt the overall look, and feel of the ride position, was a great improvement and all controls were easily accessible. The slim seat made it easy to move around. Next I rode the 550 XP. Honestly felt and behaved very similar. Suspension was very similar except for the weight difference did affect the handling just a bit.

Polaris has a great new utility ATV on their hands, and with your choice of displacement, its sure to become popular all over again.


polaris sportsman xp atv action on the trail

Continue on to Page 3 for factory specifications

 2009 Polaris Sportsman XP









Engine Type


4-stroke SOHC

Displacement, cc


850cc twin




40 mm Throttle Body, EFI

42mm Throttle Body, EFI











Drive Train




Final Drive






Drive System


Automatic PVT, 2WD/AWD/AWD with ADC

Engine Braking System



Active Decent Control











Front Suspension


Short Long Arm ( SLA) - 9" / 22.9 cm travel

Rear Suspension


Short Long Arm ( SLA) - 10.25" / 26.0 cm travel









Front Brakes


Single Lever Hydraulic 4 wheel disc

Single Lever Hydraulic disc

Rear Brake


Hydraulic rear foot brake





Tires & Wheels




Front Tires


26 x 8R14; Terrathon

Rear Tires


26 x 10R14; Terrathon



Cast Aluminum or Stamped Steel











53" / 134.6 cm

Dry Weight


784 lb. / 355.6 kg

732 lb. / 332 kg



83.25" / 211.4 cm, 47.6" / 120.9 cm, 50.75" / 128.9 cm

Seat Height


37" / 94.0 cm

Fuel Capacity


XP: 5.25 gal / 19.9 ltr XPS: 4.5 gal / 17 ltr

Front Rack/Box Capacity


120 lb. / 55kg

Rear Rack Capacity


240 lb. / 110 kg

Hitch Towing Capacity


1500 lb. / 680.4 kg

Ground Clearance


12" / 30.5 cm

Hitch / Type


Std / Receiver











Digital Gauge, Speedometer, Odometer, Tachometer, Tripmeter, Hourmeter, Clock, Gear Indicator, Fuel Gauge, Hi Temp/Low Batt lights, DC Outlet.











Stealth Black



Sunset Red



Sagebrush Green



Mossy Oak Camo






Standard Paint or Camo


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