We got invited to head down to Ensenada, Mexico for the week surrounding the Baja 1000 with a huge crew headed by motocross legend Gregg Godfrey. With trailers loaded up with Polaris RZRs the plan was to prerun the race course, and cause a bit of mischief along the way. The Baja 1000 is one of the most grueling off-road races in the world, starting in Ensenada and running about 1,000 miles through the desert of Baja California. Hot, dusty and rough as all hell, it’s been sorting out the pros from the rookies for nearly 50 years. Gregg Godfrey is a pro. The rest of us? Definitely rookies. With a vague plan and limited experience, we rolled the dice and hoped that the sands of Mexico would be kind to us. Here’s what we rolled in.
Side-by-sides, buggies, UTVs, ROVs, whatever you want to call them – driving them is very high on the list of fun things to do with your clothes still on. Formerly relegated largely to farmers or those with deep back pockets, the last decade has seen an explosion in the popularity of and accessibility to these off-road recreation vehicles. Huge advances in safety and performance, as well as cheaper production costs have seen ROVs finding homes in more garages across the nation.
Polaris RZR S 900
The S is the most affordable option from the RZR range and the S 900 is the second-tier of performance above the 45hp-rated S 570. The 900 comes with a 75hp ProStar engine manufactured with goodies like dual overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder and electronic fuel injection. Thanks to its dry weight of 1,204lbs, it has a very respectable 6.2hp per 100lbs, making it nimble and powerful for those wanting the thrill of off-roading without it being too easy to overstep boundaries.
Our S RZR, named Double Ugly, had no problems keeping up with the faster buggies on the trails and with all the same capabilities of two- and four-wheel drive, safety equipment and driver amenities, it was not an ugly duckling in the pack – even if it may have worn a few scars and zip-tied body parts from its service as a Godfrey Clan thrashmobile.
Polaris RZR XP 1000
The XP range (Xtreme Performance) is the sweet spot in the Polaris lineup, and the 1000 is the most easily accessible model. With a beefed up ProStar 1000 H.O. engine putting out 110 horses, it’s revvier and more powerful than the S series. Peak torque comes in around 7500rpm at 70ft-lbs and the 48mm throttle bodies and long-tip injectors make for a sharp and responsive ride, perfect for breezing through tricky tech sections and wide-open corners.
The XP 1000 we took into Baja California was more than capable of getting air time and chomping at the heels of the turbo’d models in a flat out race on dirt. Probably the best suited engine and body package for the intermediate off-roader, its got the clearance, power and comforts for taking on rougher terrain and living to tell the tale.
Polaris RZR XP TURBO
Turning it up to 11 in the XP range is the RZR Turbo boasting Polaris’ most powerful engine available to side-by-sides, a ProStar 144hp turbocharged beast. Forged pistons, high strength everything, upgraded engine management system, fuel system and boost control make for the fastest, most responsive ride available.
These two seaters weigh in around 1,495lbs making the power-to-weight ratio incredibly impressive. All the bells and whistles are available when you order one, and the XP Turbo model we took down to Baja was fitted with a beefed-up ProArmor rollcage, super-heavy duty front control arms and a scary clown’s head clipped to the grille – but that last one is not a dealer option.
Affectionately called Skittles, the RZR was incredibly powerful and could spin up to 75mph without much effort. However this also made it incredibly thirsty, something to factor in when planning longer distance endeavors. In the right hands it was the best performer in all conditions, including lighting ‘em up in a swimming pool, or racing along ridge lines.
Riding in four-wheel drive made for a very surefooted bash through trails, and flicking into rear-wheel only turned it into a slippery beast, demanding a fair amount of attention to stop from oversteering around corners. Powerful, nimble and compact, it’s best for experienced drivers as things can quickly get out of hand. Something Gregg Godfrey even experienced first hand after rolling Skittles only a few weeks before taking it to Mexico!
Polaris RZR XP4 TURBO
The four-seater XP4 Turbo was by far the best option for longer trips, more group fun and a smoother ride. Two-seaters have a 90” wheelbase, while the four-seater comes in at 117” – about the same as everyone’s favorite Hellcat, General Maintenance.
Fitted with the same turbocharged ProStar as the XP Turbo putting out 144hp, the extra 200lbs of the longer body didn’t feel like a drag, in fact the added weight and length felt better through turns and over rough sections, smoothing out a lot of smaller, more jarring obstacles that would otherwise send your kidneys crying to their mothers in the two-seat UTVs.
With more room for passengers, supplies or anything else you might need, the XP4 was the reliable and enjoyable workhorse of our crew’s expeditions through Baja California. And it was more than capable of getting some hang time too.