Like a rock bouncer, the ACE 900 XC seats one brave soul in a central position. You steer with a wheel rather than handlebars, and the cockpit is surrounded by low-cut doors and a roll cage. The 27-inch GBC Dirt Commander tires are pushed out to the corners, such that you could literally drive up a wall. Independent suspension tucks the differentials up in the center of the chassis, so there’s 13 inches of ground clearance. The ACE 900 is also wide—at 59 inches, it’s nine inches wider than the trail-width RZR 900, which has two seats.
You’ve still got to be mindful of the center of gravity, though, because unlike an ATV, you can’t move around on the seat to counteract the vehicle’s body roll. You’re strapped in, so if you get the back end hanging out in rear-wheel-drive mode, you want to make sure you stay on the throttle and trade lateral grip for forward motion. Which is highly entertaining thing to do, anyway.
With 78 horsepower propelling about 1,000 pounds of machine, the ACE 900 will send rooster tails of dirt spraying 30 feet back. From a bystander’s perspective, an ACE 900 under throttle looks like it’s trying to outrun a fissure opening up in the earth.
Then, if you activate the all-wheel-drive system, the XC becomes an unstoppable trail machine. I mean, you could surely get it stuck under certain circumstances, like if you drove it straight into the ocean.
Lacking any trail that was challenging enough, I took the Polaris to a hillside that looked like it was used for dynamite testing, pocked with stumps and craters. In a normal 4×4, you’ve got to carry some speed up the incline even if you’d rather not. The ACE 900 has so much traction you could creep. No rock bouncing required.
Whether you’re drawn to the ACE isn’t so much a function of its talents, because it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. The question is whether you’d rather trade the steering wheel for handlebars and the seat belt for, uh, no seat belt, and ride an ATV instead.
Polaris’ Sportsman XP 1000 ATV, for instance, has 90 horsepower and pretty much wants to rip your arms out of your sockets under full throttle. Or, if the single-seat ACE makes you feel lonely and/or selfish, there are plenty of two-seat side-by-sides.
So the ACE 900 XC is aimed at a particular person: someone who enjoys the buggy-like driving experience of a performance side-by-side but doesn’t need a passenger seat. In the age of oversharing, some experiences can just be your own.