I grew up around ATVs and UTVs, but they were nowhere near this fast. That’s because the 2023 Polaris RZR Pro R is a new breed that exists atop the side-by-side hierarchy with few rivals. Whereas the four-wheelers of my childhood made the same power as a riding mower, this has a full-on road car engine with a screamin’ 225 horsepower—and that’s before we get into the active suspension. No wonder this thing costs $45,000.
Before you say it, I know you can build one heck of an off-roader for less than that. You’re right. But that doesn’t take into account just how good the RZR Pro R is at everything it does. Don’t think of it as a rock crawler or a trail rig, although it is both of those. Instead, it belongs in its own category.
Its extreme speed and price automatically mean it’s not a machine for everyone. The top-shelf RZR is arguably comparable to a Ford Raptor because much like the high-po pickup, you can’t squeeze everything out of it unless you have miles of wide-open desert to play in. Folks in the middle of the country with tight, wooded trails will never get the most out of it, so logic dictates that those people should skip it.
The thing is, the RZR Pro R is illogical from the get-go.
|2023 Polaris RZR Pro R 4 Specs
|Base Price (Ultimate as tested)
|1,997cc DOHC four-cylinder | continuously variable automatic transmission | selectable four-wheel drive
|Cargo Box Capacity
|165.5 inches x 74 inches x 76.5 inches
|27 inches (front) | 29 inches (rear)
|If you have the means, buy it.
Nothing else Polaris makes can touch the RZR Pro R. The Turbo R comes closest, but even with its boosted 925cc engine, it’s down roughly 45 hp to the mighty four-cylinder with double the displacement. Plainly put, it’s the top offering from arguably the best in the business and has been since it was introduced for the 2022 model year.
Sharp-edged exterior design elements let you know this is more than a regular RZR XP. The headlights are angrier and more angular, and the fenders are small so the 32-inch Maxxis tires have plenty of clearance. The exposed suspension components are the biggest giveaway that the RZR Pro R is something special, whether it be those super-tall coil springs out back or the thick upper and lower control arms up front.
The interior in my Ultimate trim tester was as fancy as they come with a seven-inch Ride Command touchscreen infotainment system and Rockford Fosgate Stage 2 audio. The retractable six-point harness and full doors keep you inside the rig in case of a crash, as does the aluminum roof. Most everything else you touch is plastic, but then again, that cleans the easiest.
The 2.0-liter ProStar Fury engine is the same you’ll find in the Polaris Slingshot but turned up even more. It makes 225 hp in the RZR Pro R at 8,250 rpm, just shy of its ear-ringing redline of 8,500 rpm. That oomph is sent through a continuously variable transmission to either the rear wheels or all four. You pick.
Driving the Polaris RZR Pro R
I’m surprised there’s no push-button start on this thing because every other step of the initial procedure makes you feel like a jet pilot. That’s cliche, I know, but it’s about as tricky to climb into as an F-35 due to its height and the narrow opening that’s admittedly a tight squeeze for my six-foot-five frame. The belts are plenty big, though, and once you’ve allowed the fuel pump to prime, it cranks to a seriously high volume. It’s hard to believe this is a stock machine.
The shifter is tall and clunky—it’s one of the items that owners upgrade straight away. I was actually a little worried I’d bend the skinny lever shifting out of park. It eventually complies with your request and all that’s left for you to do is mash the throttle. You do have to mash it since there’s only one forward gear, though it spins up relatively quickly so you aren’t left with a ton of dead space at low speeds. You won’t have time to think about it if you’re pitching it into a corner because you’ll be too sideways to care.
I live in the Missouri Ozarks so gravel was the terrain I slung at will with the Pro R. The rig has traction when you want it to and loses it at your command, even if you’re going straight. You can’t help but grip the wheel tighter, though you never have to manhandle it. It’s balanced and, more importantly, stays flat—especially with the four-seater’s enormous wheelbase.
You can always feel where the rear end is at and thanks to the drastically short overhang up front, the corners are visible at all times. This allows you to take creative lines into big sweepers, putting the broad side of the machine forward while clipping the apex with your front tire and swiftly shifting the back around as you turn the wheel the opposite way in anticipation of the next turn. It’s really that easy, though you have to be careful because there’s a real chance this thing is faster than you are.
Experienced side-by-side riders may scoff at that idea, and I get it—the aftermarket takes these Pro R’s way beyond stock power levels. But it’s not really the power that’ll get you, as bold as it sounds. It’s the Dynamix DV active suspension paired to Fox 3.0 Live Valve X2 shocks that trick you into thinking you’re next-level.
Lower grade Pro R’s ride on adjustable 16-position Walker Evans shocks, and while I bet they’re good, they can’t do what Dynamix DV does. It controls damping independently at each wheel with a compression valve as well as a rebound valve, and it manages shock reaction and ride height dependent on the scenario. You choose from four drive modes—comfort, baja, track, and rock—and the suspension does its thing.
I left it in baja most of the time, which gave it enough compliance to shrug off huge bumps while remaining firm during slides. It made quick work of a down-and-up section with a washed-out creek bed at the bottom and an off-camber turn at the top, barely slowing down from the 55-mph entry. It’s nuts and I felt like I escaped catastrophe every time I did it with all the trees around.
This is where the Pro R is at home. Much like a race car, you kinda have to rev it out and abuse it. It can cruise around at 35 mph, but that’s no fun.
If you aren’t winding it out, you might as well be tackling stupid obstacles in it. I could hardly find a spot to stump it at our creekside property—and yes, I tried with a literal tree stump. Even at a little more than two feet tall, the Pro R climbed up it with one tire while the other sat a few inches above the ground at full droop. It almost can’t be bothered.
Its low-speed performance is a few notches below its high-speed prowess, mainly because the engine makes barely any torque at the bottom of the rev range. You’re always zinging it near the redline to make it up climbs that other UTVs would manage without drama. And the transmission gets a little smelly, so be mindful of how much you’re letting it chatter at low throttle.
Really, you have to beat it. That’s when you’re rewarded for dropping $45,000.
The Highs and Lows
The performance ceiling is so tall with the Pro R, even without aftermarket mods. If you buy one for fun instead of competition, I think you’re kidding yourself by saying it needs more power. That’s not to say anyone who boosts theirs is an idiot; “needs” is the operative word there.
Just know that what you’re working with is basically a car, for better or worse. The four-seater is 165.5 inches nose-to-tail, so it barely fits on our utility trailer with a 14-foot deck. It also weighs a ton—more than a ton, actually, at 2,480 pounds dry. Then there’s the price tag, which could get you an awfully nice Jeep. But Jeeps are slow.
Polaris RZR Pro R Features, Options, and Competition
The RZR Pro R starts at $37,499 for a two-seater or $41,699 for a four-seater. That gets you into a Premium trim model with the manually adjustable suspension, and you still get the same engine as well as Ride Command and Rockford Fosgate audio. Everything just gets fancier as you step up to the Ultimate at $40,999 for a two-seater or $44,999 for a four-seater. This adds Dynamix DV, Fox Live Valve shocks, a telescoping steering wheel with button controls, and better Rockford Fosgate speakers.
There’s an absurd amount of accessories you can add onto the Pro R as Polaris treats the RZR line like the money-maker it is. If you’re willing to pay $799.99 for a 10-inch Rockford Fosgate subwoofer upgrade, you can. Or, there’s a vented windshield ($799.99), a 32-inch Rigid SR-Series Combo LED light bar ($869.99), a Polaris Pro HD 6,000-pound winch ($1,049.99), or aluminum doors ($1,099.99 for a set of four).
A Can-Am Maverick X3 X RS Turbo RR is really the only competitor to the RZR Pro R. (That’s a lot of X’s and R’s.) It lacks a bit of power with “only” 200 ponies, though it’s also cheaper at $31,499 for a two-seater or $34,299 for a four-seater Max model. You can also spec the Can-Am with semi-active SmartShox.
Value and Verdict
This is probably the part you’ve been waiting for if you’re trying to persuade your significant other to pay $45,000 for a toy. Let me just say that if you really, truly have that much to spend, then sure. It’s worth it. I’d never be able to justify it because an RZR XP is plenty for the trails I frequent, but if the cash was there and so was the desert, I’d be all about the Pro R.
My mind isn’t really trained to think like a Pro R buyer because I have to keep cost in mind. If that were never an issue—and I didn’t have a wife and kids to stay alive for—I’d blow my money on one in a heartbeat. Heck, I’d even splurge on a turbo kit to make it extra rowdy. Like I said at the start, this is not a logical purchase for the grounded, mature adult. And that’s OK.
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