Side-by-sides aren’t what they used to be. They were just tools at the start, with models like the Kawasaki Mule launching decades ago to help haul heavy loads and transport you and yours from one side of the property to another. Then came the off-roading Yamaha Rhino and Polaris RZR, which elevated the performance segment in sequential order from the 2000s to today. Now, another type of UTV is here, though its main focus isn’t work or performance. The Polaris Xpedition is about long-distance, overland travel and it hits the mark… for the most part.
The Xpedition is better suited than any other UTV for adventuring in comfort, there’s no doubt about that. My tester was a top-trim XP Northstar, brimming with creature comforts. The fully enclosed cab and HVAC made the especially bitter Ozark winter worth weathering, and the JBL stereo is by far the best I’ve heard in a side-by-side. In this way, the newest model in the Polaris lineup is great.
Of course, it should be for nearly $40,000. That’s where the rub is, not only for me but for everyone I talked to about the rig—from neighbors to other UTV owners. Even if you have that kind of money to pay for a toy, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. It’s for these reasons that I’m split on how to feel about the Xpedition. Let me explain.
|2024 Polaris Xpedition XP Northstar Specs
|Base Price (Ultimate as tested)
|999cc DOHC two-cylinder | continuously variable automatic transmission | selectable four-wheel drive
|Cargo Box Capacity
|122.5 inches x 64 inches x 74.9 inches
|14 inches (front) | 15 inches (rear)
|If only it cost $10,000 less.
Polaris knows what it’s doing here. It’s the biggest name in UTVs, rising to the top with the RZR and building on that success as off-roading continues to explode. It has the brand cache to try new things and succeed while naming its price. Machines like the RZR Pro R are proof that even if people flinch at the cost, they’ll still pay up.
That’s partially because these Polaris side-by-sides look sick, the Xpedition included. It’s much better as a two-door—the four-seater is awkward, especially with the roof covering the bed—and my tester’s spec was just right. The grey-and-blue two-tone is sharp and plays well with the LED headlights, and the stance is spot-on with those 30-inch Pro Armor Crawler XP tires. A front bull bar and winch pull the aesthetic together nicely.
It also looks nice inside, especially for a UTV. The seven-inch Ride Command infotainment display makes it feel like a truck, as do the HVAC controls and vents. Maybe surprisingly, there aren’t any buttons on the steering wheel like you find in other Polaris models. The typical tall shifter is still smack-dab in the center, and beside it is a grab handle that proved handy more than once.
Every Xpedition comes with a 999cc ProStar Gen 2 engine making 114 horsepower, which is then sent through a continuously variable transmission. It makes plenty of power to blast through a trail, even if it isn’t as nimble as an RZR XP. Fox Podium shocks are installed at all four corners.
Driving the Polaris Xpedition
Because my test mule had a full cab, the start-up sequence was more truck-like than anything. Sit down, buckle up, crank the key, and a startup animation flashes across the center screen. Adjust the HVAC, pick your drive mode, and throw it into gear. A back-up camera is standard but because my machine had a tailgate extender installed, the lens pointed down at the ground—not a knock, but something to keep in mind if you spring for the same accessories.
I noticed right away that just because you’re closed off from the environment doesn’t mean you're isolated from the noise. I never noticed any wind but that engine is a screamer. And since it’s located just behind the cab, you hear it all as the revs climb up, up, up, often near 8,000 rpm. Maybe that’s why they gave it such a loud stereo.
Jokes aside, the Xpedition does translate that noise into performance as the rear squats on heavy throttle. I wouldn’t say it scoots, but compared to anything from a decade ago it’s a peppy machine. The revs also climb fairly quickly so you aren’t left waiting for the CVT to catch up for too long.
The more spirited your drive becomes, the more you realize that the Xpedition is a medium-speed machine. It can do low speed too, obviously, but you aren’t going to fly down a fire road without noticing the heft that’s being thrown around. Even the two-seater has a curb weight of 2,452 pounds, and once you factor in my plus-sized self, we’re over 2,700 pounds. To make the car comparison, that’s about the same as a new Miata. The wheelbase is also short at 80.7 inches and because I’ve seen what can happen when you take a turn too fast in these stubby machines, I quickly decided not to flog it too hard.
The suspension is better suited for a measured pace, too. When I saw “Fox” printed on the shocks, I expected a super sporty feel but they’re actually pretty soft no matter how you adjust them. Go off-throttle, stab the brakes, and the Xpedition dives in, albeit without much rotation. You need to slow down well ahead of a turn in order to tackle it stably.
That said, as I’m experiencing this and making mental notes, I’m pretty darn comfortable. Temperatures were downright cold for most of my time with the Xpedition, and while you wouldn’t catch me driving something less weatherproof at 45 mph in 10-degree air, I never once shivered in the Polaris. Instead, I pointed the vents at my hands and feet while cranking John Denver on the stereo.
That’s what the Xpedition is for. Find yourself a place to ride and enjoy time spent outdoors. The fuel tank is supposed to be good for 200 or so miles of driving, though I’ve heard owners report wildly varying numbers. Either way, the machine will keep you comfortable the whole way—just keep the revs down so you can enjoy the guitar pickin’ through the speakers.
The Highs and Lows
I feel it’s obvious that the Xpedition’s all-weather cab is its best feature—or suite of features, more accurately. Now that I’ve tested a few UTVs with full stereo systems, I can confidently tell you the Xpedition’s JBL Trail Pro 4100 setup is the best. It bumps. That whole experience—the Bluetooth connectivity, the Ride Command system’s built-in navigation—was the highlight every time I climbed in.
I’m still not convinced it’s worth the price, though. You have to buy the top-spec Northstar to get the full enclosure with the power windows and windshield, meaning you’ll pay more than $35,000 unless you’re OK with the elements. Even then, the premium JBL stereo option is locked behind the Ultimate trim and above; lower-optioned machines make do with a less powerful sound system that’s still made by JBL.
Polaris Xpedition Features, Options, and Competition
Every Polaris Xpedition, whether it’s an XP or ADV series, has the same 114-hp engine, CVT, and four-wheel drive. The 30-inch Pro Armor tires are standard as well, so you get the same amount of ground clearance and general wheeling capability at the bottom of the lineup as you do at the top. Even the 4,500-pound winch is baked into each model.
The choice of accessories from Polaris, though, is near-endless. While my XP Northstar tester had all the cab amenities as standard, the manufacturer spec’d it with drop-in dry storage in the bed as well as a sliding rack and a tailgate extender. You could spend thousands more on in-house add-ons; heck, you can even get one with tank treads if you want.
While the Xpedition is in its own category as an overlanding-specific UTV, there are others sort of like it. The Can-Am Defender Limited is available with a full cab and HVAC, for example, and you can get one of those for $29,899 before delivery. You’re giving up power if you go that route as the Defender Limited makes just 82 hp, and it also doesn’t have any infotainment like the Xpedition. Or you could compare it to another Polaris—the Ranger Northstar Edition, which starts at $27,899. That also makes 82 hp, so less than the Xpedition, but you do get Ride Command in addition to full HVAC for far less money.
If I were buying an Xpedition, I’d get one like the XP Northstar I tested. You might as well go all the way if you’re splurging on an overlanding toy. I’m not the target audience for this but I have a feeling those who are will agree with me.
Value and Verdict
Here’s where we get down to the nitty-gritty. I think the Xpedition is good, and it has a lot of top-shelf equipment. Still, there’s no way I would drop nearly $40,000 on one. That’s just too much money.
I’m not telling you anything new when I say side-by-sides have reached a new level of expensive. But models like the Polaris RZR Pro R get away with it because they push performance to another level, too. While the Xpedition has a different focus, it doesn’t elevate the overlanding experience enough to justify the cost. I enjoyed my time with the rig, but if it were my money, I’d just buy a pickup.
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