There’s very little reason I can find to take myself off roads. I like traction. Slow crawling off-roading hasn’t been my thing ever; its uncomfortable, tyres burst, SUVs get ruined and you just can’t come out clean. But that’s with SUVs because they are just as capable as they are not, weight and size rob them off the agility and maneuverability and so the potential for fun in challenging terrain is curtailed to a large extent.
But today is different. I’m raring to go and waiting outside an off-road course even before my terrain destruction tool arrives. Very nonchalantly, a guy rolls into the scene driving over seemingly large boulders of concrete and parks in front of me. And there it is, the Polaris RZR XP 900.
The XP 900 is top dog in the Polaris range here, at least for a bit till the XP 1000 takes over. It’s a daunting vehicle, the XP 900, even before I step into the driver’s seat. Form certainly follows function to the T, the only creature comfort I see is a windscreen and a very rudimentary wiper fitted to it. The XP 900 is purpose built to get you across any terrain or no terrain with relative ease that’s otherwise unmatched this side of a battle tank. There’s very little computer trickery that we see among modern SUVs giving it that capability though. Sheer brawn, ingenious design and rugged engineering are the XP 900’s assets in the field. But all that’s what I’ve heard of, and we don’t believe in hear-say, do we? We don’t, and so the drop-off driver is out of the vehicle and I’m strapped in turning the ignition on.
I’ve been warned though, well in advance, that the RZR 900 looks like a toy but is a beast within. Blah! An 875cc 4-stroke twin cylinder engine with about 90PS of power and similar torque figures shouldn’t be much of a handful, I think. But I’m about to be pleasantly surprised and a wee bit terrified at first…
The tiny 900cc engine comes mated to an automatic gearbox. You can switch between two wheel drive and all wheel drive at the flick of a switch so with the gear lever set in 2-High, I’m off the block and into the dirt. Picture 27 inch off-roading tyres on 12 inch aluminium wheels tearing apart loose gravel. You don’t feel a thing. The tyres had been through some beating, it could be seen from the look of it, but even my novice skills at the helm didn’t seem to break it into a sweat.
This particular RZR XP 900 is the one that’s won the Desert storm thrice and the Raid De Himalaya once driven by Raj Sing Rathore, an established driver in the extreme rallying circuit. He’s fit in racing bucket seats with 4-point harnesses and these seats can’t be adjusted so I’m just about able to squeeze into them. The steering can be adjusted for rake, thank God for that! He’s also got a reserve fuel tank fitted at the back since the 900 has a range of about 200km, not enough to complete a stage at the Raid. Besides two extra mountings for spare wheels, one on each side, there is no other modification to the RZR 900.