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Cars in the City

Polaris Ranger Trail Boss

10/5/2022

This month’s Cars in the City isn’t exactly a car. It’s a Polaris Ranger Crew NorthStar Trail Boss, a UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle). UTVs are mostly for off-road use, but that may soon change.

As of July 2022, Iowa law says UTV and ATVs can now be driven in town, with restrictions, such as not operating at more than 35 mph, having a working brake and taillights, and not driving on an interstate or four-lane highway.

Here’s the catch. The state puts it on individual Iowa cities to regulate ATV/UTV laws. For example, Des Moines allows UTVs if they contain a triangle reflective bicycle flag and stay under 30 mph, along with other rules. A quick peek at West Des Moines and Waukee reveals that city councilmembers say it’s a no-go, so far.

Regardless of if you drive in town or out in the country, this Trail Boss is an exciting drive. Polaris offers more than a half dozen 4x4s, ranging from the RZR to a Ranger. Costs range from $13,000 to $40,000. The model test driven cost $37,500 and includes numerous added features.

UTVs frequently go up and down hills, over rocks and in tight spots, so quality tires are essential. The 29-inch Pro Armor X-Terrain tires include a 14-inch ground clearance.

The Trail Boss holds lots of gear — up to 1,500 pounds. The cargo lift is a back-saver, as it dumps out the cargo box contents with a switch. It tows up to 2,500 pounds and offers an electrical outlet to plug in power tools.

Not all UTVs come with hard side doors, roofs or windshields. However, the Trail Boss has a fully enclosed cab. A tip-out windshield provides an open-air feel. Heavy doors and auto-quality glass mean durability on gravel and off-road terrain. The crew cab holds up to six people with a snug fit.

Yet, it has many comforts of a “normal” vehicle. A 7-inch infotainment system is embedded into the front panel. Backup and front cameras are essential, especially with a box piled with gear. 

The fully enclosed cab has air conditioning but no heat. Heat can be added, along with a slew of other accessories, including a roll cage or snowplow blade. Customize it for a ranch or waterfowl collection and drivers can secure their hunting harvest or install rifle racks.

Download an app and link to the infotainment system, where drivers can view a map and connect with other Polaris riders. If you’ve found a new off-road trail, save it to the app online to record trails for future use.

There are only two gears — low and high — so it’s simple to manage. Start in low, and once you hit 15 mph, switch to high gear. Polaris cautions drivers to avoid driving in low gear frequently as it can damage the drive belt. Heck, I like it when someone tells me to not drive slowly. However, the top speed is about 82 mph — and who really wants to go that fast over bouncy terrain?

Since I normally cruise down I-235 for other reviews, I was excited to test drive this in a real 4×4 situation. So, I donned a trail helmet and drove up and down out of a small ditch outside the dealership in Grimes. 

I know. It’s not exactly the Rocky Mountains, but bumping over mounds of dirt and climbing back up roadside was almost as thrilling. 

If you’re looking for a break from the mundane traditional vehicle, try this UTV for an entertaining ride.

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