Bred for high-speed desert running, the Polaris RZR Turbo R is a sensational overachiever. I had a chance to find that out and more after testing one in California’s Imperial Sand Dunes.
The RZR Turbo R fits into the wide-open class of UTVs and easily slips into the categories of incredibly fun, family-friendly, and admirably nimble.
The Imperial Sand Dunes recreation area is a 2-hour drive east of San Diego and an enthralling 200-square-mile playground for duners. This 40-mile stretch of land managed by BLM features towering dunes, which reach heights 300 feet above the desert floor. The often-changing winds of the Imperial Valley build swirly bowls and slopes, making the largest California OHV recreation area a dream sandbox for every skill level.
After several hours rampaging up and down the sand dunes of Southern California, I got a proper dose of the RZR Turbo R’s capabilities from the driver’s seat.
In short: While not the fastest or most powerful available, the RZR Turbo R offers plenty of speed and power to have a really good time, especially in wide-open spaces. It’s also an impressively confidence-inspiring machine.
Rockin’ Rollin’ RZR Turbo R Review
The RZR Turbo R comes in two-up and four-passenger models divided into three trim packages: Sport, Premium, and Ultimate.
The Sport trim is ready to rock ‘n roll straight from the showroom floor, equipped with a 181-horsepower liquid-cooled 925cc four-stroke DOHC twin-cylinder turbocharged engine. Core amenities include Polaris’ hearty MaxLink Suspension, a one-piece rock-solid chassis, four-point harnesses, and 32-inch tires mounted on aluminum five-lug wheels.
The Premium trim adds RIDE COMMAND route planning and navigation system integrated into a 7-inch glove-friendly display, Rockford Fosgate audio system, and high-clearance radius rods. Drivers and passengers will appreciate the retractable six-point harness, full doors, and aluminum roof.
Pony up for the high-brow Ultimate trim and take advantage of the Dynamix DV active suspension with four ride modes, FOX 3.0 Live Valve X2 internal bypass shocks, and rack-mounted electronic power steering.
RZR Technical Highlights
Boxed steel A-arms and tubular trailing arms make up the MaxLink suspension. The setup of having the front shock directly connected to the lower A-arm has its advantages. It allows for a longer shock, an optimized mounting angle, and 28 inches of useable travel.
The Turbo R is long in addition to being wide, with its seats placed low in its tubular steel chassis. The wheelbase stretches 96 inches for the two-person UTV and 125 inches for the four-seater. That massive footprint also helps better the odds of staying upright.
A wide 74-inch stance and 32-inch Maxxis Rampage Fury tires put me in full control. Watching the other RZRs ahead of me do two- and three-wheel lifts on precarious turns looked unnerving, but we all landed shiny side up every time.
The four-way adjustable driver seat is comfortable and has ample side bolsters to hold you securely in place. Reinforcing that anchored feeling is the retractable six-point harness that comes standard in the Premium and Ultimate trims. I love how it keeps you firmly in the seat and the added safety it offers, especially at high speeds.
The Dynamix DV active dampers use FOX 3.0 Live Valve X2 internal bypass dampers that electronically control compression and rebound. On top of this, there are four user-selectable ride modes: Comfort, Rock, Track, and Baja.
The beauty of the Dynamix DV active suspension is that it responds to chassis input and adapts to the terrain within milliseconds. Moreover, it adjusts chassis attitude for total optimization, whether climbing, descending, or responding to off-camber lines.
All four corners have five-lug unitized hubs that are crazy strong and designed to take whatever abuse the trail dishes out. Furthermore, the cast aluminum wheels are tough and ready for a hard day across any landscape.
RZR Turbo R: Driving Impressions
The RZR Turbo R doesn’t receive as much fanfare as the Pro R, but you shouldn’t discount its performance and capabilities. Sure, the Pro R is faster and more powerful; however, the Turbo R is no pushover.
On steep climbs, the side-by-side uses its full range of power but never taps out as it nears the top or the point where you’re ready to turn out. You can go full throttle deep into the horsepower and may think that’s it, but the Turbo R keeps on giving. Doing hill repeats in this wide-open desert runner never gets old.
The 925cc twin-cylinder, 200-horsepower engine puts out a nice rumble at idle but doesn’t get obnoxious, even at high rpms. Shifting into any gear is easy enough. I liked how there was always a definite engagement. Down below, the pedals are at an excellent angle and provide a good connection to the throttle and the brakes.
Whenever called upon, the engine is raring to respond to the slightest input. Except when switched to Rock mode. Here, throttle sensitivity is dialed back for controllable initial response and finesse. Switching to Baja mode, I discovered it was perfect for tackling the desert terrain. Reactions to my throttle inputs were quick. Plus, it adapted the suspension settings for big whoops and floating from crest to crest.
On top of the PVT automatic transmission doing a commendable job of staying in the sweet spot, power delivery was consistent at slow and fast speeds. At low rpm, the power is smooth and controllable, but it gathers energy as the revs rise. Wind it up hard, and the acceleration is exhilarating. Surprisingly, turbo lag was never an issue — or I was having too much fun to notice.
Transitioning up and over the Imperial Dunes, stability is rock solid. A low center of gravity and a one-piece chassis keeps the Turbo R flat in the corners and surefooted over rough terrain. Sidehilling was where I had to tune out my self-preservation fears and keep my foot steady on the go-pedal. Thankfully, with a bit of steering input and lots of faith, the RZR stayed upright.
As the morning session progressed and the sun rose over the golden dunes of the Southern California desert, my confidence level increased. Keeping the shiny side up is an exercise that turns enjoyable when one stops being afraid. As I became familiar with the Turbo R’s nuances, the fun factor kept rising.
Ask too much of the Turbo R at once, and you’ll pay the consequences. Thankfully, I didn’t return with stories of flipping over or worse.
The answers for all-day duning call for separate, deliberate inputs and unloading the suspension at the right time. Weight distribution and overall weight of the Turbo R do well to enable its nimbleness on the dunes, floating across the washes, and maintaining a precise line carving through the dunes, valleys, and gullies. The traction provided by the set of 32-inch Maxxis tires was spot-on.
2023 Polaris RZR Turbo R: Bring It Home
The Turbo R, and the more powerful Pro R, are essentially scaled-down trophy trucks built for Baja-style terrain and sand dunes. The specifications list for this pair of wide-open side-by-side UTVs promises glorious amounts of fun on just about every level. They are demonstrably fast, tight, and technical — all at the same time.
To sum it up, the overall performance of the RZR Turbo R is terrific. It handles like a rally car at any speed thanks to the MaxLink Suspension, Dynamix DV active dampers, and power steering tuning. In my own words, the Polaris RZR Turbo R is probably not the sport side-by-side you need — it’s the one you want.
Note that if you need to go down tight trails in the trees or among the rocks, the narrower stance and shorter wheelbase of the RZR Trail and XP series have better dimensions. The Turbo R is specifically at home in wide-open spaces, like the desert.
Find your local RZR dealer and all about Polaris’s latest UTVs here.
- Model: 2023 Polaris RZR Turbo R Ultimate two-person side-by-side
- MSRP as tested: $35,299
- Engine: Turbocharged liquid-cooled 925cc four-stroke DOHC twin-cylinder
- Horsepower: 181
- Transmission: Automatic PVT
- Drive system type: Isolated Xtreme Performance True On-Demand AWD/2WD
- Ground clearance: 16″
- Wheelbase: 96″
- Dimensions:128″ x 74″ x 74.4″ (L x W x H)
- Payload capacity: 730 lbs.
- Dry weight (estimated): 2,013 lbs.