Polaris Sportsman 550 Specs and Review

For Polaris, options are the name of the game. This is especially true with the Polaris Sportsman 550 – another installment from the highly-acclaimed Sportsman family of vehicles. With still four years to go before the Sportsman 500’s final production year, the American firm has already introduced the revamped 549-cc version to consumers.

The Polaris Sportsman 550 is a sport-utility quad from Polaris’ best-selling ATV lineup. Successor to the iconic Sportsman 500, the vehicle boasts the same innovative features – EFI, EPS, Lock & Ride® system, and PVT transmission. Consumers can choose from base, Limited Edition, and X2 trims.

Avante-garde features, a longitudinally mounted engine, and convertible trims are only some of the key selling points of the Polaris Sportsman 550. Continue reading and discover how this reputable machine took the sport-utility niche by storm.

Red 2010 Polaris Sportsman 550 ATV

New and Updated

Since the Sportsman lineup’s inception in 1996, Polaris has been busy introducing creative innovations to its sport-utility ATVs year after year. And as you would have guessed, the vehicle’s features were not the only ones at the receiving end of these enhancements. Along with equipping the quad with Electronic Power Steering, a tilting cargo bed, and gun scabbards, Polaris also upgraded the power mill from 499 cm3 to 549 cm3 and had it transversely mounted.

Compared to its predecessor, the Sportsman 550 has a slimmer midsection and a lengthier seat with 4.0 inches of padding. It also has full floorboards that provide added comfort for those long trail rides and reduce power loss. Body panels are sturdier and available in many color options, which nicely sealed the vehicle’s well-thought-of ergonomics. As for its suspension system, dual A-arms replaced old MacPherson struts on all fours. While this change does not translate to the plushest ride, it makes for a perfect balance of cornering action and rider comfort.

Polaris Sportsman 550 Specs & Features

Green 2012 Polaris Sportsman 550 Quad

Engine & Lubrication

Across all trims and model years, the Polaris Sportsman 550 shares the same ES550PLE power mill. This particular engine can be finicky and requires frequent checking of oil levels – especially if you are using the quad year-round. Because the Sportsman is fuel-injected, ensuring your fuel is contaminant-free and preventing excess petrol from filling the bottom of the crankcase are crucial.

Polaris Sportsman 550 XP / XP EPS
Engine Type 4-stroke, SOHC ES550PLE engine
Cylinder Arrangement Single-cylinder
Carburetion System Electronic Fuel Injection w/ 42-mm injector
Engine Cooling Liquid cooling
Engine Fuel Unleaded gasoline of at least PON 87/RON 91 rating, containing < 15% MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether), < 10% ethanol, or < 5% methanol (E-85 fuel is not permitted)
Fuel Capacity 20 L/5.25 US gal – XP; 17 L/4.5 US gal – XP EPS
Bore x Stroke Ratio 96.6 x 75 mm (3.80 x 2.95 in)
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Starting System Electric
Displacement 549.7 cm³ / 33.5 in³
Maximum Power 42 hp/42.6 PS (31.3 kW)
Top Speed 55–62 mph (88.5–99.8 km/h) – owner’s claim, stock
Lubrication Wet sump
Engine Oil & Quantity 1.9 L (2 US quarts) of PS-4 Plus Performance (2W-50 Synthetic)

Drivetrain

An automatic, dual-range Polaris Variable Transmission with reverse handles power and a Cardan driveshaft (with a H/L/N/R/P gearshift pattern) delivers power to the ground. Initially, base versions of the Sportsman 550 offered selectable dual driveline modes but later on included a third option – a VersaTrac Turf Mode – actuated via a three-position AWD thumb switch found on the handlebar’s right-hand grip. A Polaris-exclusive Engine Braking System (EBS) and Active Descent Control (ADC) further complement the vehicle’s powertrain and lend to its superb handling over diverse terrain.

Polaris Sportsman 550 XP / XP EPS
Transfer, Transmission Type PVT (Polaris Variable Transmission), automatic
Gearshifting H/L/N/R/P
Drive System Shaft drive – Cardan (front wheel); Belt (engine/transmission)
Drive Ratio (F/R) 3.8:1 / 3.7:1
Gear Ratio Low – 5.034:1 / Reverse – 4.508:1 / High – 2.693:1

Ignition

Like its 500-class siblings, the Sportsman 550 models each have different ignition timing settings (revert to your service manual for specifics). EPS-equipped trims have a 30-Amp main fuse on top of auxiliary fuses a base model would have. Any YTX14AHL-BS or YTX14AH-BS battery (view on Amazon) would work perfectly on the quad. You can opt for conventional batteries, although some owners prefer gel-based or maintenance-free variants. Check manufacturer recommendations before purchasing a replacement battery, and take extra care not to overcharge it to help extend its shelf life.

Polaris Sportsman 550 XP / XP EPS
Ignition Electronic Fuel Injection
Ignition Timing 13° ± 3° BTDC @ 1,350 RPM (warm engine)
Spark Plug, Gap NGK BKR6E, 0.9 mm (0.035 in)
Torque spec: 12-15 Nm (9-11 ft-lb – new); 23-27 Nm (17-20 ft-lb – already used)
Alternator Type Triple-phase alternator
Rated Output 490 W @ 1,350 RPM (peak @ 630 W)
Fuse 20 Amp (main, lights, EFI, drive, spare); 10 Amp (switch, accessory) – XP
30 Amp (EPS); 20 Amp (main, lights, EFI, drive, spare); 10 Amp (accessory) – EPS
Battery 12V, 12 Ah/(10 Hr) battery, YTX14AH-BS/YTX14AHL-BS formats
Battery Dimensions (L x W x H) 134 x 89 x 166 mm (5.31 x 3.50 x 6.56 in)

Tires & Brakes

Standard and limited-edition trims are equipped with 26-inch radial tires, front and back. Wheel composition, however, is a different story. Base models had steel, later-year versions had 8-spoke cast aluminum rims (view on Amazon), and LE trims had camo-stamped steel wheels. Hydraulic discs on all fours and a parking brake provide the four-wheeler stopping power. Unlike other Polaris ATVs, the manufacturer recommends only DOT 4 brake fluid when assembling or servicing brakes. Remember not to overfill the master cylinder, as it could potentially cause an accident due to brake drag or brake lock-up.

Polaris Sportsman 550 XP / XP EPS
Wheel Composition Steel
Front Tire, Pressure Terrathon or Maxxis M9805 AT26 x 8-14, 48.3 kPa (0.40 Kgf-cm2, 7 psi)
Rear Tire, Pressure Terrathon or Maxxis M9806 AT26 x 10-14, 34.5 kPa (0.35 Kgf-cm2, 5 psi)
Front Rim Size, Offset, Bolt Pattern 14×6 / 4+3 – 4/156
Rear Rim Size, Offset, Bolt Pattern 14×8 / 4+3 – 4/156
Front Brake Type Single-control hydraulic disc, All-wheel
Rear Brake Type
Auxiliary Brake Foot-activated hydraulic disc, Rear wheel

Suspension

Green 2012 Polaris Sportsman 550 ATV

Despite the difference in wheelbase, ground clearance, and vehicle length, there are no changes to the rear wheel travel for all trims – base/deluxe models, Touring, and 2-ups. The four-wheeler’s 7-foot turning radius and tall 14-inch rims make for better cornering and a more stable ride. The front suspension has an adjustable fork preload. However, there is still no compression or rebound damping for both the front and rear.

Polaris Sportsman 550 XP / XP EPS
Frame Type Steel, tubular
Toe-Out 0 – 3 mm (0 – 1/8 in)
Ground Clearance 295 mm (11.6 in) / 285 mm (11.3 in – Touring, X2)
Wheelbase 1,346 mm (53 in) / 1,448 mm (57 in – Touring, X2)
Turning Radius 2.13 m (6.99 ft – unloaded)
Front Suspension Type, Travel Independent dual A-arms w/ adjustable fork preload, 230 mm (9.2 in)
Rear Suspension Type, Travel Progressive-rate dual A-arms w/ dual shocks, 260 mm (10.2 in)

Dimensions & Capacities

Touring and X2 models are longer due to their two-seater capacity and have a slightly lower seat height. Naturally, they would also be heavier, especially the X2 models since they come with a 400-pound capacity cargo bed. Everything else, including width, payload, and trailer hitch capacities, are the same across all vehicles.

Polaris Sportsman 550 XP / XP EPS
Length 2,110 mm (83.2 in); 2,198 mm (86.5 in – Touring)
Width 1,210 mm (47.6 in)
Height 1,290 mm (50.8 in); 1,479 mm (58.2 in – X2, including backrest)
Seat Height (Unloaded) 940 mm (37 in); 908 mm (35.8 in – Touring)
Dry Weight 331 Kg (730 lbs – XP); 337.5 Kg (744 lbs – XP EPS); 350 Kg (772 lbs – Touring); 362 Kg (799 lbs – X2)
Front Storage 55 Kg (120 lbs)
Maximum Weight Capacity 261 Kg (575 lbs)
Carrier Capacity (F/R) 54 Kg (120 lbs) / 109 Kg (240 lbs – includes tongue weight)
Tongue Weight 68 Kg (150 lbs)
Towing Capacity 680.4 Kg (1,500 lbs) / 386 Kg (850 lbs – up to 15° grade) / 810 Kg (1,786 lbs – unbraked trailer)

Exterior & Lighting

The frame of the Polaris Sportsman 550 is a Gen IV type and has a medium-gloss black finish, with plastic body material available in different color options. Limited-Edition Sportsman 550s were available in either Pursuit® Camo or Mossy Oak® New Break-Up™ brand camo (for the Browning Limited Edition). The lineup only had a splash of brightness once, with the 2012 model in Orange Madness.

Polaris Sportsman 550 XP / XP EPS
Colors Magnetic Metallic, Pursuit Camo, Sunset Red, Indy Red, Sage Green, Boardwalk Blue, Blue Fire, Solar Red
Instrumentation Clock, tachometer, trip odometer, speedometer, hour meter
Indicator Lamps Standard (temperature warning light)
Fuel Gauge Standard
Switches, Controls Main key, headlight, 4×4 & engine stop switches, mode/reverse override button
Headlight Dual-beam Halogen, 12V 50 W x 1 on headlight pod
Single-beam Halogen, 12V 50/50 W x 2 on bumper
Brake Light/Taillight 12V 27/7 W x 1

On-Demand™ AWD/2WD Drive System

Activated either via a two-position or three-position thumb switch located on the right handlebar, this company-exclusive feature enables the front axles to automatically engage whenever the rear wheels lose traction and disengage when the reverse happens. Base models only have 2WD and 4WD to choose from, while Touring/X2 trims have a lockable differential that goes with the “Turf” mode. This single-wheel mode is perfect for riding on fragile surfaces and lawns, while AWD works best in sticky mud, slow-crawling sections, and deep snow.

Active Descent Control

An added safety measure on the Polaris Sportsman 550, this feature allows engine braking to happen on all four wheels when the vehicle makes a descent. This system is available for deluxe trims and X2 models.

Polaris 550 Sportsman Pricing

Depending on model year and trim, the MSRP for the Polaris Sportsman 550 ranges from $7,299 to $9,499, with the Touring and Limited Edition models having the heftiest price tag. EPS-equipped trims are generally more expensive by $1,000 than the base or standard versions. Conversely, the Pursuit® Camouflage trim prices begin at $7,699.

For your reference, here is a full rundown of list prices for all Sportsman 550 models – sans performance mods, custom parts, and accessories such as radio/speakers, snowplow, or a Super ATV 3,500-lb UTV/ATV Black Ops Winch Kit (view on Amazon).

Standard Trims

Year – TrimList PriceAverage Retail
2009 Sportsman 550 (EFI)$7,499$2,630 – $3,460
2009 Sportsman 550 (EFI, EPS)$8,199$3,045 – $4,005
2010 Polaris Sportsman 550 (Base)$7,299$2,985 – $4,290
2010 Sportsman 550 (Camouflage)$7,699$3,150 – $4,145
2010 – 2011 Sportsman 550 (EPS)$8,499$3,470 – $5,260
2010 – 2013 Sportsman 550 X2$8,999$3,650 – $5,400
2010 – 2014 Sportsman 550 (Touring, EPS)$9,299$3,770 – $5,815
2011 Polaris Sportsman 550 (Base)$7,499$3,255 – $4,325
2011 Sportsman 550 (Pursuit Camouflage)$7,899$3,410 – $4,490
2012 – 2013 Polaris Sportsman 550 (Base)$7,699$3,415 – $4,650
2012 – 2014 Sportsman 550 (EPS)$8,699$3,840 – $5,575
2012 Sportsman 550 (Orange Madness)$9,099$4,030 – $5,305
2012 – 2013 Sportsman 550 (Pursuit Camouflage)$8,099$3,590 – $4,835
(** EFI – Electronic Fuel Injection; EPS – Electric Power Steering; LE – Limited Edition)

Special Trims

Year – TrimList PriceAverage Retail
2010 Sportsman 550 (Hunter LE, EPS)$9,199$3,740 – $4,920
2011 Sportsman 550 (Browning LE)$9,299$4,005 – $5,270
2012 – 2014 Sportsman 550 (Browning LE)$9,499$4,200 – $5,925
2013 Sportsman 550 (LE, EPS)$9,299$4,200 – $5,525
(** EFI – Electronic Fuel Injection; EPS – Electric Power Steering; LE – Limited Edition)

As evident in the table above, 550-cc Sportsman quads hold their value pretty well. While trade-in values range from $2,630 to $5,925, auction listings fall between $1,400 and $6,250. Most resale units found online are interestingly 2014 models, while 2009 trims are the rarest.

Overall, the mean asking price for secondhand units (in good working condition) is within $3,000-$3,500. Sportsman 550s below $3,000 are standard trims with EFI but without EPS. These cheaper quads are mostly heavily-used ranch machines with at least 700 hours and 5,000 miles. Meanwhile, those above $3,500 often have EPS, a ton of utility accessories, and are usually in near-mint condition. If you’re lucky, you may score a Sportsman X2 complete with a grill guard, snow plow kit (view on Amazon), and front storage.

Regardless of price, make sure to carefully inspect the four-wheeler for damage or wear on bodywork and mechanical components. Inquire about the vehicle’s history. Furthermore, be wary of pre-loved 4x4s that start with a jump or those with visible smoke during a running engine if you do not want to spend extra for a top-end rebuild.

Performance Drawbacks

Restricted Top-End Speed

While most owners share that their Polaris Sportsman 550 can hit 62 mph bone stock, many off-roaders complain about the inability to reach this speed on their four-wheeler. Honestly, this is to be expected. Given the vehicle’s age and the fact that not many of it (in stock form with only a single previous owner) is still around, the top speed figures would really differ. Factor in the rider’s choice of accessories, monster-truck tires, and that tall poly windshield, and it’s almost certain the vehicle will slow down. A glazed belt also adversely affects the top-end.

Harsh Clutch Engagement

While not a conclusive description of the 4×4, this statement accurately describes the Sportsman’s clutch engagement when traversing sticky mud and other similar terrains. And mind you, this is not only true for secondhand vehicles. The roughness of how the clutch engages is the main reason mechanically-inclined owners perform mods on their clutch assembly – ranging from a simple spring mod to the use of a complete clutch kit.

For other known issues like misfiring, starting difficulties, overheating, and drive belt wear, the Polaris Sportsman 550 service manual provides complete step-by-step instructions on how to resolve these problems. But in truth, the best way to protect the longevity of your quad is prevention. Be on top of scheduled maintenance, give your vehicle a thorough clean after every ride, exercise restraint, and do tons of research before purchasing aftermarket parts or doing mods on your quad.

About Polaris

Polaris Inc. is an American corporation that is world-renowned for its groundbreaking innovations such as Electronic Fuel Injection and Independent Rear Suspension (IRS). Known to pioneer the snowmobile industry, the Polaris Sportsman 550 maker traces back its humble beginnings to manufacturing farm equipment. It wasn’t until 1956 that the American firm made its mark with the 1956 Sno Traveler. Polaris has not looked back since, and the 1968 Textron, Inc. acquisition only helped the company expand. Currently, Polaris is an established key player in the ATV landscape that continues to manufacture, design, and market off-road vehicles and motorcycles for recreational and utility use.

Conclusion – Polaris Sportsman 550 Review

Camo 2011 Polaris Sportsman 550 ATV

A proven trailblazer, the Polaris Sportsman 550 continues to be a favorite among enthusiasts – and for good reason. Its industry-leading features and multi-functional trims help the sport-utility ATV stay relevant despite the advent of 450-cc racers and big-bore behemoths. With its selectable driveline modes, practical design and bodywork, and reliable powertrain, the Sportsman 550 can still compete against the best of present-day quads. This classic 4×4 was and still is synonymous with superb handling and an enjoyable ride – and is a true off-roader’s must-have.

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

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