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Polaris Xplorer 400 Specs and Review

Payload capacity, a plush ride, and great power are all trademarks of the Polaris Xplorer 400, a versatile quad produced by Polaris from 1996 to 2002.

The Polaris Xplorer 400 is one of the most reliable ATVs Polaris has ever manufactured. Straightforward and unfaltering, it continues to be many riders’ preference for racing, hunting, agriculture, and industrial work.

Superior power output, efficient fuel consumption, and minimal repair requirements all form part of this vehicle’s appeal. Polaris could not have picked a better time to launch this quad. It came out when all manufacturers exerted effort on the improvement of all-terrain vehicles.

Close-Up of ATV Tracks on Wet and Muddy Trail

About Polaris Xplorer 400

The Polaris Xplorer 400 was a high-performance, off-road ATV introduced in 1996 that enjoyed a six-year production run. A predecessor to the Sportsman and Scrambler models came in two trims: the Polaris Xplorer 400L produced from 1996 to 1997 and the Polaris Xplorer 400, released until its last production year in 2002.

4WD began with the 1999 Polaris Xplorer 400. The 2001-2002 year models came with add-on options like cassette players, high-performance exhaust, and utility trailers.

Initially made with a carbureted two-stroke engine, the vehicle was powerful and perfect for hauling deer, hunting, trail riding, and camp work and drew the general consumer’s attention. Off-roaders took a liking to the vehicle for its reliable, comfortable ride over rough terrain, wooded trails, dirt roads, and stream crossings. In perfect condition, some aficionados even consider it better than 650-cc brutes.

The four-wheeler’s dual-sensing, automatic PVT (Polaris Variable Transmission) paired with its Concentric Drive System gave the Xplorer its unique and efficient driveline layout. This configuration was present in later models. Another outstanding aspect of this quad is its rear suspension.

Not only is it unaffected by engine torque, which enables it to put more power to the ground, but it also has an impressive 9 inches of rear suspension travel.

Not Without Flaws

Polaris voluntarily issued a recall order for about 13,600 ATV units, including some 1999 Polaris Xplorer 400 models. The throttles on those vehicles tended to stick, preventing the ATV from slowing down when released and posing a crash hazard in the process. The company addressed this dilemma by offering a free repair to consumers who bought the affected units.

Polaris Xplorer 400 Specs & Features

  • Engine – A two-stroke, liquid-cooled oil-injected engine powers the quad. It has an 83-millimeter bore and a 70-millimeter stroke. The engine displacement is 378.7 cubic centimeters delivered by a 34-mm VM34SS Mikuni carburetor, and its compression ratio is 6:9:1. Fuel tank capacity is 4 US gallons/15.14 liters.
  • Drivetrain – Power travels via a two-speed automatic PVT (Polaris Variable Transmission) and E-Z shift high/low and reverse that allows riders to shift with push-button ease and responds to both engine RPM and vehicle torque load. The 1996 Polaris Xplorer 400 was a 2WD, but recent new-generation versions have switch-operated On-Demand true 4-wheel drive that provides additional traction.
  • Ignition – It has an electric starter system with an auxiliary recoil mechanical backup.
  • Tires – The front wheels are equipped with 25x8x12 tires, while the rear wheels with 25x12x10 tires. The vehicle wheelbase is 49.75 inches. You can buy same-size replacement tires like Carlisle All Trail ATV Tire (view on Amazon).
  • Brakes – The front brake uses single-lever hydraulic disc brakes, and the rear uses a hydraulic axle-mounted foot brake with an auxiliary single-sealed mechanical drum.
  • Suspension – The front suspension features a McPherson Strut independent front suspension. It allows 6.25 inches of travel and a rear progressive-rate swing arm with single shocks and a steel finish that allow 8.5 inches of travel. Its Concentric Drive System (CDS) enhances Its power efficiency as it aligns the swing arm’s pivot point with the drive sprocket center.
  • Dimensions – The length of the quad is 81 inches, and the width is 46 inches. Its height from the ground is 47.5 inches with a ground clearance of 7.38 inches. The seat height is 34 inches. Dry weight is 570 lbs (258.6 Kg); Front and rear load capacities are 90 lbs (40.8 Kg) and 180 lbs (81.6 Kg), respectively. Towing/hitch capacity is up to 850 lbs (385.6 Kg). Its turning radius of 5.42 feet makes for smooth handling in difficult conditions and through narrow trails.
  • Exterior – The Xplorer is composed of a steel frame and plastic body material. It has full floorboards with integrated footpegs, and composite front and rear cargo racks. Instrumentation includes an electronic speedometer with a digital hour meter and a trip odometer with readouts in kilometers and miles. You can get a QuadGear UTV Deluxe Storage Cover (view on Amazon) to protect it from the elements.
  • Lighting – The Polaris Xplorer 400 has two 35-watt grill lights mounted on the front fenders and a 60-watt high-beam main headlight. It also comes with an 8.26-watt taillight. You may opt to change these into LED Light Bar Nilight (view on Amazon) for more superior light distribution.

Cost of a Polaris Xplorer 400

The original price of its 1996 model was $5,349, which only increased by $350 for its 2002 model. Today, the price range could be anywhere from $175 to as high as $2,260. It depends on whether the quad is stock or modified. Blue Book values average at $1,840 for used vehicles, and trade-in values average at $1,210 for Xplorers in good condition and with typical mileage.

Second-hand, reasonably priced Xplorers can be mostly bought in online auctions. They would typically be models from 1996 to 1998 with an average resale cost of $1,300. Most of the vehicles come with new Polaris Xplorer 400 parts like a battery, water pump, or rear shocks.

Others have minor defects, such as a non-working odometer, the 4×4 stuck in forward, or missing front sprockets. When buying an Xplorer 400, inspect the transmission condition, carb, and electric.  

Pros & Cons of Owning a Polaris Xplorer 400


The Polaris Xplorer 400 is one of the best machines out there in terms of performance. It is fast and powerful and provides a smooth and comfortable ride. It can sustain some pretty aggressive riding. Having a two-stroke engine, it is easier to rebuild than a four-cycle one. It has decent suspension, and you can easily modify it for power without running your wallet thin.

With good maintenance, the Xplorer 400 would need very minimal repairs. Models with the concentric drive unit will not require chain adjustments as often as those who don’t have it. The throttle response is also much better on these two-strokes.

You will also need to burn at least 400 miles on these oil-injected beauties before you need to do a refill. It is improbable that you will burn a spark plug. All in all, the harder you ride it, the better the quad runs.


Conversely, these quads require more maintenance than most machines, simply because they are belt-driven and require a lot of service. Engine vibration is more severe than that of a four-stroke. It eventually rattles something loose in the carb, resulting in the Xplorer running rich.

The carburetion on this machine is not up to snuff with Hondas. Cold-starting anywhere below 40°F is a drag. Owners complain having to get up early and let it idle before the engine gets warmed up enough.

Another drawback is that the bottom of the engine gets water inside when mudding or crossing water; tie-rod ends, steering stem, chains, sprockets, and rear swingarm tend to loosen after only a few miles; and it requires overhauls more frequently than its four-stroke siblings.

It is also very intolerant of dirty air cleaners given the amount of air it consumes. When the air cleaner is unattended, it gets the machine into poor shape that it doesn’t run right. Or worse, it can pull through the media if neglected.

Polaris Xplorer 400 Top Speed

A stock 1998 Polaris Xplorer 400 can reach speeds of up to 60 mph on even surfaces and up to 53 mph off-pavement. Modifications will give you a gain of three miles, but that’s about it. Enthusiasts who’ve used these quads for racing attest that the two-stroke Xplorer would never hit 70 mph or beyond. Weather, rider weight, quad condition, upgrades, and other factors affect top speed, so it may slightly differ for individual drivers.

For those planning on an Xplorer 400 rebuild, the following mods would help. Delta V-Force or Boysen Reeds with spacer kit, K&N Uni Filter, Mikuni Power Jet kit, airbox mods, and a lift kit and 26-inch Mudrunners. For skilled mechanics, putting these together would be a breeze. Otherwise, it will be best to go to your local auto shop or a professional outfit.

Discovering the Xplorer

  • What oil does a Polaris Xplorer 400 take?  Two quarts of Polaris Premium TC-W3 two-stroke engine oil should be enough to fill up the 2000 Polaris Xplorer 400. For counter-balancer oil, 3.2-oz SAE 10W-30 motor oil is required. Make sure it has an API service classification of SG or SH for the best results.
  • What size battery does a Polaris Xplorer 400 have? The Polaris Xplorer 400 has a 12V, 210-CCA (Cold Crank Amp) battery with an assembled dimension of 5.28 x 3.54 x 6.54 inches (L x W x H), not including wire harness and mounting accessories.
  • What is high mileage for a Polaris Xplorer 400?  10,000 miles is considered high mileage for any ATV/UTV, but well-maintained quads can get up 23,000 miles. Your quad’s high-mileage capacity depends on how you use it. An Xplorer that is always knee-deep in mud or crawling rocks will not last as long as it is mainly driven on dirt paths and used for trail riding.

About Polaris

Polaris Inc. was formerly known as Polaris Industries and is the maker of Polaris Xplorer 400. What started as a snowmobile-prototype concept in 1954 has now evolved into a global manufacturer of motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, and neighborhood electric vehicles.

The company continues to reflect its vision “to fuel the passion of riders, workers, and outdoor enthusiasts around the world” through their world-renowned products and services.

Conclusion – Polaris Xplorer 400

The Polaris Xplorer 400 may be underrated, but it remains one of Polaris’s best quads before the four-stroke EFI machines. In mint condition, it resells well and may even beat 650-cc counterparts. It is a pleasant ride as it is hardworking and can be surprisingly adept for single-track racing.

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced thumper that can keep up with your workload and off-road whims, then the Polaris Xplorer 400 is the right quad for you!