Side by sides are now coming straight from the factory with high horsepower turbo’d engines, some of which are nearing the 200 HP mark. There are benefits to having a big horsepower machine, especially when it comes to the dunes, but do you NEED all that horsepower. That is the questions we’ll try to answer today…
When Kawasaki introduced the new KRX in October, some people were immediately wondering why they did not come to market with a 150+ horsepower Turbo. The same can be said for when Honda released both the Talon X and Talon R and with Yamaha and the YXZ. With Can-Am and Polaris releasing sport models nearing 200 horsepower, why would the Japanese manufacturers release a sport machine with no where near the horsepower coming from their North American counterparts?
The short answer is likely that market research led them to the release machines in the 100-115 HP range and while you will not see as many Talon’s, KRX’s, or YXZ’s on the trail or in the dunes as you do X3’s and RZR’s, they are definitely growing in popularity with major aftermarket brands developing parts and accessories for them.
Before we get to a few of the reasons why the market demands led them to a comparatively lower horsepower machine, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of the Turbo’s and get a better understanding of why people want them.
The obvious, and biggest reason people want the Turbo machines is power. From dune riding to desert racing, having the ability to get out of the corners or up the dunes faster can be a huge benefit. In the dunes, there simply is no substitute for power. From carving bowls to hill climbs and drags, the dunes experience is just plain better with more power. Sure, you can have a blast at Glamis in a N/A machine, but you likely won’t be climbing china wall or winning the race up Oldsmobile.
As for desert racing or very aggressive trail riding, the benefit of extra power is undeniable as well. Some of these machines are pushing 100mph on the stock engine and are getting there quick. There’s no denying that you’ll get up and go faster in a turbo machine.
Another reason people are buying Turbo’d machines is manufacturer’s are putting their best specs on them. A great example is the the new Polaris RZR pro XP. The pro XP is Polaris’ premier machine and comes straight from the factory with 181 HP. On top of the horsepower, you’ll find options and specs that are not available on their lower HP models including better seats, stealing wheel controls, and their new lay flat rear seats available on the ProXp 4. Can-Am has taken a similar approach with their 195 HP RR models. For example, the 72” X3 RS Turbo R comes with 172 hp and Fox podium 2.5’s with up to 22 inches of suspension travel while the 72” X3 X RS Turbo RR comes with 195 HP and Fox podium 3.0’s with up to 24 inches of suspension travel.
In short, both Polaris and Can-Am offer better specs and more options on their higher horsepower models.
With all of that said, you have wonder why, if the best the North American manufacturers have to offer are high horsepower machines, what are the 3 major Japanese manufacturers, Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha doing coming out with comparatively lower horsepower. Like I said in the beginning, the likely reason why is that is what the market demands. So let’s take a look at why there might be more demand for N/A machines than there is for high horse power machines.
While there are thousands of people across the globe who love the dunes and need the extra horsepower, it’s my bet that there is a much larger number of people who buy side by sides for exploring mountain and desert trails or who enjoy slow paced technical riding where horsepower is nice but not necessarily needed. Having spent plenty of time in the mountains of Utah and Arizona and plenty more in the rocks in both states, the situations in which you NEED that extra horsepower are limited. A great example of this was at a recent event in Sand Hollow Utah. While there were plenty of turbo’d machines there, machines like the KRX and Talon were doing everything the other machines did and in many cases made it look easy.
Another driver in the demand for N/A machines is cost with Turbo machines being more expensive than their N/A brothers. As an example, the Polaris RZR XP 1000 has a base MSRP of $18,600 while its brother, the RZR XP Turbo has a base MSRP of $21k. Many consumers would have to ask themselves if the extra power is worth the extra $2,400. If you’re a dune guy, put yourself in the shoes of a midwestern trail rider and ask yourself if having 168 horsepower provides a meaningful benefit on the tight trails you ride every weekend over the 110hp you get on the similar but cheaper model. My bet is the answer is no. While all side by side manufacturers are very tight lipped about their sales numbers, I imagine that through their research, the Japanese manufacturers discovered that the answer was no.
Geography also plays a big role in what machines people buy. We did a poll on our YouTube channel where we asked people if they owned a turbo or naturally aspirated machine. With nearly 100 votes, 68% said they owned a N/A machine. We also asked people why they did or did not chose a turbo and the answer that stood out to me the most was “…Turbos and trees are a really bad mix. Going fast where I ride is not conducive to a long life for me or my machine”. Although I wouldn’t put myself in this group cause I like myself some hot nasty American speed, I thought this comment likely sums up a lot of peoples feelings.
There are definitely benefits to going with a Turbo machine.
If you want to go fast in the desert or hit the dunes, there is no substitute for horsepower. Wether it’s a Turbo RR model from CanAm, a RZR pro XP, or even adding a turbo to a YXZ, Talon, or soon a KRX, chose the machine that fits you.
If you’re riding style is mountain trails, exploring the desert and maybe the occasional dune trip, you would likely be very happy with a naturally aspirated machine. Might even have a little extra change in your pocket.