The Legendary Polaris Xplorer 400 ATV: A Complete Guide

The Polaris Xplorer 400 is considered one of the most reliable all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that Polaris has ever built. Since its introduction in 1996, the Xplorer 400 has remained a favored choice among ATV enthusiasts for activities like racing, hunting, farming, and commercial use thanks to its straightforward design and unwavering performance.

In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about this legendary ATV model including its history, specs, top speeds, pricing, pros and cons, and more. Whether you’re an Xplorer owner, looking to become one, or just want to learn about these iconic machines, read on!

A Brief History of the Polaris Xplorer 400

The Xplorer 400 was produced from 1996 until 2002 as part of Polaris’ early ATV lineup before the popular Sportsman and Scrambler models. The first versions were the base Xplorer 400 and the Xplorer 400L released a year later in 1997.

In 1999 Polaris introduced four-wheel-drive capabilities to the Xplorer 400 which improved its off-road handling tremendously. The final 2001-2002 models came equipped with added features like cassette players, high-performance exhausts, and utility trailers for hauling gear.

During its peak production run, the Xplorer 400’s reliable carbureted two-stroke engine, stable ride quality, and versatility for activities like hauling deer, hunting, trail riding, and ranch/camp work made it a top choice for off-roading enthusiasts. Even today, some riders argue a well-maintained Xplorer performs better than modern 650cc utility ATV models!

Xplorer 400 Engine and Performance Specs

The Polaris Xplorer 400’s engine is a two-stroke, liquid-cooled 378.7cc oil-injected model with a 6:9:1 compression ratio. This powerful motor gives it impressive torque and acceleration capabilities, especially for a 400cc ATV.

Here’s an overview of some key Xplorer 400 specs relating to performance and handling:

  • Engine Size: 378.7cc
  • Fuel Tank: 4 gallons
  • Transmission: Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT)
  • Tires: 25” x 8” x 12” (front); 25” x 12” x 10” (rear)
  • Brakes: Hydraulic Disc
  • Tow Capacity: 850 pounds
  • Top Speed: Up to 60 mph

The Xplorer 400’s Unique Transmission

One innovative feature that set the Polaris Xplorer 400 apart was its dual-sensing Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT) system paired to a Concentric Drive driveline. This automatic transmission could dynamically adjust gear ratios depending on riding conditions and throttle input for optimal efficiency.

While early Xplorer models lacked the PVT, it was added to later 400s and gave the ATV excellent low-end torque while still allowing high-speed operation nearing 60 mph. The drivetrain was also unique – it centered the swingarm pivot through the engine crankshaft for great handling.

Buying an Xplorer 400: Costs and Value

If you’re looking to buy one of these legendary ATVs, expect pricing to vary based on factors like model year, condition/maintenance, accessories, mileage, etc. Here’s an overview of Polaris Xplorer 400 value:

  • Original MSRP: $5,349 (1996); $5,699 (later years)
  • Used Price Range: $1,400 – $3,500
  • Auction Results: $400 – $2,800

While an Xplorer 400 may cost more upfront than some other used ATVs, their reputation for reliability makes them a great value. With proper care and maintenance, an Xplorer can log thousands of miles of off-road use while retaining strong resale value along the way.

The Good and Bad of Xplorer 400 Ownership

Owning one of these iconic ATVs brings some great benefits but also a few downsides to consider:


  • Powerful, comfortable, and nimble ride quality
  • Capable mud and hill climber
  • Easier to maneuver than larger ATVs
  • Holds resale value well


  • May require frequent maintenance
  • Repairs can be expensive
  • Too powerful for inexperienced riders
  • Fuel economy not as good as newer models

In the hands of a responsible rider who stays on top of maintenance, the Xplorer 400 delivers an incredibly fun, capable riding experience that built Polaris’ off-road reputation. But newer or less careful owners may struggle with the repair bills from time to time.

Polaris, Leaders of Off-Road Innovation

The Polaris Xplorer 400 came from one of the most respected names in motorsports – Polaris Inc. Founded in 1954 in Minnesota, USA, Polaris pioneered early snowmobile designs before branching out into ATVs like the legendary Xplorer. Today the company remains an industry leader producing:

  • Snowmobiles
  • ATVs / UTVs
  • Motorcycles
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Commercial/Military Vehicles

Polaris continues innovating today – but for many loyal enthusiasts, those early Xplorer 400 ATVs represent the heart and hardworking soul of this iconic American motorsports brand.

So there you have it – everything you need to know about the legendary Polaris Xplorer 400 ATV legacy. From its innovative transmission and bulletproof engine to potential costs and considerations for ownership, we covered all the details on these machines.

Whether you currently rely on your trusty Xplorer or hope to grab one someday, hopefully this guide gave you a deeper appreciation of these icons of off-roading! Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments.

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