The UTV is no longer your grandma and grandpa’s off road ride. In fact, they’re quickly becoming the kings of the off road market with intense social buzz and fanfare around the release of new models intended to go fast, look awesome and eat dirt for breakfast.

In 2012, John Deere released the RSX850i as their foray into the recreational UTV market, which gave Gator fans a chance to experience a Deere off road product designed for performance. This revolutionized Gator produces 62 horsepower with a top speed of 53 MPH; a more than respectable achievement for a line of UTV’s that were geared toward utility in years prior.

Just recently, Polaris released it’s 2014 model lineup with the RZR XP 1000 as the star of the show. Currently available in only 2 seat models, which began to hit dealer stock in early August, this beast of a recreational UTV comes stock with 107 HP and 16 inches of front travel – stock out of the crate. Four seaters are expected to release later this year in time for your Christmas wish list.

Other competitors, like the CanAm Maverick X rs also boast a 1000 cc motor and models capable of producing 101 horsepower and top speeds of 7 miles per hour. In a race to bid for their piece of the market share, both Polaris and Can-Am make improvements with each model year to vie for the attention of purely recreational UTV buyers.

In today’s world, however, manufacturers are treating the release of their new UTV models, which for manufacturers like Polaris are becoming the major mark of their brand, much like that of a Hollywood film. The recent release of the 2014 RZR XP 1000 was met with major excitement and speculation spurred on by the manufacturer: teaser pics, movie trailers and a full on viral video from the folks that brought us the Gymkhana action of legendary drift driver Ken Block. And timing for this particular release was especially prudent, with potential buyers getting their first chance to touch and demo the ride at Oregon’s famed DuneFest just days after the first photos were released.

With such a high precedent set, it’s likely that other manufacturers will compete to meet and beat the buzz created by Polaris in an effort to get consumers talking about their new UTV model year line-ups.

But beyond everyday users, UTV’s are also being transformed into full out race machines that are tackling race tracks and legendary races like the Baja 1000. What was once intended for primarily utility purpose, has been transformed into a machine that users can turbo charge, intercool and modify to the point of near non-recognition as they stare down competition with sporty headlights and suspension  travel that even trophy trucks take notice of.

As the off road vehicle market continues to expand, it’s a fun ride to watch more users take advantage 0f UTV’s for utility use and pure fun, as they offer an awesome opportunity to get off road with friends and family. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.