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SNOWEST OCTOBER 2003 ARTICLE

Published online: Oct 07, 2003 Feature, Snow Tests Lane Lindstorm
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Blah, blah, blah, DET. Blah, blah, blah, dual angle tunnel. Blah, blah, blah, PERC. Blah, blah, blah, Perimeter cooling system. Blah, blah, blah, Liberty engines. Blah, blah, blah, Team roller driven clutch.

Is that what we hear when we don't think a snowmobile manufacturer has come out with anything new for the upcoming season? Is anyone out there listening? Better yet, does anyone out there care? In this industry, perception can either make or break a sled . regardless of whether a consumer has thrown a leg over the machine or not. If a sled is not a new model or doesn't have enough new stuff on it, we barely look its way.

That's why we think the Polaris 800 RMK Vertical Escape seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. You remember the 800 RMK Vertical Escape don't you? With all the hype surrounding a couple of other new models for 2004, you'd think this sled fell off the face of Mt. Jefferson.

The 800 RMK Vertical Escape is back and is as good as ever. This is the same 800 RMK that other snowmobile manufacturers have been aiming at. For the past three years, this machine was the standard in the West. It was the target.

Granted, the 800 RMK isn't a new model and has just a handful of changes for 2004, but we contend it is still one of the top sleds in the West. Essentially the 2004 800 RMK Vertical Escape is the same as what was named SnoWest

Not Outdated-Yet

There's been some talk that the 800 RMK is outdated. We say not yet-and only time will tell if technological changes will pass it in the next couple of years.

In the meantime the 800 RMK is poised to defend its King of the Hill title.

It's a combination of some major components, like Polaris' Liberty engine, and somewhat lesser features, say like PERC, that will keep the 800 RMK Vertical Escape racing to the top of the mountain this season. Many of these features are either unique to the RMK or were first introduced on an RMK. We think they break down into two basic categories: features that help the RMK get up on and go through the snow and features that enhance the overall performance of the machine.

First the things that make the difference in powder. When talking about going through the powder the discussion just about has to begin with power. It doesn't matter how well a sled floats on the powder if you don't have the power to do something once in the deep stuff. Polaris Liberty engines have proven to be powerful and reliable. One SnoWest SnowTest staffer summed it up best, "There is plenty of power and it is rider friendly." The 800 RMK's power is manageable and has a broad powerband that delivers the knockout punch when you need it. The Liberty engines really shine when you're weaving in and out of the trees. Sometimes you need the power to get out of a jam and sometimes you need it to be silky smooth so you don't trench out while working your way around a tree. The RMK delivers in nearly every situation you might find yourself.

Features of the 800 RMK Liberty variable exhaust motor include double-ringed Grafal coated pistons, Detonation Elimination Technology (DET), Water Temperature Sensor (WTS), Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) and the fuel octane switch. All these perks on the Liberty engine help ensure peak performance of the motor but the more important fact is that these features constantly monitor the engine to prevent possible damage. The double rings on the pistons, for example, offer more compression while the Grafal coating helps the piston resist seizure.

Internal Workings

The DET sensor is located under the engine's head and senses any detonation (alerting the rider with a light on the dash). If there is any detonation, the DET triggers the CDI box, which in turn retards the engine's timing to prevent any damage. The DET sensor checks the engine every second. The WTS works much the same way. If the engine starts to overheat, the sensor tells the ignition to reduce the timing. You might not ever need the fuel octane switch but you'll be glad you do if you find yourself at a gas station that doesn't offer premium gas or you're a little worried the gas has been sitting in the station's tank for a long time. Move the switch off the premium setting and the engine will compensate for any bad fuel you might get or for a lower octane fuel.

The TPS is another protection for the engine. It works by measuring the degrees of throttle opening, delivering that information to the digital ignition system. Engine timing is then adjusted accordingly from a 3D map for optimum performance regardless of throttle position.

And for any of you who have had your engine sputter because you were riding in deep powder and the fine fluff made its way into your airbox and then the engine, Polaris has Air Intake Socks, which prevent snow ingestion.

Now on more models, including more RMKs, is the Team Roller Clutch, which simply improves efficiency in getting the power from the Liberty engine to the ground. Polaris has also rolled the chaincase for an improved track angle.

Getting On The Snow

We've taken care of getting through the snow power-wise, but what about getting on top of the snow and then staying there? Perhaps not enough credit has been given to Polaris for its Dual Angle Tunnel and Dual Purpose Rail, two reasons the 800 RMK does so well in the powder. The Dual Angle Tunnel helps keep the tunnel cleared out of snow, especially in deep powder, and allows the sled to dig deeper when needed without getting hung up on the snow. You'll really only notice this benefit if you spend most of your riding time in the powder. You won't notice any real benefit if you spend all your time on the trails (and why would you?). You will notice you're riding higher than nearly any other sled on the trail, thanks to 18.5 inches of travel in the rear.

What you will notice on the trail is the Dual Purpose Rail, which is the biggest reason this sled with its long track acts more like a short track when trail blazing. The Dual Purpose Rail shortens the wheel base and tips up 2.8 degrees in the back of the suspension. That allows for a tighter turning radius without sacrificing any deep snow performance.

Aside from experiencing it yourself, Polaris has come up with a way to illustrate the benefit of the tipped up rail. Log on to the Polaris website (www.polarisindustries.com), click on snowmobiles and then videos and watch the Deep Snow segment.

An interesting side note on the rails. Last winter we rode the 2004 models in the woods of northern Minnesota. Polaris brought along the RMKs but we weren't particularly interested in riding the long tracks on tight, windy trails which had, at best, 3-4 inches of snow. We think Polaris brought the mountain sleds along to prove a point. Remember the hifax problems on RMKs a couple of years ago? Well, it's a thing of the past. If the hifaxes didn't burn up on the trails we rode in Minnesota that day, then we don't think they will where you ride.

With the 800 RMK's excellent powerplant and ability to go through the deep stuff, we think one of the best things that can be said about the Vertical Escape is that you work it, it doesn't work you.

The Cream

Now on to a few features we think enhance the overall performance of the sled. If you would have told us even two years ago we would use the Polaris Electric Reverse Control as much as we do now, we would have laughed in your face. With PERC we find ourselves pulling right up to the edge of mountains where before we would have parked back a few feet and walked over because we didn't want to pull the sled around. It's definitely a handy little feature. And now that Polaris is making a better effort to educate riders on how to help PERC work at its best (sometimes the engine would die when PERC was activated), more sledders will enjoy its benefits. Refer to April 2003 SnoWest, page 20 for more information. The Team roller clutch is on every sled with PERC.

We've long thought Polaris had a good brake, but now it's enhanced with the addition of the Phantom Brake, a two piston, liquid-cooled, hydraulic disc system.

One of our favorite features on the 800 RMK is the Perimeter Cooling System (PCS), which circulates coolant through the running board tunnel roll. For the most part, it keeps the snow melted off much of the running board, which gives you better footing. When the powder is really deep and the snow gets piled up on the running boards, the PCS simply can't keep up. But if you kick some of the excess snow off, it does a good job.

Polaris also has a new low pin on the drive clutch which pinches the belt tighter at low rpm, allowing for lower engagement and that means you can creep out of deep snow instead of going down.

Finally, one more feature we really like are the Sidehiller 2 Skis. These skis just plain work, on the trail, off the trail, in the deep powder, going up a hill.it doesn't matter. They work.

"The Escape is sweet," one SnoWest SnowTester said.

And that's more than just talk. The 800 RMK Vertical Escape backs it up with action.