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Take Note

Polaris out to recapture lost market share

Published online: Mar 05, 2005 Feature
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Note to self. Spend more time on the new 600 RMK. Also, make time to ride the new 700 RMK. Oh yea, and reserve a little time for the new Polaris four-stroke sleds.
Man, are we going to be busy this spring-and next winter.
We got a taste of what Polaris has to offer for 2006 and it's definitely tasty. We're most anxious to get some more seat time on a handful of sleds at the photo shoots in March. We just hope we have enough time to enjoy all that Polaris is offering because it's a virtual buffet for sledders.
In fact, there's not enough space in this issue to cover all the new stuff from Polaris-five new engines (two- and four-stroke) and 15 new models, many of which are based on the IQ chassis (which puts nearly 65 percent of the Polaris line in the IQ chassis).
So, we're going to hit the highlights, starting with, of course, the deep snow models. First the bad news-no more 800 RMK (one of our favorites). The good news is that there are two new RMKs, a 600 and 700, both of which have new engines and both of which are now in the IQ chassis (no surprise there). The 600 is a new high output (HO) while the 700 is a CleanFire, first introduced a year ago in the 900 models.
The 700 is pegged at 138 hp, according to Polaris figures, and features many of the same aspects of the 900, such as forward exhaust and intake, CleanFire injection with its four injectors and EPA compliant up to 2010. The interesting thing about the CleanFire 700 is that it's a 755cc powerplant. Explanation? "We would rather it be an overachieving 700 than an underperforming 800," one Polaris official told us. We'll see how it stacks up against the 8s when we ride it in March, but we're already fairly certain it will be one of the strongest 7s on the snow and could challenge the Ski-Doo 8. Polaris said its goal with the 700 was not to build it for peak horsepower but rather for broad, useable power. Then there's the torque on the 700. The motor pulls hard . to the tune of 95 ft./lbs. Now compare that to the 900 RMK's torque of 105.6 ft./lb. (at 7400 rpm) and you see the new 7 is power waiting to be unleashed on the snow. Like the 900 CleanFire, the 700 motor is 40 percent cleaner which means it easily beats the 30 percent cleaner requirement from the EPA.

High Output
The 600 H.O., which is not a CleanFire, is more of a conventional design in that it has a rear intake and forward exhaust and is carbureted with Mikuni TM38 flatslides. Compared to its predecessor (last year's 600), the '06 model has an increased case size and intake and shows 120 hp on the dyno. Polaris also pointed out that the newer 600 offers 19 percent more horsepower at midrange.
Polaris is placing some pretty high expectations on this new 600, which is based on the company's 440 race engine with its high flow intake system and W reeds. In one of the most competitive (and lucrative) segments on the snow right now-the 600 class-Polaris has lost its edge to the MX Z, Firecat and SXVenom. "We want the 600 class back," Craig Wilfardt, Polaris snowmobile product manager, said. "It's a segment we owned and we want it back."
The 600 H.O. also features a new DET (Detonation Elimination Technology), auto calibrating for fuel quality. You'll remember that with the old DET, you had to flip a switch, depending on what octane of fuel you were using. Now, the system does it automatically. Polaris still recommends 87-91 octane gas. Polaris also claims improved fuel economy with the new 600 H.O., but was reluctant to give out any figures until the company gets everything dialed in. It might end up being as high as 14-16 mpg during normal trail riding.
For the mountains, we already mentioned that the 600 H.O. and 700 CleanFire are now in the IQ chassis, which receives a few upgrades for 2006. Those changes include a new spindle, which is slimmer (less drag in deep snow) and has a reduced caster angle of 4 degrees (for better steering and less push in the corners). The Rider Select, where the rider gets to choose the position of the handlebars, is been changed, too. A design change moves the handlebars one-quarter of an inch higher, meaning the outside of the bar is three-quarters of an inch higher at full turn. Interestingly enough, a hang tag will be on the handlebars of RMKs next season to educate riders on the "negative traits of forward positions No. 6 and No. 7." Anyone who had ridden with the Rider Select in one of those positions knows that while it's great for standup riding, there is added weight on the front of the vehicle and that means less weight transfer.
Polaris has also changed the drivetrain a bit on the IQ chassis. The drivetrain now sits lower in the chassis, which helps give the entire vehicle a lower center of gravity. Eleven pounds of mass (all drivetrain components) are now three inches lower in the chassis. Polaris also managed to shave 3 lbs. of weight off the drivetrain in the process. The change in the drivetrain improves the belt pull angle at the engine and the chaincase itself has a new oil level sight glass, allowing the rider to see the chaincase oil level without having to remove anything.

A Track Here, A Track There
The 600 RMK will be offered with a 144x2-inch track while the 700 RMK comes in 144, 151 or 159. Lug depths on the 700 are two-inch on the 144 and 151 and 2.4 inches on the 159. The 900 RMK offers a 151-, 159- or 166-inch track with lugs two inches deep on the 151 and 2.4 inches deep on the 159 and 166. If that doesn't have your head spinning then consider this. A 2.4-inch deep lug track is a Snow Check option on the 144 and 151. All tracks are still of the Series 4 design.
New on the RMKs this year is an adjustable ski stance, which went by the wayside a while back with different chassis changes. It's similar to the Arctic Cat system where you either add or remove a washer from either side of the spindle. The adjustment ranges from 39-41 inches. ?
Several other minor changes were made underhood for better air and heat management and reduced snow ingestion.
The Trail RMK will be returning in the Edge chassis.
We spend considerable time on the 600 RMK and while we weren't in deep snow conditions, the sled makes us want to try it again in the fluff.

Four-Strokes
We can't talk about what Polaris has to offer in 2006 without mentioning the new four-strokes, a regular version (FS) and turbo version (FST). Yes campers, the Frontier is history. The new four-strokes are 750cc twin-cylinder Liberty engines counterbalanced for low vibration. There are four valves per cylinder and all sleds with these engines come standard with electric start (no manual backup). The FS in naturally aspirated and, like the FST, is 80 percent cleaner than the industry baseline. Polaris teamed up with a German engine partner on the turbo version of its four-stroke. This German company is an expert in four-stroke turbo applications. As for the FS, you can expect around 80 hp (compared to the Frontier's 48 hp), which puts it at the performance level of an Indy 500. 
The FST hovers around 135 hp and has 95 ft./lbs. of torque. We were able to spend some time on both four-strokes but the most impressive feature on either model is that there is no turbo lag on the FST. When Polaris first mentioned that the FST had no turbo lag, we snickered, "Yea, right." But they were dead on. Yes, it's a turbo. There is no lag. In fact, the powerband is very broad and because you don't experience that "turbo hit," the rider can know better what to expect, especially in the tight twisties.
Polaris mounted the four-stroke engines in the center of the gravity of the engine and also mounted it very low in the chassis (IQ), especially compared to other brand's four-strokes. "So, even though it's a four-stroke, because the engine is mounted low, it's not top heavy nor does it feel nose heavy," Brandon Glissmeyer, Polaris' project leader on four-strokes, said. Again, we found that out from personal experience. Glissmeyer pointed out that the FST engine is mounted lower than the 900 engine. This is possible, in part, because the engine mounts on the four-strokes are on the side compared to the 900 where the mounds are underneath.
When asked how Polaris and the German company managed to eliminate, or at least make the turbo lag feel non-existent, Glissmeyer said it's a result of a combination of engine dyno work and engine calibration, lots of clutching work (including specific cut helixes) and induction and exhaust air flow.
"The four-stroke has a different powerband than two-strokes so we are creating components to match," Glissmeyer said. "Every component was scrutinized."
An added bonus on the four-strokes-reverse. It's an electric controlled mechanical reverse that offers the same push button activation as what you have on other Polaris sleds.