Once again, western snowmobilers have made out like bandits.
When you look at what is being offered by the major snowmobile manufacturers for 2008 and then consider our market share out West is about 23-25 percent, we think you'll agree that we're sitting pretty.
Try this on for size.
Arctic Cat is back with its M8 and M1000 with several new subtle and not so subtle refinements.
Polaris, building on the success of its 600 RMK and Dragon, has unleashed a fiery 800 RMK Dragon with plenty of snort.
Ski-Doo, meanwhile, is taking this lightweight theme to the extreme with the release of an amazing 429-pound Summit 800R Rev XP. Oh yea, and it's in a brand new chassis that will turn heads everywhere.
Yamaha has been quietly trying to make inroads into the West with its four-strokes and now has the FX Nytro MT-X, which is nearly 100 lbs. lighter than the Vector Mtn. while pumping out 10 more horsepower.
Even the AD Boivin is getting into the act with its new Snow Hawk for the mountains.
You'll find out the details of these new machines in the pages that follow. For the sleds that will impact the West, we've offered up 10 reasons you're gonna like these 2008s. We've also included information on other sleds that caught our eye during the annual media sneek peek, which took place in January. Some of the sleds we got to test, some we didn't. All are prototypes and not production units so calibration-including everything from engines to clutching to suspensions-was still being worked on.
Calibration work should be done in March when we get to ride them all again. We'll report on our findings and seat-of-the-pants impressions in next season's issues.
In the meantime, here's a little teaser for you.
Just about everyone knows the cruel joke Mother Nature played on the snowbelt this past winter.
However, she was especially cruel to Arctic Cat.
Here the Thief River Falls, MN, sled maker just released the biggest changes to its snowmobile lineup ever and not many people got to share in Cat's excitement because of the lack of snow in the Midwest.
That has left Cat saying, "Hey, what about us?"
Cat introduced some solid changes for 2007-like the new four-stroke Jaguar and the F Series (as well as the M Series) and not only will those carry over for 2008, but with some refinements and new models-seven to be exact. Many of the changes are across the board and not really just for one machine.
"We don't think of ourselves as a two-stroke or a four-stroke company," Joey Hallstrom, Arctic Cat's snowmobile product manager, said. "We're both."
Here are some-but not all-of the Cat highlights for 2008.
Although Cat prides itself on the power it creates with its Suzuki twins, it's hard to overlook the Jaguar four-stroke with its 1100cc, 120-horsepower powerplant. We had a chance to ride the Jaguar Z1 and it flat out hauls down the ditches. And there's none of that engine braking that you find sometimes in four-strokes. The anti-engine brake control allows the snowmobile to glide when you let off the throttle, much like a two-stroke does. How it works is when the throttle is released and the system is activated, air bypasses the throttle plate. Of course these were new Jaguars we were riding and Hallstrom pointed out that there is a significant speed increase as four-strokes get broke in, like after several hundred miles. So things just get better as you dial up the miles.
F Series. We don't normally brag up the big iron but after putting some miles on the F1000-wow. This sled rocks. We pounded through some tight twisties, ran open trails in the ditches and squeezed the throttle on a frozen river and the instantaneous power (a claimed 165 hp) and smooth ride from the rear suspension left smiles all around. The F8 was a lot of fun as well and we could feel all of the claimed 142 horses at the elevation we were riding. Add the sweet upgrades that you get with the premium Sno Pro version-Fox Floats and the aggressive suspension calibration-and you're looking for bumps and jumps. The Sno Pro versions also get the new premium electronic speedometer/tachometer Cat has unveiled for 2008. This thing is full of cool information like digital/analog speed and tach, an odometer, two trip meters, clock, fuel gauge, warning lights, heater settings, altitude reading, a reverse light and Cat Comm channels. Non Sno Pro versions get the standard gauge, which has all of the above minus the Cat Comm, heater settings, altitude and reverse light.
Crossover sleds. The reason we like the Crossfires so much in the crossover segment is because they so closely resemble the M Series. Crossfires share the same chassis as the M Series and will get the same new running boards and spindles as the Ms do for '08. Of course, Crossfires also get the new gauges.
Cat has moved its touring models to the Twin Spar chassis, the same as is used in the F Series.
So what about Cat? A good bet would be to not overlook what's purring for 2008.
Arctic Cat, on the surface, doesn't appear to have done much to its mountain lineup for 2008.
Appearences can be deceiving. Check out this top 10.
1) Cat is using a Fox Float shock in the rear suspension for 2008, replacing the Fox Zero Pro shock that was used there. That means no more steel coil over spring-and with that no more snow buildup on the spring. Fox Floats, already standard equipment on Cat's M Series Sno Pros (both 800 and 1000), have been widely accepted in the West and have proven to be a good option for soaking up the deep moguls. Calling the move to a Fox Float in the rear suspension "the biggest bang for the buck," Cat's Kevin Schindler pointed out that the move will save 8 lbs. when comparing the '08 skid to the '07 skid. He added, "where it will shine is in the deep moguls. You might not notice the difference or change in the stutter bumps but in the deep stuff."
The Fox Float shocks' rising rate in the deep stuff helps minimize the jarring the sled and sledder take in the big bumps.
2) The new spindle on the front suspension will look familiar to those who follow snocross racing and particularly Team Arctic. The spindle is based on the spindle you see on Cat's race sled. If there is any knock against the M Series, it's that the turning radius leaves a little to be desired, especially when going through the tight trees and you need all the turning radius you can get. The new spindle offers up another 10 degrees of steering, "so you can get round things just a little easier," Schindler said. Of course, the new range of steering will also be appreciated on twisty trails.
3) New running board. We're all for any efforts manufacturers make to open up the running boards to help keep them as snow-free as can be on those deep powder days. We don't particularly like standing on several inches of snow and ice while trying to negotiate a tough sidehill or steep hillclimb. Cat's new design should prove especially good at doing just that-allowing as little snow buildup as possible. Schindler pointed out, "Your basic movements while riding should keep the boards clean." And if needed, you can stomp the snow through the fairly big holes. According to Cat, the '08 Ms have five times more open area on the running board compared to the '07 models.
And Cat shaved a half-pound by making the holes on the running boards bigger. You might also notice on the edge roll (which is sharp enough to slice a salami cleanly) that Cat is using a new extrusion which is thinner but actually stronger due to the addition of another rib inside the extrusion. Thinner means there's a weight savings of a half-pound on each side as well. On the roll edge, there's no longer a 90-degree angle from the roll to the running board. Cat has slanted the aluminum here, which should eliminate even that much more snow that used to collect along the outside edge. You'll also find the new running boards on the Crossfires.
4) While you're looking at the running boards you notice some ribs up toward the footwells. Those ribs give the tunnel a little more strength.
5) On the M1000 (as well as Arctic's other 1000 sled), Cat has returned to a three cam arm clutch instead of four cam arms. With the change, Schindler said, "we're seeing better performance-more responsive and quicker reacting because by going from four to three cam arms there is less friction."
6) The new gauges are pretty trick. All M sleds besides the Sno Pros get the standard gauge, which includes digital/analog speed and tach, two trip meters, a clock, fuel gauge and warning lights. Bump up to a Sno Pro and you get the premium gauge, which includes all those features plus several others, such as heater settings and-this is the coolest-an altitude reading. We found the gauges-either version--easy to read on the fly.
7) Engine tuning. Schindler said Cat continues to work on the EFI's calibration, always looking for the most optimum performance from the engine. "We're looking for more power," he said, "say like in the midrange." Cat's motors are pretty strong and will have to continue to be so what with stiff competition coming from the Ski-Doo Summit 800R and the new Polaris Dragon 800, as well as the 1000 from Ski-Doo. At 142 horses, the M 800 is behind a bit in that category (the Summit 800R is a claimed 151 horses and the new Liberty 800 showed 158.5 horses in an independent test by Starting Line Products), so any power Cat can find is helpful.
8) Look at the rails and you'll see a new design inspired by Cat's styling experts. The goal was a more open, lightweight look. You be the judge on that one. A couple of other minor mods in the rear suspension include: the center wheels in the back have "knockout" holes while the arms have been painted.
9) This next one might not be one sledders think of as a reason they're gonna like the '08 Cats, but it is, nonetheless, a change being made in next season's lineup. Gone is the 141-inch track, leaving the 153 and 162 tracks in Cat's mountain lineup. The M6 is only available with the 153 while the M8 and M1000 with either the 153 or 162. The M6 offered the option of a 141 or 153 track in 2007, which might leave sledders asking the question of whether the M6-with 118 hp- has enough guts to turn the 153? We'll give you our take on that next season after we've had a chance to dial up some miles on that model this winter.
10) No major complaints about the 2007s. So why is that a reason you're gonna like the 08s? Because, the sleds are much the same and that means you should have worry-free sledding this upcoming season, which will be the second Cat has under its belt with the new Ms, which were first introduced last season.
"We're not going to do another Fusion-ever."
So says Scott Swenson, Polaris' General Manager - Snowmobiles and Pure Polaris.
Those eight words will make lots of Polaris faithful happy and Polaris' competitors think the Polaris downturn might be pointing back up.
Moving on from the Fusion, well, debacle, and hammering relentlessly on quality control has many in the snowmobile industry looking for better days for Polaris.
Quality with a capital Q has been on the minds of Polaris execs, managers, engineers and probably even janitors for quite a while now, which is why 2007 sleds were relatively trouble-free for the Roseau, MN, manufacturer.
In fact, Polaris officials these days are talking about such things as "product quality verification testing." That's a term the company uses to describe a program that gets sleds into the hands of Polaris executives and others to drive and test and potentially find any glitches that can be worked out before production. Polaris pointed to model years 2005 and 2006 as having "significant quality and execution issues." Hence, the push for quality and reliability.
Cranking Up R&D
Hoping that it has a firm grip on quality control and that serious issues are behind it, Polaris is now poised to crank up the research and development machine again to turn out new models. You learned about the new 800 Dragon RMK in our "10 Reasons ." story but that's not the only new sled out there, although it is the only new machine with the Liberty 800 HO Cleanfire engine.
Another sled that intrigues us is the IQ Shift, which Polaris is placing in a value-performance category. To look at the Shift, you'd think it was a stripped down 600 IQ, which it is, kind of. True, there are no graphics-it's as black as night. And true, it doesn't have the impressively strong 600 HO Cleanfire motor, but the Liberty carb version of the 600 is no slouch. Look at the numbers and only five horsepower separate the Cleanfire from the carb version (125 CF vs. 120 carb).
Aside from some minor details such as different shocks and a shallower track (.91 inches vs. 1 inch), the Shift is pretty darn close to the IQ-except in the price category.
Polaris pointed out a fact that snowmobilers know all too well-that sled MSRPs have gone up 40 percent over the last five years. Polaris has earned a reputation for its sleds costing less than its competitors and that's exactly what it's aiming for in 2008 with the Shift in the 600 class.
Although final pricing hasn't been released yet, Polaris is looking to put an MSRP of $6,999 on the Shift, which would be less than (based on 2007 pricing) the Arctic Cat F5 and Phazer. The only question mark about whether Polaris will win the price war revolves around what Ski-Doo will do in this class. Still, for the horsepower difference (120 vs. around 80 on the Phazer and F5), the Polaris price tag is a darn good value.
A True Racer
Perhaps on the opposite end of the sled spectrum from the Shift (but not in the horsepower department), Polaris is rolling out the 600 IQ Racer, which, as its name implies, is for the hardcore rider. The 600RR (Race Replica) is about as close to a race sled as you're gonna get. This machine uses the Polaris race chassis, runs on 87 octane fuel, can be had with a 1.25- of 1.5-inch track, features Walker Evans shocks and comes with the race graphics. If you have a need for speed, you might want to take a look at this machine.
Polaris has also expanded its four-stroke turbo offerings, meaning you can get a four-stroke in just about every segment from performance to touring (not the mountains, though). The company has been working to further develop its four-stroke turbo (with its claimed 140 hp) and for 2008 that includes improving the over-boost for better power delivery and quicker acceleration. These sleds also now include a turbo over run clutch for the starter gear and a new fuel map that aids in better starting at temps below minus 20 degrees F. Polaris is working to keep its four-strokes viable in an increasingly competitive class.
As you take a gander at a Polaris brochure this spring or you happen to see its sleds at any of the spring shows, you'll probably notice several new things, one of which is the Ryde FX Air 2.0 shocks. The features of this new shock include a laundry list of butt-saving features such as a dual chamber design, nitrogen charged (instead of air), light weight (1.7 lbs. lighter than a remote reservoir coil-over design), chrome rod and an oil seal instead of an air seal. The advantages of that last feature-oil seal vs. air seal-is that because the oil lubricates the seal there is reduced sticking at the initial moment of movement as well as the shock not needing to be frequently re-charged. For 2008, a limited number of sleds will feature these new shocks, including the IQ Turbo, 700 Dragon IQ and 600 and 700 Dragon Switchback.
The new shocks are part of Polaris' plan to keep its edge in the handling and ride department, an area where the company never really suffered, even during those couple of years where it stumbled in other areas.
After looking at the 2008 lineup and seeing a relatively trouble-free 2007 season (at least in the sleds it sold), Polaris looks to be back on track and moving ahead.
Just in case you didn't hear the rumors (or don't have the internet), Polaris has big things in store for 2008. New engines, new track, better shocks, refinements here and improvements there.it's the Polaris line you've been waiting for since fall of 2004. Here's the top ten reasons the '08 Polaris RMKs will leave a good impression.
1) Famous Footwear: Polaris mountain engineers knew they had one of the most versatile tracks on the snow, but looked for ways to improve it. The new Series 5 track eliminates gaps between lugs that had left snow untouched previously. It also eliminates lug overlap, where two consecutive pitches ate the same snow. Now, the track is more uniform than before, more efficient with its use of materials, and more capable of propelling the sled through both deep fluff and firm pack.
2) DollyWorld: The question of the year had to be what Polaris would bring back as their big twin. Would they revamp the 900? Build a potent 800? Or go for broke with a 1000? Well, the 900 is scrap metal. The industry is going 10s. But Polaris doesn't see any point in throwing R&D dollars into an engine that sells so few models (if you totaled all of the 800 and 1000cc units on the snow, about 80 percent would be 800s). The logical step was to build an 800, but make sure it's a winner. Polaris can check that off its list of things to do. The 800 Cleanfire twin is so much more like the Dragon's 700 than the old RMKs 900. It's snappy, responsive off the bottom, strong through the mid, and doesn't sign off early. Where the 700 is strong, the 800 is stronger. And that's saying something, since the '07 Dragon 700 ran like the others' 800s.
3) Standing Room Only: Polaris spec'ed a new handlebar riser that is two inches taller than the '07 riser. You should see it on the 800 and 700 Walker-packaged sleds, though Polaris reserves the right to change that without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.
4) Snow White: We knew it was coming, we just didn't expect the 600 HO Cleanfire powerplant to be as powerful and responsive in mountain skin as its carbed predecessor. From what we've ridden (not final high-altitude calibration), the new RMK 600 HO should be as impressive in its class as the 700 and 800 engines are in theirs.
5) Walker, Texas Ranger: The 2007 Dragon premiered Walker Evans springless shocks as OEM equipment. The shocks were plush and smooth. The Dragon had one of the best trail rides available. But it would bottom easily if pushed hard, and the track wouldn't stay in the deep snow the way Polaris engineers wanted it to. The '08 RMKs have new valving that improves deep snow action, resists bottoming, and retains most of the plushness from the '07 valving.
6) Back to the Future: You won't believe it, but we'll tell you anyway: The taillight on the '07 Dragon (the one that was mounted on the rear of the seat, that always seemed to get kicked by your boot every time you jumped across the seat) is a remnant part from the 1986 Polaris TrailBoss ATV inventory. Part of the cost-saving benefits companies see from producing multiple vehicle types. The rear-of-tunnel-mounted taillight on the '08 RMKs is not a 22-year-old part. It's new, and nets no weight gain (nor loss) over the seat-mounted setup. But it looks better.
7) Long and Short of it: You won't see the 166 2.4 track making a comeback anytime soon. The new pitch of the Series 5 track opened the door for a new version of the super-long. Engineers settled on a 163 for deep fluff riding.
8) Scratching the Surface: The 800 RMK with Walker Evans shocks features a first for manufacturer original equipment-ice scratchers. Every wheel in the skid has been removed (except the rear axle wheels). Holz Racing supplies the scratchers to Polaris, and they mount on the side of the rail just like normal. The setup makes the rear suspension roughly 8 pound lighter.
9) Geometry 101: It took four years, but the IQ RMKs now have the correct spindle. Steering effort has gone way down compared to the '07 chassis (which was easier to steer than the '05 and `06s).
10) Money in the Bank: After a two-year losing streak for the RMKs, Polaris finally knocked one out of the park. The 2007 Dragon RMK proved that the IQ chassis can work in the mountains, that Cleanfire engines are capable of power, and that they remember how to build a lightweight sled. 2007 was the year to prove itself-2008 will be the year Polaris takes some of the pressure off itself and puts it on the other brands.
We knew something was up with Ski-Doo when we received two 25-pound weights in the mail one day earlier this winter.
The package was an invitation to Ski-Doo's sneak peek in January.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Ski-Doo was leaning down its machines even more.
But we weren't quite prepared for how much weight the sleds were going to lose.
"Weight is everything in our business," Francois Tremblay, Ski-Doo's director of marketing, said during the unveiling presentation.
Roger that. And nobody seems to be better at keeping that weight off than Ski-Doo.
Other Rev XP Models
We've already detailed where weight was dropped on the Summit version of Ski-Doo's new Rev XP, the next generation of snowmobiles from the Canadian manufacturer. Well, the MX Z got a similar diet, losing 53 lbs.-the official published weight will be 425 lbs. dry. Because the MX Z and Summit share essentially the same new Rev XP chassis, the weight savings were in about the same places, give or take a pound here and there.
Of course, select MX Z sleds get the 800R in 2008. Ski-Doo first introduced the 151-horsepower engine in the Summit last year and that was the only sled you could buy with that motor, which not only includes the MX Z this year but also the GSX lineup.
Yea, a 425-pound full-size production sled is impressive but then Ski-Doo saved the biggest shocker for the end of the presentation-the new TNT, a 399-pound full-size production sled.
And no, the MX Z TNT is not a bare bones sled with a naked frame and half an engine. It's the former 500SS trail machine in the Rev XP platform. It gets all the new goodies and gadgets the higher end MX Z sleds do, including HPG Take Apart aluminum shocks, the new SC-5 rear suspension, a RipSaw 15x120x1 track, handguards and on and on. It could very well be the first full-size production sled that weighs less than 400 lbs.
How could you not want to at least jump on this sled and take it for a spin? We can't wait for our turn.
More Summit News
While we focused on the Summit X 800R Rev XP in the "10 Reasons ..." story, there are a few other changes in the other Summits worth noting. Here goes (in no particular order):
Everest. Ski-Doo resurrected the name, which first came out in 1974. The Everest is the in-season 800 from Ski-Doo and is also in the Rev XP chassis, which means it's light, light, light-although it won't be as light as the spring-only Summit X. Remember the Summit X 800R Rev XP has a production target weight of 429 lbs. The Everest has a target weight of 435 lbs. (146-inch track) and 439 lbs. (154-inch track). The weight difference would be in such places as steel A-arms on the Everest versus chromolly A-arms on the Summit X and steel shocks (Everest) compared to aluminum shocks (Summit X). There are also a few differences in the rear suspension. Another major difference between the two is that the Everest comes with the Powder Max track whereas the Summit X gets the Challenger Lite or Powder Max-your choice. If Ski-Doo hits its 435/439 weight target, that would be a hefty 44 lbs. (give or take) less than the 2007 Summit Adrenaline.
For 2008, the only Adrenaline available will be the 600 (and that's okay, because it's much easier for us to remember which sled has what engine now that the sleds have been separated by different names). The Adrenaline and Summit Fan also are still in the Rev chassis. The Adrenaline offers up a Power Max 16x144x2.25-inch track while the fanner has a 16x136x1.75-inch track.
The Summit Highmark X is still a spring-only machine so if you want the 1000 SDI, you have to plunk your money down now. This sled is essentially the same as the '07.
The Challenger Lite track got even lighter for 2008. A new single-ply technology and 2.86-inch lug pitch helps reduce the weight by 4-6 lbs., depending on length. How it works is that the new pitch has allowed fewer lugs and thus, less weight.
Here's a Ski-Doo accessory that might catch your attention. The company is offering a quick disconnect sway bar kit that can be retrofitted to certain Summits. Summit riders can now ride to play areas with the sway bar, and disconnect for boondocking-without tools.
Of course, this no where near covers all that's new for 2008 from Ski-Doo, but the big theme was undoubtedly light weight.
Somewhere during all the weight-loss discussion, Tremblay said, "It was a hell of a challenge to surpass the Rev."
Mission accomplished. You better believe it.
Ski-Doo already has the No. 1 selling snowmobile in the West-the Summit 800. Well, you can say goodbye to the Summit 800 as you have come to know it. Ski-Doo, not content with resting on its laurels, has redesigned the Rev chassis and will now be blasting the snow scene with the new Summit X 800R Rev XP-the XP standing for Xtra Performance. There are far more reasons to like this new machine than you probably thought possible. But we'll take a stab at it.
1) 429 Pounds. If Ski-Doo actually makes that target, published weight of 429 lbs., the Summit X 800R Rev XP will be the lightest mountain sled in any class-including the fans. What are they making these sleds with? Air? No, but Ski-Doo has eliminated just about any and everything that doesn't serve an absolute necessary purpose. Here's where the Summit Rev XP shaved weight compared to the Summit Rev:
Chassis minus 14 lbs.
Front suspension minus 6 lbs.
Rear suspension minus 9 lbs.
Steering system minus 5 lbs.
Track minus 6 lbs.
Driveline minus 8 lbs.
Body parts/seat minus 6 lbs.
Add all that up and you get a whopping 54-pound weight savings compared to the Summit Rev platform. Do a little more math and that actually equals about a 424-pound machine, but Ski-Doo said it will publish 429 lbs., just to leave it a little breathing room for any changes that might take place before or during production.
You might want to throw into the equation a 23.5 percent reduction in unsprung weight, as well.
While this may seem obvious, the weight of a sled has everything to do with how it handles and performs in the mountains of the West. It affects how it stays on top of the snow, how it snakes through the trees, how easy it is to pull over in the powder, how high you climb on the mountain-everything to do with riding. Most noticeable about the Rev XP is substantial weight loss. The sled is much easier to maneuver in critical situations. The Rev XP is so much lighter that it requires a lot less rider input to get the machine to respond to the rider's determined direction.
2) New Chassis. The next generation Rev-the Rev XP-is sharp, functional and an improvement on design that has become an industry standard.
Note to self: send a thank you to Ski-Doo's engineers for "relaxing" the sitting position of the Rev chassis. Aside from the weight, the new ergonomics of the Rev XP was one of our favorite changes. The new chassis design allows Summit riders to move their feet eight inches more forward in the footwells. Eight inches might not seem like much, but it makes all the difference. Ski-Doo estimates about 15 percent of sledders wouldn't buy a Rev because they couldn't stretch their legs. At least one of the SnoWest SnowTest staff could be counted in that 15 percent. We like the new design because 1) our knees are not farther forward than our feet while riding and 2) our knees didn't hurt after a day of riding. It's also a better design for sidehilling because you can get your feet farther forward in the stirrups. With the Rev, some felt you couldn't get your body over the sled's center of gravity while sidehilling and that meant the rider and sled weren't working together. Because of the new design, the brake and chaincase might get in the way of your feet getting right up to the back of the footwells, but it's an easy adjustment to put your foot around those two units.
To accommodate the new design, the driven clutch has been moved up above the tunnel to make space for the new leg room. Ski-Doo calls this the over tunnel driven concept. However, this new chassis design has done nothing to take away from Ski-Doo's centralized mass concept. That's still a main feature of the new Rev XPs.
3) Lighter But Tougher. Remember the "air" comment? Well, how do you lop off dozens of pounds and still keep a sled from falling apart or flexing on every little whoop? According to Ski-Doo, the Rev XP is 21 percent stronger in torsion and 37 percent more rigid in flexion.
4) Gauges-Yea, Gauges. We in the mountains always felt a little slighted on the high end Summits because all they ever had was a tach. Not any more. Not only do Summits have gauges now, they have really trick gauges. And not one, but two. There is the premium version (spring-only) as well as a standard version (in-season). The standard gauge is a white-on-black analog speedometer and tachometer complemented by an LCD screen featuring an odometer, dual trip meters, hour meter, hand/thumbwarmer intensity indicators and more, including an electric fuel gauge. For the premium version, you get readings for speed, rpm, top speed, top rpm, average speed, fuel gauge and (this is really cool) an altimeter. The display can be changed while riding using handlebar controls. The gauges are (as they should be) easy to use and it's nice to be able to use them from the handlebar controls.
5) New Rear Suspension. One test rider described it this way, "The redesigned and recalibrated rear suspension still offers the supple, yet high performance ride you expect from the SC skis that go hand-in-hand with the high performing RAS front suspensions." For the record, the Summit Rev XP gets the new SC-5M, specifically designed for the mountains. Ski-Doo redesigned its new suspension from the tip of the slide to the rear idler wheels. One goal of a new skid was to reduce weight transfer, which was accomplished by making the front arm longer. As part of this concept of keeping the sled down, think about on the Rev how, when climbing steep inclines, you have to lean far forward to keep the nose down on the snow. The longer front arm helps eliminate that need to lean forward. The sled stays flatter on the snow but still gets up on the snow. In addition, the center shock on the SC-5M has a falling rate design while the rear has a slightly raising rate. The new design also uses more of the shock stroke and adds two more inches of travel in the rear. We felt (literally and figuratively) the sled really soaked up the moguls during our January ride. We never bottomed out the rear and we had plenty of opportunity to do so in the riding conditions we were on.
6) New Seat. Actually we should say the seat/handlebar combo. The seat is one inch taller, as are the handlebars. That combo makes for an easier get-up-off-the-seat-transition for standup riding.
7) Steering. The steering system is a good example of how Ski-Doo shaved weight on the Rev XP. The Rev steering system weighed 13.5 lbs. and had 133 parts. Compare that to the new Rev XP with its 55 parts and 8.6 lbs. Ski-Doo replaced the rack and pinion system with a much simpler steering system which actually offers a tighter and definitely more positive turn. The forged ski spindle changes caster angle as it moves through the travel and the ball joints are not stacked in the same vertical plane. Following the Ackerman Steering Principle, which is basically the inside ski turning tighter or sharper than the outside ski so there is no washout, the Rev XP does hug corners and turns sharper in the trees.
8) Running Boards. Already some of the best in the biz, the Rev XP running boards are an inch wider and have a backbone running down the middle on each side so that a boot won't get caught in the holes where the snow falls through. These running boards stay clean.
9) Facetised Design. Yea, we've never heard of it before, either. Ski-Doo describes this facetised as in the facets of a diamond and where it has tightly wrapped the mechanical package with sharply intersecting planes. This design is inspired by stealth aircraft. Whatever you call it, it looks cool and makes the Rev XP look even slimmer. You will notice this sled on the snow. One Ski-Doo official said, "It needs to look fast, even standing still."
10) 800R Powerplant. This might be a tough sell, considering the problems Ski-Doo experienced on the 2007 800R this past winter. We talked to Chris Ruske, Project Leader, R&D, over the mountain machines for Ski-Doo, who described those problems as "various little engine issues." He explained that the engines coming from Rotax "were not in spec." He added, "It was a small percentage but all you hear about are the ones that go wrong." He added, "We know we have an issue and we're going to take care of our customers. We're not going to let our customers hang out to dry." Another issue Ski-Doo will take care of is a clutch problem, also experienced in 2007. Ruske said the heart of that issue is the cams were too large in diameter. There will be new calibration in the drive and driven for '08. Then we asked Ruske if he thinks any of those problems will spill over to the 2008 800Rs. "I'm not worried at all about that engine," he said. When it works, it works well with its 151 hp and excellent torque. Ruske pointed out that several mapping changes will take place by production and the engine has a completely new air intake. Because of the design of the new chassis, the engine is mounted vertically (versus the six inches forward on the Rev) and 1.14 inches lower in the chassis. Also, the engine is suspended in the chassis, rather than supported on the bottom, which, Ski-Doo said, makes the engine more stable and reduces belt flex.
Five or six years ago, there would have been very few within the snowmobile industry who would have guessed that Yamaha's four-stroke sleds would be as popular as they are today.
Yamaha's four-stroke-only mentality seemed very quirky not so long ago but it looks like the gamble is paying off. Yes, it was a gamble to pit heavy, cumbersome four-strokes against the lighter, quicker and perky two-strokes. Every year that stigma is reduced more as Yamaha takes on the industry with a fleet of powerful, clean and quiet four-stroke machines.
Need proof of the increasing popularity of four-strokes? Yamaha did a survey about that very thing and the results showed 85 percent of snowmobile consumers would consider buying a four-stroke.
Model year 2008 brings more of the same that seems to have people thinking of a four-stroke-especially with the new FX Nytro, one fire-breathing and fun trail sled. In all, Yamaha brings eight new models to the table in 2008 (including the FX Nytro MTX), but it's the Nytro that we think will capture much of the attention in the flatlands.
Of course, we've detailed much of what the new Nytro has to offer in the "10 Reasons ." but there is a little more information we probably should share.
We already talked about how the Nytro is a race-bred sled and is already turning heads before the machine even hits production. That head turning is thanks to Robbie Malinoski, who won a Pro Open final at Brainerd, MN, in the WPSA national snocross.
Powering the sled is a new Genesis 130 FI 3 cylinder with 1050ccs. Not only is this engine powerful (130 hp), torquey and smooth, perhaps one of its best features is the Engine Brake Reduction System, an anti-engine brake system that allows the sled to coast after you let off the throttle-not feel like you're ramming on the brakes. The all-new engine has increased intake and exhaust ports, all a part of the improved throttle response. A new intake and exhaust camshaft (lower rotating mass) and new crankshaft (10 percent lighter than the Vector's) and a big cooling system (large radiator with fan and large front heat exchanger) all help this feel all of the 130 hp Yamaha claims.
We had the chance to dial up lots of miles on both the trail and mountain version of the Nytro and were just as impressed with the power in the flats as we were in the mountains. Quick out of the corners, flying down the trails and excellent power up the mountain are all apt descriptions of how the Nytro performs. Some of that is torque, some of it a smooth powerband and some of it is great response regardless of where you are in the powerband. All of it reflects on what we think will be another solid engine from Yamaha.
In its quest to shave weight and shed the bulky four-stroke stigma, Yamaha continues to re-engineer its chassis. That includes, as mentioned in the mountain version of the Nytro, integrating components such as the battery box and chaincase into the frame itself, instead of putting them on the frame as an after product. Doing that creates fewer parts and less weight. Also adding (or should it be subtracting) to the weight savings is doing things like making the chaincase cover out of magnesium, a lightweight metal.
Out The Rear
One of the more obvious (among many) changes you'll see on the Nytro versus the Apex is the single exhaust, which still exits out the rear of the machine. Of course, you saw this on the Phazer, but it works equally as well on the Nytro.
Yamaha has created all sorts of other new features for the Nytro, like a new rear suspension, reworked front suspension and some different ergonomics for easier stand-up riding (aided by wider running boards). Bump up to the RTX and you get Fox Floats on the front and an all-new Dual Shot Pro rear suspension with SOQI aluminum high pressure gas shocks.
Of course, the Phazer and Phazer MTX (Yamaha's new name for its mountain sleds, including the Apex, Nytro and Phazer) are still around and did fairly well in sales for 2007. Not much has changed on the Phazers except for a new snow panels, which help reduce the snow build-up on the running boards. Essentially the panels close the gap between the seat and tunnel.
As for the Apex MTX, you get a new lightweight mountain rack (or more specific, the elimination of last year's plastic rack with built-in taillight)-everything else is just about the same as last year.
Aside from being clean and quiet, another big bruiser Yamaha has in its corner is reliability. We rarely hear of any major warranty issues with Yamahas.
That's peace of mind right there.
Yamaha's newest entry into the four-stroke snowmobile market shouldn't be much of a surprise to most anyone in the industry. In fact, if you have followed snowmobile snocross racing at all this winter, you've seen the new machine that is slated for production for 2008.
The Yamaha FX Nytro is a direct result of Yamaha's foray into snocross racing. But we're not here to talk about the trail FX Nytro, but the FX Nytro MTX-the bigger brother.
1) Ninety lbs. lighter than the Vector Mtn. SE. 90 Japanese. It's big news when Ski-Doo shaves the kind of weight it does every year off its mountain machines but it is really big news when Yamaha can drop 90 lbs. off a mountain sled. It's almost unheard of.
2) Not only is the FX Nytro MTX lighter than the Vector Mtn. SE, it has 10 more horsepower. The Nytro MTX has an all-new 3-cylinder Genesis engine with a fuel-injected 130 horses. The 1050cc engine runs on 87 octane pump gas and is 8 lbs. lighter than the Vector motor. So that's where part of the weight savings comes from. The 10 more horsepower is fairly conservative, claims Yamaha, with the number actually reaching closer to 14-plus more horsepower than the Vector. As impressive as the power is, you'll probably more readily notice the torque (see No. 8). Yamaha also likes to point out that this new Genesis engine holds 95 percent of its peak power for 1,200 rpm. The quick throttle response (not quite like but getting darn close to a two-stroke-very close, really close) comes courtesy of the Mikuni fuel injection and closed loop system, which is similar to the Phazer. The motor features a new crank (10 percent lighter than the Vector's), which also lends the machine to better throttle response.
3) You Do The Math-90 lbs. lighter and 10 more horsepower. And it's a four-stroke-clean and quiet.
4) It's a Yamaha. That simply means quality throughout, even though it is a new model. You rarely have to worry about first-year bugs when it's a Yamaha.
5) It's been tested on the snocross track. That's about as tough of a testing arena as you can find. And we hear Robbie Malinoski is especially tough on equipment so if it's gonna break or there is a weakness, Malinoski will find it long before the sled is in production. Actually, the Nytro was being raced in Japan long before it ever made it to the states. Yuji Nakazawa won the All Japan Snocross Series on a Nytro with a stock chassis and engine but with an experimental suspension. But it was Malinoski that made the headlines when he won the Pro Open class at the WPSA national snocross in Brainerd, MN, in January. Malinoski was racing a second generation R&D Nytro when he won the Pro Open class-a sled very similar to what trail riders can buy in 2008. Of course, the mountain version is a little different but not much. Western riders will get much the same machine as the trail version. Yamaha's win at Brainerd put a stamp on the company's four-stroke effort.
6) It rides lighter than an Apex Mtn.-literally and by the seat of the pants. We had a chance to ride each of the Apex Mtn. and the FX Nytro MTX on the same ride and we would pick the Nytro. It's lighter and with the centralized mass in just the right place, it's easy to ride. It's easy to pull over. It's easy to ride through the moguls. It's easy to play with in the trees. It just plain works.
7) No engine braking-the bane of four-strokes. Arctic Cat first introduced the anti-engine braking system last year on its four-stroke Jaguar and Yamaha comes to the plate this year with the EBRS (Engine Brake Reduction System). We are all used to the coast of a two-stroke after you let off the throttle. Four-strokes, until the introduction of the anti-engine braking systems-felt like you were putting on the brakes when you let off the throttle. Not with the FX Nytro MTX. And that's quite handy when you're riding in the trees or if your hand slips off the throttle. It took a little getting used to that difference when jumping between the Apex Mtn. and Nytro MTX. You have to work the throttle constantly on the Apex Mtn. You don't with the new Nytro.
8) Very impressive torque-especially on the bottom end. Again, we know Yamaha doesn't necessarily like the comparisons between four and two strokes, but the torque on the Nytro MTX reminds of a strong bottom end on a two-stroke. That means you can squirt through the trees or flip the throttle and catch some air on a lifter (rather than having to wait for the power to build). The torque isn't just on the bottom end, though, but throughout the powerband.
9) The FX Nytro MTX is kind of, sort of a cross between the Phazer and Apex Mtn. It definitely looks more like the Phazer but with its own new CF diecast FX frame, it has its own ride. One of the reasons it rides so well is how low the engine is in the chassis, the utilization of lightweight parts (such as magnesium chaincase/cover) and how the sled is manufactured. By that we mean instead of, say, the battery box being "added" on to the machine, it is now manufactured as a part of the frame, like the chaincase is. That means fewer parts and more rigidity because it helps strengthen the machine. Another reason for the great ride is the ProMountain rear suspension, which has proven to be a mogul muncher. Now, it is even better with the addition of SOQI HPG rear shocks. And there's a new seat, better running boards and the list goes on and on. We truly believe Yamaha is on to something with the new Nytro MTX.
10) Did we mention that the FX Nytro MTX is 90 lbs. lighter? That's a huge weight savings and it goes to show Yamaha does have the technology to make a lighter four-stroke.
As the popularity of the Snow Hawk grows, so does its lineup.
Manufactured by Quebec-based AD Boivin, Snow Hawks are bike-like snowmobiles that use a single ski and ride much like