Mountain sled technology evolves very quickly. Take the `08
lineup of 800s. Two of the four are all new. The other two are only going into
their second and third years of production.
Mountain sled models evolve so rapidly that a five-year-old
sled is so wildly different from current models that they're not in the same
category of performance, even though the engine size might be the same.
Polaris had the 700 RMK in the Indy chassis from 1997 to 1999,
then in the Gen II chassis from 1999-2002, then into the Edge chassis from 2002
to 2006, before giving way to the IQ chassis last year.
Ski-Doo's Summit lived in the ZX chassis from 1998 to 2003,
then the Rev chassis came out halfway through the 2003 season and had its last
year in the glory last season.
Arctic Cat's M8 was a new model last year and its chassis
has only been out since 2005. Before that, the AWS-IV chassis (think 1M) was
the mountain chassis for Cat.
And Yamaha's Apex MTX (formerly Apex Mountain),
introduced in 2006, replaced the RX-1 (2003-2005), Viper Mountain
(2004-2005) and Mountain Max (1997-2003).
All of you Polaris riders who bought a Dragon 800 RMK or
rode a Dragon RMK last season-would you give up your IQ chassis for an 2001 800
RMK? It's only seven years old.
What about you Summit
guys? Want to trade your '08 Rev XP Summit
for an '03 Summit
800 ZX? It's only five years old.
And Cat riders-how about giving up your new M8 for an `04 1M
900 Mountain Cat? Not even for a bigger engine?
We're betting there's no way the current crop of Apex MTXs
(super- or turbo-charged or otherwise) would even consider parking an `08 Apex
mountain climber for an '05 RX-1 Mountain. There's only a three-year difference
between those two.
We're willing to bet that not very many people who fit the
previous statements would be willing to make those trades.
But where else would you find such discrimination? Dirt
bikes? No-an `04 YZ-F is still competitive, though there have been changes in
the models since. You probably wouldn't squawk at having to drive a 2005 truck,
ride a four-year-old ATV, golf with five-year-old clubs or hunt with an
But ride a five-year-old mountain sled? Fat chance,
especially if you want to set the pace on the mountain.
Latest and Greatest
So you've sold your Rev, Edge RMK, Viper Mountain and M7,
and have paid a deposit on one of the segment's big, long, lightweight (three
out of four, anyway) mountain muscle machines. Here's what you're buying.
Paying respects to seniority, we'll begin with the oldest in
the group. The 2008 Yamaha
will remain the king of all things turboed. We expect most of the '08 model
sales to riders who will leave their machines stock to migrate to the new Nytro
MTX. The large group of western riders who don't want to mess around with petty
mods like pipes and porting will go straight for the kill with the '08 Apex Mountain.
The Apex's engine remains the same as last season, with the inline
four-cylinder fuel-injected four-stroke powering the way. The Deltabox II
chassis is unchanged, with the 16x162x2.25-inch Maverick track spinning around
the proven ProMountain rear suspension. The independent double-wishbone front
suspension features KYB gas cell shocks on the blue version and Fox Float air
shocks if you get the red-and-white SE version.
The only big change for '08 is the addition of a mechanical
reverse as standard equipment on the Apex MTX (when you're at 595 lbs., what's
another seven or eight gonna hurt?). And both the MTX and MTX SE have a new
lightweight mountain rack on the tunnel (the parts dept. can get you a gas
2008 Apex MTX Quick Stats
Standard reverse (mechanical)
16x162x2.25-inch track (only option)
Adjustable-width front suspension
Fuel injected four-stroke
Float shocks available on SE
10-gallon fuel capacity
596-pound published dry weight
The second-oldest sled in the group is the Arctic Cat M8 (in
its second year of production). The M8's chassis debuted on the 2005 M7 and has
been tweaked since carrying the 800 twin. The M8's engine is a 794cc laydown
twin with batteryless EFI and 46mm throttle bodies.
The front end is the same as last year, with the AWS VI
double-wishbone suspension with either Fox Float shocks if you get the Sno Pro
or Fox Zero Pros if you don't.
The rear end sports your choice of two Camoplast Challenger
Extreme tracks, the 15x153x2.25 or 15x162x2.25 (Cat is also working on a new
track-the Power Claw-which we had a chance to ride last spring and might be
released for 2009).
The M8's rear suspension is all-new, with an industry-first
offering of a Fox Float as original equipment on a rear suspension. The arms
have been redesigned, as well as the rails. The rear track shock is the Float,
while a Zero Pro coil-over handles the front of the skid. The Float skid frame
is about 8 lbs. lighter than the '07 version. Most of the weight loss is due to
the torsion springs being removed.
Cat's engineers put some ingenuity into the '08 M-series'
running boards. The open tread design is strong and sturdy and evacuates snow
before it can build up and turn into ice. The edge roll of the board has
traction where you need it. Reinforcements were made to the tunnel sides around
the front skid frame mount (where heavily abused sleds tend to bend and flex.
2008 Sno Pro models of Cat's M-Series also feature a trick
new digital gauge, that allows you to change the analog dial and digital
readout, picking where the tach and speedo readout go. The deluxe gauge also
It's also worth noting that Arctic Cat changed the primary
clutch's cam arms for 2008. Instead of the 68 gram weights the 2007 M8 ran, the
'08 will run heavier 73 gram arms.
2008 M8 Quick Stats
15x153x2.25 or 15x162x2.25 track options
Adjustable ski stance
Float shock standard on rear suspension
Float shocks available on Sno Pro
Reverse standard (mechanical in Diamond Drive)
11.4 gallon fuel capacity
492-pound published dry weight (153)
$9,899 (153)/$10,699 (Sno Pro 153)/$10,299 (162)
We've said it before and it bears repeating. It's nice to
see a little life back in Polaris' mountain division. Last year's Dragon RMK
was an incredible hit out West. Whatever Polaris did between the original IQ
chassis and the `07 "raw" IQ chassis, it worked. The chassis went from
unresponsive to easily manageable.
Now, if the 700 Dragon RMK was that good, wouldn't a little
bigger engine and a little longer track be even better?
The 2008 800 Dragon RMK is about as all-new as you can get.
It and the 2008 Summit 800 are flipside mirror images of each other: the Dragon
RMK is a new engine in a one-year-old chassis (if you consider the Raw IQ as
new last year), while the Summit is a one-year-old engine in a new chassis.
This is going to be a match up for the archives.
The Dragon's new engine is the focal point of the sled. The
800 HO Cleanfire twin is a 795cc mono block. The engine has an 85mm bore and a
70mm stroke, single-ring pistons, new oil pump and 48mm throttle bodies. The
twin also features the same four-injector Cleanfire fuel injection system, with
two injectors in the crankcase and two injectors in the cylinders.
The 800 CFI makes 15 percent more peak horsepower than the
old 800 EV twin and 10 percent more power than the 700 CFI. It also makes 35
percent more mid-range power than the 700 and that is where you really feel
this engine work. Polaris also claims the new 800 twin is only 2.5 lbs. heavier
than the 700 CFI engine.
Additionally, the 800 CFI, along with the 700 and 600,
features a fuel separator and decompression holes (700 and 800 only), which
will make the engines start easier and run smoother.
If you factor in that Polaris took 3-6 lbs. off of the
Dragon RMK's chassis this year compared to the '07 (3 lbs. on most models from
the new seat and wheels, 6 on the 163 800, which has no idler wheels in the
rear suspension and no front cooler), and factor in the 800's extra 2.5 lbs. it
has over the 700, and you wind up with a 154 hp sled that weighs the same as
the tried and proven 700 Dragon RMK of '07.
While all '08 IQ RMKs feature a revised spindle (again), the
800 possibly gets the most out of it. Any time you are carrying more speed and
more power, the steering performance and/or flaws are magnified. The 800 Dragon
RMK responds to handlebar input better than any IQ RMK we've ridden.
Another minor improvement across the board of RMKs is the
Series 5.1 track. Basically, the engineers took the '07 Series 5 track and
eliminated any portion of the lug that was overlapped by the immediate
following lug on the next pitch. They also closed off the narrow gap between
the center lugs that never touched snow. The 5.1 track makes better use of the
snow that's beneath the sled. The 5.1 track is offered on the 800 Dragon RMK in
either a 155 or 163 length.
The 800 Dragon RMK 163 takes credit for another
industry-first: ice scratchers on the slide rails as standard equipment. The
800 163 has no front cooler (a two-pound net savings) and no idler wheels (a
2008 800 Dragon RMK Quick Stats
15x155x2.4 or 15x163x2.4 track options
Adjustable ski stance
11.5 gallon fuel capacity
Walker Evans Air shocks at skis and track (Dragon)
PERC reverse standard
487-pound published dry weight
You probably skipped to here right after reading "mountain
sled technology." The question on everyone's mind seems to be whether the new
Rev XP-based Summit
is all it's cracked up to be.
The 2008 Summit Everest and Summit X are pretty impressive machines
mechanically speaking, but the big news is how light they are. The Summit
Everest 154 weighs 439 lbs. That's a number we've sometimes had a hard time
reaching on our budgetless project sleds. That's light.
How did Ski-Doo get an 800-class mountain sled so light?
Rather than look for one area to cut 40 lbs., they looked everywhere to cut a
pound or two (or even an ounce or two). Weight came off everywhere. The chassis
(13 lbs. lighter), the drive train (8 lbs.), the plastic and seat (8 lbs.), the
track (4 lbs.), the suspensions (15 lbs. combined) . anything that was going on
the Rev XP was trimmed of excess mass first.
The Rev XP chassis cradles the engine low in the frame and
braces it with mounts that prevent it from moving and causing belt damage. The
secondary clutch and jackshaft are mounted above and just rearward of the
primary, making room for a more forward foot position (and more comfortable
ride). If you looked at an overlay of the Rev chassis and the Rev XP chassis,
you'd see that the spindles, crankshaft and handlebars are in the same place,
but the rider's feet have about eight inches more room.
The secondary is all-new, with a dual rollers on five cams.
The clutch is designed to operate smoother and backshift better. All we know is
that changing the belt is a real pain in the seat. But new technology brings
new learning curves.
The driveshaft is hydro-formed and features eight-tooth
The Brembo brake caliper and disc is mounted outboard of the
tunnel on the PTO side (your boot actually rubs against the brake cover in the
footwell). The magnesium (something Yamaha first used four years ago) chaincase
sits outboard the tunnel on the opposite side. The chaincase is actually part
of the sled's structure and is riveted to the tunnel and bulkhead assembly.
If Ski-Doo keeps up its pace of dropping five or six pounds
off the track each year, they're going to be out of track in about seven years.
Somehow, they've managed to design tracks with less rubber belting and better
controlled manufacturing. And although last year's Hill-X track wasn't a big
hit with the powder riders, the lighter a track is, the quicker it spins.
About the only thing on the '08 Summit that doesn't look like it was dropped
off in spaceship is the SC-5M rear suspension. The skid may look like nothing
special (skid frames are about as un-changed as a .30-06), but it is 9 lbs.
lighter than last year's Summit
The front suspension is a double A-arm setup with unequal
length arms. The lower arms are mounted next to each other in the dead center
of the sled for optimum front end performance.
The Pilot 6.9 dual-runner skis, Rotax 800R twin engine and
TRA VII drive clutch are the only parts carried over from the '07 Summit 800.
Everest Quick Stats
16x146x2, 16x154x2, 16x163x2 (X only)
New analog/digital gauge
10.6 gallon fuel capacity
439 pound published dry weight (Everest 154)
What matters most
Despite the dismal snow conditions that covered (term used loosely)
much of the West last season, the SnoWest test staff spent ample time on these
four mountain machines in multiple locations and two full days with all four
out on the snow at the same time. We had a very early Utah ride on the Dragon 800, had an 800 Summit in our own fleet
for six weeks, rode the M8 in Cat's mountain team's backyard and rode the Apex
MTX in our own backyard (which happens to be the same place as the Cat guys).
Here's how the riding impressions shaked down.
The Apex MTX is fun, as long as everyone else is on one or
if you have a turbo. It was more competitive as a stock sled two years ago when
it first debuted, when it was ahead of the curve compared to some of the other
models in its class. But the two-strokes have caught up and weight is a huge
factor-especially at the end of a full-tank's ride in the hills.
The Apex MTX handles like a 500-pound machine in 2-3 feet of
powder and still has some of the best ergos in the industry. Its bars are
perfect, with just the right grip curve. The Maverick track stays on the snow
well and the four-cylinder, fuel-injected thumper is an absolute blast to
throttle. We don't have anything against it, but it is too heavy in a segment
where the standard was just lowered by 40 lbs.
The M8 is always welcome in our stables, although it might
not be the first or second sled in line on a ride that covers single-track
mogul runs through the trees. The Float skid is better than the '07 suspension,
and it takes big hole hits very well. But it's still a chattery sled on the
chatter bumps. You can't carry speed on a rough trail and remain in total
control like you can on the other three sleds in this class. Fortunately, this
isn't a trail sled and that's not really our main concern. But, there's always
a trail to the hill for everyone but the leader.
In deep snow, the M8 really struts its stuff. It knifes
through trees like a figure skater, holds a sidehill like it prefers it to
level ground, floats through powder like a jet boat on a river and climbs like
a very capable mountain machine. However, so do the other two two-stroke 800s
in the class. And our head-to-head rides showed the M8 is out-shadowed when
compared to the RMK and Summit
in some categories. We like the M8's weight, mountain skills and reasonable
price tag. But it needs some revamping with the rider ergos and suspension to
remain a top-seller out West.
The two new sleds on the mountain had a lot to prove.
Climbing ability, rider comfort, suspension, power, response, handling and how
you felt after a day of hard-core mountain riding were factors the SnoWest test
staff focused on with the new models.
has a light weight number, so it ought to handle like a feather, right? Not so
much. Surprisingly, the Summit
800 never rode and felt as light as we anticipated it to. Some of it may be
mental, like when your mother would give you hints about your new Christmas
present, and you'd find out on Christmas morning that your idea of "cool" was
not the same as hers. Maybe we had no idea what to expect from a 40-pound
weight reduction that our expectations were unrealistic. But, like we've
mentioned before, we've built project sleds in this weight neighborhood and
they felt light. The Summit
800 is light when you're getting it unstuck or moving it around in a trailer,
but it just doesn't handle like it's that light.
Here's our theory, for what it's worth. The secondary clutch
went from foot-board level to spark plug level. That's a 10-inch diameter disc
of rotating mass. Maybe it has some kind of gyroscopic effect on the chassis.
Other than that, the sled may just have a very low center of gravity, which
would make it feel not so light in the stirrups. The more we rode it, the
better we adapted to it. But it never got easy.
We're not saying the numbers are wrong. We're just saying
that recipes are judged by taste tests, not the ingredients lists.
The Rev XP-based Summit
does have its strong points. And boy are they strong. The Summit can be ridden-at high speed-through
the ugliest, roughest drainage trail in the West without so much as fluttering
a ski tip. The faster you hit the crap, the better the sled handles. The
suspension doesn't transmit impacts to the rider. The chassis stays flat and
level, and the bars don't twitch a millimeter. It's a handling trait we've
never come across before, on a stock sled or one of our project sleds. It gave
you more Blair Morgan courage than a Rev chassis ever could.
Stutter bumps are not so well received, but we tend to
encounter more moguls that stutters on the way to the mountains.
also goes straight up mountains like nobody's business. This is where the
weight figures are evident. There is nothing holding the sled back or bogging
it down. The sled handles much better in uphill climbing than it does in tight
tree riding. The skid frame keeps the nose down and holds the sled flat, while
the lightweight track claws at any snow condition that comes at it.
But in the end, it was what the others couldn't do that the
Dragon RMK could that made it stand out in the class. It could climb with the Summit in most cases,
carve with the M8 on sidehills and pack the skis like the Apex. However, it
also fit each of our test riders better than the others. No one complained
about the Dragon's rider ergonomics.
The Dragon RMK also had the best all-around ride by a long
shot. Where the M8 and Summit
had their quirks, the Dragon didn't waver. It rode amazingly well over
everything from small chatter bumps, square-edged holes, lifters and three-foot
moguls. It was plush whether you popped it over a bump or hammered a mogul
section at 50 mph.
Tree riding was no different. Neither was sidehilling,
straight up climbing and off-cambers. The others may do a few things better
than the Dragon, but the Dragon RMK does more things consistently better than
the rest of the class. You don't have to fight the RMK and it doesn't make you
tired. This alone amazes us, since not two years previously, you couldn't
physically force us to ride a 900 RMK for the exact opposite two reasons.
It bears repeating that, while we did ride each of the four
sleds repeatedly throughout the season, we never came across what we'd consider
ideal snow conditions. These machines-particularly the Summit-could give us a different impression
in five feet of January powder. But, we rode in the conditions we had and those
conditions have been all too consistent the last few years.
Besides, we could have four all-new models by the time it
snows that good out here again.