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04-08-800s

Four 2008 800 class mountain sleds

Published online: Oct 02, 2007 Feature Ryan Harris
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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 eight-year-old rifle.

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.

Yamaha

Paying respects to seniority, we'll begin with the oldest in the group. The 2008 Yamaha Apex Mountain 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 rack, too).

 

2008 Apex MTX Quick Stats

Electric start

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

$11,399/$11,799 (SE)

 

Arctic Cat

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 displays altitude.

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

ACT Diamond Drive

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)

 

Polaris

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?

It would.

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 four-pound reduction).

 

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

$dollars

 

Ski-Doo

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 extrovert drivers.

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 suspension.

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.

 

2008 Summit Everest Quick Stats

16x146x2, 16x154x2, 16x163x2 (X only)

HPG shocks

New analog/digital gauge

10.6 gallon fuel capacity

439 pound published dry weight (Everest 154)

$dollars

 

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.

The Summit 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.

The Summit 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.