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The Train Keeps Rolling

Ski-Doo keeps pressure on with two new engines

Published online: Mar 12, 2008 Feature

If you thought Ski-Doo would sit back and take a breather after launching one of the biggest lineup changes in recent snowmobile history, you might want to think again.

In fact, Ski-Doo just couldn't wait for the official 2009 season to roll around-it had to launch a midseason release of its latest creation, the 2009 MX Z TNT with the impressive Rotax 600 H.O. E-TEC engine. Ski-Doo released a few models of the MX Z TNT to its dealers in January and will roll out a full complement of the sleds for 2009.

We'll provide the skinny on the 600 E-TEC in the companion Ski-Doo story in this section of March SnoWest, seeing as you can get the same engine in Summit dress. In all, the new direct injection two stroke that borrows technology from Evinrude outboard engines (which Bombardier Recreational Products also happens to own), will come in a slew of spring-only and in-season trail models as well as the Summit X (154-inch spring-only) and Summit Everest (146-inch model).

Ski-Doo also took direct aim at what is perceived as Yamaha's corner on the four-stroke market by unleashing a new Rotax 4-TEC 1200 four-stroke, which you'll find in 2009 MX Z, GSX and GTX trail models.

We had a chance to throw a leg over sleds with those respective new powerplants in them in late January. After riding an MX Z with the E-TEC, we're even more anxious to see how it performs in a Summit.

Even though horsepower numbers (118-119) are the same for the E-TEC and the SDI it replaces, some hard core enthusiasts might notice a slight performance difference between the two (the SDI doing a touch better) in midrange. However, we think most sledders won't notice any difference at all. We're withholding judgment in that department until we get more seat time. Consumers who buy any Ski-Doo with the E-TEC probably should too, as it has a six-hour break in period. We've made a note, too, when we get the chance to ride the E-TEC again to take it where we can stretch its legs. The tight, twisty trails we first rode the E-TEC-equipped MX Z didn't allow us to really open it up. There were plans to allow us to run the sled across a lake but poor visibility nixed those plans.

No Smelly Here

We will verify one of the claims Ski-Doo makes about the E-TEC's emissions and smoke. The one sure way, perhaps, to tell about a sled's emissions is how your riding gear smells after a ride. There was no nasty two-stroke after smell on our riding gear after dialing up some miles on the machine. That was definitely a pleasant surprise.

We'll also rubber stamp Ski-Doo's claim that the sled starts with the first pull-every time.

As excited as the crew over at Ski-Doo is about the E-TEC, they're just as giddy about the 4-TEC. Ski-Doo officials made no effort to conceal their desire to gain a share of the four-stroke market, which is obviously dominated by Yamaha these days.

In fact, when taking a serious look at developing a four-stroke, Yamaha was the target. So says Fran├žois Tremblay, director of marketing, Ski-Doo snowmobiles. "Yamaha was our benchmark," Tremblay said. Ski-Doo also pointed out that the 4-TEC isn't Bombardier's first foray into four-stroke technology. The company has four-strokes in its watercraft and Can-Am ATVs as well as helping develop engines for BMW, Aprilia and Buell motorcycles. Now a Rotax four-stroke has finally made its way into snowmobiles.

Wait a minute, you say, Ski-Doo has had four-strokes before, like the V-1000 (first introduced in 2003) and the V-800, which came out two seasons ago. The difference here, though, is that Ski-Doo is pushing the 4-TEC as a performance four-stroke. The V-1000 and V-800 could hardly be labeled as performance engines. When the MX Z was listed as one of the homes for the 4-TEC, that should have raised some eyebrows. No, that's not a typo. Ski-Doo is purposefully trying to make a statement (a bold one at that) that it is aiming squarely at the 600cc/130 hp class (although most 600s have a horsepower rating around 120). The 130 more evenly matches up with the output of the Genesis EFI engine found in Yamaha's Nytro lineup. This Genesis is also a three-cylinder engine with a 1049cc displacement.

Overachiever

So the 4-TEC might be an overachiever in the 600 class with its 1170cc, inline three-cylinder powerplant. with dual overhead cams, finger followers and electronic fuel injection. It also has a single counterbalancer.

Ski-Doo also brags about this engine's fuel economy and emissions. You expect a four-stroke to be fairly clean, but according to Ski-Doo's EPA figures, this engine is almost squeaky clean in the Normalized Emission Rate (NER) category. The NER is an emissions formula involving hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide (trust us you don't want any more details than that-it's boring). Starting with 0 as "clean," the scale just goes up from there. On that scale, the 4-TEC registers a 0, while the Genesis 130 EFI rates a 1.6. Based on those numbers is how Ski-Doo makes the claim its four-stroke is cleaner than the comparable Yamaha.

In the gas-sipping department, Ski-Doo is claiming the 4-TEC gets 18.3 mpg. Using that number, then, say with the MX Z's gas tank size of 10.6 gallons, trail riders should be able to go 194 miles on a tank. That's pretty impressive. Of course, you need to factor in the weight of the sled, riders and any gear. For example, you can get the 4-TEC in Ski-Doo's luxo touring GTX model. The sled carries two riders and about an acre of gear (okay, that's a little bit of an exaggeration), but needless to say you're probably not going to get that kind of range when all loaded down.

Features just ooze out of the 4-TEC, just like the E-TEC. Aside from perhaps the gas mileage, what will a consumer notice about Ski-Doo's new four-stroke? One thing right off the bat when climb aboard and take off is the easy throttle pull. If you didn't know it was a Ski-Doo and you pulled the trigger, you would never guess it was a Ski-Doo. The throttle pull is very light. We think the Summit 800Rs could take some cues from this.

Sound Off

You might also notice the sound of the engine. The 4-TEC's easy trigger is due, in part, due to its single 52mm throttle body (the 800R has two throttle bodies).

Once again, like emissions, you expect the sound to be different on a four-stroke compared to its two-stroke counterparts. Yes, the 4-TEC is quiet, but Ski-Doo wanted a bit more from the sound of the machine. So, BRP worked with Austrian consultants to tune the exhaust, using state-of-the-art European sports cars as the benchmarks. The goal was to produce a sound "somewhere between the high frequencies of super bikes and the low rumble of V-twin bikes and muscle cars," said Ski-Doo.

Another interesting twist to this engine is the use of the aforementioned "finger followers." That technology is similar to what you'd find in a BMW 804 engine and allows the engine builders to reduce the mass in the valvetrain as well as reduce engine noise.

Another trait four-strokes are famous for is less required maintenance than a two-stroke. Simply change the oil and filter once a season or if you're a high miler, once every 1,865 miles.  

Weighty Issues

Of course, you can't talk about Ski-Doo these days without talking weight and it doesn't matter if you're talking trails or mountains, Ski-Doo is bent on reducing and keeping weight off all its sleds.

It's no different with the 4-TEC. The 4-TEC required a new chassis so Ski-Doo built a variant of the Rev XP, the Rev XR. It's very similar to the XP, sharing many of the same components and lightweight features. So, even when you put a four-stroke into a lighter chassis, it rides lighter, simply because the engine isn't being required to power around a heavy chassis. According to Ski-Doo figures, the 2009 MX Z TNT with the 1200 4 TEC weighes 499 lbs., making it lighter than any comparable brand.

In the engine, Rotax uses magnesium (36 percent lighter than aluminum) and polyamide (60 percent lighter than aluminum) components to keep that weight mass as light as possible.

With two new engines and two new chassis (the Rev XR and XU-the XU is for utility models), nobody can accuse Ski-Doo of nodding off after so much success last season.

 

Captions

 

Pics in Ski-Doo folder

 

MX Z TNT 1200 4T 3-4

To accommodate the bigger 1200 four-stroke engine, Ski-Doo had to redesign the Rev XP chassis and this is the result, the Rev XR. The XR shares many of the same components as the XP, including its lightweight features.

 

MX Z 4 TEC 2571

We didn't get the new MX Z with the 4-TEC four-stroke engine airborne (yet) but we did get a chance to ride it and think this could be a big hit for Ski-Doo, which is taking aim at the four-stroke market. Preseason numbers show the MX Z four-stroke to tip the scales at 509 lbs. That will turn some heads.

 

Rotax 125 4 TEC Engine

Ski-Doo is aiming squarely at the 130 horsepower market with its new Rotax 1200 4-TEC engine, which the company is stressing is a "performance" engine, not a sleeper like its four-strokes of yesteryear like the V-1000. The 3-cylinder powerplant is said to get 18.3 mpg, which is pretty impressive for the snowmobile market.

 

2009 Ski-Doo 014

You'll also find Ski-Doo's other new motor for 2009 in an MX Z model, along with several other models, including the Summit. The E-TEC borrows technology from Evinrude outboard motors, which, like Ski-Doo, is owned by Bombardier Recreational Products.