There was some good news and bad news that surfaced during the Yamaha model year 2011 sneak peek in mid-January.
The good news is that Yamaha is still very much a part of the mountain market, while the bad news is that that Japanese snowmobile manufacturer's lineup for the steep and deep got cut by one model-the Apex MTX.
That may not seem like a big deal to some in the western market but there will be a segment of the point-and-shoot snowmobiling crowd that will mourn the loss of the Apex MTX. It's that group of riders who buy Yamaha four-strokes to install a turbo or supercharger. Now they have one less option.
The Apex MTX was an ideal platform to bolt on a turbo or supercharger to produce a fire-breathing sled (while also greatly improving the power-to-weight ratio) that rivals just about any other modded sled on the market. All of us have seen either in person or on video what those modded Apex sleds can do. Very impressive.
Writing On The Wall
Anyone who pays attention to the mountain segment knew the writing was on the wall for the Apex MTX. A year ago you couldn't buy an Apex MTX in Canada but still could in the United States. That move has crossed the border for the 2011 model year and you now won't find any Apex MTX offerings in the Yamaha lineup anywhere in North America.
But let's focus on the good news.
In what may have been just an unconscious move by Yamaha's marketing folks, but just how the 2011 sneak peek presentation started last January was somewhat gratifying to us here at SnoWest Magazine. For the first time since we can remember, Yamaha started out its annual sneak peek presentation with the mountain segment. Maybe that's not a big deal to the average sledder, but it shows Yamaha not only knows how important that segment is, but wants a bigger piece of it.
For the past couple of years, Yamaha officials have touted two facts. First, the mountain segment is the fasting-growing segment in the snowbelt and second, the mountain segment is now the second largest in the industry.
Yamaha made a big splash in model year 2010 with the release of the completely redesigned FX Nytro MTX. To us, the Nytro MTX is proof that Yamaha still has an interest in the mountain segment. And Yamaha still hangs its hat-very proudly-on its four-stroke technology and all of the benefits that technology brings to the industry: reliability, fuel economy, low cost of operation, ease of operation, resale value and low emissions.
Heart Of Mountain Lineup
Since its retooling a year ago, the Nytro MTX is the heart of Yamaha's mountain lineup and that heart still continues to beat in 153 and 162 rhythm.
The 2011 Nytro MTX returns with the same fuel-injected 3-cylinder (the Apex MTX featured a four-cylinder) Genesis 4-stroke powerplant that is in the 2010 model. With 130 hp, the 1049cc Nytro MTX is between a 600 and 800 two-stroke when it comes to power. That's a nice power package to complement the 153 or 162 track, although there are a few who argue that the 153 is a better fit for the Nytro MTX's horsepower.
The Nytro MTX also still uses an all air shock rear suspension, featuring the ProMountain Air with Fox Float 2 and Float 2 XV air shocks. The 2 XV, located on the rear arm, has an external chamber that gives additional air spring capability, eliminating the need for heavier steel torsion springs.
Yamaha riders experienced good results with the 18-degree track approach angle, which was introduced on the 2010 model, allowing the sled to get up and stay up on the snow better. Wrapped around that suspension is the single-ply Camoplast Maverick track with 2.25-inch lugs. We've found the track to work well in most snow conditions, thanks to its three-inch pitch and lug pattern.
Because we sometimes have to ride in snow conditions that are less than ideal or on hard pack, Yamaha has made ice scratchers on the 153- and 162-inch suspensions standard equipment. The ice scratchers also allow the elimination of four idler wheels.
Rounding out Yamaha's mountain lineup is the 80-horsepower Phazer MTX. The Phazer features a 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, also fuel injected. This model returns pretty much the same as the 2010 version, including the 14x144x2-inch Camoplast Maverick track.
Apex-The Trail Version
The Apex model has been completely eliminated from Yamaha's lineup. The Apex trail model is coming out with some very cool features, say, like power steering (yes, power steering on a snowmobile), a new exhaust system and new skis.
Dubbed the EXUP (Exhaust Ultimate Performance), the new exhaust system is modeled after Yamaha's R1 street bike exhaust technology and has a designed goal of increasing torque in the 4-stroke. The exhaust system is a 4 into 1 that dumps into a new muffler and then out into two pipes at the rear of the sled. The EXUP valve is mounted in the collection area of the exhaust and opens and closes to adjust the backpressure. The valve is actuated by a servo motor controlled by the sled's ECU.
The EXUP is closed at low rpm to increase the backpressure, reducing the fresh fuel/air mixture loss out of the exhaust valve. It opens at high rpm to reduce the backpressure and increase the air flow, resulting in higher rpm power and stronger torque, especially in the low and midrange.
The new ski, while on a trail sled now, could make its way to other Yamaha sleds, if we were listening right at Yamaha's sneak peek. The new ski has a shorter keel compared to previous designs, with the curved part of the ski smooth and the majority of the keel located behind the mounting location. This design, Yamaha claims, significantly reduces darting. One Yamaha official said the "keel design is similar to what we've been using the last couple of years." He added, "[the ski] is what the Nytro needs. It's the direction for us in the future."
Now to the Electric Power Steering (EPS) system. The EPS is speed sensitive, delivering maximum steering assist from stopped to trail speed. This "assistance" tapers off as speed increases. The assist is calculated with inputs from a torque sensor, vehicle speed sensor, motor speed sensor and motor current sensor.
What about the EPS application in the mountains? One Yamaha official told us he doesn't see the power steering system making its way to the mountain segment because mountain riders want feedback from the front end when going through the trees or sidehilling and the EPS would take feedback away. It's still an intriguing new feature.
Yamaha's spring buy program still features a Spring Voucher, which means a four-year warranty for anyone signing up by April 15. The new twist for 2011 models is that you can choose the four-year warranty or $700 in parts and accessories. Also new for 2011 is the Yamaha Sno Safari. Anyone who signs up at a Yamaha dealership becomes eligible for a Sno Safari demo ticket, which is an exclusive 45-minute ride on an all-new Apex. For more information on that program, log on to www.yamahademos.com.