We've been waiting for a year like this one. Maybe for too
long. Polaris, Ski-Doo and Arctic Cat all showing up at the game with the best
800 mountain sleds any of them have ever built.
Mountain sleds and riding styles have evolved so far over
the past 10-even 5 years-that it's been difficult for one manufacturer to stay
ahead of the curve without releasing a new platform every other year. But we
feel that for 2011 we've simultaneously got the best technology these three
snowmobile manufacturers have to offer.
Arctic Cat's M8, M8 Sno Pro and M8 Sno Pro LE were the best
mountain packages of 2010 (they were the best-selling Arctic Cat model of 2010
and some claim the M8 Sno Pro to be the best-selling sled in the West for 2010
as well) and are in the gun sights of both Ski-Doo and Polaris for 2011.
Ski-Doo made some major changes to the XP chassis, going for
mass appeal with a narrower front end and lighter terrain handling.
Polaris shocked us with a completely re-designed RMK. New
front clip (borrowed from the 2010 Rush, but with different geometry), new rear
skid, new tunnel, new tank, new body, less weight and an updated engine.
What's new on the
2011 Arctic Cat M8?
A lot changed for the 2011 class of mountain sleds. Not much
of it was on the M8, however. For 2011, the M8 gets:
New ride calibration in the Float rear
suspension for a vastly improved ride.
The base-model M8 gets a coil-over gas rear
The LE is replaced with the Sno Pro Limited and
it includes a rear storage bag, hand guards, ice scratchers, handlebar bag,
goggle holder and BCA storage bag (you had to spring-order for the BCA pack).
M8 Sno Pro Limited comes in special lime green
New colors and graphics scheme for M8 and M8 Sno
What's new on the
2011 Ski-Doo Summit
It's a long list. From powerplant to suspension, here's what
the 2011 Summit
800 has going on:
New 800R E-Tec 155-plus horsepower engine.
Easy throttle pull.
New 60-volt injectors (compared to the 600
E-Tec's 55-volt injectors).
New piston ring.
52mm throttle bodies.
Dual air intake openings.
New tuned pipe.
Automatic summarization function.
S-36 handling package front suspension with
35.7- to 37.4-inch adjustable ski stance.
Longer center shock for improved adjustable
Lighter upper A-arm with integrated ball joint;
Pilot DS ski (Summit X) with no outer keel wall,
square and flat center keel and a new handle for two-hand pulling.
New Summit SP model.
The new PowderMax track is not ported for
A new windshield deflects snow and air over and
away from the driver better than previous designs.
New colors and graphics.
What's new on the
2011 Polaris 800 Pro RMK?
It's a longer list. The 2011 RMK has a new platform, which
means it's the newest model in the class. Here's the DL on the new RMK:
Updated 2-injector Liberty 800 CFI twin.
New engine management system designed to resolve
the issues some riders had on their 2009 and 2010 800 CFI engines.
New spark plug caps.
Lower emissions than 2010 800 4-injector CFI
Improved throttle response.
Stronger midrange power. Peak power is similar
to 2010 800 CFI.
More consistent performance compared to 2010 800
New fuel rail.
New fuel injectors.
New port design.
Linked oil pump.
New exhaust system.
Premium blend/Ethanol blend selector plug
All-new Pro-Ride platform replaces the IQ Raw
RMK chassis. The Pro-Ride RMK chassis is an adaptation of the front end of the
Rush, but the similarities are fewer than you think.
Narrow body design.
Cast front clip.
431-lb. dry weight (800 Pro RMK 155).
Lightweight snow flap.
Carbon fiber bumper.
New brake disc.
New coil-over rear suspension.
New straight rail beam on 155 skid frame.
Extruded spindle with a new design that reduces
Steering system that turns tighter with less
Walker Evans premium gas shocks.
New running board tray and edge roll for better
snow clean-out and improved traction.
Aluminum running board bracket and seat support
(compared to steel components on 2010 RMK).
Open-sided toe-hold design.
No more Dragon.
New model 800 RMK LE, a spring-order exclusive.
Comes in Turbo Silver color scheme.
What's better about
the 2011 Arctic Cat M8?
Well, for starters, the 2010 Arctic Cat M8 Sno Pro was our
top pick of the 800 class last season. So improving on 2010's changes is a big
step. However, none of our test riders were big fans of the 2010's ride
That has changed with the 2011 M8 Sno Pro and Sno Pro
Limited. Suspension engineers looked at the valving of the Fox Zero Pro front
track shock and the Fox Float rear track shock. New valving specs changed the
harsh ride of the Float skid to a much more supple ride. The flat thud factor
and the rebound kick are gone and the 2011 Float skid rides as well as
During our time on the 2011 skid, we covered what seemed
like hundreds of miles on rough trails, from stutter bumps to severe moguls.
Our motto for trails is "The faster you go, the sooner it's over." We could
carry speeds through these sections that we couldn't come close to matching on
a 2010. How do we know? We had a 2010 in the group on a couple of the test
The new ride calibration is the biggest improvement to the
2011 M8. And it's huge.
What's better about
the 2011 Ski-Doo Summit
There are a few new things in play that affect the ride
characteristics of the 2011 Summit.
First is the longer track shock. Last year, Ski-Doo lengthened the rear
suspension's front torque arm to help magnify weight transfer. This year, they
increased the length of the front track shock to get more travel out of the
arm. The move has a pronounced impact on the sled's handling-if you let the
limiter straps out. You can get the 2011 Summit
800 to stand up and dance if you want ... or at least give it a very light nose
The second factor is the new narrow 36-inch front end. How
narrow is a 36-inch stance? The torpedo-looking 1996 Summit 670 had a 37-inch ski stance. The 2011
is slim. But don't think that it will handle like an overly-narrow machine. One
of our contentions with the Summit XPs to date has been the overly-stable feel.
The 36-inch ski stance makes the sled extremely agile for tight canyon and tree
riding. Yet it doesn't feel like it could roll completely over on you at any
given moment. The XP chassis is very rigid with a low center of gravity. The
36-inch front end is a good match for Summit
No. 3 on our list is the fuel-injected 800 E-Tec engine. You
can catch up on all the tech specs in our September issue, but this engine is
cutting edge. And what it brings to the Summit
that was previously lacking is lighter throttle pull, easier starting, cleaner
emissions, better fuel economy and all without a sacrifice in power. In fact,
the E-Tec 800 is stronger in some areas than the Power Tek 800.
So if you add it all up, the 2011 Summit 800 E-Tec is really a totally new
machine from last year. Aside from the chassis, you get new parts or
calibration pretty much everywhere.
Ski-Doo's objective with the 2011 Summit was to gain market share by attracting
the crowd of mountain riders who do less steering and more maneuvering through
trees and technical mountain terrain. It made the front end lighter by
improving weight transfer. It made the sled more agile by narrowing the ski
stance. It kept the rear end hp higher in the snow by going to a non-ported
track design. The ride package adds up to a feel that responds totally
different to the "wrong-foot-forward" riding style, yet maintains its branded
XP feel for the guys who like the stable feel.
What's better about
the 2011 Polaris RMK 800?
It's an all-new machine. Granted, there is a risk to
scraping a functional platform and going to something totally different.
Computer models can fail to live up to real-world conditions.
The IQ Raw platform that carried the RMK nameplate from 2007
through 2010 (and into 2011 on the 600 RMK) worked, but had its limitations.
The track tended to lift and wash out on steep sidehills. The nose pan design
didn't float incredibly well. Those and other concerns were used to influence
the design of the new Pro RMK platform.
A narrowly-sculpted body (different side panel design than
the Rush trail models) keeps the body out of the snow-keeping the track in. You
have to be in firm spring snow or completely on your side to lift the track out
of the snow now. The front end works with the snow and floats through powder
better than before. New running boards clean out snow better. Pay special
attention to the new toe holds; there's not a side closure anymore. That gives
the snow somewhere to go when you're kicking it out and also lets you get your
leg farther forward on the machine for extreme sidehill maneuvers. The 2011 Pro
RMK is a better platform than the IQ Raw RMK.
What else is better? We've grilled Polaris over the
engine/electrical issues that some 2009 and 2010 800 RMK owners dealt with and
they assure us that the issue has been resolved. Polaris went to different
sources for its ECU, regulator, stator and spark plug caps. The 2011 800
Cleanfire engine is an improvement on the previous version, with a 2-injector
design with new fuel rail and new injectors for cleaner, more consistent
operation and stronger mid-range power. The 2011 800 CFI engine feels better on
the snow than the old engine.
Suspension technology has come a long way in the past few
years. Polaris is taking a big step forward with its new, fully-adjustable
coil-over rear suspension. The design is intended to give the rider more
control over suspension settings and chassis attitude in the snow. By adjusting
the preload spring tension on the rear track shock, you can quickly change how
much transfer the sled has and how the front end acts in the snow. Riders
should be able to change settings without any tools for varying snow
conditions-whether it's week-to-week or even during one ride.
How do the machines
Easy to ask, complicated to answer. Before we get into it,
we have to explain something. Mountain riding styles have changed drastically
over the past three to five years. And the styles are evolving rapidly. It's
more important now to find the sled that best fits your riding style than to
try and determine which is the best in the class.
That may sound like a cop out on our part but we've spent a
lot of time thinking this over and talking to riders of all brands while
watching sledders ride. Riding styles have a great deal to do with how you're
going to make each one of these 800s work.
The more traditional approach is what's worked over the past
two decades: Turn the handlebars-both skis on the ground-to turn the sled.
The new style is more progressive: Go everywhere essentially
on one ski, using throttle and balance to turn the machine.
The new style manipulates every aspect of the machine and
rider to control and determine the sled's position on the mountain, angle,
speed of descent, etc. It's how riders are flipping U-turns mid-slope,
traversing canyon sides through thick tree cover and dropping off ridges
without having to commit to the bottom.
Which riding styles is
each machine better suited for?
Here's the SnoWest
SnowTest staff's opinion on each sled:
Arctic Cat M8 - This is the sled that helped develop the
progressive riding style. It is very agile and easy to make quick directional
changes on-so long as you don't try steering it. Novice riders have complained
that it feels too stable and is hard to lean over and doesn't turn very well.
Expert riders know that it takes a slight turn out (flick the handlebars in the
opposite direction you want to go) to initiate chassis roll and get the sled to
Ski-Doo Summit 800 - In years past, it has been the most
stable-feeling of the bunch and best suited for the traditional style. However,
for 2011, its spectrum has broadened. While it isn't as easy to flick around
and ride cut into a hill as the other two, it does it better than any Summit XP
to date. The narrow stance has cost it some stability for the steering crowd,
but surprisingly not too much.
Polaris Pro RMK - The new king of progressive riding. This
chassis responds instantly to rider input, but it doesn't over-react like the
old IQ RMK and it doesn't want to set itself back down to level when you're
holding it into a sidehill. The sled stays in the position and attitude that
the rider puts it in and can cut more vertical sidehills than the other two
simply because the track is not pushed out of the snow by body plastic.
What determines how a
sled works for different riding styles?
Handlebar position, foot position, rider body center
position and engine location all relative to spindle location. That, along with
ski design, suspension function, chassis center of gravity, running boards and
approach angle. Like we said, it's complicated.
[I need a page for 12 profile images comparing these
elements - April has the images ready. 3 side profiles, 3 front profiles, 3
rear profiles and 3 running board shots]
So what, no pick for
Oh, no-it's not that complicated. The majority of our staff
feel that the 2011 Polaris RMK has set a new standard for mountain sled
It's no longer a war over horsepower. Mountain riding has
become a skilled trade. And it all comes down to who can build the better tool.
Riders are turning away from the steep shootout slopes and finding fun in
challenging technical riding. You can spend half a day on a tree-covered short
hillside just seeing who can carve the gnarliest line across the side of it
instead of up and over it.
Right now, all three models are stellar performers. There's
never been a better Summit
800. There's never been a more impressive M8.
But the 2011 Pro RMK gives the rider more ability to
manipulate the mountain than any stock mountain machine offered to the