The snow isn't exactly crystal clear and pristine when it comes to nailing down which Summit 800 to focus on from Ski-Doo. For the past several years, the Canadian sled maker has been known for having a plethora of models to choose from and its lineup is sometimes tough to decipher with all the combinations of engines, tracks and packages available, but that has been getting a little easier to figure out as time goes on.
Sledders actually have a couple of choices when it comes to 800 power plants from Ski-Doo. First is the Summit Sport with the 800R Power Tek engine along with the Summit SP and X 800s with the E-Tec engine. The Power Tek, a carbureted engine, gives sledders who like to tinker a powerplant to work on. The E-Tec is more high tech and still relatively new in Summit skin.
The Summit Sport 800 is a less expensive machine than the SP 800 (154-inch)-$9,999 vs. $11,849 respectively-due mostly to the engine difference. The least expensive X model is $11,899, and goes up to $12,649 for the 163. Ski-Doo considers the Sport 800 a "value sled" aimed at the snowmobiler who wants the power of the 800 but doesn't want to shell out more than a thousand additional bucks to get the 800 E-Tec. Strictly speaking and without getting into the apples-to-apples comparison, the Sport 800 is the least expensive base model 800 you can buy by $650 to its next closest competitor, the Polaris 800 RMK.
However, we're choosing to focus on the E-Tec version of the Summit 8 because that's the more popular Rotax engine, and honestly, the one we like riding.
The SP name replaces the Everest moniker Ski-Doo used for this segment in 2011. According to Ski-Doo the name was changed because the changes made to the lineup were "so significant, there's no comparison to the Everest models."
Here's a rundown of what is new and its impact on not only Ski-Doo's mountain lineup but also the snowmobile industry.
Is the 2012 better than the 2011?
We think so, thanks to a handful of changes. Granted, the things that tend to change how the sled handles and performs, i.e., engine, suspension, etc., remain basically the same from 2011 to 2012 with the exception of the new Pilot DS skis and 2.5-inch PowderMax II track.
Another year also gives Ski-Doo, or any sled manufacturer for that matter, the chance to fine tune various parts of the sled, like the engine mapping or shock calibration. And Ski-Doo certainly didn't lose any ground from its 2011 model to 2012.
What is the most significant change from the previous year?
That would probably have to be the addition of the PowderMax II track, with its 16x163x2.5 monster footprint. There are two other track options with the Summit, both with 16-inch wide tracks but in lengths of 146 and 154 and both with 2.25-inch deep lug tracks.
The PowderMax II track is ribbed to keep the same stiffness while reducing the weight as much as possible. If Ski-Doo would have designed the track the traditional way with the lugs not ribbed, it would have added about 1.5 lbs. to the track. The track pattern remains the same; only the height of the lug has changed. The lugs are 80 durometer at the base and 60 at the top.
Second would be the new Rev XP X seat with storage, which comes on the X, SP Summit. After years of bellyachin' from us and other sledders, Ski-Doo finally designed a storage compartment in the seat. The size of the storage area is 1.3 gallons, which is big enough for a bottle of water or a pair of goggles or some other small items.
The Summit X gets a new tapered aluminum handlebar with 5-inch aluminum riser block. The bar is lighter and stiffer, and better for stand-up riding. The new bars move some controls down on the console, similar to the Freeride setup.
There might be an argument that the new Pilot DS skis should be considered one of the significant changes on the SP-the X already had the DS. Our jury is still out on the performance of the skis so it's not high on our significant change list, although that could change as we get more time with the skis. The new ski, which replaces the Pilot 6.9, has a single keel and thin outer edges for better sidehilling. The Pilot DS is also shorter behind the spindle for easier countersteering.
How good is the powerband?
We're just glad that more sledders will be able to enjoy the powerband of the 800 E-Tec. There was quite a ruckus last season after some sledders who had purchased Ski-Doo sleds with the 800 E-Tec engine were told there weren't enough of them to go around and they would have to wait until this season.
You can bet Ski-Doo won't let that nightmare happen again. Whereas you could only get the 800 E-Tec in a spring-only sled in 2011, Ski-Doo has expanded the availability to the in-season SP for 2012. We think that's a great move on Ski-Doo's part.
Back to the powerband. The 800 E-Tec is the strongest engine in this class-base model or not. The reason we like the E-Tec compared to the Power Tek is the smooth powerband, not a "stabbing" burst of power like you get in the Power Tek. The power delivery of the E-Tec is sure and strong, regardless of where you are in the powerband. And the E-Tec is a lot easier on your thumb.
It should also be noted that we didn't experience nor did we hear about any engine issues with the E-Tec last season.
What did we like?
The aforementioned 800 E-Tec would have to be one of our absolute favorite things about the Summit 800. That engine really is a nice piece of engineering.
We also like the lightweight feel of the Summit. The machine floats on the snow, just exactly what you want it to do when you're riding in deep powder.
The Summit's ride in the bumps is excellent as well, regardless of whether you're pounding a mogul-infested trail to the backcountry or launching off natural jumps. The HPG shocks get the job done. And the X-package suspension is phenomenal.
What did we hate?
Not much. Although the powder abilities are equal to anything in its class, it still can be challenging when it comes to holding a sidehill or making that crisp turn in technical terrain. It's just not as easy to lay over in the powder or sidehill through the tight trees on a slope as its competitors.
Ten second response to "how did you like the 2012 Summit 800?
It's a great snowmobile. Whether it's the base model 800 SP or the ultra-premium X, the Summit is a mountain sled at its core with features that make it a versatile machine that appeals to gobs of western riders.