Take a look in almost any snowmobile dealership or look at any of the major manufacturers' websites and it's easy to think snowmobiling these days is all about big horsepower, superchargers and turbos.
Horsepower rules the roost.
Almost, but not quite.
There's still the Yamaha Phazer MTX, which brings a little sanity to the big horsepower-dominated mountain segment.
The four-stroke Phazer MTX isn't just Yamaha's entry-level sled; it might just be considered the entry-level snowmobile for the entire mountain lineup. Ski-Doo and Polaris each come to the mountains with a 600-their entry level machines-and Arctic Cat, which dropped the 600 from its lineup for 2012, has the four-stroke Pro Climb 1100, which is similar in horsepower figures to the Yamaha Nytro MTX.
That leaves the Phazer MTX as the only sub 100 hp mountain sled available for 2012. The Phazer has a horsepower rating of 80.
Back when the Phazer was first introduced in the 2007 model year, Rob Powers, then Yamaha's snowmobile marketing manager and now Yamaha's snowmobile product manager, said, "The Phazer Mountain Lite is a super lightweight, long track sled that's ideally suited for deep snow riders who crave a highly maneuverable sled for technical riding and just having fun. It is an easy sled to ride, so it's not intimidating to people just developing their powder legs."
That's probably just as true today as it was five years ago when Powers first said it.
The Phazer hasn't really changed much since its introduction in 2007. Here's a look at what has changed on the Phazer since the 2007 model year. The "new" Phazer was first introduced as the Phazer Mountain Lite and the name was later changed to Phazer MTX.
At the Phazer's introduction to the media, Powers said, "The Phazer Mountain Lite's first two design mandates, light weight and nimble handling, are closely related. Our engineering department began with a lightweight 2-cylinder engine and proceeded to build the sled around it. The compact chassis is constructed with our exclusive controlled flow die casting technology. This allows us to build a very rigid chassis without a lot of weight. That rigidity allowed the suspension engineers to develop a very precise handling suspension setup."
New FX chassis
Tall, lightweight, narrow YZ-style seat
High-visibility LED taillight
ProMountain FX 144 rear suspension
14x144x2-inch deep snow track
Ventilated hydraulic brake
Integrated chaincase and magnesium cover
Extruded FX spindles
FX double wishbone front suspension
Naked front end styling
Advanced fuel injection
Engine idle adjustment
Genesis 80FI engine
Customizing-ready windshield mounts
Digital FX gauge pod
Push button electric shift reverse
Tall, wide bars with center strap
Sport rider-forward position
Named changed to MTX
Handlebar hooks added (heated all the way to the end of the hooks)
Snow panels (The panel closed off the gap between the seat and the tunnel, helping reduce the amount of snow and ice buildup on the tunnel and footwell areas of the sled. This necessitated a redesigned gas tank; therefore, the panels wouldn't easily retrofit to the 2007 Phazer)
Estimated dry weight 515 lbs. (This was one of the few times Yamaha ever released any weight figures on the Phazer.)
New HPG front, center and rear shocks
New white and Yamaha Blue graphics as well as black and orange graphics
"The Phazer MTX is such a lightweight sled with excellent reliability and such high fun factor that we didn't have a lot to change for 2011," Wade West, Yamaha snowmobile marketing manager, said at the time. "We updated the color and graphics and pretty much left it at that."
White/blue color and graphics
Oil pressure sensing system (If the oil pressure drops while riding, the ignition and fuel supply is controlled to limit the engine's rpm and reduce the load on the engine. If necessary, the system will stop the engine, offering another line of engine protection.)
New graphics package
Replaceable bearing wheels (first introduced on the 2010 FX Nytro MTX SE 153/162)
We're definitely not snowmobile engineers, but if we were aiming to keep the cost of a sled down, we'd keep it as simple as possible while still making it fun and functional. That might explain why the changes over the years have been minimal.
One marketing line Yamaha has ridden pretty hard with the Phazer MTX is it's the "lightest four-stroke mountain sled on the market." The claim bears out due to the Phazer engine's 2-cylinder design, which makes it lighter than the Nytro MTX's 3-cylinder powerplant. And while we don't have any weight figures on the new Cat mountain four-strokes, we'll make an educated guess that the Phazer weighs even a little less than the M 1100.
So while horsepower has its place in the mountains, so too does the Phazer MTX, which is a decent entry-level machine or ideal for any rider not looking for big horsepower.