With all the attention the 800 Assault RMK is getting and is
likely to continue getting, there are some who just might look past the rest of
the stable of RMKs.
Resist the temptation.
The RMK lineup will once again be a force on the western
slopes for 2009.
Polaris continues to build momentum in the mountain
segment-a segment it used to own (try about 50 percent market share at one
point) not so long ago. Some uncalculated blunders mixed in with a little
arrogance knocked Polaris off its perch . and it's been a long climb back
toward the top of the hill.
Ski-Doo now owns the No. 1 spot in the West but Polaris
seems determined to keep chipping away at that dominance.
Evidence of that is two-fold. First, the new and improved
RMKs of the past two seasons and going into 2009-they're solid machines that
have been relatively problem free. Second, Polaris has shown what we think is
real restraint and patience in its mountain builds (although we've heard some
grumbling about sled deliveries of the 800 RMKs this winter). By only building
what was ordered (hey, there's a novel idea), the company has pretty much
cleaned out its pipeline of existing inventory and created demand for its new
sleds. Just this last fall we had one Polaris fan call us and ask if we knew of
any 800 RMKs for sale anywhere. Seems he didn't pre order one and now was
looking for one. We made a quick call to our contacts at Polaris and were told
indeed all those preordered sleds were sold. There were none to be found. That
rider was tough out of luck.
We think had Polaris built more than were ordered, more than
likely they could have sold them and it would have paid off-this time. That
hasn't always been the case and that's how Polaris (and other sled
manufacturers) end up with too much inventory.
But Polaris seems to be following its new plan faithfully
and that has helped the company get healthy and whole again.
"We're back on the gas in the snowmobile business," is how
Scott Swenson, vice president, Snowmobile and Pure Polaris Divisions, put it.
Polaris should be solid again in the mountains for 2009 with
its lineup of nine RMKs, including the 800 Assault. Most of those models have
changes of varying degrees, most notably with regards to continued shedding of
Like most every other sled maker that wants to stay
competitive in the mountains, taking weight off is the No. 1 priority, as long
as they can do it without sacrificing reliability, ride or anything else that
would compromise the sled's strengths. They all know that's what needs to be
done to keep up with Ski-Doo.
Polaris trimmed another 15 lbs. off its largest cc sleds,
which includes the 800 Dragon RMK.
And it was a pound here and two or three pounds there, not
any one spot where all the weight was lost. Remember the saying you heard as a
kid, "It's not the big things that make a difference, it's the little things."
Polaris is content for now (at least that's what they'll
tell you publicly) to stick with the proven Raw RMK chassis. This platform has
proven to be very versatile and does well on the way to the hill and once you
get there. There are no real complaints about how well this chassis does.
"We're not ready for an architecture change just yet," Marty
Samson, one of Polaris' mountain snowmobile specialist and tester. "Obviously
they (Ski-Doo) made an architecture change" with the Rev XP. Although we
couldn't pin anyone at Polaris down on such an "architecture change" in the
future at Polaris, you have to wonder if that's not in the long range (maybe
even short range) plans, simply to stay competitive in the West.
Samson continued, "You'll still see us going after weight.
When you go after that kind of weight (like Ski-Doo did with the Rev XP) you
have to make drastic changes. We're not there yet."
Our gut tells us it's not far off.
Even without a major overhaul, Polaris managed to trim
weight for 2009. Samson explained, "Everything we changed, it's either lighter
and stronger than it was or it's the same (weight wise) but better," he said.
"Our primary goal was to make the sled better." That means lighter and simpler
to fix if you happen to hit something.
That kind of thinking is what led to one of the major and
most noticeable changes to the Dragon 800 RMK, the new front lower plastic and aluminum
bumper system. Not only is the lower plastic much more narrow than the '08
model, if you "ding" that part of the sled, you won't have to replace multiple parts
but only a couple and it's a simpler swap than before. The redesign is also
lighter by 3 lbs.
Polaris also chased weight in other parts of the machine.
Here are some details, along with other changes to specific RMK models.
Lightweight Pro Taper handlebars (Dragon, Assault
models). The bars are 1/2-inch taller than the '08 bars and feature very cool
new hooks on the end of the bars. Weight savings: 1 pound. Standard 700 and 800
models come with a 5.25-inch riser while the 600 RMK gets a 3.75-inch riser.
Ice scratchers are now standard on 800 Dragons
with 155 and 163-inch tracks. Last year, scratchers only came on the 800 Dragon
with the 163. The weight savings results from having to use fewer wheels in the
skid. Ice scratchers help provide the lubrication the hifax needs during low
snow or hard pack conditions.
All IQ RMK models get new rails, which are
lighter and stronger. Weight savings: 1 pound. The redesign is fairly easy to
notice when comparing to the 2008 model. For one thing, the rear of the rails
are taller from the rear bogey wheel to the back of the rails. Stronger, but
Up front, premium models feature new spindles
and A-arms, which are lighter but stronger. The spindles have the same geometry
as what's on the 2008 models. Weight savings: one-half pound.
New torsion bar on the Dragon RMK. Weight
savings: 1 pound. The torsion bar is new because of the change to the spindles.
All other RMKs still have the standard torsion bar.
Lightweight brake disc on premium Dragons,
Assault. This hydraulic Phantom brake has a lightweight wave-type rotor that
has been tested on the race track and now finds its way to consumer sleds. The
brake system also has a Cyclone master cylinder. And the brakes sound very cool
when you squeeze the lever. Weight savings: 1 pound.
The front bulkhead cooler has been removed on
the 800 Dragon 155 and 163 and doesn't come in the new Assault. Weight savings:
The Series 5.1 track is now a single layer
design on all Dragon RMKs. Weight savings: 3 lbs.
Polaris has gone to a magnesium chaincase cover,
which is more durable than the plastic one it replaces.
As of press time, final specs weren't quite
done, but Polaris is aiming for 472 lbs. on the Dragon 800 with a 155 while the
163 is 478 lbs.
When you move to the powerplant on the RMKs, the Liberty 800 twin engine
is back with no real changes to its 154 hp output. This is an impressive engine
that is a bit of an overachiever in the 800 class. We were a little surprised
but Polaris returns with the 700 RMK, which definitely cranks out all of its
140 hp. Note that you can only get the Liberty
700 in mountain skin.
It's when you move to the 600 class that there are engine
changes. Polaris dropped the 600 carb model from the lineup and has gone from four
injectors to two injectors in its 600 Cleanfire Injected motor. The changes
were made in an effort to satisfy 2010 EPA emissions regs. The 600 still puts
out 125 hp.
The basic, value-driven Shift has been expanded from one
model offered in 2008 to three models for 2009: 600 RMK Shift 144 and 155 and
800 RMK Shift 144. Those will come with the now familiar all black hood and
basic features such as Ryde FX and Ryde AFX shocks. In the 2008 model lineup
there was a $750 price difference between the 600 RMK and 600 Shift RMK (the
Shift being the more inexpensive of the two). Apparently that was enough for
some mountain sledders due to the fact that the selection for '09 has gone from
one to three.
We spent a couple of days on the new RMKs, including the
Assault, and once again, they proved they are mountain capable and then some.
RMKs inspire rider confidence and don't hold any surprises in any conditions.
On the model with the new sway bar, the 800 Dragon, we found it so easy to hold
a sidehill and work our way through the trees. We didn't think the old sway,
which is still on the other RMKs was terrible by any stretch but the new sway
bar allows the sled to react a little better to your body English, making it
just that much easier to handle.
And that's why we think the '09 RMKs will continue to
build on the momentum Polaris has achieved the past couple of years.