Finally, Some Props for the 600s

Class is rebounding with improved, new sleds

Published in the November 2013 Issue Lane Lindstrom
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"At $9,899, the base model Polaris 600 RMK is the least expensive sled—including the new Cat M 6000—in the 600 segment.
"2014 Polaris 600 RMK
"For 2014, the SnoWest SnowTest crew agreed the Polaris 600 Pro RMK is the class of the class, edging out Ski-Doo’s Summit SP 600.
"One of the best moves for 2014 in the entire 600 segment was Ski-Doo putting its 600 E-Tec model in the XM chassis.
"2014 Ski-Doo Summit SP 600
"The Ski-Doo Summit SP 600 has two track options, a 146- or 154-inch, and a whole host of features which make it very competitive with the Polaris 600 Pro RMK.

Can we just start by saying we find it more than refreshing to see at least a decent portion of the news about western sleds focused on the 600 class for MY 2014? Granted, it didn’t start out that way. There was some new news about the mountain 600s when Ski-Doo announced it would put its Summit 6 in the XM chassis.

Then things really got interesting early this fall when, at Hay Days, Cat unveiled the M 6000.

Until very recently, there hasn’t been much to cheer about in the 600 class. Sure, there were solid machines in this segment, but they were getting dated and the luster was fading. When Arctic Cat dropped its 600 from its lineup (the last Cat 6 was MY2012), well, if felt like the class was on life support.

There were some hints of hope, like when Ski-Doo introduced the 600 E-Tec motor in the Summit and then Polaris moved its 6 into the Pro RMK chassis. Still it didn’t feel complete. We know it’s only been two model years since the Cat 6 hasn’t been around, but it seems like forever since there have been three sleds in this class.

Yes, the 600s are a small part of the western market—but they’re still a part of the western market. And we happen to like the segment.

The 600 segment was owned by Polaris last year, but we suspect that will change, what with Ski-Doo updating its 600 in the XM chassis and Cat just revealing a 2014 M 6000. We’re glad Cat didn’t wait until MY 2015 to make the release. And we once again admit we were a little disappointed when Cat revealed the 600 class engine this past spring and it was a trail chassis. We’re all better now.

We only rode the Polaris and Ski- Doo 6s head-to-head during the annual photo shoots in West Yellowstone last February. You can read all the details about the Cat 6 in Fronts and Fore­casts, although we did put all the 600 specs side-by-side so you could match up these machines apples to apples.

Specifically, we rode the “high-end” versions of the Polaris 6 and Ski-Doo 6, meaning the Pro RMK and SP. It was a pretty good battle, one that continued on long after the photo shoots were done. We had a ‘13 600 Pro RMK (which is almost identical to the 2014 model) in our stable of sleds, and Ski-Doo allowed us to use the ‘14 Summit SP 600 until the snow melted. So we had a lot of seat time on those two sleds.

After all the riding, we settled on three basic areas: 1) Our favorite mountain 600; 2) What we liked about each 600; and 3) What we weren’t crazy about on each 600.

Let’s tackle No. 2 first.

Polaris Pro RMK Power and pre­dictability were the overriding favorites on the Polaris 600 Pro RMK. Flotation and a light chassis were others.

Something that perhaps surprised us a little is that each of the SnoWest SnowTest crew felt the Polaris 600 had more power than the Ski-Doo 600. That was surprising because when it comes to the 800s and those two brands, we think the Ski-Doo 8 leads the Polaris 8 in that category.

The 600 Pro RMK has about 5cc more displacement than the Summit 6 so that’s not a huge difference, but where we can tell the difference is in the power delivery, particularly on the bot­tom end. As one SnowTester said about the Polaris 6, “It has enough instant power to bust through a creek bottom and make a quick carve on the hill. The only time you find it underpowered is when you have one long continuous pull.” It’s not that the Summit 6 suffers in power—it doesn’t—it’s more in the delivery. Whereas you can punch the Polaris 6 and it jumps, when you do the same with the Ski-Doo 6, it has more of an even-keel response.

As for the predictability, you don’t need to read anything into that. The 600 Pro RMK does what you want it to do when you want it to do it and you know how it’s going to react when you twist this way or that. There’s no guess­ing when you ride the 6 RMK and that gives you confidence as you ride. The Pro Ride chassis with its nimbleness and light weight are to thank, in large part, for that. And you simply cannot discount how light a 417-pound sled feels on the snow. It feels light because it is light.

Ski-Doo Summit SP 600 Now in the XM chassis—with its tMotion rear suspension and FlexEdge track—many of the comments from the SnowTest crew about what they liked in the ‘14 SP 600 revolved around the ride and maneuverability of the sled. Just like when Ski-Doo unleashed the Summit 8 in the XM chassis, the improvement to the ride and handling were immediately evident. It was much easier to roll up and sidehill or carve in the powder. The same goes for the SP 6. As one Snow­Test rider said, “It’s so easy to roll and go.” Another comment was, “It has a solid platform. It’s easy to ride and very comfortable. It makes you feel like you are always in control.”

Someone not used to the feel of the new XM chassis might think it’s too tippy. You can stand on the running board on one side of the sled and easily pull it over. That’s a great feature when you’re sidehilling and riding through the tight trees on an off-camber hill. Once you get used to it, that tippyness is more of an ally than a hindrance.

Another highlight of the SP 6 is how light it feels while riding. As one SnowTester said, “It has a very light feel.” It may be the heavier of the two 6s we rode (Pro RMK 417 lbs. vs. SP 600 456 lbs.), but it definitely feels as light as the Polaris while riding. It is fairly easy to throw around and get it to do what you want it to.

We also were impressed with how the Ski-Doo 6 handles the bumps “very nicely” as one SnowTester said. “You can cruise down the trail and feel confident you will make the corners and survive the whoops.” Ski-Doo uses HPG shocks in the rear and they do indeed work well in the bumps.


What We’re Not Crazy About

Moving on to No. 3, let’s begin with the Ski-Doo 6. We’ve kind of touched on one of our not-so-crazy-about “issues” on this machine: its power output. Or as one SnowTester said, “It feels underpowered compared to the 600 RMK.” That is almost word-for-word from two of our other staff. We don’t need to beat a dead horse, but the RMK holds the edge in the horsepower category. We do, however, like the power delivery, which is smooth and constant.

A second complaint is the snowmo­bility of the Doo 6. It doesn’t get on top of the snow as well as the Polaris 6 and, as one SnowTester said, “You can’t pull through deep powder as easily as you would like.”

Now this upcoming comment might seem to contradict one of the favorites we mentioned on the Ski-Doo 6—that of being much easier to roll up and side­hill. The key here is “much easier,” and that is in comparison to Ski-Doo’s XP chassis. The XM is better in key snow­mobility areas vs. the XP. Better, but not the best sled in that category, as one SnowTester pointed out. “Sidehilling is better, but still not the best. It tends to climb on a sidehill. It’s a lot harder to hold a consistent line and change eleva­tions up and down while going across a long sidehill.” So better, but not quite what the Pro chassis can do.

With regards to the Polaris 6, the is­sues or complaints seem to be minimal. This is a solid little sled. Interestingly enough, of the three SnowTest staffers who tested the two 6s, we each came up with different dislikes on the Polaris machine.

One, for example, said he didn’t like the handling of the RMK compared to the Summit 6. He thinks the Summit 6 feels more “planted.” Another rider said he doesn’t like the side panels and how they fasten. “They tend to be flimsy and will come unfastened once in a while,” he said. One other complaint he voiced was, “Sometimes when I’m jumping back and forth, side to side, it’s hard to find the running boards.” You might remember the story in our last issue about the running boards (“The Running Board Rundown,” SnoWest, October, 2013, page 46), where we pointed out that the RMK has the narrowest running boards as measured in the front near the footwell.

One other feature on the Pro RMK that we just aren’t that crazy about is the ProTaper handlebars. This is another dead horse we’ve beaten over and over—especially on the 800 Pro RMK—so there’s no need to do it again here except to say we don’t like the straightness of the bars, preferring instead the bend of the handlebars on the base model.

Finally, that leaves us with the No. 1 question: What sled do we think is No. 1 in the 600 class. Each Snow­Tester chose the Polaris 600 Pro RMK. All felt it was a better overall package compared to the Ski-Doo Summit SP 600. We are anxious to see how the new Cat 600 stacks up against the other two 6s, but for now, the RMK is the Rocky Mountain King.

M6000 Sno Pro (153)

Engine: 6000-Series C-Tec2

Displacement: 599cc

Cylinders: 2

Carburetion: 47 mm dual throttle body batteryless EFI

Primary clutch: Arctic 6 post

Secondary clutch: 10.75-inch diameter Arctic

Front suspension: Arctic Race

Front shock: Fox Float 3

Front travel: 9 in.

Rear suspension: M w/Tri-hub rear axle system

Rear shock: Fox Float 2

Rear travel: 15.5 in.

Center shock: Arctic Cat (IFP)

Ski: Pilot Mtn. 6-inch

Track: 15x153x2.6 Power Claw

Ski stance: 38-39 in. adjustable

Fuel capacity: 11.5 gallons

Price: $10,949

Available color(s): Green

 

600 Pro RMK

Engine: Liberty

Displacement: 599

Cylinders: 2

Carburetion: Cleanfire Injection

Primary clutch: P-85

Secondary clutch: Team LWT

Front suspension: Pro-Ride RMK Adjustable

Front shock: Walker Evans

Front travel: 9 in.

Rear suspension: RMK Coil-Over

Rear shock: Walker Evans

Rear travel: 16 in.

Center shock: Walker Evans

Ski: Gripper

Dry weight: 417 lbs.

Track: 15x155x2.4 Series 5.1

Ski stance: 39-41 in. adjustable

Fuel capacity: 11.5 gallons

Price: $11,099

Available color(s): White

 

SummitSP 600

Engine: Rotax E-Tec H.O.

Displacement: 594.4cc

Cylinders: 2

Carburetion: Electronic Direct Injection

Primary clutch: TRA III

Secondary clutch: QRS

Front suspension: Dual A-arms

Front shock: HPG

Front travel: 8 in.

Rear suspension: tMotion

Rear shock: HPG

Rear travel: 14 in. (146), 15 in. (154)

Center shock: HPG

Ski: Pilot DS 2

Dry weight: 454 lbs. (146), 456 lbs. (154)

Track: 16x146-154x2.25 PowderMax

Ski stance: 35.7-37.4 in. adjustable

Fuel capacity: 10.6 gallons

Price: $10,349 (146), $10,699 (154)

Available color(s): Black, orange/black

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