Elevating Performance

Responsive, powerful and refined

November 2020 Feature Steve Janes

After the Summit Turbo was released to the public last January, it dominated the snowmobile conversation, receiving 10.7 million impressions on social media in 25 days. It was the biggest innovation news to hit the snowmobile industry in years; everyone wanted to know more.

Not only did the editors of SnoWest get seat time on the new model the day it was released, we were also able to throw one in the back of our truck and take it home with us, providing the opportunity to thoroughly dissect this model in a variety of snow conditions through the best part of winter.

The more we rode it, the better we liked it.

We were able to see how it performed in fresh snow and packed snow, at the trailhead and on top of the mountain, low elevation and high elevation. We also rode it side-by-side with the 2020 Summit Expert to see how the turbo affected performance in everyday riding conditions.

So it’s not merely through media hype and a false sense of future expectation that we say no other snowmobile release has made us as excited as this sled.


We’ve also had a level of reservation when it came to turbo-induced performance because it also came with a “turbo lag” … that slight pause or hesitation caused by the delay of the turbo engagement and the pressurization of the air.

True, aftermarket turbos generated incredible power. But it wasn’t seamless. There was always a level of stutter in the bottom end before things kicked in. The problem was in the transition from natural air pressure to pressurized air. However, Ski-Doo engineers figured out a way to blend this procedure to smooth out the transition.

On the air intake side, the Rotax 850 E-Tec engine was uniquely designed to accommodate air flow. So when the turbo was added to the engine, it featured a bypass air flow for instant throttle response simultaneous with a compressed air flow to ensure the maximum air delivery to produce 165 hp regardless of elevation.

In other words, the turbo doesn’t promise you increased horsepower, it merely ensures you maintain the engine’s pre-determined maximum level of horsepower so you’re not adding any more stress to the drivetrain components than they were initially engineered to withstand.


At low elevation, nature provides enough air pressure to create the 165 hp. But as you rise in altitude, the air gets thinner, thus the compressed air compensates for nature to maintain the optimum desired air flow to produce 165 hp.

Now on the exhaust side, the exiting end of the air flow progression, the low elevation air exhaust naturally goes directly out the pipe. However, as you increase in elevation, a wastegate progressively channels the exhaust through a turbine that creates the compressed air for the intake side.

Translation—At sea level the engine works just like any other two-stroke system with air moving through the system in natural progression to deliver the optimum designed horsepower for the engine. But as you rise in elevation, the system receives an increasing amount of mechanical assistance to maintain the same amount of air passing through the system. Each percentage you increase in elevation is directly matched by the same percentage of assistance to above 8,000 feet.

Sea level horsepower takes on an entirely new meaning for mountain riding. What you get is perfect calibration, a factory warranty and a turbo that operates on pump gas. No more tinkering and tuning to get your sled running properly … only to have to start over when you change riding locations. You also have the peace of mind knowing this turbo is backed by a factory warranty.

You certainly can find more power with an aftermarket system. Ski-Doo wasn’t looking for more power, but rather, more consistency in power delivery. And if you think the price tag (about $2,750 more than a non-turbo Summit) is pricey, well, compare it to what you would spend to purchase and install an aftermarket turbo on your sled … and that won’t come with Ski-Doo’s 2-year warranty.

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