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2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

The 2016-2017 season is over and it is now time to present my final report on the 2017 800 Switchback Assault 144.

First of all, here is the context: The test has begun last October 26th and will end in April. I am lucky enough to live at the limits of Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspesie regions. So, I am close to many extraordinary areas where snow falls early and is usually abundant. I rode over 3 000 kilometers with this snowmobile, which gave me the opportunity to analyze thoroughly its performance and characteristics. Now, here is my final report on this long-term trial.

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

It was not a surprise when Polaris finally offered the AXYS edition of the 2017 800 Switchback Assault. We had been eagerly expecting it for two years. It was worth the wait. I must say that the Switchback Assault on the previous chassis was not really one of my favorites for different reasons, but the 2017 edition built on the AXYS chassis changed everything.

This snowmobile is built for off-trail adventures as well as for rides on groomed trails. So, it is a hybrid that, at first sight, is between the Switchback PRO-S and the RMK.

I found the Assault AXYS to be lighter, easier to pilot, more predictable, more precise and it offers better performances than the previous version. Of course, taking this into consideration, we can already say that this snowmobile offers a much more pleasant riding experience.

To achieve this edition of the 800 Switchback Assault 144, Polaris did not only use the existing components of the previous version on the AXYS chassis, but they totally redesigned most of the aspects of this snowmobile.

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

Personally, one of the first elements that drew my attention when I began to pilot the Assault is, without doubt, the performance of the brand new rear suspension. Effectively, the IGX 144 suspension offers incredible comfort on bumpy trails all while providing easy control of the machine like a bridge of 345,4 cm/136 in. The only inconvenience I noticed is that it is difficult to reach the adjustment knob of the Walker Evans shock.

The front suspension works very well and absorbs most of the bumps and unevenness on trails or off trails. Both Walker Evans shocks are easy to adjust and are very efficient.

The riding position has also been improved by the use of the AXYS chassis. Effectively, the pilot is sitting about 10 cm more forward with toe holds 5 cm more forward. This way, we get a more aggressive and more centralized riding position that enhances control on trails and off trails.

In off-trail riding, the machine is easy to bend and to maneuver. Even if I am no expert in off-trail riding, I rode a few times in deep snow. Thanks to the 2017 Switchback Assault, I had a lot of fun. 

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

The pilot position is natural and comfortable. The shape of the seat allows quick and easy moves. In touring riding, we can go for long distances in total comfort on this seat.

Another aspect of the 2017 Switchback Assault that impressed me a lot, is the performance of the 800 Cleanfire engine. It responses quickly and accelerations are impressive no matter the range of power. When exiting curves, pickups are strong and without any hesitation.

This is due to the numerous modifications brought by Polaris to the 800 Cleanfire. The manufacturer has improved many components of this engine to make it more efficient and powerful.

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

Even if this engine is more economical than its previous edition, we cannot say it is the most efficient on the actual market. However, the performances of the 800 Cleanfire made us forget about this small inconvenience. Also, the purchase cost of a similar model from competitors is often higher, which compensates for the additional 2 or 3 $ per full tank.

Ergonomics of the 2017 800 Switchback Assault 144 are really well designed. The elements of the riding post are properly located. I like the dials even if some data are, in my opinion, too small to be read easily while piloting.

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

I think it could be interesting to be able to change the display of the data using buttons on the handlebar. Even if it is not usual in the industry, I think it should be taken into consideration. All the other elements of the dials are impressive and we can also have the GPS offered as an option.

The different controls are located on the control block on the left side of the handlebar. We get used very quickly to their position and functioning. The hand and thumb warmers are effective even in extreme cold. But there have only two heat levels, so go too often from the minimum level to the maximum level. It happens that the minimum heat is not warm enough while the maximum heat is too warm in order to get the warmth desired by the pilot.

I also noticed that if we turn off the engine with the emergency switch on the handlebar and that the key remains on ON position, the dials remain lighted which could empty the battery. Polaris engineers are aware of this and they are currently working to solve the problem.

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

Backing up is very easy. Even if it is shown on the gauge, I think that a sound signal would be an interesting addition.

The AXYS platform offers a very attractive new look, but it also offers new side panels that are much easier to remove than on the previous models. The quality of materials and the finish are very nice.

The panel's design provides good protection against wind. Even with the original windshield, I have been surprised that the pilot was not too exposed to bad weather, which is a good thing mostly in colder temperatures.

The 800 Switchback Assault is also equipped with LED lights that offer outstanding lighting by night. Their light is clear, kind of blue, and very intense. As I ride very often in the evening, I really appreciated these lights that should be standard in the industry, considering that the cost of such technology has been reduced a lot during over the years.

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

Finally, I really appreciated my long-term trial of the 2017 800 Switchback Assault 144. It is one of the best snowmobiles I had the chance to try in the latest years. It is versatile, it performs well on groomed trails as well as on off-trail adventures. From the first rides in autumn to the last rides in spring, through all types of conditions met during the season, the Switchback Assault always gave me great pleasure behind the handlebar. If you are a snowmobiler looking for a good hybrid machine, I invite you to consider this snowmobile for your next purchase! 

2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault – Final report

A big thank you to Polaris for making the long-term trial of the 2017 800 Switchback Assault 144 possible and Garage Yvan Thibault, Polaris dealer in Amqui, for their professional services.


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