2017 Snow Shoot : Stephane Miville’s best picks

Arctic Cat

The Thundercat is back !!!

Our test pilot Stéphane on the 2017 Thundercat
Our test pilot Stéphane on the 2017 Thundercat

The partnership agreement with Yamaha produces again this year a new machine in the Arctic Cat lineup. A brand new engine is introduced to replace the good old Suzuki turbo 1100. It is a turbo triple 4-stroke 998 cc with triple throttle body. According to engineers, its power is estimated to 180 HP. However, all of us who rode it agree to say that this is a very conservative figure. When we were at West Yellowstone, it happened many times that we saw both manufacturers’ representatives smiling at our comments about the power of this new beast… The key words were « At least 180 HP, did they say… ».

Even if this engine is the 2017 main highlight presented by the manufacturer from Thief River Falls, my best pick goes to its overall achievement. Right from the first kilometers on the Thundercat, we feel lightness that makes us forget about the big 4-stroke…

I think that engineers really wanted to bring back the feel we had years ago on the good old Thundercat, power, handling and comfort… Effectively, the combination of the chassis, the calibration of the 137 in./347,98 cm Slide-Action and the Fox Zero QS3 shocks makes this snowmobile very easy to pilot. On my first ride, I wondered if I was really on the 998 cc; with such minimal steering effort, I felt like piloting a 600… The skis with dual keel split runner are so efficient that there is almost no darting and they bite in turns very strongly, no over- or understeering. Despite the lightness feel, the front end remains flat on ground; we only need a slight move outside the chassis in aggressive cornering and there we go. Very very surprising…

Turbo 4-stroke engine of 998 cc
Turbo 4-stroke engine of 998 cc

Cross-section of piston and valve of the 998 cc
Cross-section of piston and valve of the 998 cc

In matter of performance, no doubt, this is the most powerful standard snowmobile ever sold by a manufacturer. As I am writing this article, there is already a dynamometer result shared on forums that talked about over 200 HP… The TEAM clutches work very well; on all models equipped with the turbo engine, the new TEAM Rapid Response II is introduced. With this one, no more need to adjust the belt tension on the drive clutch. Add to that the new design of the side panels and the hood with the new LED light and you get a hit for 2017 ! This is for sure my 2017 Arctic Cat best pick !!

BRP GO! improved

Polaris

800 Cleanfire engine
800 Cleanfire engine

Refinement is the key word for the 2017 Polaris lineup. I can hardly pick only one snowmobile as my favorite 2017 machine because, very sincerely, all the lineup is amazing… My best pick is without doubt the 800 cc engine; we talk about a 10 % increase of the weight/power ratio for 2017 on some models.

 

Stéphane Miville on the 2017 XCR
Stéphane Miville on the 2017 XCR

After testing dozens of models, I have to talk about the new XCR !! Ready for cross-country race, this small bolid is a mix between a PRO-S and a PRO-X, reinforced chassis, many Chromoly suspension parts, reinforced suspension cradles, even solid bogie wheels for more strength. On trail, the calibration of the Walker Evans shocks is a little less rigid than the PRO-X, so still rather comfortable in small bumps and when it becomes rough, the fun begins, with the 800 Cleanfire motorization… A real jewel…

The same thoughts come back year after year about Polaris at the Snow Shoot. Is it the people on the site who work so well ? Is it their wide experience in mountain and altitude calibration that makes the difference ? One thing is sure, the adjustments and calibration of clutches, engine and suspension are always finalized for this event. People at the Snow Shoot are attentive and meticulous, they validate with us on each of our returns how was our ride, what we think about the snowmobile, etc. It is worthy of mention…

Ski-Doo

2017 MXZ X 850
2017 MXZ X 850

2017 is a big year for Ski-Doo, new engine, new chassis, new drive clutch, etc.  How interesting for us, reporters !! Even if the new 850 cc is truly a brand new 2-stroke technology, this is not the highlight of my tests. My best pick goes to the Gen 4 REV chassis !!! You know the words « It suits me very well » ? Or « Cozy as old slippers » … Well, this was my reaction after a few kilometers on the new chassis… In the X edition with the new adjustable handlebar riser block, we can easily switch from a smooth riding to an aggressive riding in a few seconds. The most interesting is all the effort brought to improve the pilot’s ergonomics in aggressive riding. First, the shape of the new Ergo-Step side panels enables you to slide much more efficiently forward in aggressive cornering. Then, the new tapered tunnel combined with the new narrower seat makes easier the sideways movements. Also, it is easier to take our feet outside in very aggressive riding thanks to the open-sided toe holds. And lastly, the upper part of the toe hold is now adjustable to let the pilot hold on with his toes when he is completely outside his machine.

2023 Yamaha Sidewinder SRX LE

 

Connecting rod of the 850 E-TEC
Connecting rod of the 850 E-TEC

Crankshaft of the 850 E-TEC
Crankshaft of the 850 E-TEC

The 850… Impossible not to talk about it. I would call ingenious the construction of this 2-stroke designed for reliability… As you must now by now, a 2-stroke will always be more vulnerable due to its design than a 4-stroke. But if you mix some technologies the way Rotax did, the final result is very interesting !! The important element is without doubt the new crankshaft now made of 2 parts connected in the centre. Each crank is made of one forge piece. So, they had to redesign new connecting rods and needle bearings in two pieces to be fixed to the crankshaft, like in the automotive industry… In matter of performance, be careful with all you hear; without doubt, the 850 is efficient, the pick-ups of the prototypes we tested were not satisfying but top speed was faster than competitors’ 800 cc ! I can’t wait to test it again at sea level…

Yamaha…    

Sidewinder
Sidewinder 

Sidewinder, Sidewinder, Siiiidddeeewiiinnnder !!! What more can I say ! Totally japanese-designed, this new turbo rises the bar for 2017… Power, response, smoothness, that’s what comes to my mind to describe this new turbo 998 cc !! As I said about Arctic Cat, the numbers presented are very conservative, but one thing is sure, it pulls… Yamaha did it all for 2017 with not less than 12 Sidewinder models, from the models of 129 in./327,6 cm with 1.25 in./3,175 cm studs to mountain models of 162 in./411,5 cm with 3 in./7,6 cm studs !! In short, there is something for everyone.

 

Stéphane Miville on the Sidewinder L-TX LE
Stéphane Miville on the Sidewinder L-TX LE

Personally, I felt in love with the Sidewinder L-TX LE equipped with a track of 137×1.25 in./348×3,175 cm, with Fox Zero QS3 Kashima shocks and Tuner skis. The combination of the chassis with the turbo 998 is impressive, in usual bumps on trail, the suspension does a great job, which makes it feel like a much lighter snowmobile. As already known, the Tuner skis offer much bite, in sinuous trail, the Sidewinder remains flat on ground, and I can tell you it is very hard to follow it on trail. It is sure that in more extreme conditions with bigger bumps, the feel of weightiness is obvious but in usual conditions, steering is almost perfect. Since a long time, we have been expecting something with performance, good riding position and comfort from Yamaha… We have it now !!! Congratulations !!