Here we go! With the pandemic continuing to plague us by depriving us of the start of the snowmobile season and causing delays in the delivery of our Mountain Max, the wait is finally over! It’s time to give our first comments on this beast.
Back in the Yamaha range after an absence of 17 years, the Mountain Max does not go unnoticed with its crazy and perfect look! It’s stunning, and it’s the first test snowmobile I’ve had the chance to try where everyone I talk to is unanimous on the overall look. It is also Yamaha’s first 2-stroke mountain snowmobile in many years. Although it is almost identical to its alter ego at Arctic Cat, it shows the Japanese company’s interest in becoming competitive again in the mountain snowmobile segment.
Isn’t it just so beautiful?
Not too many surprises when straddling the Mountain Max: usual controls, handlebars that you can also find at Arctic Cat, a digital gauge that would be due for a refresher, but still do the job. In terms of storage, there’s a small box under the console and a surprisingly large bag under the seat. It easily accommodates a spare strap and a lunch for two. We even get the standard electric starter for 2021! Like all snowmobiles on this chassis, the safety cord and 12v plug are also standard.
Naturally speaking, a mountain strap is present in the middle of the handlebar. It is always easily accessible, no matter how poorly we are positioned.
Although the ergonomics are fine, we could review the placement of the controls as well as the feedback of the buttons. There are, in my opinion, too many controls on the left side of the handlebars. For example, the heated handles and thumb could be combined to save space. Plus, the feedback from these buttons is very weak. Unlike when riding a trail snowmobile, you are often standing on the machine with very little balance and on uneven terrain. When I try, for example, to adjust the heated handles while driving off-trail, I’m never sure if I pushed the button hard enough.
Although it has been around for a while, I’m happy to do a long-term test drive with the 800cc engine designed by Arctic Cat. It sounds very pleasant to my ears and delivers its 165 horsepower very quickly during low-speed pick-ups. If you’re worried about whether the Mountain Max can do wheelies, fear not! As we know, the most important thing about the engine during off-trail riding is the engine’s reaction to low-speed acceleration (or “blips”). The CETC2 engine doesn’t skip a beat in this respect!
The Mountain Max in action
Now, let’s get to the thick of things for the Mountain Max: the single-beam suspension. Although not new to the industry, having been introduced in 2019 by Arctic Cat, it is at least one of the most interesting features for the Mountain Max. Having this underneath your snowmobile makes you feel like you’re “cheating” when you’re off the trail. It makes it so easy to tilt the machine from one side to the other in an instant that it’s ridiculous. If you have the chance to try a single-beam suspension for the first time, don’t get angry if you lean too much and fall sideways several times: it’s normal! In my opinion, where this central pillar is most useful is when positioning the machine for a maneuver, whether you’re stopped or moving. Indeed, a slight weight transfer and a little throttle will bring the snowmobile in the position you want (or almost!).
I don’t have my square, but it can’t be far from 90 degrees!
On the other hand, I’m sure you know that this “cheating” has a price. Indeed, it introduces a feeling of “plunging” when you are on the trail, or even in less than a foot of powder. To give you an example, if you want to turn left into a trail with about a foot of fresh snow (or in the trail), the right front suspension will collapse, plunging towards that same side and bringing the snowmobile to the opposite side where you really want to go. Fortunately, Yamaha has equipped the Mountain Max with Fox QS3 shocks up front. These, in addition to being adjustable with just a few clicks, drastically change the behavior of the front suspensions. If you add to this the habit of doing your weight transfers well when you turn, you eliminate a good part of this feeling, but not completely.
In terms of flotation, Yamaha has us covered very well! For starters, their new mountain skis paired with the 154” track with 2.6” lugs make the snowmobile always want to get on the snow when you hit the throttle. Several times already, I thought I was stuck in several feet of deep snow, but a good push of throttle would get me out of the mess and get the machine up on top of the snow, allowing me to take a deep breath before getting back on.
So, these are my first impressions of the Mountain Max. I’m thrilled to be able to spend the season at the helm of this new Yamaha mountain snowmobile! I can’t wait to get back to making doughnuts in the deep snow! In the meantime, I will meet up with you again for my end-of-season review. Feel free to follow my trial on our Instagram to make sure you don’t miss anything! I would also like to take a few moments to thank P. Labonté & Fils de Mont-Joli and Yamaha Canadafor making this epic test drive possible!