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2024 Switchback XC: A Season of Discovery and Pleasure on the Trails

2024 switchback xc 2024

After over 20 years of test-driving in the world of snowmobile magazines, I can tell you that this season has been… exceptional. Without pretension, I’ve experienced a multitude of situations as a test rider over the years. Honestly, it’s the first time I haven’t had the time to test a hybrid in all conditions. I received my trial 2024 Switchback XC at the end of January, leaving me only February to put a few kilometres on it.

With no powder snow available at that time, I decided to focus fully on the trails. I covered over 2,000 km, mainly in February. Although this is a sufficient number of kilometres to explore the different features of the Polaris 2024 650 Switchback XC on the trails, I still hope to keep it for next season to complete my test.

A Nearly Perfect Riding Position

There’s no need to be on the trail to perceive that the riding position is clearly advantageous for the rider. A simple sit-down in the showroom gives a good idea of how the posture looks. But on the trail, one quickly discovers the numerous advantages of the rider’s advanced positioning on the Matryx chassis. Feeling almost upright, it becomes instinctive to compensate on rough trails. Standing up slightly requires minimal effort, thus reducing the impact of bumps.

The transition from left to right is also very easy when adopting an aggressive driving style, thanks to the positioning as well as the shape and texture of the seat. Finally, the advanced rider position easily allows putting weight on the inside ski in tight turns. However, knee pads should be considered for taller riders like myself. In aggressive driving, the knees repeatedly hit the rear part of the side panels on bumps.

The Best Suspension Setup

Regarding the shocks, the XC version of the Switchback falls in the middle of the spectrum among the three versions of this model. The Walker Evans shocks of the Assault version are very rigid, while the Polaris IFP shocks of the SP model are more resilient. Equipped with FOX QS3 shocks, the Matryx suspension at the front of the 2024 Switchback XC performs wonderfully. It strikes the perfect balance between comfort and vehicle control. Even in turns with big bumps, the rider manages to keep control of their trajectory thanks to the remarkable work of the shocks.

At the rear, Polaris has risen to the challenge of having as effective suspensions as at the front. The IGX-146 is proof of that. Its versatility, combined with the three positions of the shocks, offers several options between comfort and absorption capability. Thanks to the different preload adjustments of the rear springs, I was able to easily find several combinations depending on the trail conditions. Unlike most shocks, where adjustments are subtle (or even imperceptible), the three positions of these shocks have a significant and very noticeable impact on the vehicle’s behaviour.

Although the Polaris IFP shocks of the SP version offer slightly more comfort at the rear, I much prefer the versatility of the FOX QS3. They perform better on rough terrain, while avoiding the stiffness of the Walker-Evans. The shock adjustment mechanism is also easy to use at the front, as it is within reach. They remain more difficult to use at the rear due to their positioning and the ice that forms almost systematically.

2024 switchback xc 2024

The Engine That Suits 80% of Snowmobilers

In today’s world, the vast majority of buyers will opt for an 850 cc engine. This is due to the small price difference compared to the 650. This is probably what most harms the sales of this little gem of an engine. For less than $1,000—on a purchase of nearly $25,000—most buyers opt for more power. But let’s be honest, with over 135 HP, according to sources, I did not suffer from a lack of power throughout my tests.

Another great quality of this engine is undoubtedly its smoothness of operation. No vibration is felt at any speed. This may seem trivial, but in the long term, over hundreds of kilometres in a day, one appreciates this smoothness. As for power, there is obviously plenty of horsepower on the trail. Very good accelerations, strong pick-ups, and enough top speed for the vast majority of snowmobilers.

The fuel and oil consumption of the Patriot 650, with Cleanfire injection, is a significant advantage over the 850. For me, this point is not a cost issue, but rather one of ride autonomy in remote areas. The 650’s range causes me much less stress in reaching the next gas station than some of my friends. Regarding reliability, the engine has a very good track record among dealerships. Indeed, very few problems have been reported. To make a sporting analogy, I would call the Patriot 650 the “underdog” of engines at the American manufacturer.

An Exceptional Driving Experience

When it comes to manoeuvrability, the Matryx chassis has already proven itself. That said, my 2024 Switchback XC is still equipped with a Cobra track (146 × 15 × 1.6), which can pose a challenge on the trails. Fortunately, the portion of the rails behind the suspension is curved upwards. This makes it easier for the driver to handle turns. The footprint on a hard trail is reduced, giving the impression of having a 137-inch track.

I was charmed by the ease of driving the 2024 Switchback XC and its manoeuvrability on winding trails. There’s little resistance on the handlebars, making long rides less tiring. Equipped with the standard carbides, the snowmobile may experience a bit of understeer, but it remains very predictable. The same goes for aggressive driving where the inside ski may tend to lift. Again, this happens gradually, and the rider has time to adjust, as the snowmobile easily forgives these small deviations.

In pursuit of perfection, I allowed myself to add double Trek carbides from Qualipièces with a trajectory corrector. Thanks to this little trick, I have an incredibly agile snowmobile that is simply perfect in turns. It will be difficult for me to find a better ride in the hybrid category. Naturally, the track provides very good traction when exiting turns to quickly regain cruising speed.

The Verdict Is Unequivocal

After over 2,000 kilometres on the trails, my heart is already won over. Although many may argue that a 137-inch snowmobile would be better suited for the trail, I prefer to have the option of the longer track. It will allow me to handle myself when I need to venture off the beaten path, quite literally. Certainly, I didn’t have that opportunity this season. But I never suffered from the 146-inch track on the trail, both in winding trails and at top speed.

So, I benefit from a predictable snowmobile that forgives in many cases where I could have often found myself in a bad situation. Although I had to face several more challenging trail conditions, I had a blast driving the 2024 Switchback XC. The suspension and handling never disappointed and provided the perfect balance between comfort and performance. I have no regrets about my choice of engine either. Indeed, the 135 HP available were more than enough to provide me with the adrenaline rush I sought. The Polaris 2024 650 Switchback XC 146 is a snowmobile that I would buy without any hesitation given its versatility and the enjoyment it gives me.

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