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Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S : Pre-ride analysis

Right from the beginning, our discussions with Polaris representatives have been intensive in order to choose our 2016 trial model. Many possibilities were offered to Francis Larivière, Polaris Industries Regional Representative, and to Christian Barbeau, owner of CM Barbeau Polaris dealer in greater Québec region. The expansion of the AXYS chassis in most of the models brought a nice problem : which model would be interesting for the Québec market. The usual way to innovate within the program of long-term trials of SledMagazine.com is to present year after year a new snowmobile model. But for 2016, Polaris decided to change these « long-term trials » into « EXTRA-long-term trials » and to present for a second consecutive year, the Polaris 800 Switchback PRO-S. « We think that this is the perfect snowmobile for Québec snowmobilers… It offers the optimal track length, the appropriate chassis and the perfect engine for many enthusiasts of the Belle Province », said Francis Larivière. « Even if we are happy with your first season on the PRO-S, we are convinced that there are still many nice discoveries to be presented about this snowmobile… It offers everything that Québec snowmobilers want », added Christian Barbeau, who is very happy that we continue with this vehicle.


The new 2016 Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-SThe new 2016 Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S

This is the second year of the new AXYS chassis and demand for this type of vehicle is growing due to its success of the first season, and this, most particularly in the 137 in. / 348 cm edition named Switchback. Our challenge with this machine will be very different this season, compared with the usual analysis of a new machine. We will rather deepen our tests and pay attention to the differences between our sled and the 2015 model. Also offered in PRO-X package, the 2016 Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S is definitely the model in this Polaris category that is most adapted to our reality. Last March, at the Snow Shoot, we have tested the PRO-S and the PRO-X editions and it has been easy to understand that the PRO-X is not designed for our market as its suspension is too rigid for most of Québec snowmobilers.


Christian Barbeau, owner of CM Barbeau Polaris dealer north of Québec City, accompanied by Marc Thibeault from SledMagazine.com and the new 2016 Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S
Christian Barbeau, owner of CM Barbeau Polaris dealer north of Québec City, accompanied by Marc Thibeault from SledMagazine.com and the new 2016 Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S

AXYS chassis

In the second year of a platform, there are often many correctives brought to it and some are minor, others are more important. In fact, engineers continuously work on small improvements that are not always mentionned. But in reality, when a manufacturer announces a modification, it often refers to a problem of the previous year that he has solved. There is absolutely no such thing for the Switchback and that’s a good thing ! It confirms that right from the first year, Polaris engineers hit the target with the new platform, the cornerstone of the vehicle. Same thing applies to the new design of the PRO-XC progressive-rate rear suspension of last year. It is back this year without any important modification, which shows clearly that the 2015 edition was finalized. As you know, a suspension efficiency is mostly based on the balance of the snowmobile in regards of weight distribution. It is also one of the strengths really obvious on the Switchback. The pilot is more centralized on the machine, such as the whole mass of the sled. The idea is simple, but yet very hard to realize : to centralize the maximum weight, including the rider, on the pivot point of the vehicle. This design seeked by all manufacturers improves not only the overall comfort of the pilot, but also the handling of the vehicle and it reduces the effort required from the pilot. Just lift the front and rear part of the vehicle for fun and you will see that there is less difference of weight between front and rear end than on the previous models, which tends to demonstrate this mass centralization.


Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S


Our Switchback PRO-S is back with the 800 Cleanfire H.O. that proved itself last year. Among its numerous features, I would like to mention the important loss of 2.5 lbs / 1,1 kg of the crankshaft, which definitely helps to improve throttle response. You must understand that the first thing moved by the engine is the crankshaft itself. Polaris announces a « huge » inertia reduction of 25 % caused by the crankshaft, which should be noticed again this year in throttle response. The other important element is the addition of standard Vforce reeds.  Used by many racing pilots, this system is meant to optimize the air/fuel mix intake and thus, to improve the performance of the engine. Many other technical features like the electronically-controlled exhaust valves and the high-efficiency intake and exhaust system, improve the engine performance. Behind the scene last year, people talked about an engine that would develop about 165 HP with outstanding accelerations, which tends to be confirmed if compared with other 800 cc on the market.

Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S

Standard features

Standard features of our Switchback PRO-S include electric start and mid windshield, very appropriate for regions north of the St. Lawrence River. The PRO-S model still offers the gauge of former PRO-RIDE generations that works well, but it should be made oversize. However, a colored larger gauge with many interesting functions is offered as an optional accessory. Like the Rush, the Switchback lineup is equipped with standard LED lights at front, a very interesting enhancement in the industry. Standard storage is minimal, but it offers a box above the gauge this year. The new larger electric controls with improved ergonomics, that you can operate on the fly, are now proposed on the Switchback. Also, our sled is equipped with lateral mirrors that can be fixed easily to the body in order to ride on trails in compliance with regulations. For complete description of the 2016 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S, please click here lien to read the detailed specification sheet.

Front and rear suspensions are both equipped with Walker Evans Piggyback shocks easy to adjust. With a ski stance of 42,5 in. / 108 cm, the PRO-STEER skis are still on this machine. At rear, our Switchback is equipped with the RipSaw II track of 15x137x1.25 in. / 38,1x348x3,18 cm, as the RipSaw tracks are successfully used by many manufacturers in the crossover category. With the AXYS chassis, you can reach more easily the rear shock and springs and adjustment is made easier.

The design of the hood and cab is a success thanks to the very trendy and sporty look. For example, the attachment system of both lateral panels is much easier to use with improved design. Also, you can remove all the upper part of the hood in just a few seconds without tools.

Polaris 800 H.O. Switchback PRO-S


How must we begin a second season with a vehicle that, at first sight, is very similar to its 2015 edition ? With confidence, of course, if we consider the previous season, but also with some fear that somebody at Polaris’ could have had the great idea, without telling us, to change a winning recipe. Of course, we are going to respect the break-in period but at the same time, we will have to find out how to reach the limits of the vehicle. After all, we must use the opportunity of a second year with this machine to raise our tests to another level. The other element that we will be able to take advantage of, is to get the participation and opinion of a second pilot during the season, which will bring a new dimension to the test.

The category of this vehicle is meant to enable you to go for long rides in various trail conditions, to take advantage of high performances and sometimes, to be able to ride in powder snow. Last year, we had the chance to run many tests in different contexts, but a second year will allow us to widen our experience and maybe, to face conditions not met until now. Also, the reliability of the vehicle will be assessed over 2 years and over 2 units, for a total of almost 10 000 km. Finally, we will be able to put to the test all the advices received from CM Barbeau team members about the adjustments to be made to the vehicle and this, right from the beginning of the season. Now, let’s go for the real test, let the season begin !

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