This winter I had the chance to test the Polaris Switchback Assault 2023 with the 850 Patriot with the Boost engine. Here are my impressions.
In terms of look, Polaris is very bold with the SwitchBack Assault, especially on the model with the 850 Patriot Boost engine. This model is exclusive and only available in the spring sale (Snowcheck). Sure, it’s hard to go unnoticed with a flamboyant color scheme like neon and orange like on the test sled. I am someone who would choose more classic colors for my personal snowmobile. Some of the color combinations are just beautiful for 2023, especially the blue model.
I have a preference for the look of the Axys platform, but I have a strong preference for the overall finish of the Matryx.
The handlebar buttons on the Matryx platform are easy to use. Small remark, the button for highlights will be more difficult to find if it’s cold and you wear mittens than before on the Axys platform.
The 7S screen is simply fantastic and intuitive. The screen provides a lot of information and is easily modified according to our preferences. It is easy to use both by touch and with the buttons on the side of the screen. Compared to the competition, one of the nice features of the Ride Command interface is that you can use the maps and GPS functions without being connected to the Internet. You can access maps and your real-time position on your snowmobile without having to connect your cell phone. It is also possible to form groups of friends via the Internet connectivity of the cell phone for people who do not have the 7s screen or a Polaris snowmobile. The Group Ride feature is just great.
In addition to seeing the distance from your friends, if you are on a slope, you can also see the altitude. When using the maps, in addition to seeing the streets, we can see the gas stations or hotels nearby, identify our points of interest and plan our routes in advance. The heated grips that can be set to the desired temperature to the nearest degree are also an advantage Polaris has over the competition.
Axys or Matryx.
Owning a Switchback Assault under the Axys platform, I can mention the following points. The skis lift less, and the overall behavior of the snowmobile is more predictable. This Matryx front suspension is literally better, the rear suspension is still quite similar and I don’t see any significant change in the behavior. I prefer the riding position on the Matryx, especially for the seat’s narrowness and legroom. As far as the Walker Evans shocks are concerned, they are different models, but I find the ride and adjustment to be quite similar. In fact, the front and rear travel remains unchanged. To sum up, the Matryx platform is a nice evolution, not a revolution.
This year, in addition to the 650 engine and the 850, Polaris is adding the Patriot Boost engine to its line of hybrid and trail snowmobiles, what a great idea. Polaris will be the first manufacturer to bring this engine to this type of snowmobile, an excellent idea. The 850 engine, which we’ve known since 2019, is used. We graft the same turbo that we find on some Polaris Mountain snowmobiles with Boost technology. Without listing all the details, here are some interesting points. First of all, we note the addition of about 20 pounds for the turbo and all its hardware, which is not much and does not affect the ride.
Also, the oil used to lubricate the turbo will increase your oil consumption between 2% and 6% depending on the conditions and the elevation. It is also obvious that on a turbo engine, if you have a heavy thumb, you will also consume more fuel. This turbo will be essentially controlled by the computer (ECU) and you won’t have to make any adjustments depending on the altitude. Of course, Polaris doesn’t talk about precise figures in terms of power. It seems that the model’s power with the boost engine is limited to 3 PSI at sea level.
In short, it would increase by about 10% the power of a standard 850. It also promises up to 50% more than a standard 850 at 10,000 feet up to a maximum of 9 PSI. To summarize, I don’t have a precise figure to provide, but it seems that the power would be around 180hp.
With the 850 Patriot Boost engine, I am really impressed with the handling of this snowmobile. This is definitely not a snowmobile I would recommend to a beginner. As Polaris states, the turbo response is immediate at all times, they did a great job. If it wasn’t for the thrust generated and the torque under acceleration, you would think that this turbo doesn’t work because you almost never hear it. However, it’s quite the opposite, this turbo is almost always in pre-load and when you press the gas pedal it responds almost instantly. In fact, the calibration of this snowmobile means that we are almost always in overdrive.
When you push hard on the throttle, it doesn’t really kick, the power is linear and it pushes. This turbo is not really intrusive, for example, you will not hear the noise of the blow-off valve, you will not have extreme thrust and some will be disappointed by this aspect. The turbo is always present, which favors the acceleration at the end of a turn.
Off-road, the throttle is well calibrated and well controlled and you will have a little “boost“. In this sense, the snowmobile is easier to control than I thought. Having a turbocharged two-stroke snowmobile in my hands gives me a feeling of lightness that I have never experienced on any other production snowmobile. This is definitely one of the fastest snowmobiles I’ve ever ridden that came from the factory. The CVT transmission does a great job of delivering power and you will be over the speed limit very quickly. With the 1.35-inch track, the Switchback Assault will be able to reach a top speed of around 190km/h, which is absolutely insane for a hybrid snowmobile.
Suspension and Behavior.
I should note that the rear deck is a bit higher on the Switchback Assault. This is simply to have less of the track surface still touching the snow, making trail riding easier. So, with less surface area touching the snow, we won’t feel like we’re riding a 146-inch snowmobile. Moreover, the IGX rear suspension is uncoupled, these two aspects will make this snowmobile less stuck to the ground. With this snowmobile, we can easily do a standing start and accelerate over a long distance without the skids touching the snow.
In curves, the skis will definitely lift more than on a trail sled. Those who are not used to the snowmobile will not like it much for this aspect, but you quickly get used to the behavior and the snowmobile remains predictable. For a hybrid snowmobile, I can comment that the front suspension is excellent and easily above average for this type of machine. Those who prefer riding with a snowmobile planted on the ground will prefer the Indy VR-1.
In my case, I have mixed feelings.
In the curves and bumps, the Indy VR-1 is literally better. But in the end, I have more fun riding the Switchback Assault on a day-to-day basis because of its spiritedness. It is simply exciting to ride and still a fairly agile snowmobile. In addition, we enjoy its off-trail behavior. In this sense, this snowmobile floats on the snow and its off-trail behavior inspires confidence, but also with its limits. Those who focus on comfort will probably be disappointed by the behavior of this snowmobile and its shocks. As for me, I prefer a sporty ride and firm shocks that eat up the bumps. In terms of ergonomics, the new Matryx platform does better.
The riding position on this new model is excellent and the snowmobile is narrower at the front. Therefore, it allows me to move easily from side to side and to have a better weight transfer when riding. In that sense, it’s as beneficial on the trails for devouring curves as it is off the trails. The center of gravity is low and the riding position is perfect for me.
First of all, I’d like to see Polaris bring the same level of power to sea level as they do at altitude. I would also like to see a new rear suspension or improvements to the IGX suspension. It’s not that it’s bad at all, but rather that it’s getting a bit old. Still, this suspension does the job and is still relevant in the snow and on the track. Another small point is that the Boost technology is relatively new. In this sense, I would recommend to those who want to buy this snowmobile in the long term to wait and see how reliable it will be with the years of a turbo two-stroke engine.
Finally, I would have liked to have kept the same track options, such as the 1.6-inch Cobra that you can choose with the standard Patriot 850 engine. This track is in my opinion a more appropriate track than the 1.35 I tested for this type of snowmobile.
My conclusion of this test of the Polaris Switchback Assault 850 Patriot Boost 2023
In conclusion, Polaris brought a lot of technology with this engine. The SwitchBack Assault is still one of the best hybrid snowmobiles on the market. A luxury snowmobile with a lot of technology. It’s a perfect snowmobile being imperfect. It gets by just about everywhere without being the best on the trails, without being the best off the trails. Also, it has its own adrenaline and that’s what I like. It is simply fun to ride and I appreciate its behavior. Finally, a big thank you to Polaris and motoneiges.ca for allowing me to test it.