For a 5th consecutive year, I have the great privilege of doing the long-term test of a Ski-Doo snowmobile in collaboration with Les Motoneiges Géro, BRP dealer in Saint-Jean-de-Matha. When the time came to discuss the model to be tested for the 2023 season, my first choice was of course the Renegade X-RS 850 E-TEC. Specifically for the most recent iteration of the REV platform, the Gen5.
I also have a preference for the lighter ride that an E-TEC powertrain offers, so I was very excited for the upcoming season with the confirmation of the test model. Therefore, a summary of the main things I will be watching more closely throughout the season.
REV Gen5 Platform
Ski-Doo’s big news for 2023 is that the new REV Gen5 platform is making its grand entrance into the trail lineup. Only available in the 850 E-TEC version with the new platform, the Renegade X-RS is undoubtedly the best-performing trail model in the lineup regarding the best features for tackling tough trails. With the addition of a 4th engine mount and a change in the vibration absorption hardware, it is expected that vibrations should be significantly reduced versus a similar configuration with the REV Gen4 platform. This is certainly something we would like to observe during our test.
According to our discussions with BRP’s technical teams, the REV Gen5 also offers an optimized design for better belt cooling, with an air intake on the top of the left panel instead of drawing in heated air from the engine compartment. We will regularly notice belt wear to evaluate this feature. The configuration of the trail models with the new platform has a similar ergonomic feel to the previous one, but the overall riding experience will be the focus of our analysis throughout the season.
Engine 850 E-TEC
The naturally-aspirated 850 E-TEC engine is back for a sixth season in the Ski-Doo lineup, with all the advantages of performance, lightness and, above all, the presence of its 165 horsepower. Despite a memorable test drive last winter with the Mach Z model and its 180-horsepower 900 ACE Turbo R engine, I wanted to experience a new version of the Mach Z. I wanted to experience the 850 E-TEC again with the new REV Gen5 platform for all the performance benefits of the vehicle. Since I snowmobile with colleagues who have models with ACE engines, I will be particularly attentive to the gas and oil consumption of the snowmobile. As for the engine performance, I already have a very good idea on this subject with the tests of the 2017, 2018 and 2021 seasons which were all done with models equipped with this engine.
As mentioned earlier, the 2022 season test was conducted with the Mach Z model with 900 ACE Turbo R engine. The Smart-Shox suspension is a very significant feature of this model and significantly improved the driving experience and performance of the vehicle, this was confirmed by my test. With an 850 E-TEC engine, the change in vehicle dynamics will be completely different with a 52-pound reduction between the two models. I am therefore curious to see how significant the improvement in the vehicle’s performance will be in the bumps of a busy Sunday afternoon trail in southern Lanaudière.
If the 2021 version exceeds my expectations in this regard, I can’t wait to see if the Smart-Shox electronic assistance will make a significant difference. It is important to remember that the Renegade X-RS is equipped with the RAS X suspension up front and rMotion X in the rear. The Smart-Shox system is an option on this vehicle when ordered in the spring.
The new digital clock face
With the 2023 test model, I also have the chance to try out the all-new 10.25″ touchscreen. Until now in my tests, the dials were not necessarily the center of attention since they were usually fully functional giving all the useful information on the important driving parameters of the vehicle. The MachZ was also very interesting with its compatibility with the BRP Go application and navigation options. The new 10.25-inch dial is a complete game changer in this regard. Having seen it in action at the Quebec City snowmobile and ATV show, I believe this new screen will be a considerable advantage for all snowmobiles. Especially with its ease of reading, interactivity, customization options and connectivity with BRP Go. My goal with the display is to really evaluate its added value versus the standard one in terms of the overall driving experience of the vehicle.
Available as an option with the 2023 Renegade X-RS, we chose the 1.25″ ICE Ripper XT again this year. It offers a significant performance and safety advantage on the trail, especially when cornering, braking or icy sections. The ICE Ripper XT with its studs pre-moulded to the track generally offers the best compromise between a track with versus without studs, both for durability, performance and safety.
With the sometimes-marginal trail conditions we regularly find in southern Quebec, I think an ICE Ripper XT is a must. I will be able to evaluate this aspect again this winter.
All the elements mentioned above influence the dynamics of the vehicle and form a whole that can be summarized in an overall assessment of the driving experience. I have been snowmobiling on a regular basis for about 30 years and have experienced the entire evolution of the Ski-Doo line since the 1980s models. My perspective as a test rider and reviewer for this review is really the angle of the demanding and experienced snowmobiler looking for a high-performance machine. It must include the best engine and suspension technologies in a regular trail riding context.
In particular, I want to validate if the suspension of the Renegade X-RS 850 E-TEC is comfortable for the vast majority of the time on the trail, but also capable of handling the worst bumps in sport riding. Also, is the wind protection sufficient with the standard windshield, or is the addition of a higher version necessary on colder days? This will have to be confirmed.
With the snow that fell during the holidays and the opening of the trails that followed, I had the opportunity to do two outings with the snowmobile before the end-of-the-year warm-up. It’s too early to give you my first impressions, but it’s obvious that the season will be more than interesting with what I’ve experienced so far.
In conclusion, I would like to thank again our partner Les Motoneiges Géro for their collaboration in this long-term test. I invite you to contact them and visit their dealership for all your needs in terms of Ski-Doo and Can-Am off-road products.
I also invite you to watch the video on the Ski-Doo 2023 Ultimate Experience filmed during the assembly and delivery of the Renegade X-RS that will be used in this long-term test.