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Short-term trials: Polaris 800 Switchback Assault 144

Among the Polaris snowmobiles we ride today, we have a 800 Switchback Assault 144.  The manufacturer calls it the perfect 50/50 sled between deep snow (RMK) and performance (RUSH).  The Switchback is an interesting snowmobile, rather powerful, comfortable, manoeuvrable and attractive. 

At first glance, some pre-conclusions are obvious.  First, it is a solo riding snowmobile, with some storage room on rear tunnel.  Handlebars are built in such a way that the rider can stand up and yet keep control of the sled and grab the bar hooks in turns.  The front suspension, with the Walker Evans shocks, reminds us the high performance sleds.  The rear tunnel with a 144 in. track and the clearance of the suspension bring the deep snow to our mind.  Everything is mixed up here…

Besides the sum of its components, a salad is also made of what a salad dressing brings in.  About the Switchback, the ingredients are top quality and the salad dressing is quite a success !  The snowmobile we test today has been improved with the addition of SnowTrackers to the skis and studs to the track.
We can say it right now, we have been quite pleased by the machine.  We experienced a very good control in trail, a satisfactory steering stability and a very good track pulling with the added studs.  The front and rear suspensions did a good job too.  It is not a touring sled though and sometimes, we did feel the sacrifices made to improve the sport handiness at the expense of the long ride comfort.  But cornering and control during cornering were faultless.

The mirrors are adequately mounted and the instrument panel is easy to read.  The rather simple informations are well presented and readable, but sometimes sunshine or sheen just make the reading impossible.  Under the handlebar are located 3 buttons in front of the fuel tank.  These are the hand and thumb warmers controls, with only 2 settings.  Another button activates the headlight (high beam / low beam).  The third one controls the functions and type of display on the dash.  These 3 buttons are out of our field of view and far from our hands and the handlebar.  To manipulate the buttons, thus we must take our eyes off the trail and let go the handlebar.  Furthermore, they are tiny and hard to access with gloves, even more with mittens.

Even if the running boards are wide enough to set our feet in a control position, standing up for example, this becomes more difficult when seating.  Indeed, despite the width and length of the running boards, there is not a lot of space to move our feet forward inside the cab.  Thus, when seating, which is the most frequent position in trail, our feet are quite backwards.  We would appreciate more space that would provide a more natural position.

The Switchback is propelled by a 2-cylinder 2-stroke 800 cc engine with the Polaris Cleanfire fuel injection technology.  Even if upgraded, this mill remains a 2-stroke with odors, gas fumes and vibrations.  In the same line of thoughts, the aggressive track and the rather sport rear suspension produce and transmit a significant level of vibrations.

We have been surprised by the Switchback.  It is not perfect, of course.  But for a versatile snowmobile aiming more to be sport than touring, it is a very interesting compromise.

Today, we rode 168 km and consumed 25,9 l of fuel, for an average consumption of 15,4 l / 100 km (or 16,5 mpg).

1 Handling and riding position  4 / 5  4 / 5
2 Comfort and suspension  4 / 5 3,5 / 5
3 Access to controls  1 / 5  1 / 5
4 Engine power  4 / 5  4 / 5
5 Engine noise and vibrations 3 / 5  3 / 5
6 Track rolling  2 / 5  3 / 5
7 Track pulling  3 / 5  3 / 5
8 Vehicle finishing  4 / 5  4 / 5
9 Odors and gas fumes  3 / 5  3 / 5
10 Fuel consumption 3 / 5 3 / 5
11 Passenger position N/A N/A
12 Passenger comfort  N/A  N/A
 Total  31 / 50 31,5 / 50

The snowmobiles we tested today have been gracefully made available to us by our collaborator
Les P’tits Moteurs
359 Rte Laurier
Ste-Croix (Cté Lotbinière), Qc
Phone : 418-926-3960

We would also like to mention how much we appreciate the collaboration of Kimpex.  Indeed, our test pilots are equipped with Kimpex clothes and accessories.  We really wear them and we appreciate them !


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