During the first week of March, the SledMagazine.com Team members attended the Snow Shoot 2014 in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Again this year, our test pilots tried out over 70 different snowmobile models. Since I came back, my mind is filled with landscape, mountains but overall, with images of the snowmobiles I had the chance to test. Today, it is time to present my best picks for each one of the manufacturers.
Many rumors have been running in the snowmobile industry during the last year. One of them usually outshined all the others; it was about an exchange agreement with Yamaha.
In February, this gossip became a fact when they announced a mutual supplying agreement between these 2 manufacturers. Arctic Cat provided the ProCross chassis while Yamaha provided the 4-stroke Nytro engine. We also learned that both manufacturers had been working together for the past years to integrate the engine into the chassis. At Arctic Cat’s for 2014, 8 models will be equipped with this engine (7000 Series), 3 ZR and 5 XF models. On the other hand, the 2-stroke engine is quite satisfactory.
After they announced this agreement, Arctic Cat surprised us when they made another announcement : the introduction of the new 2-stroke 600 cc engine, the 6000 C-TEC2. Totally designed and built by Arctic Cat, this engine is clean and efficient, said Arctic Cat. Also, only the ZR 6000 El Tigre and ZR 6000 El Tigre ES are equipped with this new engine.
During the 4 days of tests, I had the chance to ride more than 15 Arctic Cat snowmobiles. The ZR 6000 El Tigre ES is the model that impressed me the most. Effectively, the engine delivers interesting performance for the 120 HP engine category. Combined with the ProCross chassis, with the Slide-Action rear suspension and the Arctic Race front suspension, this snowmobile offers good comfort and a precise steering on trail.
I prefer by far the performance of this 2-stroke 600 cc engine over the 4-stroke Z1 (non turbo), even if both develop about the same power.The power input is instant and it feels much lighter at front. This provides great flexibility that reduces steering effort in turns.Then, the riding experience is very pleasant. So, the ZR 6000 El Tigre ES is my Arctic Cat best pick for 2014 !
Last year, Polaris re-introduced the famous name Indy with 2 new entry-level models. For 2014, Polaris extends the Indy lineup by presenting 7 new models, 5 of which being equipped with the 550 Fan engine. At first, we could wonder if it is logical to use the 550 Fan engine on these models…The idea is to offer affordable new snowmobiles to the consumer who is looking for the entry-level machine. Also, the wide range of models allows the buyer to choose exactly the machine that will satisfy his needs. This way, he does not have to limit his choice to the price of the snowmobile !
The 600 Indy Voyager and the 800 Indy SP are the models that definitely attracted my attention.
With the Indy Voyager, it is obvious that Polaris wanted to offer a model to compete with the Ski-Doo Tundra Xtreme. Effectively, this model was often the only choice for many snowmobilers, especially in the Province of Québec.With the Voyager, Polaris offers a very interesting alternative at a retail price of about 1 500 $ lower (600 Indy Voyager vs Tundra Xtreme). Even if it is not designed for trail riding, I liked the 600 Indy Voyager because it offers good performance and it is very easy to pilot. In deep snow and off-trail, it remains very easy to handle.
When I took place for the first time on the 800 Indy SP and went for the trails, I kept smiling all the way. Wow !
The combination of the Pro-Ride chassis with the 800 Cleanfire engine provides an outstanding result. The steering is very precise and the performance of the snowmobile is predictable. The engine is powerful and offers quick responses. The rear suspension is good for an entry-level snowmobile and works nicely in most of the situations. At a retail price under 11 600 $ CAD, it is probably the least expensive 800 cc model on the market. Considering the great pleasure I had to pilot this snowmobile, my Polaris best pick for 2014 is the 800 Indy SP.
Last February, Ski-Doo introduced their 2014 models. A few novelties and chassis migrations on some models have been presented. However, the highlight was without a doubt the introduction of the ACE 900 engine, even if most of the experts knew that it was only a question of time before Rotax would add one cylinder to the ACE 600 to produce the ACE 900 (which was not predicted by many). The addition of the iTC system (intelligent Throttle Control) and the three driving modes enhanced this new technology.
Since many years now, I have been wishing for clean powerful engines in the 90-100 HP category designed for entry-level models. It seems that my wish has been granted, but still I had to see how this engine would perform…So, I was eagerly waiting for the opportunity to try it out at the Snow Shoot 2014.
Before going further, I must say that the ACE 900 develops 90 HP. So, we cannot expect the performance of a 120 HP engine such as the E-TEC 600 or the 4-TEC 1200 also offered by Ski-Doo. In this context, we must evaluate the engine considering the market it was built for.
I have been impressed during my tests, by 2 models equipped with this engine : the Renegade Adrenaline ACE 900 and the MX Z TNT ACE 900. It has been very hard for me to choose one over the other. As these models already existed in the past, I will bring more attention to the engine performance. When they presented this engine to me in January, Ski-Doo representatives had told me that the engine performance in the Sport mode was very impressive. I thought then «ya, alright !», So, there I was, seated and ready to ride…
First, I selected the Eco mode and pressed the throttle. As expected, I felt some delay in the response and the snowmobile gradually accelerated. At the end of turns, same reactions… Ok, then I selected the Standard mode. The engine responded more quickly and accelerations were more powerful. It was then much more fun to ride and to try to follow my companions. After a few kilometers, we stopped and there, I switched to the Sport mode.
As soon as I pressed the accelerator, the engine responded and the acceleration was even more powerful. At that moment, I thought about the comments said by Ski-Doo people and I knew that they were totally right… In brief, I had the chance to test many different models during my stay and each time, it was the same conclusion. Also, it happened many times that I was riding a machine equipped with the ACE 900 behind snowmobiles equipped with 120-130 HP engines and I did not have any trouble to follow them, except on the long stretches because their top speed was superior.
I thought about it seriously and I finally decided that my Ski-Doo best pick for 2014 is the Renegade Adrenaline ACE 900, because I prefer the range offered by longer tracks.
Last February, after the announcement of the mutual supplying agreement between Yamaha and Arctic Cat, rumors started to spread again. Does it mean that Yamaha will not build snowmobiles anymore ? Are both manufacturers actually going to merge ?
Those are some of the questions I was asked very often…Well, according to Yamaha people, their upcoming strategy will show without any doubt that they want to remain an important player in the snowmobile industry. Also, Yamaha’s Executive Officers announced that for the next 5 years, they would introduce new snowmobiles each year. And during this same period of time, they would also offer new engines. That’s what I call good news for Yamaha fans.
As you must know by now, for 2014 Yamaha added 6 new models : the Phazer X-TX and 5 models of the new SRViper lineup. These last snowmobiles are built on the SR / ProCross chassis and equipped with the Nytro engine.
During my tests, I had the chance to ride each one of the 5 Viper models. Even if they share many features with the Arctic Cat 7000 XF/ZR models, they have their very own look and character. I especially like the blue SE models with white tunnel.
This said, after testing each Viper model, I was very impressed by the engine/chassis combo. The riding position offers great comfort and allows the pilot to move sideways easily on sinuous trails.
The 3-cylinder 1049 cc engine from the FX Nytro models delivers a very good performance. Its instant response and its couple are famous in the snowmobile industry and they were probably the factors that determined the choice of this engine.
Personally, I was particularly attracted by 2 models for their performance and handling, the SRViper X-TX SE and the SRViper L-TX SE.
Once again, I was torn apart between two models. Finally, I chose the longer version that offered the best range. I also prefered the rear suspension with Fox shocks and the traction of the Cobra track.
In brief, for these reasons, my Yamaha best pick for 2014 is the SRViper X-TX SE.