By Lynn Keillor
When the new snowmobiles are announced each year, there tends to be a common theme that runs through each producer’s lineup. Last year, the strong buzz word was “lightweight.”
For 2009, a general attitude is a bit more obscure, with the four snowmobile manufacturers each tackling different technological areas. Ski-Doo will hit the market with advanced engine technology. Polaris addresses economy and handling, and Arctic Cat is a combination of those two. To date, Yamaha has introduced just one new model, and won’t introduce the rest of its lineup until mid-March. Following is a quick look at the 2009 snowmobile lineups.
Arctic Cat product manager Joel Hallstrom touted three chief changes when presenting the lineup: light weight, sharp handling and more power.
Major changes have occurred in the Crossfire models, the Twin Spar chassis, in the Z1 four-stroke engine and in the Bearcat model.
The F-series returns this year, but with less mass. Total weight loss for these machines are in the 11-pound range. The biggest weight-loss factor is because of a new reverse system that removed gears, bearings, linkage and a shift motor out of the ACT Drive unit.
The reverse system, called Arctic Cat Engine Reverse (ACER), is the same technology employed by both Ski-Doo and Polaris.
The mountain models also shed some weight, dropping 22 pounds. The M machines have lighter rails, lighter rear axles and the new ACER reverse. They also have a new track, a new steering post and a redesigned tail that shortens overall vehicle length by 6 inches.
There are new lightweights in the Arctic Cat lineup: the Crossfire R models. The Crossfire R machines now have less “hybrid” and more “trail sled” with a 14-by-128-inch track. Gone are the mountain handlebars.
All F-Series sleds, still in the Twin Spar chassis, have improvements for sharper handling while retaining the light steering.
To give more precision handling, engineers tipped the tunnel up, which moves the steering angle forward 1.5 degrees and makes the wheelbase slightly longer. In addition to the better cornering ability, early test rides indicate the sled seems better balanced and there is an upgrade to rider comfort with flatter footwells.
The Z1 engine comes with extra boost this year with the addition of turbo power.
Cat presented a dyno chart of the engine output and is saying 177 hp at 7850 rpm, making it the most powerful stock snowmobile engine on the snow.
The engine is offered in both a standard and LXR package Z1, and the new-model Z1 Turbo Touring.
Price and power are the buzz words again at the Polaris camp. The price comes with the expansion of the economical Shift lineup and the power comes from a new 800 Dragon SP model.
In the mix, some models disappear, such as the Super Sport, and new models are born, such as the the 800 Assault.
A New Premium Snowmobile
Polaris places its performance bets on its new, full-season 800 Dragon SP.
The 800 Liberty engine came out last year in the RMK series and has a said horsepower of 154. The SP weighs 15 pounds less than a standard short-track Dragon. The weight loss came, in part, from a new nosepan, an aluminum front bumper and fewer parts in the front suspension. The rear suspension offers 13.9 inches of travel and weighs about 5 pounds less than the standard IQ rear suspension, Polaris says.
Another machine with the SP treatment is the new 800 Assault. This 146-inch deep-snow sled is an RMK aimed at backcountry explorers rather than extreme mountain climbers.
The price-point IQ Shift model will come back this year and brings new friends: the 550 IQ Shift, the 600 IQ Shift 136 and the RMK Shift.
Polaris has not given an indication of full lineup pricing, but says that the goal is to be a price leader in each category.
The 550 IQ Shift uses the 550cc fan-cooled engine and replaces the Super Sport. It’s proposed MSRP is $5,399.
The hybrid market is addressed with the 600 IQ Shift 136, which uses the coupled 136-inch suspension and the revised 600 CRI engine called the 600 CFI 2. It’s built from the same crank, case, pistons, cylinders and head as the 600 that came out in 2006, but the CFI 2 gets fuel from two injectors purely as a cost-saving measure. Polaris rates the 600 CFI 2 at 120 hp.
Dealers and the public got a sneak peek at Ski-Doo’s 2009 lineup with two early announced machines — and at the same time, got a peek into the company’s latest engine technologies.
The two engines, Rotax 600 H.O. E-TEC engine and the Rotax 4-Tec 1200, show advancements in engine-building through direct injection and four-stroke technology.
In addition, the company has expanded the lightweight REV-X chassis to include new platforms: the REV-XR and the REV-XU.
The direct-injected E-TECH engine uses technology from BRP’s Evinrude outboard engine lineup. For the snowmobile application, this is the next step up from the Rotax semi-direct injection engine in terms of emissions. In fact, this engine replaces the 600 SDI engine in all applications.
E-TECH is cleaner than the carburated and semi-direct injected engines because all of the fuel is combusted. The E-TECH also required less oil, too.
Ski-Doo says E-TECH engines improve fuel economy by 15 percent and use half the oil of its semi-direct injection engine. Editors from PSB’s sister publication Snow Goer magazine were not able to test those statements in initial media rides, but they say the E-TECH machines had a smokeless start-up and near zero smell.
Ski-Doo officials were not shy in saying its taking on Yamaha’s Nytro with its new four-stroke engine. They projected that four-stroke machines will make up 36 percent of the market in 2009, up from 27 percent in 2008 and 19 percent in 2006.
The 1200cc 4-TECH is a high performance, three-cylinder, dual-overhead cam engine rated at 130 hp. The fuel-injected, four-valves-per-cylinder engine is fed by a single 52mm throttle body. The target weight for the TNT 1200 is 499 pounds.
From a service perspective, Ski-Doo says it’s designed for easy serviceability and maintenance with oil changes every 1,800 miles and easy access to the oil filter and drain plug. Industry-exclusive finger-follower valve train will lessen the time for adjustments.
The 1200 4-TEC is available in MX Z, GSX and GTX models.
Ski-Doo has two new platforms to accommodate new designs.
For the four-stroke engine, it’s the REV-XR. It rides on the same front and rear suspension as the XP-based machines, but a new engine cradle provides extra space for the powerplant.
On the utility side, the Expedition TUV is built on the new REV-XU platform. It has wide running boards and a beveled tunnel for more seating area than the straight tunnel that houses the 20-inch track machine. The XU runs on same front suspension as the REV-XP, but it uses a special utility-bred rear suspension.
Yamaha sneak peek
The full Yamaha lineup is under wraps until its dealer meeting concludes March 13, but the company has offered a look at one machine in its 2009 fold.
The company unveiled the FX Nytro XTX in February and billed it as the ultimate crossover snowmobile.
The machine has two main features: tipped-up rails and new front suspension geometry.
The skid frame uses a 144-inch track, but the rails angle up 11 degrees at 121 inches. The goal was to give the sled 121-inch handling when on trails but 144-inch flotation when off-trail.
The geometry was revised in the front suspension, with more than 10 changes from the 2008 Nytros. The changes might not be immediately visible but include adjustments to the upper and lower A-arms, tie-rods, spindles, sway bar, ski rubber and skis.
In a test session, Snow Goer riders noticed the new geometry helped settle down the formerly twitchy front end. The machines corner flatter, plus the straight-line bump and deceleration wander have been eliminated.
The rear suspension uses the fully coupled Dual Clicker CK144 rear suspension. It features clicker shocks front and rear, allowing riders to dial in their preferred setup.
Yamaha officials also say the XTX is slightly faster than other Nytro models, since the long track can operate more efficiently when bending around the rear wheels.