2014 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault 144
The 2014 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault is Polaris’ extreme crossover aimed at riders who play off-trail in swamps, bogs and snow-covered lakes as often as they blaze rough trails. The Cobra track and its 1.352-inch lugs is surprising for how well it can climb a grade covered in deep snow. What’s not to love about the power from the Cleanfire 800 engine? It’s smooth, responsive and strong so it can lift the skis to get over a log. In addition to the engine, another rock star feature of the 2014 Polaris Switchback Assault is its Walker Evans shocks used throughout the suspension. When adjusted correctly for weight and riding style, they soak up small chatter bumps and provide a supple and smooth ride that makes the chassis feel tight. And when bashing through big moguls at high speeds, the shocks help the machine track straight without swapping the rear or bucking the rider. Adjusting the shocks is really easy, thanks to big knobs and a label that says “Soft” and “Hard,” making it clear which direction a rider should turn the knob. Compared to other machines in this class from Ski-Doo, Yamaha and Arctic Cat, the Switchback Assault feels older, thanks to its softer, lower seat. Bigger, taller riders might like the tall, wide Pro Taper handlebars, but smaller people might feel overwhelmed by their wide spread that makes the whole machine feel big.
2014 Polaris 600 Indy
Indy models returned to the Polaris lineup last year with much fanfare, and for good reason. They’re reasonably priced, no-nonsense snowmobiles that look good and perform well. The tall handlebars on the 600 Indy — please note that this is a different handlebar setup than the 600 Indy SP — might seem too high for some people when they first sit down, but after they run it through a few turns they’ll probably like the setting. The high position provides a lot of leverage to push down on the handgrip during a turn to help keep the inside ski on the ground. The new Indy drives similarly to older Indys that required riders to steer from the rear by sliding the track out in turns. The 600 Indy’s short track lugs and straight lug pattern isn’t as laterally stable as most other tracks used on late-model snowmobiles, so that lets drivers kick the rear end out through corners. Overall ride quality is good, but the class-equivalent MX Z Sport 600 Carb from Ski-Doo is better. The Indy 600 feels less compliant through stutter bumps, but the nod goes to the Indy for its predictability and steadiness in rough terrain.
2014 Polaris 550 Indy Voyager
The Indy lineup expanded for 2014. In addition to the returning 600 Indy and 600 Indy SP models, seven new models will wear the “Indy” nameplate in 2014, including the 550 Indy Voyager. This sport/light-utility machine has got to be one of the easiest carving machines ever. It has fat skis for flotation, tall windshield for protection, tall handlebars for control and a big cargo rack on the back for versatility — a lot of people could get a lot out of a low-cost machine like this. The Voyager felt like it was terrifically easy to float around with — easy to modulate the throttle at lower speeds so it doesn’t trench. The 15- by 144- by 1.352-inch Cobra track seemed perfectly aggressive for the engine’s power output and we could move around quickly and easily in the woods. Just shift weight subtly from side to side — standing or seated — and the machine magically complies with a beautiful, controlled carve. The rear end is good, not jarring, and there is a lot of storage with the big rear rack. It’s a really comfortable machine that could be used for utility purposes, but also to trail ride when the work is done, or put off to another day. There’d be no reason not to. There’s a droning buzzing, vibration at mid ranges felt through the seat, but some people are into that, and maybe Polaris is trying to tap into that.
2014 Polaris 800 Switchback Adventure
Some critics argue that the Switchback Adventure is nothing more than a crossover snowmobile with hard bags, and that Polaris has gotten more credit than it deserves for creating a new class of snowmobile. That might be true, but if we had to choose between the Switchback Adventure and other similar models from Ski-Doo or Arctic Cat, we’d lean toward the Polaris even though it steers heavier and burns a little more fuel. Polaris has hit the nail on the head in marketing the Switchback Adventure as a fun, do-it-all snowmobile. Its persona is sportier and more adventurous than the cruisers from the other snowmobile manufacturers. This is Polaris’ ultimate sport/touring sled. Powered by the Cleanfire 800 engine, suspended by the full Walker Evans shock package and slowed by the ultra-sticky Phantom hydraulic brake, this machine is packed with high-performance features that let it blaze a trail almost as well as a Rush Pro-R, but with a 136-inch track, it performs surprisingly well in deep snow, too. The wide windshield and rubber wind deflectors on the side panels create a comfortable, wind-free zone for the driver.
2014 Polaris 600 Rush Pro-R
Now in its fifth year of production, Polaris engineers must feel that they have the 600 Rush Pro-R dialed in. (It was called 600 Rush for its 2010 debut.) The 600 Rush Pro-R didn’t receive any changes for 2014, except for colors and graphics, so its performance is familiar. It’s a fun sled that responds well to active drivers who get a kick out of shifting their weight and influencing where the machine goes and how it transfers weight. With a driver’s body all the way forward in the console, the skis stick and handling is sure. Crank up preload on the rear shock spring and steering control get even better, but steering effort goes up, too. Conversely, soften the spring or move weight toward the rear and the skis will float, giving the sled a sporty, ultra-responsive feeling. Walker Evans shocks in all four corners are ultra-capable for big and small bumps, and they instill a lot of rider confidence.