Snow Goer magazine editors recently returned from a week-long trip in Montana where they tested all of the hot 2017 snowmobiles, including the all-new Ski-Doo Gen4 REV models like the Renegade, MX Z and Summit that have the new 850cc Rotax engine. In addition to miles logged in the West, Ski-Doo set us up with a prototype 2017 MX Z X 850 E-TEC to ride at sea level. We spent two days last week in the far-northern part of Minnesota, our home state, where we got to feel its full power and gain more experience with the Gen4 REV platform. There are many great features of the 2017 Ski-Doo MX Z X 850 E-TEC, but here are five that struck a chord with us.
1. 850 E-TEC Engine – We’ll just cut to the chase and say it: The new 850cc Rotax engine flat-out rips! For people who are familiar with 800R E-TEC, the new engine is more responsive and spools up quicker, making the machine it’s attached to feel lighter and freer. This responsive and fun nature made it hard to resist cracking the throttle every chance we got, even if it was to shoot forward just a short distance. And the 850’s exhaust note has a more menacing sound than that of the 800R E-TEC, emitting a note we’d describe as a snarl or growl when the driver opens the throttle. Fortunately the sound is pleasant to the ears so we never got tired of hearing it sing its sweet, powerful song.
2. Rack Steering – We took our 2016 MX Z X 600 H.O. E-TEC demo along with the 2017 MX Z X 850 E-TEC loaner, and that ride cemented our opinion that the new rack steering system and RAS 3 geometry found on Gen4-based MX Z X and Renegade X models is better for aggressive, rough-trail riding than the RAS 2 or earlier REV front suspensions. Our travels took us on a 20-mile trail through the woods that was absolutely bombed out with repetitive stutter bumps – conditions that historically transmit excessive energy through Ski-Doo chassis and cause their skis to wander. But slamming through bumpy corners caused considerably less movement at each end of the 2017 MX Z’s handlebar than the 2016’s, which made for a less-fatiguing and more enjoyable ride. RAS 2 debuted on some 2015 models and it was a step in the right direction toward making Ski-Doos track as predictably as the industry leading Polaris front end, but the new rack steering is a larger leap toward that goal.
3. Console & Adjustable Handlebar Riser – Is it possible that precise snowmobile handling isn’t achieved exclusively through the suspension or steering systems, but instead it can be achieved with a better console and ergonomics package? As we said above, the new rack steering system improves rough-trail handling on the X package Gen4 REV models, but Ski-Doo didn’t drastically change the front suspension itself, other than adding an inch of travel. But the new sled is easier to control and drivers can more efficiently and more effectively influence where it goes, thanks, partially, to the Ergo-Step body panel design and adjustable handlebar riser. We say “partially” because the narrower engine package enabled the new body design, so some credit is due there for making the 2017 Ski-Doo MX Z X 850 handle so well.
4. Easy-Adjust Throttle Cable – Mechanics and DIYers will appreciate the new throttle cable that will allow them to easily set throttle lever freeplay. Current E-TEC engines use a throttle cable whose freeplay is adjusted on the end that connects to the throttle body. That means the air box has to be removed to allow access to a confined area with a pair of 10 mm wrenches to make the adjustment. But with the adjuster and jam nut up near the throttle lever on the 2017, tuners will simply slide off the rubber sheath to access them. Every year, it seems, we’ve had to tighten up the freeplay on at least one of our Ski-Doo demo sleds (including the 2017 prototype shown here), so this revision will be convenient when it comes time to prep our demos next fall and beyond.
5. Serviceable Chaincase – The new Ski-Doo Gen4 REV chassis features an easily serviceable chaincase similar to the case on the first-gen REV that came out for 2003. As the accompanying photo shows, chain tension can be adjusted externally by removing the metal clip and turning the adjuster bolt. And there’s an oil drain plug on the bottom of the case so unlike with REV-XP and later versions, owners and mechanics won’t need to remove the battery, muffler and chaincase cover to service the drivetrain.
Here is where you can read about the full lineups of 2017 snowmobiles.