Does the 2015 Ski-Doo MX Z Iron Dog Special represent the end of the end for “short,” short-track sleds? We think it could.
A longer wheelbase can make a snowmobile more stable and help it to track straighter and truer through rough conditions. Other plusses are better traction for acceleration and braking. Drawbacks can be slower steering response, a wider turning radius and extra weight caused by the bigger track and longer suspension rails, shocks and torque arms.
The speedy Arctic Cat Firecat was released for model year 2003 and it was the first performance trail sled to use a longer short-track (which might represent the beginning of the end for short tracks). At 128 inches, the Firecat track was 7 inches longer than the long-held industry norm, but at 13.5 inches wide it was narrower than usual, too. All current ZR models have 15- by 129-inch tracks, and trail-performance Yamaha SR Viper models are based on the same platform. Yamaha stretched its flagship Apex SE model to 128 inches in 2011. RS Vectors and Phazers still have 121-inch tracks, but those are older models whose days within the Yamaha snowmobile catalog are probably numbered.
Circling back to Ski-Doo, we’d bet that the Canadian company will present more models with 128-inch tracks in its 2016 trail-performance lineup – perhaps as part of an all-new platform. If that happens, it will leave Polaris as the only snowmobile company building performance-based sleds with tracks shorter than 128 inches. Frankly, it’s somewhat surprising that 2015 Rush models on the all-new Axys platform didn’t get a longer track because the Polaris 600 IQ Race Sled has had a 128-inch track since 2014. (Other than the lightweight crankshaft in the new 800 H.O. engine, there isn’t much, if any, design or technology that crossed over from the IQ Race Sled to the Axys platform, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised after all ….) That racer’s 128-inch track length isn’t part of the company’s consumer sled lineup yet, but market trends and consumer demand could force that to change.
In addition to perhaps signaling the direction of Ski-Doo’s future snowmobiles, the 2015 Ski-Doo MX Z Iron Dog Special could also be interpreted as Ski-Doo’s answer to the ZR 6000 R XC that Arctic Cat unveiled at Haydays. Arctic Cat’s primary goal in building that ZR, said snowmobile product manager Joel Hallstrom at the unveiling in September, is to win the United States X-Country (USXC) I-500 next month, but Ski-Doo also wants to win that highly competitive Midwest race.