To help readers find the right snowmobile, Snow Goer magazine annually selects its Snowmobile of the Year and Top 10 sleds – picking 11 sleds that stand out for the way they serve their intended buyers. This year’s group of snowmobiles includes quick and light trail snowmobiles and rugged utility machines; interesting new crossovers and notably updated snowmobiles in age-tested platforms; high-tech mountain climbers and affordable family sleds. Is your future snowmobile on the list? In no particular order, here are the Snow Goer magazine Top 10 Snowmobiles for 2016.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that can take a really good machine and push it toward greatness. Although it’s got a new name, the ZR 6000 137 Limited didn’t get a new chassis, engine or suspension for 2016 vs. last year’s XF 6000 Limited, the sled it replaces. But the rear suspension has lower-rate springs and new shock settings that improve the ride quality and the handling of the machine, making it ride smoother and corner better. Plus, the ZR gets new, easily adjustable Fox QS-3 shocks and new Rapid Response clutches from TEAM Industries. Added together with the spry 600-class DSI twin, these features make this an excellent long-track trail machine.
After being limited to X package spring buyers a year ago, the T3 mountain package is now available all year long on 2016 Summit SP models. That’s good news. A Summit with a 16- by 174-inch track is a hard-to-beat highmarking machine, thanks to its massive footprint. Yet, despite what may seem like common sense, this longboard is also a surprisingly forgiving boondocking sled, as its incredible flotation allows for slow-going in the trees with less fear of getting stuck, even for less aggressive or relatively new powder riders. In the hands of an expert, though, the powder-churning 3-inch lugs can create limitless possibilities as they carve a deeper path into the previously unreachable backcountry.
Easy to overlook with all of the SR Viper hype of the last couple of seasons, the RS Vector remains, in our opinion, Yamaha’s best trail sled. Its easy-to-ride nature and cool demeanor have made it a Snow Goer Top 10 sled seven previous times dating back to 2005, but for 2016 it inspires even more confidence thanks to the inclusion of the three-mode YCCT drive system and the SingleShot rear suspension. The YCCT is the most natural feeling throttle-by-wire system on the market, and it’s time-proven on Yamaha’s motorcycles, while the SingleShot is lighter and more efficient than the Mono Shock design it replaces. Plus, the Vector’s traditional ergonomics, flat cornering, powerful-yet-manageable four-stroke engine and high-quality aura make it an easy sled to love.
With the move to the raised version of the Axys chassis, the sport’s best production mountain sled just got lighter, more powerful, more agile and better overall. The 2016 Polaris 800 Pro-RMK gets up on top of the snow easier and carves better, thanks to a new rail profile, fresh suspension calibrations and new track options. Plus it has a stronger and more dependable powerplant in the 800 H.O. that spools up quicker and hits harder. Overall, the 800 Pro-RMK 155 weighs just 408 pounds and it is still the sport’s best-balanced, easiest to maneuver deep-snow sled. All of this helps to create more confidence, and thus more fun and less work, on those deep-powder days that mountain riders crave.
If ever there was a snowmobile that drove like it wanted to take you for a ride down the trail rather than the other way around, it would be the Renegade with the 900 ACE engine. Nothing about this sled is abrupt or harsh. From the smooth-riding rMotion suspension to the predictable handling of the RAS 2 front end to the well-appointed REV-XS chassis, this combination of features is put together with easy-going trail riding in mind. Add in the quiet and efficient, 90 hp, four-stroke engine with linear acceleration and selectable driving modes, and you’ve got a sled that seems to ride on a pocket of air.
The defending Snowmobile of the Year makes its way into the 2016 Top 10 list due to all the reasons it was honored a year ago. With a full season behind it, the Axys chassis, Pro-XC suspension and 800 H.O. engine have all lived up to their initial billing. This is a lightweight, agile and fun snowmobile that is quick to respond to the driver’s desires, whether that means cornering on rails, accelerating like a demon or lifting the skis over a rise on command. The fit and finish and attention to detail that designers put into this sled show a level of refinement not previously experienced from Polaris.
Recent international growth of utility sleds sales have caused each manufacturer to upgrade its work machines, but nobody has taken a bigger swing at the market than Arctic Cat. Purpose-built features on the new 2016 Bearcats include the new ProUte WT chassis and the innovative Wide Range 3-Speed (WR3) transmission with high, low and new super-low forward options. Other proof of the designers’ intense focus on the utility user include mega-wide skis that can be set at a stance from 37.5 to 43.5 inches, a new front-mounted radiator wisely located outside of the engine compartment and a huge 14.7-gallon fuel capacity. It even has a backup light for hooking up a trailer or drag after dark.
Yes, it’s true – today’s high-tech sleds do cost more than the sleds available 20 years ago. But for as little as eight grand, riders can still get a brand new sled that is fun, dependable, predictable and comfortable, and is powered by one of the sport’s best engines. Found in the Pro-Ride chassis with a traditional, coupled rear suspension and a full-length tunnel, and featuring the exhilarating, fuel-injected 600 Cleanfire engine, the 600 Indy is a snowmobile that can be used to break-in newcomers yet it can keep veteran trail riders smiling all season long. It doesn’t have the full list of amenities of some higher priced sleds, but it’s ability to create happy memories is unlimited.
At a glance, the Renegade Enduro has the built-in attitude of a bruiser. Its earthy paint job, monstrous front bumper and general square-shouldered appearance makes it look like a brush-tearing, swamp grass-thrashing bully. But this new machine has a multi-dimensional personality. The ride is plush, thanks to the air shock-aided rMotion rear suspension and a soft seat. The experience is comforting, thanks to a king-sized windshield with side flares, long list of standard features and the smooth and efficient 800R E-TEC engine. The 137-inch track is off-trail capable but it performs best on trails, thanks to a hook-up enabled by stud-tipped lugs on the Ice Ripper XT track plus the adjustable Pilot TS skis.
Whether his or her idea of fun is charging through mogul fields or piling on 200 miles a day, a rider who spends weekends on twisting trails would be hard-pressed to find a more willing and capable dance partner than a 600 Rush Pro-S. Its semi-direct injected 599cc engine is perhaps the sport’s quickest reacting engine, especially when found in the second-year Axys chassis. The sled feels so light and is so well-balanced that it is a pure joy to hustle it down a trail. Natural ergonomics, good wind protection and spot-on handling add to the experience. For those who appreciate agile-handling, 600-class trail sleds, it doesn’t get any better than this.