Every year after evaluating snowmobiles for the upcoming season, Snow Goer magazine names a Snowmobile of the Year and Top 10 list in its November issue (which mails in early September). Below is the writeup of the 2017 Top 10 snowmobiles. To see the 2017 Snowmobile of the Year article, click here. And to see critical analysis of these and other machines on an ongoing basis, plus aftermarket product reviews, interesting feature stories, informative how-to articles, vintage snowmobile articles, stories on riding destinations and much more, click here to subscribe to Snow Goer magazine.
REPRINTED FROM SNOW GOER MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 2016 ISSUE
Top 10 Snowmobiles Of 2017
IF YOU FLOAT AROUND on the Internet for more than five minutes you’ll likely find a link to a click-bait oriented Top 10 list – Top 10 Ways To Know If Your Children Are Plotting Against You (No. 1 answer: they are teenagers!); Top 10 Reality TV Stars Who Crave Attention (No. 1 answer: all of them); Top 10 Fail Videos That Involve Significant Pain To Private Parts (how could it be narrowed to 10?).
This list is definitely not a part of that clutter. Instead, the annual Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year and Top 10 is a carefully selected list of the snowmobiles that best meet the needs of a variety of riders. Factors such as ride quality, engine performance, handling and a machine’s capabilities within its intended focus are certainly contemplated, but there are other considerations as well including price/value, build quality, comfort, technology, fit-and-finish, market appeal and more. With more than 200 snowmobiles to choose from for 2017, narrowing the list to 10 wasn’t easy.
The end result is a list of snowmobiles that stand above the crowd. They are in no particular order.
POLARIS 600 RUSH PRO-S
Fun, Reactive, And It Fits Right
For 600-class buyers who enjoy spirited rides on twisting trails, it’s nearly impossible to select a better partner than the light, fun and exciting Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S. There are no dramatic changes for 2017 – only the gauge has changed to a unit that’s easier to read at a glance – but we’re OK with that because this is a well-balanced, quick-reacting snowmobile with just-right ergonomics and excellent handling that make it a thrill to guide through the woods, down rugged or smooth ditch lines or across fields. At just 432 pounds dry, it is the lightest 600-class entry on the snow.
YAMAHA SIDEWINDER L-TX SE
A Lake Racer’s Dream
The most powerful stock snowmobiles ever built burst upon the scenes at the 2017 Rode Reports in the form of Yamaha Sidewinder and Arctic Cat 9000 Series models, and they impressed every person who touched their throttles. We’re talking about 200-plus horsepower of pure, unadulterated adrenaline surging out of a high-tech 998cc turbo-charged engine that sets many new standards. Its power delivery is silky smooth and linear, yet shockingly aggressive. Is this much horsepower necessary? Absolutely not. But there is definitely a market for the ultimate lake-race machine that’s backed by a factory warranty. The L-TX version is the way to go because it puts more track on the ground to keep things in check.
SKI-DOO MX Z TNT 900 ACE
Making Snowmobiling Easy
Some consider snowmobiling a good workout; others may think it’s a way to work out some aggression. But if your ideal snowmobile trip involves stress-free relaxation and comfort, the MX Z TNT 900 ACE may be the perfect snowmobile for you. No matter the conditions below the machine, riding on it is like floating on a cloud. It’s quiet. It requires very little steering effort. It handles very well. It has the industry-best rMotion rear suspension. Its smooth 900cc four-stroke twin sips gas, has a feathery-light throttle pull and has varying driving modes so drivers can tailor their ride. More than any sled on the snow, this machine makes snowmobiling easy.
ARCTIC CAT ZR 6000 LIMITED 137
Appealing Trail Mix
There are often machines within a sled lineup that pull together and showcase the very best of what a brand has to offer. Often, they are the high-buck machines, but the best Cat is the ZR 6000 Limited 137. It’s a great combination of the best of Arctic Cat’s ProCross chassis – with its broad, roomy ergonomics – and the revised-in-2016 137-inch Slide Action rear suspension with significantly better spring and shock settings that help bump absorption and handling. Cat’s 600cc DSI engine and second-year clutching matches that combination well, providing smooth, linear and fun power that is snappy but doesn’t overpower the chassis. Throw in adjustable Fox QS-3 shocks and you’ve got Top 10 material.
POLARIS 800 PRO-RMK
The Mountain Benchmark
Since its introduction in 2011 and through its various iterations, the 800 Pro-RMK has been at the top of the heap when it comes to mountain performance. Other brands have tried to catch up, but the RMK keeps evolving and moving the bar. It is back in the Axys chassis with the 800 H.O. engine for the second year. Its competition is closer than ever before, yet the Pro-RMK remains a top choice for skilled backcountry riders and powder-riding newcomers alike who appreciate its intuitive nature and incredible capabilities in virtually any snow condition. It’s maneuverable, confidence-inspiring, lightweight and a load of fun, plus it comes in varying track lengths and lug heights.
YAMAHA RS VECTOR
Snowmobiling’s Honda Accord
Some vehicles do their job so well, year-in and year-out, that they sometimes get overlooked, though reviewers of such machines often see the beauty of their time-tested platforms. Much like the storied Honda Accord that has made the Car & Driver 10 Best list 19 straight years, Yamaha’s RS Vector has cracked the SG Top 10 an impressive nine times in 13 years. Why? Because it’s a fine trail machine – stable, predictable and comfortable, with a strong and wide powerband, traditional ergonomics and proven dependability. After getting a new engine and rear suspension last season, you won’t find any notable updates for 2017, but you find a snowmobile that just delivers exactly what the rider expects.
SKI-DOO SUMMIT X 850 E-TEC
High-Tech Mountain Climber
Already one of the sport’s best-selling models, the most powerful Summit model received a huge upgrade for 2017 with a new REV Gen4 chassis, spacious new ergonomics, powerful and quick 850cc powerplant, pDrive clutch, light and grippy PowderMax Light track and updated RAS 3 front and tMotion rear suspensions. You can read the specs elsewhere, here we’ll just tell you this: This is the best, most agile, quickest reacting, hardest hitting and lightest feeling big-inch Summit ever, and considering this brand’s lineage, that’s saying something. Plus, it’s priced cheaper than most of its competition, too. It’s available in 16- by 154- or 165-inch tracks with either 2.5- or 3-inch lugs.
POLARIS 800 SWITCHBACK ASSAULT 144
Renewed Crossover Prowess
Always a fun ride for rugged adventures, the 800 Switchback Assault 144 moves to the light and agile Axys chassis with a full tunnel for 2017. The move gives this off-trail weapon the power boost of the 800 H.O. engine, plus the new Ideal Geometry X-Over (IGX) 144 rear suspension improves the Switchback Assault’s capabilities on and off the trail. Overall, it oozes with attitude, the drivetrain and chassis react in an instant to driver inputs, allowing it to leap over logs, carve like a mountain sled and play harder than other crossovers. Available with either 1.3- or 2-inch track lugs, this Assault comes with a ProTaper handlebar plus stiff and free-flowing PowderTrac Hybrid running boards.
SKI-DOO RENEGADE ENDURO 800R E-TEC
Tough, Friendly & Hooked Up
After a year to get used to the Renegade Enduro platform, it still seems like one of the biggest dichotomies in the sport – in a good way. Glancing at the machine, it looks ultra-macho, with its square-shouldered, masculine package highlighted by its rugged front bumper, protective windshield, long track and unique color and graphics package. Yet when hauling this thing down a trail, it’s a darn nice ride – with the smooth-riding rMotion rear suspension aided by an adjust-on-the-fly shock on the rear arm, cushy seat and a comfortable layout. It’s also one of the most hooked-up sleds on the snow – with adjustable Pilot TS skis and the stud-infused IceRipper XT track.
POLARIS 600 INDY
An Affordable Trail Burner
Every other snowmobile in this year’s Top 10 list costs more than $11,000, but none of them could get away from a good rider on the $8,399 600 Indy on a tight trail. That’s because the Indy, despite its alluring price tag, features excellent handling, great power from the injected Cleanfire 600 twin and has quality suspensions that keep up in all but the very worst trails. Its ergonomics appeal to a broad range of riders, and the engine can deliver a calm or exciting ride, depending on who is controlling the throttle. You can find sleds with better shocks, showier suspensions and higher-tech features, but you won’t find a better bargain in the market.