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 Top 10 snowmobiles for 2018. To see the 2018 Snowmobile Of The Year, click here.
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Top 10 Snowmobiles Of 2018
WHAT’S A BETTER AUTOMOBILE: a Ford SuperDuty pickup, a Mercedes Benz S-class sedan or Chevy Malibu Hybrid? Well that obviously depends on your application – the SuperDuty will tow your trailer with ease, but it’s not going to dice up a twisting highway like a S-class sport sedan, and it’s certainly not going to get 49 MPG like that Malibu.
So it goes with the world of snowmobiles. It’s hard to directly compare a trail-focused short-tracker to a long-track mountain machine, or a 200 HP bullet to a 90 HP cruiser. Our mission with the annual Top 10 list is to look across the varying segments and applications to pick out the snowmobile in each area that best satisfies its riders. These are the machines that stand above the crowd.
SKI-DOO MXZ X 850 E-TEC
The Defending Champ
All the great features and technologies that made the MXZ X 850 E-TEC the 2017 Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year are back for a sophomore season. More seat time with the REV Gen4 chassis and Rotax 850 E-TEC engine dramatically reiterated what an excellent snowmobile this is. It has class-leading power yet is very comfortable being ridden in a more tame fashion; it has the sport’s best rear suspension that’s excellent in all conditions; it’s got roomy and adjustable ergonomics that fit virtually any style of riding. Plus it’s built to last. Changes for 2018 are merely fresh colors and graphics, but this machine didn’t need help to stay at the top.
POLARIS 600 RUSH PRO-S
Best In 600 Trail Class
For 600-class trail performance, the shining star is still the Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S. It makes dicing up a twisting trail enjoyable thanks to the lightweight and balanced Axys chassis platform: It combines just-right ergonomics, quality suspensions that make the rider feel connected to the trail and the most reactive 600-class engine in the sport to make for entertaining rides in any conditions. The machine is very reactive to rider inputs – small changes in body position can plant the skis in a corner or let them dangle when chances to play arise.
YAMAHA SIDEWINDER L-TX LE
Calling the Sidewinder (and its sister machine, the Arctic Cat ZR 9000 Thundercat) “the Ferrari of snowmobiles” is selling it far short. Consider this: The Ferrari F12 Berlineta is a 729 hp supercar with a 3,609-pound curb weight and $380,000 pricetag. That’s 4.95 pounds and $521 per horsepower. The incredible, turbocharged Sidewinder L-TX LE accelerates just as hard for the first 1,000 feet, otherwise the whole machine weights 3.44 pounds and costs $84 per horsepower. Plus you get a sled with good handling, comfort-tuned suspension and a classy cool aura. Go ahead, try and take your Ferrari through stutter bumps on a Sunday afternoon trail with the comfort and control of a Sidewinder. We dare you.
SKI-DOO FREERIDE 850 E-TEC 165
A New King Is Born
Want a sled that will dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee in the mountains? The Freeride is a new favorite weapon of choice. In one sense, it’s a square-shouldered bully of a sled: reinforced suspension components and running boards plus high-end KYB clicker shocks dare the rider to launch farther and land harder. Add in the hard-hitting 850 E-TEC, and you’ve got some real brute force. But the Freeride also has a delicate side. Thanks to the balance and ergos of the REV Gen4 chassis plus revised tMotion rear suspension, this sucker will dance like a ballerina in powder-filled bowls and across steep sidehills. It’s also available with the SHOT starter system.
SKI-DOO RENEGADE BACKCOUNTRY 850 E-TEC
A New Crossover Benchmark
When describing the Renegade Backcountry, engineers in Quebec said their aim was to build a true 50/50 crossover that could be ridden assertively on and off the trail. It sounded good, but then we rode it, and it was better than good – it was outstanding. The Backcounty is very respectable on the trail – the narrow front end is a bit of a liability but the new cMotion rear suspension is very capable in all conditions and particularly impressive in stutter bumps. Off-trail, the Backcountry was a joyous playmate, with the quick-hitting 850 twin making it easy to bunnyhop over obstacles, while the machine’s balanced chassis allowed it to effortlessly carve through powder.
POLARIS 600 INDY
A Sled For Everybody & Anybody
The often-overlooked 600 Indy has become a regular on our annual Top 10 list for a couple of simple reasons: First, it’s a great sled for everyone – it’s strong, consistent, well-suspended and easy to drive down any trail. With its neutral ergonomics, good throttle response and tame manners, it can satisfy a beginner or less assertive rider with ease, yet veteran riders will appreciate its ability to pick up the pace when they choose. Second, it’s a great deal on a completely modern sled. For its $8,599 MSRP, a rider gets a strong and proven fuel-injected engine (read: no carbs to mess with), decent shocks, a great gauge and modern engineering.
Arctic Cat ZR 8000 ES 137
A Renewed Spirit
Perhaps the most-improved long-tracked trail sled for 2018 is the Arctic Cat ZR 8000 137. It starts with a new Arctic Cat-built engine: The 799cc liquid-cooled twin shares its basic architecture with its Suzuki-built predecessor, but from the saddle it is 10 times more fun thanks to its quick reactions enabled by a clean-running design that delivers a sharp hit of power every time the throttle is engaged. That power is sent through new Rapid Response II clutches that are also highly efficient, enhancing this sled’s fun-factor. Add in new body work plus the returning, smooth-riding suspensions and spacious ergonomics and you’ve got a winning combination for trail riders.
POLARIS 800 PRO-RMK 155
Light, Nimble & Fun
After a long time at the pinnacle when folks compared modern mountain sleds, the 800 Pro-RMK has finally been severely challenged by its competition in yellow. Is the RMK still the best? Arguments could be made on either side, but there’s no doubting this it is still easily one of the 10 best snowmobiles built today for the way it satisfies its riders. The Pro-RMK combines an unmatched lightweight design and supreme balance to make it one of the most intrinsic machines ever built. It claws through, climbs atop of and then floats in powdery snow with ease, and its agility makes direction changes almost effortless.
YAMAHA APEX LE
A Lifetime Of Achievement
It may not be one of this year’s best, but this sled deserves a lifetime achievement award. The Apex lineage dates to the 2003 RX-1, a vehicle some people ridiculed as the “RX 1 Ton” as they doubted whether four-stroke powered snowmobiles were viable. Fifteen years later, four-strokes are about 20 percent of the market. It was relabeled as an Apex in 2006 and has since been a testing-ground for all sorts of new technology – EXUP exhaust, electric power steering and for 2018 the Yamaha Reactive Suspension System (YRSS) that links the front two shocks. Not all of its innovations have spread, but we appreciate that this model – now in its last year – has been a breeding ground for ideas. Goodbye, dear friend!
SKI-DOO MXZ TNT 900 ACE
Just Like Butter
When it comes to easy, calm, care-free snowmobiling, machines featuring Ski-Doo’s 900 or 600 ACE engines are a cut above. They are quiet, smooth, unassuming and relaxing – and a great way to visit the beautiful backwoods in the winter. All come with a feathery light throttle pull and three driving modes enabled by the high-tech intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) throttle-by-wire system. The MXZ Sport 600 ACE is the price point leader at $9,049, but we chose the TNT 900 ACE ($10,799) because its engine will satisfy a broader range of riders and it has a better ride thanks to the bump-erasing rMotion rear suspension, upgraded shocks and a 129-inch track. Snowmobiling has never been this easy.