Sled: 2008 Polaris 700 Switchback
Modifications: Race Shop Inc. handlebars; Rox Speed FX adjustable riser; Skinz windshield bag; AD Boivin ZX2 rear suspension
For 2008, Polaris updated its Switchback models with a coupled 136-inch rear suspension that replaced the longer 144-inch. During the late 2007 season, we took delivery of our 2008 demo model for spring riding and kept it in our fleet last year. As a result, we were able to get well acquainted with the machine, putting well more than 2,000 miles on the odometer.
We loved the power of the 700 Liberty engine, an option no longer available to trail riders. It’s an engine we’ll miss. It had a smooth power delivery and the clutching was spot-on. On par with Polaris’ product mission, power and response was best in the engine’s mid-range, with plenty of power through the top. Fuel mileage suffered when running the machine with a meaty throttle thumb.
At times we only managed a 90-mile range with the sled, which means our fuel mileage was sometimes as low as 7 to 8 mpg. Driving the machine more conservatively would result in mileage of about 10 mpg so it was possible to cover 100 miles between fill-ups, but it was tough to have any sort of restraint with the right thumb when accelerating.
The new, coupled 136 worked well on the trails. Even though the former 144-inch Switchback had tipped rails to shorten the on-the-ground wheelbase, the shorter skid arrangement is much better on the trails for overall handling. The longer version had a tendency to push in the corners. Drivers of the coupled 136 sled have a hard time telling the difference from a standard short-track Polaris.
Off-trail flotation was compromised with the shorter track, but there was more gained in ride quality than just improved trail handling. Suspension performance in the bumps is better because of the coupled front and rear arms, a feature the 144 never had.
Even though there is less track surface area to stay unstuck in off-trail excursions, the shorter track makes the current Switchback more flickable in the bush. Negotiating trees and other obstacles is easy and predictable without too much effort. Like Polaris’ mountain sleds, we would like the Switchbacks updated with better running board traction.
We pulled out the stock skid and had the AD Boivin ZX2 composite skid installed, and then logged more than 1,000 miles to test its ride quality and durability. For a full review of the suspension, log on to snowgosite.wpengine.com.
We also equipped our Switchback with a set of Race Shop Inc. carbon fiber handlebars for a separate product test. While we don’t have a specific complaint against the stock bars, the upgrade made us realize that the machine benefited from wider, flatter bars with easier steering and better overall control.
Our 700 Switchback was a great machine, but its discontinuation is proof it was underrepresented and lost in a large model lineup. The latest Switchback models (600, 800 and four-stroke turbo engines) are standard with electric start and pushed as the replacement of the Classic and LX models — a challenge to the marketing group because the Switchback has an all-terrain persona and the customer target is comfort-first trail riders.
The Dragon Switchback sleds have the ergonomics that support off-trail riding, but other than the Dragon performance package there is little distinction between the two despite radically different customer targets on the new models. The marketing disparity might be proof that with its Switchbacks, Polaris built great, do-it-all snowmobiles. But with its 2007 700 Switchback, it doesn’t appear the company knew who wanted one.