If this was a popularity contest, a 90 hp, four-stroke snowmobile would not win. And there wasn’t a big clamoring among riders to get rid of the throttle cable. “Modes” that control the acceleration curve and the very personality of a snowmobile? That very likely never crossed your mind.
So, to say Ski-Doo took a chance when it developed models with the ACE 900 engine and all of its unique features might be an understatement. Then again, nobody thought to ask for such radical changes in ergonomics before 2003 either, but then Ski-Doo unveiled the REV chassis and changed everything about the way modern snowmobilers ride.
This is what Ski-Doo does. It takes risks. It shifts thinking. It moves the industry forward.
The 2014 Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year, the Ski-Doo GSX LE ACE 900, won’t be the best selling snowmobile this year – in fact, it won’t even be in the top 20. That’s OK, because this award recognizes innovation, forward thinking and excellence, and this sled nails that criteria.
It starts with the engine. The proven Advanced Combustion Efficiency (ACE) technology first introduced on the ACE 600 twin-cylinder engine now finds its way into the new ACE 900 triple. But the engineers didn’t merely bolt on another cylinder and call it good. Instead, the ACE 900 is the first snowmobile to feature a throttle-by-wire system that is now prevalent in many other modes of motorized transportation – from nearly all modern cars and trucks to most new tractors, combines and other agricultural equipment, some motorcycles to personal watercraft and more.
That throttle-by-wire system (called intelligent Throttle Control, or iTC in BRP speak) allows engineers to program in various modes that affect the power curve of the snowmobile – Standard, Sport and Eco with the standard tether cord, and then further modes with the green Learning Key tether. Each mode makes the snowmobile drive a bit differently, and that makes this a snowmobile that can fill the needs for many families, or grow with an entry-level or new-to-sport rider as they go from timid beginner to seasoned veteran over the course of a winter. It’s unintimidating and easy to use, yet can also be ridden aggressively depending on the mode chosen.
The electronics and all of the possibilities they create are fascinating, but they aren’t the only reasons why the GSX LE is our 2014 Snowmobile of the Year. The GSX also represents other great advances by Ski-Doo.
That includes the rMotion rear suspension. First introduced in select 2012 models, the rMotion has now proven itself to be more than a gimmick or flash-in-the-pan. It is, beyond doubt, the best rear suspension ever put into a snowmobile. From its amazing ability to isolate the driver from rough trails to its ease of adjustability, it’s the best design going, and the others aren’t even close.
The whole package sits in Ski-Doo’s latest version of the REV chassis – the XS platform. It’s light, well laid out, offers great wind protection and easy-fitting ergonomics. Add in the LinQ cargo system with large cargo bag plus the glove box, mirrors, new premium handlebar controls and other features, and it’s perfect for the sort of high-mile rider who would consider a cruiser like the GSX. On the trail, the GSX LE ACE 900 is easy-going bliss, silent running, efficient and easy to handle, with high-quality fit and finish.
This is high-tech snowmobiling at its finest. At 90 hp and with its touring-tuned suspensions, it’s not for everybody, but it’s a reflection of the market leadership being exhibited by Ski-Doo.
Be sure to check out our 2014 snowmobiles top 10 list for more standout sleds!