First Ride Impressions: New 2018.5 MXZ 600R Is Quick, Fun & Agile

2018 Ski-Doo MXZ 600R
The 2018-and-a-half MXZ 600R E-TEC looked great sitting beside the trail, and it attracted a crowd at the gas station at Krupps Mini Mart in Twin Lakes, Michigan.

Before we even found out what Ski-Doo’s late-release snowmobiles were going to be (though we certainly had our guesses) we received a call from a Ski-Doo official with two simple questions: (1)”What are you doing next Wednesday and Thursday” and (2) “Would you be up for making a run to the Upper Peninsula to ride a new, yet-to-be-announced snowmobile?”

After hearing the second question, the answer to the first question really didn’t matter anymore because we were absolutely going to clear the calendar: Yes, count us in!

The end result was a semi-exclusive ride on the 2018 Ski-Doo MXZ 600R E-TEC that was announced on Wednesday. (Semi-exclusive because we rode with Kevin from SnowTech magazine, who was nice enough to let us sleep at his house: Thanks Kev!) This new sled combined a brand-new 600-class engine with the leading-edge REV Gen4 chassis that previously only housed Ski-Doo’s 850-class twin.

This new 600 short-tracker (129 inches) would be laser-focused on trail riders like us who love to zoom around on tight, groomed paths in the Upper Midwest and Northeast, so the U.P. trip seemed very appropriate. Just two hours after Ski-Doo publicly announced the new machine (and also a new, late-release Expedition SWT) we were loading two new, 2018-and-a-half MXZ 600s into a trailer at a local dealership and pointing ourselves north and east. The next morning and afternoon (which was yesterday, as this is being written) we put 157 miles on the odometers, riding in a day that started with rain and ended with sub-zero, white-out conditions on the way home.

We’ll cover ride impressions below. For nuts-and-bolts details on the new MXZ 600 itself, click here.  

ergo-step side panel
The ergo-step side panels and other features previously only reserved for buyers of 850-class Ski-Doos have now officially made it to the 600-class. Click to enlarge.

Dynamic New Mid-Range

The first impression delivered by the MXZ 600R E-TEC was “Wow!” It is one impressive machine, with an all-new engine, our favorite new chassis, a great shock package and a distinct look.

Let’s start with the engine, because that’s the most-new thing here. The new, second-generation E-TEC engine delivers many of the same features found on the 850 E-TEC originally designed for this chassis, include a notable uptick in mid-range and upper-mid-range performance.

What would be called “passing speeds” in the automotive industry were incredible on this sled. That is to say, when traveling at 50 mph and wanting to quickly jump up to 70 or 80 with a pinch on the throttle, the 600R shined, and the 30-to-50 acceleration had a similar, instantaneous feel. The engine speed built quickly between 6700 and 8100 RPM and the power went seemingly straight to the track.

There was certainly nothing wrong with the 600 H.O. E-TEC engine that this new powerplant replaces – and in terms of top-end feel the two seemed rather similar (though frankly it’s been more than a year since we’ve been on a 600 E-TEC equipped Ski-Doo) – but the mid-range definitely felt stronger and more fun with the new mill.

This new 600 also seemed to have a bit more of a snarl to match the acceleration snort – it’s still sewing-machine efficient feeling, but it sounded a bit more performancey, if we can get away with using such an unusual term – and the occasional hiccup one could get from the 600 E-TEC is gone. It hits hard every time.

Upon our return, a friend asked, “Does it feel just like the 850 E-TEC?” Our answer? Of course not – it’s a 125 hp engine with only 70 percent of the displacement (599cc vs. 849cc) than the 165 hp 850. But for trail riders who like quick acceleration from corner to corner on 600-class snowmobiles, the fun factor is up notably from this new engine.

KYB shocks on Ski-Doo
The Ski-Doo threw some of its best KYBs at this buggy – piggyback units with clickers for compression and rebound. Click to enlarge.

A REV Gen4 Revival

And, the fun factor from the whole snowmobile is up notably as well, thanks to the many great things about the REV Gen4 chassis that we’ve written about seemingly endlessly since it was introduced for model year 2017.

 To this point, 600-class trail riders have missed out on the new, taller seating position, the open footwells, the forward mobility offered by the ergo-step side panels and the lightweight feel of the whole package that their buddies have been boasting about with their rowdy 850s. That wait is over. Especially with the forward-adjustable handlebars, there’s all sorts of room to for aggressive riders to get their bodies in the exact position they prefer when leaning hard into turns, yet with its lightweight steering and incredible balance, its doesn’t have to be ridden that way to provide impressive handling. 

In this limited-edition models, Ski-Doo included KYB piggyback clicker shocks up front with exterior compression and rebound control, plus another KYB clicker on the rear arm, with compression controlled by a running board-mounted dial. We didn’t find a lot of big g-bumps in the U.P. yesterday to truly test the shocks’ full capacity, but their adjustability allowed us to use softer setting to soak up stutter bumps and keep charging forward.  

We’ll have more to say about the MXZ 600R E-TEC in the near future – our opportunities to ride this limited edition model are not done. If you see us out on it, we should be recognizable by the big smiles on our faces: Yes, it is honestly that good.

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