Ski-Doo MX Z Turns 20: Looking Back At A Revolutionary Snowmobile

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Ski-Doo’s legendary MX Z snowmobile that, in two decades, has introduced many advanced technologies to snowmobiling, been a multi-time Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year award recipient and brought smiles to the faces of thousands of snowmobilers.

The MX Z has racked up some of the highest global sales numbers for any snowmobile in history — more than 313,000 in the past 15 years, according to Ski-Doo — and looking ahead, the 2013 MX Z should continue to be a top seller. The MX Z name has been affixed to five different chassis — the F, S, ZX, REV and REV X. It also has been a host of many innovations that now drive so many sales.

The original Ski-Doo REV is one of the most influential snowmobiles ever produced.

Originally debuting in 1992 as a 1993 model, the MX Z was inspired by cross-country racing. It was based on the new, lightweight — at the time — aluminum F chassis with the new Direct Shock Action (DSA) front suspension and updated C-7 rear suspension. It was powered by a 463cc liquid-cooled, rotary-valve Rotax twin fed by dual, 34 mm carburetors with a tuned pipe.

While the original MX Z wasn’t very competitive in racing, the machine evolved in 1994 and 1995 with rebuildable shocks, a hydraulic brake and more powerful engines; first with a top-end “X” package upgrade for 1994 and then an all-new 440cc RAVE engine in 1995.

For 1996, the MX Z moved to the lighter S chassis that had more suspension travel. Other engines were also added to the mix, first with the 583 and then the 670 coming out as a late-release 1996 model. The lighter chassis helped MX Z riders win more races, and new engine choices meant the model was no longer just a race sled, which put more “mustard buckets” out on the trails. The 1996 MX Z 583 won the Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year award.


The next MX Z hit the snow in 1999 with the all-new ZX chassis that brought better handling, and with it came a new 600cc, cylinder reed Rotax engine to replace the 583. A year later the MX Z 700 was unveiled with an all-new 700cc cylinder-reed engine to replace the rotary valve 670 powerplant. In 2002, the MX Z 800 earned the Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year crown for its lightweight chassis, new rear suspension and powerful engine. One year later, the MX Z underwent a giant change that also transformed how snowmobiles would be designed from that point forward.

Ski-Doo MX Z snowmobiles have made the cover of five Snow Goer magazine Snowmobile of the Year issues, including this one in March 1996.

Eleven model years after the first MX Z hit Ski-Doo showrooms, obviously modeled after the successful Polaris Indy, the Ski-Doo REV-based MX Z was unveiled, and it was nothing like what Polaris, Arctic Cat or Yamaha had ever produced. The 2003 MX Z featured a spar-based, rider-forward chassis that set a new standard for snowmobile suspension and ergonomics.

Styling and design was different than what snowmobilers were used to, with swing-open side panels and open space on top of the tunnel behind the seat. Ride quality was so good, though, that people looked beyond the unconventional styling and gobbled up so many REV snowmobiles that Ski-Doo soon catapulted into the No. 1 position for snowmobile market share.

Refinement of the REV in 2004 and adding semi-direct injection earned the 2004 MX Z 600 H.O. SDI the Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year title. Within a few years, chassis spars and rider forward design started to appear in the designs of the other manufacturers’ snowmobiles.

Massive weight loss was the theme for the next MX Z, which was released for 2008. Ski-Doo claimed its liquid-cooled MX Z TNT with the 500SS engine — the 2008 Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year — would tip the scales at 399 pounds. Ski-Doo marketed its lightweight platform quite successfully, and had the snowmobile world abuzz about the weight of snowmobiles.

E-TEC direct injection represents the next big advancement for the MX Z in 2009. The high-tech fuel system delivered better fuel and oil economy, reduced exhaust emissions and flawless run quality. The MX Z TNT 600 H.O. E-TEC won the Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year award. E-TEC expanded to the 800cc class in 2010.

Ski-Doo has also always fitted its best suspension technology to its sporty MX Z, giving aggressive trail riders what they need to attack the trails, including the rMotion rear suspension that debuted in 2012. This was Ski-Doo’s answer to the Polaris Rush’s fully progressive rear suspension that debuted in 2010. Now for model year 2013, the new REV-XS platform is the latest generation MX Z, showcasing a more sculpted style and improved wind protection.

Looking back, those F chassis MX Z snowmobiles look like army tanks, but they got Ski-Doo pointed in its current direction. The suggested retail price of that base 1993 model was $5,349, and 21 years later you can buy a 2013 MX Z Sport for $6,999, and you’ll get a more-powerful engine, smoother ride and better handling for about $1,600 more than the original. With a value that good, you can bet the farm that the MX Z will be a leading seller once again.


One thought on “Ski-Doo MX Z Turns 20: Looking Back At A Revolutionary Snowmobile

  • But wasn’t there was a formula mx model made for years before the mxZ


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