Over the years, there have been several Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year picks that have been controversial among readers and industry insiders alike. Should a race sled be eligible (1994’s Arctic Cat ZR 440)? Was the Gen II chassis really worth recognizing (1999’s Polaris Indy 700 XC SP)? How could we pick an 800 two-stroke twin over the first modern four-stroke (2002’s Ski-Doo MX Z 800 topping the Arctic Cat 4-Stroke Touring)? Was the 2007 pick potentially trend-setting and inviting to newcomers, or just quirky (Yamaha Phazer)? Let’s not even get into the 2003 selection process, which featured three superstar machines that could have won in any other year (first REV chassis in the MX Z, first performance four-stroke in the RX-1, the first incredible light and powerful Firecat F-7) but the rules stated there could only be one winner…
But no pick generated as much internal strife within the Snow Goer walls as the selection of the 1992 Yamaha Vmax-4. Some who were on the staff at the time still mumble and grumble about it to this day, and cite it openly whenever questioning more modern picks, even though nobody who was a part of that process has been a part of the SOTY process since 1995. Time to let it go.
A lot of things can be said about the Vmax-4 and its place in history. It certainly is a memorable sled, and it brought many interesting features to the market — some of which weren’t even mentioned in that year’s SOTY writeup (like being the first production sled with digital CDI, or being the first to showcase the low drag coefficiency of plastic on the bottom of a ski). That writeup is posted below. In hindsight now, the comments about it’s “better handling” seem laughable — the sled had more push thank a fully loaded shopping cart at Piggy Wiggly. The thing I will forever remember about the Vmax-4 was its incredible, indescribable sound. It stock form, it was pure music; modified for lake racing, it was even sweeter.
For this week’s Throwback Thursday, here’s a look back at the writeup from the March 1992 edition of Snow Goer magazine, recognizing its Snowmobile of the Year:
Snow Goer’s 1992 Snowmobile Of The Year: Yamaha Vmax-4
With all of the hoopla and talk surrounding the Vmax-4 this season, it probably comes as no surprise that we’ve named it our 1992 Snowmobile of the Year. People have been telling us for months: “The Vmax is a cinch to win your award.” Well, it wasn’t exactly a cinch, because several other models certainly were considered for the top slot, including the new Jag Special and Indy 440 XCR. But, when it came right down to it, the Vmax-4 is so unique, so new and so different from any other sled on the market that there really was only one choice to make.
. An interesting aspect of our selection was that the unique in-line four-cylinder engine really wasn’t a major factor. Muscle alone does not make a Snowmobile of the Year. Yes, the 743cc motor (which really works like two two-cylinder motors joined together) is the biggest and baddest this year, but that can, and probably will, change from year to year. When you look under the hood, it’s actually the new PTO drive system that gets all the attention. The all-new design, driven from the center of the crankshaft instead of the end, reduced vibration and increases durability.
. But there’s more to the 1992 Vmax-4 than the new powerplant, much more. One industry-first (for a production snowmobile) is the new top-cog V-belt. A new track with deep-grooved lugs provides unequalled traction. The Vmax also comes with new aluminum skis with plastic bottoms for better traction. There’s more!
. New technology is everywhere on the Vmax-4. A wrap-around windshield with multi-reflective halogen headlight is new. A new handlebar position eliminates arm fatigue, while a new steering design lowers the sled’s center of gravity and results in better handling. A new chain case with a silent chain even reduces sled noise.
. There were a limited number of Vmax-4 sleds built and sold this year, so if you happened to get your hands on one, consider yourself one of the lucky few. It’s easy to say, however, that the Vmax-4 isn’t for everyone. The revolutionary (seems we used that word way back in 1984 to describe another unique Yamaha vehicle called the Phazer) Vmax-4 retails for $8,500, making it far and away the most expensive consumer trail sled in the sport. But, what do you expect when you’re getting the Snowmobile of the Year?