How time flies when you’re having fun doing what you love.
It was barely a year ago when Yamaha’s faithful fans were scratching their heads after the company announced it would be making a reduction in its overall model lineup production from 34 total models in 2018, to 13 for 2019.
Today Yamaha announced that for 2020 the company isn’t making waves with double-digit new models, instead increasing its lineup with a slight uptick to 16. But its engineers didn’t just suggest adding a few new sleds, then calling it quits.
Next season Team Blue returns to the world of liquid-cooled two-strokes for the first time since 2005 with its new Transporter 600 – a quality utility sled that’s verifiably fun on and off any trails imaginable – along with introducing a new lineup of GT luxury touring one- and two-passenger sleds.
If that wasn’t enough to keep your interest, the company also tweaked its front suspension geometry on most trail sleds (with claims to improve overall handling), revised its iQS system on the Sidewinder SRX LE and L-TX LE to allow separate control of front and rear shock settings; recalibrated ECM settings on SRViper models for added mid-to-top horsepower; revised its X-TX lineup of mountain machines with a longer track, new rear suspension and new skis; and also added push-button starting and tethers to all Sidewinder and SRViper models.
Sweet Suspension Changes Plus Luxury Rides For All
Regarding performance and comfort on trails, both Yamaha and Arctic Cat created a major buzz by unveiling the Fox iQS suspension system last year that allows riders to switch settings between soft, medium and firm at the push of a handlebar-mounted button. The revolutionary system is even more customizable for 2020 with the addition of two extra settings – labeled “driver one” and “driver two” – allowing riders to differentiate between ski shocks and the rear arm.
“If you’re the type of rider that likes the front end soft, but the back end firm, you can set your ‘driver one’ setting to be soft and the rear shock setting firm,” explained Jaret Smith, product manager for Yamaha’s North American snowmobile division, at its media unveiling. “With the advanced setup, you now have five settings between driver one and two, and soft, medium and firm, for the iQS.”
The company also unveiled a new front suspension system known as the Advanced Roll Center Suspension (ARCS) featuring forged front spindles and revised upper A-arms with heim joints.
“It sits a little bit higher, giving more ground clearance and also changes the roll center of the snowmobile with relation to the center of gravity,” Smith explained. Yamaha officials also claim the new geometry improves overall handling.
Meanwhile the new Sidewinder L-TX GT and S-TX GT offer high-mileage riders the best features for trail roaming, including a heated seat, tall windshield, on-board storage, visor outlets and more. The difference is that the L-TX GT is a solo passenger vehicle with a 137-inch RipSaw II track, while the S-TX GT is the sport’s highest horsepower 2-up snowmobile, propelled by a 146-inch RipSaw track.
Both are powered by Yamaha’s 180+ horsepower turbocharged triple and utilize QS3 shocks on the new ARCS front end. The L-TX GT also has QS3, while the S-TX GT has an HPG shock on the rear arm plus overload springs to help carry the weight of a passenger and a rear-mounted auxiliary fuel tank that helps provide unmatched range.
“You can take this snowmobile for a ride with your partner on Friday, and on Saturday go out with your buddies – the 2-up seat comes off in about 30 seconds and now you have a rocket of a snowmobile,” Smith said of the S-TX GT at the recent Rode Reports testing event in West Yellowstone, Montana.
The Two-Stroke Returns
You’ve undoubtedly heard it for years – a subset of customers begging for the return of a two-stroke Yamaha snowmobile. The requests didn’t fall on deaf ears: For 2020 the brand will again enter into two-stroke territory with its new Transporter 600, although it won’t be entirely geared toward only performance riders.
The sled is a mutt of both performance and utility, blending both Arctic Cat and Yamaha DNA. Similar to the 2019 Arctic Cat Norseman 6000 utility crossover, it features a 38-inch front ski stance with HPG shocks and a 15- by 153- by 2.25-inch Powerclaw track, with power coming from Cat’s 599 C-TEC2 DSI engine. Yamaha added its own spin with exclusive bodywork, seat, windshield and mountain skis.
Other amenities include a large rear rack, rear hitch, tall windshield and push-button starting accompanied with reverse, plus the new controls and brake that Yamaha introduced on other models in 2019.
“It can be used for work, but it’s also very playful and fun and will be a blast to use on trails,” Smith said. At the same time, Arctic Cat has dropped the Norseman from its 2020 lineup.
Yamaha has shifted its strategy with its Sidewinder X-TX LE and SE lineup, this time adding a longer track and a new skid frame.
“We’ve made some changes and slightly remade our model segmentation,” Smith said at Snow Shoot. The skid is the new 146 Versattak – an uncoupled, torsion-spring design for added weight transfer to make the sleds more off-trail capable. “Think of the front as a more race-oriented performance vehicle, and the back as a mountain-riding machine. Attributes of the front mimic trail suspension, and back mimic mountain – put them together and it’s a snowmobile that can play not only on-trail, but off-trail, too,” Smith said.
The LE version rides on a new 146- by 1.60-inch Cobra two-ply track and has a 42-inch stance over new single-keel crossover skis, while the more off-trail focused X-TX SE has a 146- by 2.25 Peak track with a 40-inch stance on the brand’s mountain skis. The SE also has ice scratchers and race-inspired running boards, with a second row of grips and wider stance standard.
Another change within the Sidewinder family is the color combinations of the second-year top-tiered Sidewinder SRX LE, switching to “midnight black with liquid silver” – the first time an SRX has been wrapped in the scheme since the 1980s.
The sled will continue to have a lowered ride height and short-lugged track, but with improved handling due to the ARCS front suspension design plus the Fox iQS suspension with new settings.
Within the Sidewinder L-TX lineup, the LE version shares the SRX’s iQS shock setup, except with a taller ride height/more suspension travel. Yamaha is also bringing back its 1.25-inch RipSaw II track and gearing similar to other Sidewinders after trying the model with taller lugs and gearing in 2019.
“This year it will go back to being more of an all-around trail sled,” Smith said at its unveiling, also noting that last season it was focused on being “more of a corner-to-corner trail machine.”
The LE returns with premium upgrades like onboard storage, an embossed heated seat and a heated visor outlet, while the more affordable L-TX SE gets a base-level shock, seat and storage package.
Yamaha discontinued its Sidewinder M-TX for 2020, leaving the remaining long-track as the Sidewinder B-TX LE 153 – It’s tailored for backcountry exploring, featuring a 2.25-inch track surrounding an uncoupled skid, a 40-inch ski stance and Yamaha Mountain skis.
Utilities And Youth Under One Roof
Since being unveiled and subsequently winning Snow Goer’s Snowmobile of the Year award for 2018, the Snoscoot ES has continued to impress those looking to get young riders involved.
For 2020, Yamaha added a new BS-style carburetor (for improved starting and stronger performance), new engine mounts (for reduced hand and feet vibration), wider handlebar (for increased leverage) and new steering (for a tighter turn radius) as well as updated clutching (for faster performance). The SRX120R will return to the fleet unchanged.
Three Japanese-manufactured utility models return for 2020 after being excluded from the North American market last year.
The VK Pro II is back with industry exclusive electric power steering guiding its 130 hp four-stroke engine that’s propelled by a 20- by 154- by 1.5-inch Cobra track with a 38-inch ski stance on wide utility skis.
The RSVenture TF fills the utility/touring niche with its unique setup featuring a 151- by 1.25-inch Ripsaw II track, 42.5-inch ski stance and adjustable passenger backrest, electric power steering and Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) with three riding modes – sport, touring and entry. Meanwhile the VK540 will head into 2020 relatively unchanged, featuring a 535cc fan-cooled two-stroke engine.
Vipers Return With Added Power
One year after trimming the overall SRViper lineup down to one model, Yamaha has two models for 2020 featuring some serious upgrades.
It starts with the 1049cc triple engine: Designers gave it new ECM programming with performance in mind, with the promise of additional horsepower and better cold and warm starting.
For 2020, the SRVipers also come with upgrades made to Sidewinder models last year – including modern, more sculpted second-generation bodywork, upgraded handlebar-mounted controls, improved cooling and an upgraded Hayes brake with a shorter, plastic handle.
The SRViper comes in L-TX SE and L-TX GT versions next season. Both have a 137-inch RipSaw II track with 1.25-inch lugs. Where the GT stands out – just like within the Sidewinder lineup – is with its upgraded Fox QS3 shocks on the ski suspension and rear arm, plus an LED headlight, heated seat, expanded onboard storage and tall windshield.
With a wealth of changes and additions to its entire lineup for 2020 Yamaha is hoping it’s found the key for its future success. What offerings have you most impressed? Be sure to leave your opinions in the comments section!
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