Editor’s Note: Each year since 1991, Snow Goer magazine has honored one machine as its Snowmobile of the Year based on criteria focusing on innovation, fresh-thinking, new technology, market buzz and things that are moving the sport forward. This article appeared in the November 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Separately, we also annually name a Top 10 Snowmobiles for the coming season. To see past Snowmobile of the Year honorees, click here.
For decades, snowmobilers have unfolded flimsy trail maps on damp and breezy days, trying to figure out where we were, which direction was north, or if we’re on the right path. We’ve also stood there and wondered about the exact locations of others in our riding group after stopping at nearly every intersection and waiting until the last rider showed up.
We’ve long done other little things that could soon become obsolete: Fumbling with our hand and thumb warmer switches all day as fingers oscillated between freezing cold and burning hot; wondering about the operating conditions of our engine; or, in more recent years, pondering about whether that vibration from a pocketed phone was a legitimate call or text that needed immediate attention, or just a dang telemarketer!
A glorious view of the future of snowmobiling is coming into sight with those things in the rear-view mirror, thanks to the features found in the 2021 Polaris 650 Indy VR1 – the Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year. It’s the most high-tech package a traveling snowmobiler can buy and a showpiece for futuristic snowmobiling.
Never in our wildest dreams did we think a gauge – yes, a gauge! – would help a snowmobile earn this high honor, but the many features in the standard 7S Digital Display did just that. Controllable three ways – through a touch-screen, gauge-mounted toggle switch or left-side handlebar switches – a rider can choose from a deep menu of options to customize their view and see many different types of information many different ways.
More importantly, the gauge ties into Polaris’ existing Ride Command software, allowing incredible mapping capabilities and “group ride” functions where you can track the locations of the people with whom you’re riding. Zooming in and out happens about as fast as it does on your cell phone. You can pre-plan your routes and install them on the gauge to have turn-by-turn navigation; or drop “breadcrumbs” along the way for others to follow. Never has distance riding been easier. And, like Polaris’ previous (but smaller and slower-reacting) PIDD gauge, it ties seamlessly through a Bluetooth connection into your cell phone, letting you see who’s calling or sending a text.
Wait there’s more! The gauge ties into Polaris’ new Smart Warmers, which offer climate control to the driver’s hands and thumb. You can pre-set your temperatures and then forget them, as the warmers separately and constantly adjust to maintain an even temperature.
This incredible gauge and the Smart Warmers tie into the broader new Matryx chassis platform, which allows a rider incredible freedom of movement for maximum machine control through narrower body panels, yet also has an impressive amount of wind protection to the rider.
Intense attention to detail has resulted in improved driver ergonomics, impressive fit-and-finish and copious amounts of on-board storage. From the exotic-looking Night Blade projector beam headlight and the new Lock-N-Ride Flex accessory attachment system to the positive sensitive Walker Evans Velocity shocks, designers looked everywhere to improve the overall riding experience.
Plus, on this particular model, Polaris also showcases a new 650 Patriot engine that is sure to raise the bar for middleweight performance. It’s reactive, fun and exhilarating. When dropped into this precise-handling, well-suspended platform, it’s an ideal match for trail riders who enjoy corner-to-corner excitement and predictability.
Since its founding in model year 1991, the Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year award has focused on new technology, fresh thinking and features and benefits that move the sport of snowmobiling forward. For 2021, the Polaris 650 Indy VR1 fits that description expertly.
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.