For trail tamers, utility users and crossover customers in the snowmobile market, Polaris unveiled on March 1 a broad range of updates for 2022, which includes the mass spreading of the Matryx platform and 650 Patriot engine package, new shock absorber options and some very interesting new models.
Polaris also made huge news in the mountain segment with the unveiling of its Patriot Boost two-stroke engine, a Slash Matryx platform and more in various RMKs – you can read about those machines by clicking here. In this article, we’ll focus on the vehicles that Polaris unveiled for so-called “flatlanders.”
Starfire: A New/Old Name
Before jumping into the new sleds and updates, let’s start up-front with some new nomenclature that Polaris shoppers will have to learn. High-end, full-features machines that are only available to those who order in the spring Snow Check program will now fall under the “Starfire Series” banner. Virtually any Polaris sled can be ordered and customized in the spring, but the Starfire sleds are spring-only – dealers can’t order them and stock them for sale later.
The Starfire brand is a bit of a throwback for Polaris loyalists, who may remember the “factory mod” Starfire sled that carried that moniker decades ago. Polaris will also have “Factory Choice” ordering for its dealers, who can customize the other sleds they plan to carry for in-season purchases.
The Indy Lineup: More Matryx, 650s
A year after unveiling its new Matryx platform on Indy VR1, Indy Launch Edition and Switchback Assault models for 2021, Polaris is carrying the narrower, high-tech, ergonomically sound platform deeper into its lineup for 2022 – including for its Indy XCR, Indy XC and Indy Adventure models for trail-riding customers.
That said, there will still also be multiple sub-brands and feature packages within the Polaris trail lineup, and a few models left in the previous Axys chassis, so buckle up and read on.
Let’s start with what they’ll have in common: The sleds now in the Matryx platform all get the narrow side-panels and open cockpit that make the machines easy to move around on, plus the Nightblade LED headlight, the climate-control-style Smart Warmer hand and thumb warmers, new left-hand controls, under-seat and behind-gauge storage plus premium fit-and-finish that were found on last year’s intro sleds. From there, they differ.
Returning as the most full-featured comfort models in the Polaris trail riding lineup are the 650 and 850 Indy VR1 machines. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, VR1s add the large 7S touch-screen display that puts GPS-style mapping, group-ride functions and a lot more at the riders fingertips. If you haven’t had a chance to play with one of these gauges, you owe it to yourself to do so: It really is a game-changer.
The VR1 also returns with a carbon fiber overstructure plus Walker Evans Velocity shocks that are position sensitive and are said to have anti-bottoming characteristics – though, frankly, some of the 2021 models as delivered are having shock problems that Polaris says it and Walker Evans are sorting out. VR1 model are “Starfire Series” sleds, so only available to those who order soon. They are available with either 129- and 137-inch tracks.
On the more aggressive end of the spectrum are the new 650 and 850 Indy XCRs. Just like their previous namesake in the Axys chassis, the Matryx-based XCRs show up with features straight off the race machines – including a solid jackshaft, stronger rails and pull rods in the Pro-CC skid, a firmer brake, heavy-duty handlebars and 2-inch diameter Walker Evan Velocity shocks with high- and low-compression clickers. For 2022 it also has a new magnetic tether cord as standard equipment.
The XCRs are made to be tortured by the most aggressive riders, yet are still controllable for regular Joe or Jane Trailrider. Due to the track options that features a 2.52-inch pitch, the XCR models are available in 128- or 136-inch track lengths instead of 129 and 137. New math. An XCR can be ordered with either the Message Center or 7S display but, like the VR1, they are Starfire/Snow Check-only sleds so in theory they won’t be on dealership showfloors next fall.
For in-season models, the now Matryx-based 650 and 850 Indy Adventure models take much of the VR1’s touring focus and add some features while subtracting others. Think of the Adventures as 137-inch-track-wearing, full-season-available VR1s with easy-adjusting Fox QS3 shocks in place of the Walkers and an aluminum overstructure where the VR1 has carbon fiber.
However, the Adventures get a few more added features – including a large front bumper, mirrors and a large tunnel bag to give it its own high-mile touring personality. And, of course, the 7S display’s functionality will be perfect for touring riders.
Also available in-season will be 650 and 850 Indy XC models in the Matryx platform – last year, just the Launch Edition XC was in the Matryx and the rest were in Axys plastic. The XCs get the new ergonomics, better fitting plastic and Smart Warmers, but stick with a Message Center gauge and come with Fox QS3 shocks.
The 600 Indy SP returns unchanged in the Axys chassis as the price-point sled with either a 129- or 137-inch track with baseline Polaris IFP shocks.
There are two versions of Polaris’ Switchback crossover family for 2022 – a Starfire Series/spring-order-only Switchback Assault 146, or an in-season-available Switchback XC. Each will be available with either the 650 or 850 Patriot twin.
The Assault is mostly unchanged as Polaris’ leading extreme crossover machine – as it received the Matryx upgrades last year. Returning features include the 7S gauge with mapping, Bluetooth and groupride functions plus Walker Evans Velocity shocks. The Switchback Assault can be ordered with a 146 Cobra track wearing either 1.35- or 1.6-inch lugs, a 1.5-inch-lug Ice Storm or a 2-inch Crossover track. Powder Trac running boards add to the list of off-trail features.
The Switchback XC, meanwhile, gets QS3 shocks and a Message Center gauge, following the trend set in the trail lineup with the VR1 vs. the Indy XC. Its track options are between 146-inch Cobras with either 1.352- or 1.6-inch lugs.
Cross-Country Race Sled
Polaris also announced it will build a new 600-class race sled for 2022. The so-called 600 Cross-Country will be a limited-build machine available only to folks who apply through Polaris’ race program. It features a 600 Cleanfire with tighter tolerance for higher performance than the old 600.
The sled will also feature stronger/stiffer components, including in the 136-inch Pro CC rear suspension that will have rails that are tipped up in the rear. But again, it’s a race-only application. A separate, snocross-specific race sled for 2022 will undoubtedly be unveiled sometime in September or October later this year.
Utility, Entry-Level, Etc.
The Matryx chassis also makes its way into Polaris’ utility lineup for 2022 in the form of the new 650 Voyageur 146, plus the Voyageur’s new sister machine – the Nordic Pro – that will only be available in Europe.
The Voyageur 146 gets the Matryx plastic, Nightblade LED headlight, modern handlebar controls and more. But it hasn’t lost its purpose: For utility uses, it gets wide skis and a 146-inch long Cobra track with 1.6-inch lugs that wraps around the IGX rear suspension. There’s also a large rear storage rack and a tow hitch.
The Nordic Pro goes one step further, with a 2-inch Crossover track and the 7S digital display. The burly Titan models return unchanged as the only Polaris models that still use the 800 Cleanfire engine.
Within the rest of Polaris’ lineup, perhaps the biggest news is that the brand is bringing the manufacturing of its 550-class, fan-cooled engine in-house. Previously it was Polaris’ last Fuji engine but it will now be built in Wisconsin on the same assembly line as the Patriot engines. The architecture of the engine will be the same, though it will have a quieter and lighter exhaust system, Polaris officials said.
That 550 will be found in returning 550 Indy/Indy Adventure/Indy LXT/Indy EVO models. The EVO also benefits from IFP shocks replacing hydraulic dampers for 2022.
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.