For the flatlands or the mountains, Polaris is making a major power play with its snowmobile lineup for 2023 with new and exciting engine packages.
For trail and crossover riders, Polaris is spreading the use of its Patriot Boost engine introduced last year exclusively in RMK mountain models. It allows buyers of Indy VR1 and Switchback Assault machines to feel 180ish hypersled-like horsepower in a two-stroke snowmobile that will be about 80 to 100 pounds lighter than the four-stroke musclesleds offered by its competition.
On the other end of the power spectrum, Polaris is also introducing a new four-stroke powerplant – its first four-stroke foray in a full-sized snowmobile since it dropped the old Webber motor after 2014 – with the new Polaris-built ProStar S4 engine. The high-tech, 90ish horsepower twin-cylinder will be available in select Indy XC, Indy Adventure, Voyageur and Titan models for 2023.
For mountain riders, Polaris is introducing the new Patriot 9R engine – a radical, naturally aspirated big-bore that Polaris officials say creates 7 percent more power and 12 percent more torque than the Patriot 850 on which it is based. It’ll be available in select RKM Khaos and Pro RMK packages for those who order in the spring and offers a slightly different ride experience than the also up-power Patriot Boost.
Also highly notable is the fact that Polaris’ “SnowCheck” spring order program is highly condensed for 2023. To allow for advanced planning and to help avoid supply chain crunches experienced in model year 2022, Polaris is limiting its SnowCheck window from February 28 through March 24. That may force potential buyers of one of the higher-end models to make some mighty quick decisions in coming weeks.
VR1 and Switchback Assault: Two-Stroke Turbo For Flatlanders
By bringing its Patriot Boost to trail riders, Polaris is hoping to give the lakeracer/speed junky community that has been drawn to Sidewinder, ZR 9000 Thundercat, Mach Z and other sleds with the 900 ACE Turbo R engine something to consider with its significantly lighter but similarly powered two-stroke offering.
This is the same Patriot Boost engine offered by Polaris last year in RMK models. Right from the start, Polaris claimed the engine would make 10 percent more power than the naturally aspirated 850 Patriot starting at sea level and would then keep it up to 10,000 feet – but then it didn’t make a model for us flatlanders.
For 2023, that changes. We got a chance to evaluate sleds with this engine in Northern Minnesota in January and were quite frankly astonished with the power. Polaris doesn’t release horsepower numbers, but if you accept the fact that their Patriot 850 makes about 165 ponies, and then add the 10 percent, it gets you to 181 HP.
Retiring Snowmobile Product Manager Marty Sampson told us before we rode it that, at sea level, it’s nearly impossible to feel or even hear the turbocharger because of its lower PSI. “It’s very refined and just feels like a really, really fast 850,” Sampson said. Beyond that, he said, being able to utilize the boosted air also allowed Polaris designers to take some of the harshness out of the regular Patriot 850.
And, because it’s a two-stroke, “It’s a no compromise hypersled,” Sampson said. “They’re light, they’re fun, they’re flickable, they pull wheelies, they do all the things you do with your current sled without compromise. Not only [are the competitive musclesleds] 100 pounds more, that weight is all in front of the handlebars on those other sleds.”
Sure enough, the marketing guy was actually telling the truth for a change (sarcasm intended)! The engine pulled like mad during our trail ride on VR1 models equipped with the engine, but it was extremely linear with no harshness. We topped 120 mph on the speedometer on a laketop (closed course, professional riders, blah, blah, blah), yet found it very controllable on the trail, and easy to pop up into the air when you wanted a quick hit of power to clear a rise in the trail.
Other than the additional engine option, the VR1 lineup stays relatively the same. Polaris’ top trail cruiser will be available with either a 650, 850 or Boost engine with a standard 7S display with mapping, Walker Evans Velocity shocks, SmartWarmers and plenty of creature comforts. With the turbo, it can be ordered with either a 1-inch or 1.35-inch lugged “R-rated” track that feature heavier internal cords for better stud retention.
Switchback Assault buyers also get the 650/850/Boost engine options and high-end gauge, with bigger bore front shocks and the option of a 1.35-inch Cobra or 2-inch Cross Country track.
Indy XC, Indy Adventure, Voyageur & Titan: Four-Stroke Option
The new-to-snowmobiling four-stroke engine will be available in several trail and utility models for 2023, filling a gap that Polaris has long had in its lineup.
Officially, Polaris officials said the new 1000cc ProStar S4 engine is in the “under 100 horsepower class” but when pressed for a number said it would “fall in the middle of the 80 and 100 horsepower range – you do the math.”
The basic architecture of the fuel-injected ProStar comes from Polaris’ off-road ATV/UTV division, but it’s highly redesigned for a snowmobile application.
“The head and the balance shaft are turned around to let the engine fit down into the chassis, so you get a low CG,” Sampson said, “and it’s got a dry sump oiling system to keep the packaging small and also let it sit low in the chassis.”
The engine also has a throttle-by-wire drive system with three driving modes – Eco, Standard and Sport – that are controlled through the gauge or handlebar controls.
We also got a chance to trail ride various Polaris models with this engine. The throttle-by-wire/electronic throttle control system was much better dialed-in than some competitive models. The power is easy-going and smooth – it’ll creep up toward 80 mph, but it takes awhile to get there. Polaris designers said the goal was to create something that felt like the old Indy 500.
The new ProStar S4 engine will be available in Indy XC, Indy Adventure, Voyageur 146 and Titan Adventure machines for 2023. Also of note, it’ll be available in the new Indy Adventure X2 – a dedicated 2-up machine from Polaris that is new to the lineup.
Breaking the lineup down further, Indy XC 129 or 137 models plus the Indy Adventure 137 will be available with the S4 plus the 650 or 850 two-strokes for 2023. The Adventure X2 137 is only available with a 650 or ProStar S4 (no 850 option). Utility crossover buyers can choose a Voyageur 146 in the Matryx chassis with either a S4 or 650 twin, or opt for older-style, fan-cooled 550 Voyageur 144 or 155.
Also available are 550 Indy LXT 144 and 550 Indy Adventure (144, 155) models.
The Titan lineup returns has been paired down to just its Adventure version, with either the S4 or the old 800 Cleanfire engine.
Indy XCR, Indy SP, Switchback SP: More Trail Options
Polaris’ Indy XCR lineup returns for 2023 as the best rough-trail, ricky-racer-wannabe option in the lineup, but the brand has also upgraded its Indy SP and Switchback SP cost conscience lineup.
The oh-so-sexy XCR will once again only be available in the SnowCheck order system with either a 650 or 850 Patriot engine in the Matryx chassis, with upgraded shocks, reinforced rails and various upgraded parts in the driveline, suspension and brake that come right off of the race sled. Track length options will once more be either 128 or 136 inches. New is a magnetic tether.
The base-level Indy SP and Switchback SP get a major upgrade for 2023 – moving out of the Axys and to the Matryx chassis, and dumping the old 600 twin for the more reactive 650 Patriot motor. They’ll be in-season-available sleds with the Message Center gauge, a unique LED headlight that’s different than the other Matryx’s Nightblade, and base-level Polaris IFP shocks.
Other returning Indy trail-oriented sleds include the 550 Sport 121 and downsized 550 Indy EVO in ProRide trim, plus the 120 Indy youth sled. There’s also a 550 Switchback Sport 144 in the lineup, plus returning Switchback XC 146 units with Patriot motors.