EDITORS NOTE: Through March and early April, we’ll be posting concise “First Impressions” stories on 2021 machines from Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha to help spring buyers make informed decisions. Look for full evaluations in future issues of Snow Goer. Enjoy.
Perhaps some of the most impactful year-over-year changes in the snowmobile market for 2021 are hidden aboard a Ski-Doo – and, surprisingly, we’re NOT talking about the turbocharger tucked beneath the cowl on select Summit 850s.
Instead, it’s the oh-so-subtle alterations – at least to the naked eye – on X and X-RS versions of MXZ and Renegade models that attracted a bunch of rave reviews from our test crew at the 2021 Rode Reports test event.
At a glance, except for some color changes and the disappearances of the greenish hue on the Renegades, a 2021 version of these machines looks very much like 2020 models. The layout and ergonomics of the REV Gen-4 are known quantities to recent Ski-Doo riders and, at a glance, the suspension systems look pretty darn familiar as well.
But the changes that came with adding the letter “X” to the RAS dual A-arm front suspension and rMotion rear result in rather significant improvements in handling and a less predominant but still important bump in ride quality. New Pilot X skis seal the deal.
For the uninitiated, the RAS X front suspension was widened from 42.4 to 43 inches but the basic layout stays the same – aside from slightly longer A-arms, new spindles are a part of the package but Ski-Doo officials admitted that the spindle redesign was as much about making the sleds still fit in the standard size shipping crates than anything else.
In the rMotion X rear, the talk was all millimeters – the front arm is 30mm longer (about 1.1 inch) and mounts 7 mm (.27 inches) higher on the rail. The rear arm is about 35mm longer (1.4 inch) longer, with the 15mm (.6 inches) longer rear shock laid out at a flatter angle. The new skis have more lateral surface for a more aggressive hookup but less darting. You can read other details here, our focus in this article is our riders’ first impressions.
A Worthy Upgrade
Those first impressions were very, very good. Test riders reported a higher level of handling confidence with the so-equipped Renegade and MXZ models we tested all week – and those differences were accentuated when we had a 2021 MXZ TNT model (which doesn’t get the suspension and ski upgrades) with on the same ride and an MX Z 600R X.
“What a huge difference,” one test rider wrote in his notes, while another stated, “it feels like they put a Polaris front end on a Ski-Doo, and that’s a good thing.”
“They were clearly shooting for creating a more consistent, easier-riding trail sled, and they nailed it,” a third test rider offered. “I could put very little input into the sled and still be fast.”
So what was different in the handling? For one, the MX Zs and Renegades felt more glued to the ground in all circumstances. The sleds felt like they required a bit more steering effort than previous years, but still less than competitive brands.
Moreover, the so-equipped sleds held their line expertly in turns – allowing up to confidently drive deeper into see-through turns and reapply the throttle earlier on corner exit.
We rode sleds with both the standard Pilot X skis on them as well as units with the adjustable-depth Pilot TX skis, which feature a longer keel and longer runner than the Pilot TS skis they replace. Interestingly, our testers found the need to run more blade on the TX skis than we used to run on the TS. In conditions where we would have had the blade on the spindles second or third dash-indicator mark in previous years, we had the bladed dialed out to position four. That seemed counter intuitive at first – given that the blades are 2.4-inches longer than before – but they also have a more subtle approach angle at the front, which may have been why we wanted more overall depth.
Check back in the fall issues of Snow Goer for more full evaluations, and direct comparison between these machines and competitive models.
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.