Dragons eSPecially Fun
“Weight” is the hottest buzzword in snowmobiling these days, and Polaris engineers have done work to remove it from their sleds. The 600 and 800 Dragon SP models sport a new swaybar, bumper and nosepan that contributes to a 15-pound weight loss over last year’s short track Dragon model, not to mention a cleaner look. Other refinements were made across the 2009 lineup to the seat, fuel tank and console.
On the trail, the new cab makes for a better machine that’s easier to ride.
Transitions from side to side are quicker, smoother and more comfortable, which allows drivers to be better prepared for corners. The narrow front portion of the seat works well for aggressive driving and the wider rear is comfortable for relaxed riding. Other changes include a new brake, the addition of Walker Evans shocks all the way around and a revised rear suspension. Polaris claims the new skidframe is 5 pounds lighter with new rails, longer torque arms and flipped torsion springs like Ski-Doo’s SC-5 rear suspension.
Last year’s Dragon models had RydeFX Air 2.0 springless shocks up front, but for 2009 the Dragon SPs get clicker Walker Needle shocks. These coil-over shocks bring the IQ front end to a level that out-performs the sled’s rear suspension. More about that later.
All test riders found that they could push the Dragon SP’s front end hard through rough moguls and it always tracked straight and predictably. If the sled went airborne after hitting a big bump, the front end landed so softly that we couldn’t feel the impact. It just set down and motored its way down the trail. We couldn’t be more confident in the front suspension; the rear wasn¹t as good.
When coming into a stretch of 1- to 3-foot moguls at about 40 mph, we crashed through the front torque arm and bottomed. The front suspension has always out-performed the rear of IQ-based machines mostly because of the front arm’s likelihood to bottom under extreme driving, but there wasn’t this much disconnect between the front and rear of earlier Dragons.
Does the Walker Evans-equipped front suspension work so much better than before that it makes the rear seem less qualified or did Polaris go backward in terms of capability with its revised IQ rear suspension? The Roseau staff usually has its shocks working well at our annual spring test, but maybe calibrations were off this year. We hope further testing will improve calibration of the Dragon SP before production this fall. We have no qualms about engine performance.
The new 800 and 3-year-old 600 CFI are excellent snowmobile powerplants.
Power is broad and strong from clutch engagement all the way up to wide-open throttle. With the 800 CFI, Polaris delivered exactly what snowmobilers want: solid, crisp and clean power that sounds and feels awesome. A sledder can’t not have fun squeezing the throttle lever on this engine.
More Shift Models Include New Engine
The IQ Shift concept has expanded from two models last year to six for 2009.
The new fan-cooled, 550 IQ Shift gets the same lightweight updates and aluminum bumper as the Dragon SP. This sled is a huge step up from the defunct SuperSport in terms of handling, ride quality and ergonomics and takes Polaris from dead last in the fan-cooled segment to a leadership position.
The 600 IQ Shift 136 is a crossover sled. It has a “new” 600 engine: the 600 CFI 2. It has two cylinder-mounted throttle bodies that deliver fuel at all rpm, unlike the four-injector system that has a separate low- and high-speed injector for each cylinder. The CFI 2 engine is, essentially, built with the same crank, cylinders, case, head and pistons as other Liberty 600s. Calibrations are more precise than the CFI 4, which improves running quality and reduces emissions.
Polaris claims fuel economy is better by 2 to 3 miles per gallon with the new engine. Considering that this fuel system costs less to produce and that Polaris is easing it into the lineup with low build-volume models to, presumably, iron out any potential kinks (the CFI 2 also powers the 600 RMK Shift); we suspect Polaris will go this route – perhaps as soon as 2010 – for all 600-powered models, if not larger CleanFire engines, too. Tighter emissions regulations kick in next year, and this setup will help Polaris achieve those U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.
The 600 IQ Shift is unchanged, and that’s OK because there was nothing wrong with it. It still rips and rides and handles well. RMK Shift models get the updated nosepan.
A New Formula For Backcountry Thrills
Take a class-leading Liberty engine, drop it in a Walker Evans-suspended RMK chassis along with ergonomics and an aggressive track made for off-trail maneuverability and what do you get? Polaris’ foolproof formula for backcountry fun: the 800 RMK Assault.
This sled is for riders who explore the backwoods areas instead of extreme hillclimbers. Its 146-inch track is short by today’s standards for mountain sleds – especially for an 800 – but that makes it easier to carve through the backcountry. The Assault has the same chassis updates as the Dragon SP models, but it gets Walker Evans Adjustable Air Piggyback Shocks over the skis. The skid has Walker Air shocks, too.
We spent an afternoon with the Assault, sneaking down rutted goat paths and up narrow draws through the trees. Squeezing the strong 800 CFI’s throttle launched the sled off rolling drifts while the Walker Evans shocks made the sled feel invincible against the big moguls. This was one of the most fun sleds at Rode Reports this year.