I spent yesterday riding a new, presumably 2011 Yamaha snowmobile. I don’t know its name, I don’t know what engine it features, and I’m not exactly sure what makes the steering so light. In fact, here’s everything I know about this exciting new sled….um….uh…..well, it has a track….
OK, that might be an exaggeration — it comes in a version of the Deltabox chassis, it has a four-stroke powerplant, and it features the Mono Shock rear suspension. Beyond that, Yamaha officials are being unbelievably coy about this new machine — opting for this approach with the media: “Ride it, and give your impressions, but you can’t open any panels or the hood.” The Snow Goer team will learn the real answers soon, but I can tell you that it has the lightest steering of any snowmobile I’ve ever ridden, and it has the best handling of any four-stroke snowmobile I’ve ridden.
My guess? Electronic Power Steering has made its first entry into the snowmobile market. Yamaha is the same manufacturer who first introduced power-assisted steering to the ATV market, and with that has completely changed the market in the past three years.
On the snowmobile I rode, the light steering had a dual effect — first, made it easy to ride in any conditions I encountered. Beyond that, the lighter steering seems to have allowed Yamaha to better dial in its suspension setup — the front end stayed much more planted than other recent Yamahas, carving corners with ease, and with most ski lift eliminated. My guess on that one? Because the heavy-steering penalty of dialing in more front end is removed by the addition of power steering, Yamaha set up the sled with more transfer to the skis.
Now, the powerplant: I don’t know what that is either!! But, it felt like a three-cylinder engine on steroids. It ran with the Apex we had with us, leading me to think it has 140-plus horsepower, and it spins up to just over 10,000 rpm if you stay on the gas long enough. That said, it’s a different powerband than the Apex and the Vector. Could it have a slight turbo assist? Possibly, but it’s so unbelievably smooth there’s no turbo feel to it.
We’re leaving the hotel in 9 minutes for another day of riding. I’ll update this post tonight with more feedback after more time in the saddle.