Call it Snow Goer Speed Dating.
Much like the popular social mixers, three human testers mixed and mingled with three high-performance 2-Up cruiser snowmobiles: the Polaris IQ Cruiser, the Ski-Doo GTX 800 H.O. Limited and the Yamaha
Venture GT. We met the Arctic Cat
T660 Turbo Touring at a different event, and can’t make any direct comparisons.
We spent time with each, asked questions and got answers. We admired their looks, and got to know them for their inner character.
In the end, we determined which relationship had potential, which was worth a fling and which one would just be a good friend.
Table For One
When we met the IQ Cruiser, we were wooed by its sophisticated look, charmed by its strong-beating heart and impressed by its versatility.
This is a new model from Polaris , though the removable rear seat concept behind it isn’t new. It’s a machine that will make many people happy, whether they ride alone or with a partner.
We were only able to test this sled as a solo driver, as the attachable second seat was not available. Instead, we admired the ample storage space in the place of the second seat. The storage insert looks and operates something like a car trunk: lock, key and hinge. It’s a nice-sized space with a custom fit and finish. There’s additional storage space above the right footwell.
Looks aside, we wanted to really get to know the IQ Cruiser.
The key-start fired up the engine. It gave smooth power, but it wasn’t as quiet as the Yamaha’s engine. A push-button control put the machine into reverse with no lag. On shut-down, the engine fan continued to whir for another 20-or-so seconds. Throttle control was easy and smooth. There were no sudden power bursts, and the sled seemed happy no matter the speed. Don’t be fooled, the engine produces 140 hp, so there’s always plenty of that on tap. However, it’s just as content at scenery-watching speeds.
The front suspension was especially impressive. It uses the IQ ski attached to the IQ IFS front suspension. The front suspension was the best of the three machines.
The rear suspension is the most complicated of the three machines, too. It’s a FAST M-10 136 ACE, which adjusts with a dash-mounted button from a “soft” to “firm” setting. The adjustment level is noted on the gauge display. The machine handled stutter bumps especially well.
The ride on this sled was surprisingly easy. We expected it to be a bit of a handful, due to its large engine and 136-inch track. The machine really tracked well, though, without using too much body English. Driver effort was almost minimal, as the machine just responded in a way that said, “We’re thinking the same thing.”
From the cockpit, the multi-function gauge displays the speedometer, tach and fuel levels. The handlebars are adjustable to five Rider Select positions. The backrest can be used by the driver or passenger. The windshield is an appropriate height for wind protection. Running boards are on the narrow side for the driver.
The biggest flaw on this sled are the windshield-mounted mirrors. They shake a lot, which renders them unusable.
Overall, though, we clicked well with this machine. We’d not only take it on a second date, but it’s definitely long-term relationship material.
Looks: Sophisticated, with gray and black trim. The trunk cover looks sleek.
Dimensions: Length, 129 inches; Width, 48 inches; Height, 53 inches; Weight, 657 pounds
Personality: Professional, calm, easy-going
Heart: A liquid-cooled, 750cc turbo four-stroke with 140 hp
On The Inside: IQ front suspension with Ryde FX shocks and 10 inches of travel. FAST M-10 136 rear suspension with a Ryde FX front and Fox IFP rear shock; 14 inches of travel
Relationship Potential: High potential for a long-term commitment
Cost Of Commitment: $10,499
Table For Two
If first impressions are everything, the Yamaha Venture GT is the looker. It’s all-black styling gives it an aura of intrigue, and it’s the one to whom you’d raise your glass across a crowded room and give a wink.
But for all of its grooming and fine pedigree, this was also the sled that had the most unpolished manners. It was like hearing a glamorous movie star belch in public. Human, but not pretty.
What really works on this sled is its engine. The Genesis 120 offers such smooth power with a surprising responsiveness. It’s also the quietest engine of the three tested. It’s a comfortable cruiser at all throttle levels. The engine is rated at 120 hp, which puts it comparable to the 600cc two-stroke engines in terms of power.
From the driver’s position, the machine sits significantly lower than the other two. A tall rider will feel cramped, especially if coming from a different brand. However, it does give the low-slung feel that many people like, but we think that’s more appropriate for a low-cost performance sled than a pricey 2-Up cruiser. The other price to pay for a low-slung sled is a distorted view through the windshield. Still, this ride style will please the more traditional buyer. The mirrors are in a great location.
The front suspension is the Independent Double Wishbone with GYT-R piggyback clicker shocks. They adjust separately for rebound and compression, which is a nice feature for versatility. On smooth trails, the front performs well, but it wanted to push in the corners. If the corners were bumpy, it was prone to pitch. It made for an unstable, unpredictable ride in rough corners. A set of skis with a more aggressive bite would probably fix this, though.
The rear suspension gave up some in the bumps, too. Yamaha still lacks in the rear suspension department, despite many attempts to improve it. We’re waiting for the day to rate a Yamaha suspension as best in class, but it’s not going to be on this sled. This machine also uses the longest track of the three, at 144 inches. It helps to bridge bumps, but the rear suspension is still No. 3 in this test for its performance when trails got rough.
Yamaha totally missed out on the storage options with this sled. The passenger seat does remove for extra storage, but with the seat in place there’s just a short rack that sticks out of the backrest, and the small underhood storage box. This kind of storage on a performance machine is annoying, but it’s ridiculous on a touring sled.
On the plus side, this sled is so quiet that, as a passenger, one can only hear track noise. The passenger and driver sit close enough that they touch, which is good for people who forgo the passenger hand grips to grip the driver. On the down side, the backrest is rigid and the handwarmer button is in an awkward spot for the passenger.
Looks: Gorgeous and perfect. This is the first choice, based on looks alone.
Dimensions: Track length, 144 inches; Weight, 625 pounds
Personality: The quiet cruiser, with a perfect exterior hiding a less-refined interior
Heart: A liquid-cooled, three-cylinder, 973 cc four-stroke with 120 hp
On The Inside: Independent double wishbone front suspension with GYT-R piggyback clicker shocks and 9 inches of travel. Pro Comfort rear suspension with HPG aluminum shocks and 12.4 inches of travel
Relationship Potential: It looks good, but rides only so-so. There are better fish in the sea.
Cost Of Commitment: $9,599
Table For Three
The Ski-Doo GTX 800 H.O. Limited quickly flaunts its most unique feature: it’s the only snowmobile in the market designed specifically to accommodate three passengers.
No snickering about a “threesome” machine, please. This is a family magazine, and a family sled.
It makes the most sense to pack this machine as a family sandwich, with a child between two adults. It’s possible to have three, medium-sized grown-ups on this machine, but let’s face it, three adults probably don’t want to be that close to each other for a long period of time.
Both the second seat and wedge can be removed completely for extra storage space. The seat itself is quite comfortable, both as a passenger and a driver. The material is more sticky than the other sleds tested, which gives a secure feeling.
Before this machine gets the reputation for a mundane grocery-getter, keep this in mind: it has the look and the attitude to change from family cruiser to a sexy-hot date simply by ditching the kid with Grandma.
The sled itself is somewhat dressy. Its maroon graphics on a black body gives a subtle sophistication to the machine.
Overall, this is a well-thought-out machine. It includes an accessory outlet, push-button reverse, aggressive metal footrests and the best windshield of the lot. Mirrors attach to the handlebars, and could get in the way of a driver who leans a lot in the corners. They won’t interfere with an upright-riding driver: they are stable and give good view.
The sled uses the 800 H.O. PowerTEK engine, which is made to be more fuel efficient. This engine, a two-stroke, is the loudest among the three sleds. The acceleration is smooth and powerful and, like the Polaris, has plenty of power on tap at the drivers’ discretion. Under-hood maintenance is made easy with the removable side panels.
The machine uses Ski-Doo ’s new Pilot 5.7 skis. They attach to the RAS front suspension, which handles with predictable precision. The rear suspension uses the an Auto-Air rear shock that’s supposed to automatically adjust to changing conditions. We found the most fault with the rear suspension, which felt like a pogo stick in bumpy applications.
This sled comes with the touring enthusiast in mind, as it has two hard-sided, removable saddlebags attached to the back of the tunnel. It’s an open invitation for an overnight adventure.
There’s nearly an arms-length worth of space between the driver and passenger with the third-rider wedge, so each person can just about have his or her own separate experience. The flexible hand grips are superior to rigid styles, but operate opposite. Instead of leaning onto the grip for support, you hold on with the opposite arm — much like one would use a hand grip in a car. The backrest is adjustable and flexible, and there’s a handwarmer switch at the left thumb.
Looks: Classy but subtle with maroon geometric graphics on a black body.
Dimensions: Weight, 574 pounds; Track, 136 inches long
Personality: Practical on the outside, sporty on the inside
Heart: 800 H.O. PowerTEK
On The Inside: RAS front suspension with HPG shocks and 9 inches of travel. SC-4 rear suspension with HPG front shock and the Auto-Air rear; 16 inches of travel
Relationship Potential: This is the one that you’d meet and immediately want to take on a multi-day vacation, preferably to Quebec.
Cost Of commitment: $10,549
The Dating Pool: Other 2-Up Choices
Polaris 340 Touring
Panther 370 Touring
Arctic Cat Panther
Ski-Doo GTX 550 Fan
500 SS Sport
Ski-Doo Legend Touring
Polaris 600 HO
CFI IQ Touring
Polaris FS IQ Touring
600 H.O. SDI Sport
Arctic Cat Panther
Polaris FST IQ Touring
600 H.O. SDI Limited
Arctic Cat T660
If the Arctic Cat Turbo Touring LE were a woman, she would be the one who has experience, sophistication, glamor and elegance. She would also be a woman who is set in her ways, but that might not be revealed initially. At first impression, she’s impressive.
A new-for 2007 metallic, emerald green and gray combination makes the sled attractive this year. It is accented with some fancy jewelry, too, in the form of comfortable gadgetry.
Communication is vital to any relationship, and communication is easy on the Turbo Touring LE. The Cat Comm system is standard, and allows the driver and passenger to communicate helmet-to-helmet. The 15-channel system is also compatible with other machines with the device (at this time, only other Arctic Cat Turbo Touring LE and Turbo LE models). Cat Comm is also compatible with other plug-in devices.
The communication breaks down, though, until you get to know her manners. In this case, it’s the engine. The turbo system makes great power, but the time it takes to get to the good stuff borders on horrendous. It’s like a man with the perfect anniversary gift but delivers it in a public setting. He has to wait for gratification.
Now that other four-stroke engines, turbo or not, don’t display turbo lag, this engine no longer impresses. She is too temperamental and unpredictable. Cat’s own new-this-year engine in the Jaguar Z1 is a lighter, more-powerful option we expect to see in this machine with chassis updates.
Front suspension behaves and is calibrated well without bottoming, especially with the heavy front weight bias of the machine. There is no problem with ski lift or corner push while using neutral or no throttle; steering effort, thanks to the heft, is the biggest gripe. However, if that temper from the turbo catches you off guard, the front end can unload and transfer enough weight to make the front end lose its grip. The problem is aggravated with the weight of a passenger, even when adjusting the suspension tighter.
Rear suspension is common and no frills. This is another area where this machine shows its experience and expertise. The sled is a good ride and performs the right moves in the rough without reservation. Adjustments for the added weight of a passenger are simple, and recommended due to the turbo hit mentioned previously.
The other features of this machine don’t take long to notice and are the source of an infatuation. Remote electric start is standard, as are heated driver and passenger seats with separate controls with off, low, medium and high settings.
In all, there is a lot to love about the Arctic Cat Turbo Touring LE. There is a lot of initial attraction and enough rich sophistication to keep gentlemen around for a while. However, as soon the opportunity for a younger, hotter, fresher and slimmer catch threatens this relationship, it’s over.
Looks: Older with a touch of elegance and class with dazzling green paint and a gray pan and chrome accents.
Dimensions: Length, 133 inches; Width, 47 inches; Height, N/A; Weight, 640 pounds
Personality: Sophisticated and experienced with a lot of exclusive features
Heart: A liquid-cooled, 660cc turbo four-stroke triple with 110 hp
On The Inside: AWS V front suspension with Ryde FX shocks and 10 inches of travel. FasTrack Long Travel 136-inch rear suspension with a Ryde FX front and ACT IFP position-sensitive rear shock; 13.5 inches of travel
Relationship Potential: Great potential for long-term romance until something younger and slimmer is available.
Cost Of Commitment: $10,899