Staff Sled Review: 2008 Polaris 600 IQ Shift


Sled: 2008 Polaris 600 IQ Shift

MSRP: $6,999

Modifications: Woody’s Gold Digger studs; Woody’s carbides; Utendorfer Design/Blown Concepts graphics kit; Pure Polaris thumb warmer kit; Pure Polaris chrome windshield

Our Polaris 600 IQ Shift demo sled shouldn’t have been so much fun. After all, it was a budget machine with “cheap” shocks, a short-lugged track and a plain-Jane appearance. It didn’t even come with a thumb warmer. But despite all of those perceived “shortcomings,” it quickly earned a reputation last winter as one of the favorite sleds in our fleet.

Its carbureted 600cc twin engine hauled the mail. Power was strong and torquey up to its 8100 rpm peak, and of course it helped that the powerplant was tied to clutches that were well dialed-in like Polaris pulleys usually are, especially the past few years.

Between this sled and our Ski-Doo MX Z TNT (flip to page 64 for a review on that sled), these machines proved that carburetors still give fun and responsive performance for two-stroke snowmobile engines. Race sleds haven’t “evolved” to include fuel injection, and that’s probably because power comes on crisper, stronger and quicker if carburetors are well-tuned. Sleds with carbs are usually easier to modify, too.

Other high marks for the Shift are for handling that was smooth and predictable and suspensions that worked surprisingly well for a wide variety of riders and conditions. Coming into turns on the trails, the front end settled in its line and steered through very well. In fact, some testers said the IQ Shift, with its coil-over IFS shocks, handled better and smoother than our Polaris 600 Dragon demo sled that had air shocks.

We ran the machine late last winter on a private, 3-mile cross-country-style racecourse. The track skimmed the edge of cattails that were filled with 2 feet of blown-and-drifted snow, then took a few turns in the woods and sliced through chicanes on a lake. This was a good opportunity to evaluate the sled’s suspensions and high-speed handling.

True to its IQ bloodlines, the sled was predictable so we could drive confidently through big moguls on the straights and turn through chop in the corners. Out on the lake, the front end went where we pointed it. The few inches of ski lift we experienced was expected and controllable.

We kept the list of modifications pretty short. We installed a thumb warmer and had a custom Snow Goer graphics package drawn up and stuck to the body. Before studding the .91-inch, straight lugged track, the rear end wagged back and forth consistently on hard-packed trails. With 120 studs in the track, the problem was solved.

The water pump’s mechanical seal went south and leaked coolant during a trip in Northern Wisconsin. We parked the sled for the rest of the trip and had the machine repaired a few days later. Despite that problem, the real dig against the IQ Shift was its fuel mileage. It averaged about eight to 10 mpg while our other 600cc carbureted two-stroke traveled more than 15 mpg.

As snowmobilers become more concerned about the cost of fuel, now’s the time for Polaris to make significant steps toward better fuel economy. Fortunately, the company has the science of building fun sleds down pat.

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