A full-season test of the '09 Ski-Doo MX Z Renegade 800R X

We used our 2009 Ski-Doo MX Z Renegade 800R X just how Ski-Doo intended it. And it was a good time, every time.

We rode this hybrid sled on the wooded trails throughout central and northern Minnesota and the U.P. of Michigan. But if we weren’t carving trails in the Midwest, we enjoyed the long-track Renegade’s versatility on the forest service roads of far-northeastern Minnesota and in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana.

The Renegade was an excellent trail sled with sharp handling, comfortable ergos and a good ride. Its X-package suspension was calibrated for aggressive riders who like a firmer, tighter feel from the chassis. With a tall aftermarket windshield, the sled was comfortable for the cold periods of January and early February.

Also part of the X package, the steel-braided brake line is supposed to give a precise feel, but that’s the problem with Ski-Doo’s brake on the QRS drivetrain: there is no feel. The brake works well to slow the machine, but the driver doesn’t get any feedback from the caliper, pads or disc, which some riders — including us — prefer.

So the white-and-black sled worked great on the trails, but how did it work in the mountains? It hung out with 153-inch and longer mountain sleds during a trip to the Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming. In 90 percent of the spots where we boondocked, the machine was an excellent, manageable off-trail sled that we could easily maneuver through tight woods and over drifted creeks and fallen trees.

We had to work harder than guys in the group who were on Cat M sleds, Ski-Doo Summits and Polaris RMKs, picking our route through the deep snow more carefully than the riders on true mountain sleds who could just put the hammer down if their sleds got hung up. But when all was said and done, our 137-inch Ski-Doo worked well for our trips exploring the backcountry of Wyoming and Cooke City, Montana.

There is a ton of aftermarket parts available these days for Ski-Doo sleds because it is the top-selling brand on the snow, and by the end of the season our Renegade carried more products than the other sled in our fleet. We bolted on a storage rack, skis, parts to make the sled more comfortable, a simple clutch modification and engine mods that really made the engine rip!
The 800R Rotax is a good carbureted engine with a broad powerband that starts easily and consistently and performs well, but it doesn’t run as clean and smooth around the low-mid range as we’d like. A head and exhaust package from The Crank Shop cleaned it up and made the Rotax run crisp and smooth with a stout grunt and responsive throttle that made it more fun and playful for leaping over moguls, snow drifts and road approaches.

We had to make one trip to the dealer early in the season to get a cooling system problem repaired. Most of its coolant leaked out one frigid night while it sat on a trailer. A dealership replaced the thermostat and installed updated hose clamps throughout the coolant system; it didn’t give us further trouble.

Ski-Doo knows that hybrid buyers mostly ride on trails, but those snowmobilers also demand capability in the backcountry when their adventurous spirit kicks in. Based on how well our demo sled performed last winter, the 2009 Ski-Doo MX Z Renegade 800R X is an excellent, fun-to-drive multi-tasker whether you’re on or off the beaten path.

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