If you’ve been skimming model line brochures from the manufacturers the past few years, you might have noticed that more pages have been added to a little-known segment called touring/utility. Admittedly, the utility segment is not something we sit around the dimly lit Snow Goer shop and bench race. But the segment is one of the few that has seen significant growth over the past few winters as evident by the influx of new models from all four manufacturers.
Most touring/utility sleds are often relegated to an aging platform and made from leftover parts while the latest trail-performance or mountain tamers tout the new technology. So the move by Ski-Doo last season to upgrade its touring/utility model to the REV-XU platform was a bit unexpected, and we were mildly interested. But this past winter, upon arriving at our Rode Reports testing event in Grand Lake, Colorado, it was the limited edition Expedition SE that really grabbed our attention. With a standard winch, heated GPS holder and way more, this clearly was no ordinary touring/work horse snowmobile.
With a long, long list of extras, the Expedition SE seems ready to ride from the groomed trails just outside of Milwaukee to the rugged tundra of Baffin Island with aplomb. Built around the rugged REV-X platform with REV-XU bodywork, the large and weighty Expedition SE is surprisingly agile. The dual A-arm front suspension is similar to other REV-X models, albeit sprung and damped for hefty hauling and towing duties.
To the aft of the lengthy Expedition, an expansive 154- by 20-inch track spins around an articulating rear suspension, which allows the Expedition to back-up in deep snow and features a lockout when towing. With 1.25-inch lugs, traction comes in abundant quantities both on and off trail.
Power comes in both two-stroke and four-stroke options — the twin cylinder, semi-direct injection 600 H.O. SDI as was in our test sled or the triple cylinder, 1200 4-TEC four stroke. Both serve up power ample enough to deliver spirited trail speeds and, more importantly, the torque necessary to haul and tow loads up to the rated 1100-pound capacity. Helping to deliver such towing prowess is a two-speed transmission. Unlike some designs, the Expedition features the Synchromesh tranny, allowing you to shift on the fly from low range to high. Of course reverse is standard as well, and selection duties are handled by a dash-mounted, in-line shifter.
While the Expedition may not fit the bill for a saddlebag trip across the Wisconsin Northwoods, the type of touring the Expedition is bred for is of a different nature. Often used in the far reaches of Canada, Alaska and across the pond in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia, sleds like the Expedition become a winter SUV for families, hauling both supplies and people across long stretches of trail-less wilderness. For many, it’s a vehicle of necessity that at the same time delivers adventure to what would be an otherwise difficult winter. It’s for this reason the Expedition features an expansive 2-Up seat with modular capabilities allowing you to switch from 1-Up to driver-with-passenger, both with plenty of storage and all changed without tools.
Aside from the rear cargo area, there is an additional under-seat storage box with, frankly, a ridiculous amount of space to stow all sorts of gear. The SE version of the Expedition takes the cargo-hauling equation one step further with a standard 20-gallon rear box for weatherproof storage. And nestled under the modular seat storage area you’ll find a standard 1,500-pound capacity Warn winch complete with lengthy power and remote leads so it can be operated from the front or rear bumper.
Extras With Purpose
To say the Expedition SE does it all might sound like marketing hype, but after looking at the long list of extras that come standard on both the base Expedition and SE, as well as the exclusive features found only on the SE model, you’ll be hard pressed to disagree. While full-on touring sleds tout luxury extras that at times seem more fluff than filler, the Expedition SE is clearly focused on accomplishments first, bragging rights second.
Limited features on the SE include tilt steering, the aforementioned winch, heavy-duty skidplate, stout wraparound bumpers both front and rear, a high-capacity battery with dual 12-volt accessory power outlets and the large covered cargo box to the rear. There’s even a heated GPS holder that mounts to the handlebars so you can find your way even in the most remote locales.
Big Stick Walking Softly
We were so intrigued by the Expedition SE that we spent a half-day aboard the large Regal Red unit. While we were unable to fully appreciate its capabilities off-trail due to hard spring snow conditions, we were still impressed at the agility and comfort the SE delivered. Expecting a lumbering, slow and uninspiring snowmobile, we quickly discovered a relatively light-on-its-feet vehicle we truly would sample again.
The idea of packing all the necessities one would need for a winter excursion into large tracts of untracked backcountry immediately became appealing. The Expedition fears little terrain, from rutted trails and off-camber hills to untracked powder and thickets of seemingly impassable swamps.
Spinning the oversized expanse of Camoplast rubber through a gear reduction transmission may not create an on-trail speedster, yet we could easily eclipse posted trail speeds and the relatively light steering effort with accurate turn-in found us hanging with trail-tuned machines for much of the day. What’s more, we did so in amazing comfort, thanks to above-average ride quality, exceptional wind protection and great ergonomics.
Mainstream snowmobiling might not be ready for the Expedition SE … yet. But for certain, the rapid advancement in the touring/utility segment has many of us looking at those large chunks of untracked swamps on our favorite snowmobile map in an all-new light.