While other sleds in this class got new skis or fancy paint jobs, the MX Z X E-TEC 600 H.O. comes in a new platform for 2013, which generally means big-time changes.

In this case, the move to the REV-XS means a lot of “new.” New body panels. New air intake. New wind deflectors. New headlight and taillight. New removable hood. New heated glove box. New gauges. Above all else, a new look and fresh design.

Yet despite all of this newness, the truly important things remain the same. Everything that touches the snow (the RipSaw track and Pilot 5.7 skis), everything that controls the ride (the dual A-arm front and rMotion rear suspensions, the shocks, the steering system) and everything that provides and transfers the power (the E-TEC 600 H.O. engine and the  TRA III and QRS clutches) returns from the much-heralded 2012 MX Z X. There’s a lot of “same” there — right down to the base pyramid chassis.

Those watching the calendar and expecting some huge changes from Ski-Doo may be a bit disappointed with the level of change to the MX Z, which is more than 50 percent cosmetic, but don’t count us among that crowd. Ski-Doo has vaulted to the top spot in snowmobile marketshare for a reason: The company’s stuff flat-out works these days, especially now that the rMotion is controlling the ride in back. Big change for change’s sake could be a step in the wrong direction.

How It Fits

Body panels overlap, while wind is diverted by deflectors near the headlight.
Body panels overlap, while wind is diverted by deflectors near the headlight.

While it still certainly fully looks like a REV-chassis Ski-Doo at a glance or to those with passive-at-best interest in mustard buckets, the 2013 MX Z X appears updated, fresh and cool to the trained Ski-Doo aficionado. And a closer inspection reveals many reasons to be excited about this update, from rider comfort to ease of serviceability.

It starts up front. The three new body panels (one on each side and the top hood piece) flow together much better, with slight overlaps where they meet. Ski-Doo designers refer to it as an “Origami design,” but we’re guessing most sledheads aren’t necessarily well-versed on Japanese folding art. We just know it looks good — even more sharp and angular, and somewhat more aggressive, yet more finished-looking at the same time.

Hidden in the body panels’ visual appeal are several upgrades. The side panels have been reshaped, with the edge facing the driver contoured to make it easier to wrap a knee around when hanging far-off in turns. The parts of the panels that face up still have a glossy finish, but the sections that are vertical or face down have more of a matte finish for improved durability and scratch resistance.

After years of pretending that wind protection didn’t matter, Ski-Doo engineers changed course with the XS platform, adding transparent deflectors above the body panels (left and right of the slightly taller windshield) to keep some of the arctic breezes off drivers’ thighs and midsection. It still isn’t touring sled-like protection, but it’s a notable upgrade. Also worth noting, the center hood piece is now removable — one still has to use tools, but removing four torx head screws and disconnecting a wiring harness now allows top-down engine access, great news for shade-tree mechanics and tuners.

Despite all of these changes, the actual ergonomics of the machine change little. One still feels like he or she is sitting “on” an MX Z instead of “into” some other machines, with a narrow and soft seat that allows for much driver movement (though it’s a bit too tacky). The returning handlebars are at a nice height for sitting or standing and multiple footing positions are available on aggressive running boards with big snow evacuation holes. Hand guards are standard, the kinked brake handle is still too short by our standards and the sled utilizes a tether-cord tied into the DESS security system rather than a key. It’s all electric start, all the time — the sled doesn’t even have a recoil starter.

Also new is a classy LED taillight, a handy, 1-gallon, heated storage box by the handlebars, additional in-seat storage and a headlight that Ski-Doo says is brighter, though we were unable to test the machine at night. A hinged snowflap is supposed to be impossible to catch when backing up.

How It Performs

The rMotion is the sport’s best rear suspension when it comes to absorbing energy.
The rMotion is the sport’s best rear suspension when it comes to absorbing energy.

Even if you don’t plan to buy a Ski-Doo, make it a point to get to a demo ride or otherwise test out a friend’s MX Z or Renegade with the rMotion rear suspension. It must be experienced to truly be appreciated.

Introduced last year on select MX Z models and expanded deeper into the lineup for 2013, the rMotion is a game-changer in terms of energy absorption — arguably the most notable step forward since the FAST M-10 of the early 1990s. All suspensions are quite good nowadays, but the rMotion is great, particularly in the rutted out, stutter-bump laced trails that get riders back to their cabin or tow vehicle on many weekend evenings.

It shined again this year on the pre-production 2013 MX Z X. Whatever the speed or level of aggression by the rider, the rMotion excelled when the going got rough, sucking up and erasing the bumps with magical ease and at a level that previously seemed impossible. The suspension is also highly adjustable — the model we tested had the available running board-mounted adjusters (spring preload on the left side; shock compression damping on the right). We’re not fans of losing space on the boards, but we could envision how this ease-of-access would encourage some riders who normally don’t reach into their suspension to tamper with their settings to actually learn how to dial in their ride.

New running boards on the XS chassis feature large snow evacuation holes, but remain stiff.
New running boards on the XS chassis feature large snow evacuation holes, but remain stiff.

The front suspension was generally good — it provided spot-on handling through smooth trails and the lightest steering in its class. It absorbed most hits on the rough trails with ease while not allowing any harsh hits to get to the driver. When pushed hard through the chop, however, it did require a more active driver and more corrections through bumpy trails than the Polaris. The driver would occasionally have to reset the skis with a jerk on the bars in bumpy corners. In ungroomed powerlines it wasn’t harsh but did wander from side to side. Both have been Ski-Doo traits ever since the first REV chassis in 2003.

The E-TEC 600 is still a benchmark engine for its technology, but in terms of fun factor, it falls somewhere in the middle in this class. The FX Nytro and Rush provided a tad more on-and-off the gas punch in our testing at altitude.

Final Grade

The REV-XS platform certainly doesn’t redefine the MX Z models so much as it refines them, and they already had pretty good manners to start with. Combine the sport’s most high-tech two-stroke engine with a lightweight chassis and the best rear suspension, and you’ve got a winning combination. Heck, the machine even has better wind protection, storage and serviceability — what’s not to love? If Ski-Doo engineers would address some of this model’s bump steer issues, it might be nearing perfection.

And, as strange as it may sound, that may be the biggest knock against the MX Z X — it’s like the good looking kid in school who gets great grades, is captain and quarterback of the football team and is always polite. We’re admittedly splitting hairs here, but the Polaris is a little more rowdy, a little louder and a little more boisterous when you hit the throttle, making it a little more fun to hang around with.

Ski-Doo MX Z X 600 H.O. E-TEC  / $11,449
ENGINE: 594cc, liquid-cooled, two-stroke twin with E-TEC direct injection SUSPENSION: Dual A-arm front with HPG Plus R shocks, 9 inches of travel; rMotion rear with HPG Plus center shock and KYB Pro 36 on the rear arm, 15.5 inches of travel DIMENSIONS: 114.4 inches long by 47.9 inches wide, 462 pounds dry; 15x120x1.25 RipSaw track STANDARD FEATURES: Push-button reverse, electric start, hand guards, heated glove box NEW FOR 2013: REV-XS body platform, heated glove box, gauges, windshield, snowflap, headlight, LED taillight, air intake, LinQ system to add accessories

See how the Arctic Cat ProCross performs compared to other sleds in the 600-Class shootout!

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