Unique Sled: 2010 Ski-Doo MX Z Adrenaline 800R

With an appetite for new technology as voracious as a contestant on television show “The Biggest Loser” craving jelly filled bakery goodness, hard-core snowmobile enthusiasts often dine at the latest and greatest buffet with reckless abandon. They fill their plates with hot-off-the-assembly-line features, graphics and first-time technology and often forget about the always great tasting and assured goodness of Grandma’s meatloaf or apple pie. But folks would be wise not to ignore the comfort of known things that work — like the 2010 Ski-Doo MX Z Adrenaline 800R.

With the 600 E-TEC, race mirrored X-RS and anticipation of a direct-injected big-bore 800 grabbing the attention of fans of the yellow horde, the carbureted 800 Adrenaline has found itself nestled near the warming tray at the end of the buffet line.

Certainly the clean burning and smooth rotations of the E-TEC are worthy of admiration, but it’s the racer-wannabe egos of snowmobilers who long for flashy X packages or the stout calibrations of an X-RS who are quite possibly missing out on the sled they should be riding this winter.

The Yardstick Against Which Other sleds Are Measured
As with all Ski-Doo two-stroke performance buggies, the 800 Adrenaline rides on the lightweight REV-XP chassis, and after some initial teething pains, it has proven to deliver the often-elusive combination of lightness and toughness to the masses. Sure, if dropping out of the air from a 20-foot double is part of your average day’s riding repertoire, then the beefed race chassis of the X-RS should be your focus. But our experience with the XP chassis over two seasons has proven to us it’s more than capable of the daily rigors of rough trail riding.

The XP platform has been criticized for its cold ride. A new mid-height windshield with improved aerodynamics for 2010 was designed to deliver better wind protection.
The XP platform brings with it nearly perfect ergonomics for all day rough trail riding that, frankly, have been emulated by every other snowmobile manufacturer. A standard bar riser with one-piece flat bars and pre-curved ends, a tall sitting position and roomy running boards with ample space to move fore and aft create a cockpit adept for both sitting and standing. Transitions are near effortless and controls are first class.

Suspending the Adrenaline Eight is the same SC-5 skidframe and dual A-arm front suspension you’ll find throughout much of the Ski-Doo line. Unlike blinged-out models such as the X, the Adrenaline features non-adjustable HPG Plus shocks — the Plus meaning these shocks are rebuildable. Don’t let the lack of fancy adjustment knobs scare you away, though.

Suspension is where your ego needs to take a back seat to what your butt is asking for. We found calibrations to be accurate for both slow-speed stutters and high-speed whoops. Sure you can overdrive the shocks, but it requires you to ride at nine-tenths of your ability and higher for several miles before you’ll feel the fade.

While few changes exist between previous renditions of the XP-based Adrenaline 800 and the 2010 version, what has changed is welcomed. Most relevant updates are up front where new suspension calibrations and a slightly longer pitman arm reduce steering effort at initial turn-in to help subdue the trademark Ski-Doo twitch that has been prevalent since the first rider-forward REV landed in 2003. Another addition for 2010 is more robust wind protection thanks to a new mid-height windshield.

Propelling the Adrenaline 800 is a bit long-in-tooth Rotax 800R PowerTEK engine. Producing 151 claimed ponies, it has plenty of power on tap, but with a new H.O. 800 entry from Arctic Cat, it most likely will no longer sit atop the food chain. Perhaps the real chink in the armor of the 800 PowerTEK is its fuel delivery system … carburetors. Yeah, remember those?

Thanks to a bevy of engine management controls and throttle position sensors, the pair of 40mm Mikuni TM flat slide carbs delivers a level of response and fuel economy on par or better than two-stroke fuel injection systems from Cat and Polaris. Still, with direct injection seemingly lurking on the horizon, the idea of full-choke starts on cold mornings and jet changes for the more discerning rider can be a tough pill to swallow.

Still The Benchmark
For more than five years, Ski-Doo has set the ride, handling and performance mark for all other brands to aspire. And for certain each manufacturer has responded — especially in 2010 — as new technology from Polaris and a race-bred chassis from Arctic Cat have raised the stakes in the trail-performance game. But despite the onslaught, the XP chassis, especially in Adrenaline trim, remains the yardstick. Even with old-fashioned fuel delivery, non-glamorous, albeit proven, suspension technology and a straightforward shock package, the Adrenaline 800 melds these attributes into a hard-to-beat combination.

While the 1-inch lugs are taxed by the 800R power, the SC-5 rear suspension gives a nice ride that’s fully capable and appropriately calibrated for most snowmobilers.

On paper, the Adrenaline 800R PowerTEK and 600 H.O. E-TEC weigh in identically at a svelte 432 pounds, according to BRP specifications. The added electronics and controls associated with E-TEC make up for the bigger mass of the 800cc engine. Yet from the saddle, the robust pull from the 800 makes it feel as if you have more machine to muscle. Much of this also comes from the increased throttle pull of the carburetors. Lacking the feather-light flipper of the E-TEC, along with slower-to-build revs, the 800R feels a bit more cumbersome. Of course the added thrust, especially when you encounter a wide-open trail or frozen lakebed, quickly changes your perception.
A shallow 1-inch RipSaw track puts power on the snow, and with more than 150 stallions spinning the rubber, traction abilities of the track are quickly overcome. Studs will reduce this track spin, but a taller 1.25-inch track would be a welcomed addition to the package.

With heavy rumblings that an 800 E-TEC is coming in the very near future, we suspect many will overlook the 800R Adrenaline this season, leaving some on showroom floors. That should be your cue to take advantage of what is already a near legendary status snowmobile and will quickly become one of the best buys in the 800 class. Carburetors be damned….

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