In the November 2016 issue, Snow Goer magazine editors named their annual Snowmobile of the Year, choosing the 2017 Ski-Doo MX Z X 850 E-TEC due to its innovative and appealing new chassis and engine. Below is the article as it appeared in that issue, which also includes the Snow Goer Top 10 Snowmobiles of 2017, an exclusive interview with the legendary Roger Skime, the Wisconsin Trail Ride Guide, the 2017 Extreme Crossover Shootout and much more.
Don’t try to enforce the traditional rules of the game on Ski-Doo designers and engineers – in fact, don’t even hand them the official book of snowmobile guidelines. Why waste the time? They aren’t going to read the damned thing anyway.
The brand that has spent the past two decades developing norm-challenging components like engine-reverse, tether-based anti-theft systems and adjustable-depth carbide runners; cleaner-burning engines like the SDI, E-TEC and ACE platforms; and entirely fresh chassis platforms like the original REV and its following iterations has done it again. For 2017, Ski-Doo went well beyond the standards once more, and that resulted in fantastic new snowmobiles like the MX Z X 850 E-TEC – the 2017 Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year.
The rebellious attitude started in the very beginning of this project, when initial plans called for a narrower, more powerful and more durable engine to fit in a narrower, more compact front end of a snowmobile that would give its riders more options on how to influence the vehicle’s handling.
A snowmobile designer’s rule book would suggest that a new engine should fit into either the current 600 or 800cc classes, it should have a traditional build with industry-known materials, and the locations of certain add-ons should be fixed. But the outlaws at Ski-Doo and its engine sister-company Rotax instead built an 850cc twin, with first-in-a-modern-two-stroke two-piece forged crankshaft, plasma-lined cylinders, pistons with cast-iron piston ring carriers and a new generation of E-TEC for added power and performance. The new magneto, exhaust and drive clutch are smaller, the electric starter and its ring gear are repositioned, the ECU is enhanced and the variable exhaust system is redesigned.
That same, hypothetical sled design manual would also likely suggest that a rider be positioned behind the dash panels, their feet fully enclosed in tidy little pockets. But Team Ski-Doo apparently skipped that chapter – instead taking advantage of a power package that is 4.1 inches narrower in the new REV Gen4 chassis to give riders incredible new freedom of movement.
New stepped side panels allow the seated or standing rider more forward mobility, breaking a barrier found on all other modern snowmobiles. Footwells were left open, allowing riders to move around the chassis and use different means of body English. That driver is perched atop a narrower seat and, on MX Z X and Renegade X models, he or she can move the handlebars forward up to 4 inches simply by tugging on a spring-loaded lever and setting the bar into any one of four, solid-feeling, preset positions. It’s certainly not the first easy-adjust handlebar system, but it’s the best implementation yet. The X models also benefit from a rack steering system that, when combined with new RAS 3 front suspension geometry, provides more stability and less bump steer for better handling.
Innovation, change and setting new industry benchmarks have always been among the criteria for Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year honors. But particularly in this case, the whole snowmobile is even better than the sum of the parts. The 2017 MX Z X 850 E-TEC is a terrific snowmobile – the engine’s quick-revving and hard-hitting nature combines with an ideal new layout and best-in-sport rMotion rear suspension to make this an extremely capable and fun machine to ride. And that allows it to match another SOTY criterion – market appeal.