Now that the 2016 snowmobiles have been released by Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha (as well as the Scandinavian Lynx), it’s a good time to flashback 20 years to the 1996 models. The Snow Goer Snowmobile Of The Year that year was the Ski-Doo MX Z 583 — click here to read that article. Below are some of the Snow Goer Top 10 sleds from 1996. Which did you own or ride?
Click here to read Part 1 of the 1996 Top Sleds series
Yamaha Vmax 600 XT
They are getting close – real close. We’re talking about Yamaha’s Vmax line and its ascent to the top of the snowmobiling heap. Last year, new clutching and a unique hand and thumb warmer system improved an already good machine. This year, Yamaha engineers really tuned up the competition, however, when they introduced the best rear suspension in the industry and gave their 600-class, liquid-cooled twin more power.
As we say elsewhere, the Proaction Plus rear suspension is the creme-de-la-creme. With I 0-plus inches of high quality travel that soaks up bumps while keeping the rider in full control, the Proaction Plus is the unchallenged king of manufacturers long travel. We particularly liked the setup on the Vmax 600 XT, where the springs are slightly stiffer for the more aggressive rider who would prefer the extra power.
The Vmax 600 XT also features adjustable preload dials in the front shock towers, allowing the rider to quickly and easily adjust the front end during any trailside break, without any tools.
Under the hood is an increasingly powerful mill. The Yamaha 598cc twin has more horsepower in 1996, thanks to a new high-flow exhaust system, different carb setting and recalibrated clutches. Smooth, quick and powerful are the words that come to mind.
With that endorsement, why isn’t the Vmax 600 XT the sled of the year, you ask? If Yamaha straps on a hydraulic disc brake and gets a new front suspension setup, this sled could be close to perfect. Until then, it’s a very, very strong Top 10 sled.
Arctic Cat Jag Liquid
Some sleds make the Snow Goer Top I 0 because they fill their market niche so darn well. That would include the Arctic Cat Jag Liquid, a fun little machine that became an instant favorite of many of our test riders at the 1996 Rode Reports.
This machine is great for many different reasons. Start with the price: just a $4,899 suggested retail price tag for a machine that features state of the art engineering and a liquid cooled·440 class engine.
The Jag Liquid features the original AWS double wishbone front suspension, offering 7 inches of travel and a good feel for up-and-coming riders. The FasTrack rear suspension offers 8.5 inches of bump soaking abilities. Working together, the duo gives the machine precise and easy handling.
The aforementioned powerplant is a 435cc Suzuki that is set up for the trail. It features 34mm carbs and a single pipe, resulting in smooth acceleration. Hand and thumb warmers and a strong mechanical disc brake are among the standard features that help this machine attain Top 10 status.
The Jag Liquid may not win many drag races, but it’ll keep the casual or beginning trail rider real happy this winter.