In a year when most snowmobile companies are holding off on introducing new hardware and pretty much sticking with the same model line as last year, Polaris is taking a giant step forward.
For 1981, Polaris is introducing four new models including two — the Cutlass and Cutlass SS — all new from the ground up. Also new model introductions this season will be the Indy 500 — a combination of last season’s all new Indy chassis and the fire-breathing 500cc liquid-cooled triple found in the Centurion — and the TX-C 440— a new oil-injected engine in the TX-C 340 chassis of 1980.
In 1980, Polaris offered 11 different model sleds — tops in the industry for variety. To accommodate the four new models for ‘81, Polaris has slashed seven sleds from the line it offered last year. Gone are the Gemini (244cc twin), Apollo 340, Galaxy 340, TX 340, TX 440, TX-C 340 and Centurion.
The Polaris line for 1981 includes the Gemini (244cc single), Cutlass (340), Cutlass SS (440), Galaxy 440, TX-C 440, TX-L, Indy and Indy 500. Half the models in the line are debuting this season!
Polaris strategists are banking on the sexy, direct-drive Cutlass models to fill the void of the Gemini twin and the Apollo and Galaxy 340s.
And a more Herculean task is expected of the new TX-C 440. In a company that has built a reputation on performance, the TX-C 440 will be the only fan-cooled offering in the performance end of the line. It will have to meet the desires of buyers who looked to the TX-C 340 and bullet-proof TX free-airs.
Perhaps the flag should be lowered and a moment of silence observed for the passing of the TX models. For a decade Polaris leaned heavily on the free-airs with their familiar bare jugs popping out of the cowl — and the TX series responded with sterling performances season after season.
As a Polaris spokesman put it, “There was nothing wrong with the TX models. But we found in surveys that there was an increasing reluctance on the part of buyers . . . because of problems with other manufacturers’ free airs. We found that most people buying TX models were current TX owners buying newer models.”
But where the TX-C 440 has a big task ahead of it, it also appears to have the tools to be successful. The new TX-C, along with the Cutlass SS, represent Polaris’ first entries into the field of oil injection. In 1980, one-third of all snowmobile models featured oil injection. For 1981, the figure is more than 50 percent.
Polaris saw the need to offer the feature several years ago but, consistent with the company that believes its reputation is a paramount factor, it held off on introducing oil injection until it had been tested and re-tested—and then tested again. Polaris engineers examine a new feature like the IRS reviews Richard Nixon’s tax returns. If a T is not crossed or I not dotted, it simply won’t do. But that means when the stamp of approval goes on, it’s going to be as good as Betty Crocker’s buns.
The new 432cc oil-injected powerplant developed for the TX-C 440 has a bore of 67.72mm and a 60mm stroke. The carburetors are a matched set of Mikuni 34mm slide valves.
Clutching, both drive and driven, are Polaris. And that says it all. Nobody in the industry has done more in the refinement of the modern-day snowmobile clutch than the Polaris wizards in Roseau, Minn. Polaris didn’t rule Sno Pro in the late-i 970s and currently dominate cross-country racing with a substandard clutch.
For 1981, the TX-C 440 sports an aluminum drive/driven clutch with a new weight profile in the drive, which translates to good throttle response and less belt slipping on engagement.
Along with Polaris’ reshuffling of its snowmobile line is a philosophical change to let fewer engines with different set-ups handle the needs of its line, rather than a different engine for nearly every sled it offers. The same basic 432cc, oil- injected Star engine is offered in both the TX-C 440 and Cutlass SS, with differences in carburetion, exhaust and other parts of the engine determining how much horsepower they will have according to what kind of performance characteristics are desired.
And performance is what the TX-C 440 is all about. At our annual test at The Lakewoods in northern Wisconsin, the TX-C tied with the Yamaha SR-V for the fastest top speed through the quarter-mile among non liquid-cooled sleds and it only was a few tenths of a second slower than the SR-V through the eighth-mile speed trap. Both the TX-C and SR-V were five to 10 mph faster than other non-liquids at the test. And while the TX-C and SR-V have about the same horsepower rating (mid50s), the SR-V has about l00ccs on the Polaris TX-C.
The guts of the fan-cooled TX-C feature aluminum pistons and aluminum-alloy cylinders with iron sleeves. The crankshaft is forged steel with two bearings at the power take off end for increased dependability. The rings have a chrome plate keystone to better dissipate heat and provide longer life. The new oil injection is gear driven with a worm gear located in the center of the crank.
Down under in the suspension area, the TX-C has a generous 121-inch molded rubber track that measures in at 15 inches in width. The footprint of the TX-C is left with 47.5 inches of track on the snow. The skid frame is extruded aluminum with two shocks and two sets of bogie wheels for damping. The suspension offers about six inches of travel to keep your fanny and bumpy moguls from becoming frequent acquaintances. The TX-C also features involute drive with molded-on internal drive lugs and rubber traction bars.
Instrumentation is plain and clearly visible when you get behind the handlebars. Standard features include speedometer and tachometer. Gasoline reserves are monitored by a needle in the gas cap and oil reserves with a sight gauge. Machine shut-off is with a key and three-position switch on the right side of the handlebars — center for operation and either left or right for shut-off.
Also standard on the TX-C are hydraulic disc brake and capacitor discharge ignition. Similar to the mystique of the Polaris clutch, the company also is the only snowmobile manufacturer that has been able to come up with a relatively trouble-free hydraulic brake system on its consumer sled line. In repeated lock-ups at our tests, we found that nothing really comes close to either the ease or dependability of the hydraulic disc.
Capacitor discharge ignition, which is becoming almost a standard in the industry, also is standard on the TX-C. CDI provides a hotter, more consistent spark at all ranges of the powerband. For the consumer, that means better and more consistent performance plus a reduced chance of spark plug fouling.
On the trails and lake, the TX-C is a good, trustworthy partner that is not going to let you down. Its long-travel track and suspension plus its steady and consistent transmission through all ranges of its powerband are the TX-C’s strongest assets. If you find yourself taking a little air when flying over a king-sized mogul at speed, you have little to tear of either in-flight roll or a rough landing. The TX-C’s smooth and consistent powerplant won’t get you in over your head in a peaky, torque of the moment flash and the long-travel suspension often will bail you out if you do.
The TX-C has a tough act to follow with the passing of the bullet-proof TX free-airs. From our experience, we found the performance of the TX-C comparable and we think the new oil-injection feature will have a whole lot of people looking at this fan-cooled performer who may have shied away from Polaris before. And it may be the ideal performer for those who don’t want to go all the way to liquid-cooled performance.
In an unassuming style, the TX-C retains two-thirds of the letters found in the legendary TX series and we think it kept the performance characteristics. With its fan-cooled engine, it’s kind of like the TX models —only with its mouth shut.