First Ride: 2009 600-Class Snowmobiles
How well did the new machines hold up on the trail?
We took you through the technical specifications earlier this month. Now we'll let you know how they felt from above the seat and at the controls.
It is interesting to see Arctic Cat, Ski-Doo, and of course Yamaha putting more emphasis on their four-stroke models for 2009. The class is becoming more segmented with the four-stroke models offering more hp and top speed but with a weight disadvantage over the two-strokes. The two-stroke machines in general are still more maneuverable and more capable in the rough terrain than the four-strokes.
Overall our test crew enjoyed riding the Polaris IQ machines, the chassis handled well on the trails and was comfortable to ride. We were a little disappointed in the difference in suspension between the IQ Shift and the Dragon models. The Walker Evan suspension on the Dragon seemed to lack enough rebound - but for $6,999 the 600 IQ Shift is a good value and competitive in performance.
Yamaha has greatly improved the handling of the Nytro machines over last year's models, and the new suspension front geometry makes the snowmobile turn much better than before. The Nytro is excellent for rough trail aggressive riding but it is essentially a stripped-down race machine and that does sacrifice some comfort for long-distance riding. But for those looking for a tamed-down trail sled the Vector works well - it would be nice to see the Vector with electronic fuel injection and we are sure it will come in the future. All our test riders complemented the Yamaha machines on their build quality and finish.
The new 600 E-Tec from Ski-Doo was our favorite machine to ride in rough terrain. The riding position puts the rider forward in the chassis making it very easy to turn and maneuver. Coming into corners we found that the skis would push a little, but once on the power, the skis would bite and you could rail through the turn. The 600 E-Tec engine is powerful and fun to ride and the whole machine is very light. The economy of the E-Tec is excellent but is fairly expensive at $9,499 for the MXZ Adrenaline. Ski-Doo’s new four-stroke the 1200 4-Tec offers good performance, but the machine felt heavy in comparison to the E-Tec. The performance of this engine is linear and unexciting to ride. For smooth trail distance riding we would favor it over the E-Tec, but for aggressive trail riding it doesn’t have that zippy feel that makes it fun to ride.
The Arctic Cat F6 SnoPro has been improved a lot for 2009 but we found the two-stroke engine was didn’t perform as good as the competition's machines. One thing that stood out about this machine, though, was how easy it was to start. It requires only a small tug on the pull rope to start. The machine handles OK, but little things - like the handlebars hitting the windshield - were annoying. Unfortunately, we were only able to ride the Z1 turbo so we can't comment on the Z1.
There are so many machines available in this class for 2009. There's a machine for probably every imaginable rider type and budget. Picking a machine all comes down to what attributes are the highest priority. With each manufacturer offering different suspension and trim packages on their machine, buyers need to really evaluate their riding style and pick a machine accordingly.Also, be sure to check out the full review and new features here.