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2012 Real World Shootout

Often imitated, never duplicated
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The start is important as shown here by Senior Editor Mark Boncher as he carefully prepares the Polaris 800 Rush Pro-R (left) for one of its two radar runs. Test rider and vintage expert Les Pinz captures times and speeds on the gun and Editor Mark Savage snaps the pix.
SNOWMOBILERS SPEND A LOT OF TIME CHASING. Whether it’s following our buddies down the trail on our sleds, or on a race track, or maybe just chasing down the best food in a little snowmobiling town we happen to end up in.

We love the thrill of the chase, no matter what it is. That’s good because at the beginning of this snowmobile season we were chasing snow just to be able to use our sleds … and the snow was elusive!

Thankfully the first real storm of the year for most of the upper Midwest came just before our Real World testing in Wisconsin’s northwoods and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After a few days of logging miles on marginal trails with not much more than snirt, the snow gods sent us a bounty of 10-12 inches to test in. We were able to do all our acceleration testing, fuel mileage preliminary testing, wet weighing, and put our fleet of demo sleds through their paces. If you’re keeping track, this is two years in a row that we have gotten lucky with a snowstorm right before the shootout.

Each year we break out the radar gun, professional Intercomp scales, computers, digital cameras, prepare the test track, and bring you the earliest independent eval we can on our demo fleet. No one else does this early in depth testing. It doesn’t always make us the most popular mag with the OEMs (each one thinks its sleds are the best in EVERY category), but like you, we want to know the truth and give you numbers you can trust.
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FAST ‘N’ Luxurious our 2011 Yamaha Apex XTX launches from the start to post the top speed for the second year straight.
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Ready, set, test!
For newcomers, our Original Real World Shootout is actually a 2-piece endeavor. In addition to the trail sled testing we do in the northern Midwest, our Western Editor Stephen Clark also conducts a Real World Powder Sled Eval in Idaho at roughly the same time. 

The first thing we do in both our Evals is the Wet Weight Test.

We weigh ALL the sleds fully wet with gas, oil, coolant, brake fluid, etc. We do this weighing before we ever take the sleds out of the garage so that we don’t have any extra snow or ice buildup and so that you know exactly what they weigh at the start of a day.
In addition, we often install traction packages on the performance-oriented trail sleds (like most consumers) and we weigh these sleds WITH the traction packages installed. We want to portray the sleds as a buyer would most likely ride them. After standing on our Intercomp scales we use for this test I happily declared that they were correct to within less than a pound … unhappily I realized that I need to lay off the fried food!
After wet weighing we put several hundred miles on every sled in the fleet to make sure they are fully broken in before we do acceleration testing. Our sleds all had well over 300 miles on them by the time of our radar runs, which just happened to take place on Friday the 13th. Thankfully we had our lucky rabbit’s foot with us and everything went perfectly.
We mark off a flat ¼-mile for our test run and then at least another ¼-mile of run-out space to be safe. This gives us the opportunity for what we call the “full pull” and it helps our computer software that is hooked up to the gun to accurately read both ¼-mile times, speeds and a peak (top) speed. After warming up each sled we give each two runs, back to back, in order to garner its best acceleration run. We tell you about the best run of the two.

Our track this year had more loose snow on it than the previous year due to the continuing snowfall when we tested. The less tightly packed test track certainly was evident in the slower top speeds we saw. We had almost zero wind on test day, with what little there was at our backs, and the temperature was about 5 F.

All our test sleds were 2012 models, except for a Yamaha Apex XTX. This XTX is the same 2011 Apex we tested last year, but we swapped the standard RipSaw for a new Ice Ripper track. This 1.25 –inch lugged track comes with small studs already installed atop the lugs for increased traction.

Finally, after the acceleration tests we ride the sleds for a couple hundred miles, at least 3 tanks of fuel (this is after the sleds have been broken in), to get an early season fuel mileage average. We’ll give you the full-season mpg figures early next fall.
AmSnow's Real World Acceleration runs and Top Speeds (Speeds/ Time)
 Timed Speed Results Arctic Cat XF 1100 Turbo Sno Pro Arctic Cat F 800 Sno Pro  Polaris 600 SB Adventure Polaris 800 Rush Pro-R Ski-Doo GSX SE 800 Ski-Doo  MXZ X-RS  2011 Yamaha Apex XTX Yamaha RS Vector Yamaha RS Venture GT 
 Top Speed (mph)  96.02  94.03  80.09  90.21  89.13  92.93  98.40 82.28   81.34
 1/4 mile (sec.)  12.91  13.08  15.11  13.59  13.34  13.29  13.06  14.49  14.93
 1/4 mile (mph)  95.54  93.47  80.07  89.70  89.00  89.32  96.88  81.90  79.51
 1000 ft. (sec.)  10.55  10.67  11.72  11.09  10.89  10.85  10.78  11.71  12.18
 1000 ft (mph) 93.95   88.83  78.72  85.67  88.25  88.80  94.07  81.27  78.53
 660 ft (sec)  8.01  8.01  8.74  8.32  8.19  8.15  8.23  8.79  9.17
 660 ft (mph)  87.84  84.72  75.64  80.83  82.69  82.86  86.54  76.47  74.64
 0-30 mph (sec.)  1.70  1.55  1.70 1.67  1.59  1.65  1.76  1.88  2.16
0-60 mph (sec) 3.80 3.66 4.62 3.95 3.90 3.76 4.02 4.61 5.15
Note: Top speed can be from a separate run, but all other data reflects the single run for each sled. Red numbers indicate best time / speed in that segment.
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Ski-Doo’s fast luxury cruiser, the GSX SE with the 800 E-TEC engine proved it has plenty of guts with a 13.34 second 1/4-mile time.
Battle of the 8s
Possibly the most anticipated acceleration matchup was between the new Arctic Cat F 800 Sno Pro and Ski-Doo’s MXZ X-RS 800R. We won’t harp on the fact that Ski-Doo is currently suing Arctic Cat in the U.S. and Canada and names this particular Cat model in the suit. The lawsuit and these two sleds in particular have been a hot topic among many performance minded riders. We were lucky enough to have both sleds, PLUS Polaris’ 800 Rush Pro-R.

There are several notable differences between these three 800cc sleds.

The Sno Pro has the longest track with a 15x128x1.25 RipSaw while the X-RS has the shortest track with a 15x120x1.25-inch RipSaw and the Rush has a slightly longer 15x121x1.25-incher. In our Dynotech dyno tests earlier in the season (right out of the box) the Cat and Ski-Doo 800 motors were within 3.4 horsepower of each other, the Sno Pro making 155.5 and the X-RS making 152.1. The Polaris 800 was down slightly at 146.1 hp.

However, it’s important to note that once Ski-Doo’s E-TEC finally finishes its pre-programmed break-in period, the motor REALLY wakes up and just from our dyno experience, it seems the E-TEC was programmed to run even more rich in its break-in mode this year than last, so the E-TEC may actually be the most powerful engine once all is said and done.

Conjecture aside, any way you cut it, these sleds are VERY evenly matched as far as power goes and in our wet weight testing only 4 lbs. separated the Cat and Ski-Doo. The X-RS was lighter at 558 lbs. and the Sno Pro was a svelte 562 lbs. The 800 Rush was heavier at 593 lbs. All of these sleds were studded, but the total number of studs was highest on the F 800 due to its longer track.

Our radar tests showed the Cat F 800 Sno Pro to be fastest of these three performance trail sleds. The Cat’s top speed was 94.03 mph and it finished the ¼-mile in just 13.08 seconds. The X-RS had a top speed of 92.93 mph and finished the ¼-mile in 13.29 seconds and the Rush had a top speed of 90.21 mph with a ¼-mile time of 13.59 seconds. From the holeshot through 660 feet, through 1000 feet, and finally through the ¼-mile the Cat had the best times and fastest speeds of these three. The Ski-Doo was close on its tail throughout the acceleration test, but we think the test track’s fresh snow benefited the longer tracked Cat.

Last year we had a 2011 800 Rush Pro-R demo sled and its top speed was 96 mph so comparing the numbers, you can see our test track was slower this year. However, each sled’s first run was extremely consistent with its second, so while the track was slower, it was slower for all the sleds consistently - a level playing field.

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Turbo power helped our Limited Edition XF 1100 Sno Pro from Arctic Cat blast from the blocks in our acceleration tests. It was quickest to 1,000 feet and 1/4-mile.
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Ready for an ADVENTURE, that’s the Polaris’ 600 Switchback Adventure, which was very handy on our trail rides and as quick as the Cat Turbo from 0-30 mph.
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Crossovers and cruisers
The big duel in the crossover acceleration tests this year was between the reigning acceleration champ, the 2011 Yamaha Apex XTX, and the all new Arctic Cat XF 1100 Turbo Sno Pro. A little background on both these sleds is necessary to set the stage for this epic battle.

Both these big 4-stroke crossovers were not necessarily built as top performance muscle / speed sleds for the trail. The Apex XTX is a 4-cylinder naturally aspirated 4-stroke that Dynotech tested earlier this year at about 151 hp. It comes with a long 15x144x1.25 inch track and has tipped up rails for a little better trail maneuvering. It has Yamaha’s exclusive electric power steering and is positioned as a “do-it-all” hybrid sled that is smooth on the trails, has good power, and still enough track to play off-trail.
However, the Apex is a little long for some to feel comfortable buying it strictly as a “trail cruiser” and a little heavy (706 lbs.) to be a true “off trail” tamer. We think it does many things well, but nothing exceptionally … well, maybe one thing … keep reading.
The Cat XF 1100 Turbo Sno Pro was our Best Crossover sled this season and is positioned as a big power off-trail powder player by Cat. It has a big 15x141x1.5-inch Cobra track with a flat rail profile, and this turbocharged twin 4-stroke pumps out upward of 180 horses. Yikes!

Last year, the XTX was the surprise acceleration test overall winner and it turns out that this sled DOES do one thing perfectly, and that is launch to a mighty top speed!
This year the Apex held onto its title as our fastest demo sled. Yes, it had a higher top speed than our Cat long-track turbo and ALL three 800cc performance sleds we ran. Apex posted a top speed of 98.40 mph. Not to sound like a broken record, but anyone who says Yamaha doesn’t make fast sleds should shut their big yappers!
Cat’s XF turbo showed a top speed of 96.02 mph, which was faster than all the 800cc sleds. In addition, the big Cat was actually quicker than the Apex, and all the 800cc sleds, in the ¼-mile with a time of just 12.91 seconds. Apex finished the ¼-mile in 13.06 seconds. The Cat XF Turbo was also quicker than the Apex and all the 800cc sleds through 660 and 1000 feet. We feel that the Turbo’s big 1.5-inch lugs held down its top speed a bit, but seeing what happens in the real world is why we do these tests!
In addition to the Apex XTX and XF 1100 Turbo crossovers, we also had a pair of “crossover touring” sleds, the Ski-Doo GSX SE 800 E-TEC and Polaris Switchback Adventure 600. While these two sleds do not compare based on their motors, their clientele is likely to be quite similar.

The GSX comes with the 800R E-TEC and garnered a top speed of 89.13 mph, which was about 1 mph slower than the 800 Rush Pro-R. The GSX was 0.20 seconds quicker in the ¼-mile than the Rush though, posting a time of just 13.34 seconds. The long 15x137x1.25-inch track that was fully studded helped the GSX off the line as it posted quick times all the way through its run, actually beating its performance minded brother (the X-RS) on the holeshot and through 30 mph. The GSX also was quicker than the Apex XTX through 660 feet, so there is no denying that corner to corner speed on the GSX is impressive. Also at 616 lbs. the GSX is a relatively light cruiser.

The Polaris Switchback 600 Adventure did not directly compare to any other sleds in our fleet this year, but posted a top speed of 80.09 mph and finished the ¼-mile in 15.11 seconds. We did not stud this sled, but it gripped well in the fresh snow. The 15x136x1.25-inch tracked machine is Polaris’ first attempt to build an “enduro” type segment into the snowmobile market as this sled comes with extremely useful side compartments, a rack in back, mirrors, and is more for the performance-sport-touring-hybrid-long distance-luxury-utility crowd. (Is that enough adjectives for ya?)
In the 120-horse trail cruiser segment we had Yamaha’s Vector. This 3-cylinder 4-stroke fell about where it should in the speed ladder. The Vector’s 15x121x1.25-inch RipSaw track was not studded, and the numbers from holeshot through the ¼-mile were about what we expected.

Vector’s top speed was 82.28 mph, which did not compare to any of the 150+hp sleds, but the Vector was dynoed to have 127.2 ponies earlier this season, so this is no surprise. The Vector did beat the 600cc Adventure on top speed, but that’s no surprise as the Adventure has a few less ponies, is pushing a longer 136-inch track, and has the utility rack and two storage compartments on the back, which doesn’t make it the most aerodynamic sled.

Our last demo unit was Yamaha’s stout Venture GT 2-up touring sled. While many may thumb their nose at running a 2-up through an acceleration run, we wanted to prove that today’s 2-up sleds are just as fast and fun as many of the performance minded sleds. Just because you own a 2-up does NOT mean you frown upon performance. Our triple 4-stroke Venture showed us just that.

Also, we are not advising or endorsing anyone to ride a 2-up in ways that it was not intended to be ridden. This was simply an exploratory test as we were as curious, as we know some of you are. We did two separate acceleration tests with this sled - one with just one rider, and another with 2 people aboard. The fastest top speed was 81.34 mph, and that was achieved with 2 people on the sled (79.96 mph with one person on board). The Venture finished the ¼-mile in 14.93 seconds and was quicker all the way through the ¼-mile with just one person on board. That is PLENTY fast for trail fun and Venture is breaking the mold that says 2-ups should be targeted simply at the geriatric crowd.
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CAt’s speedy F 800 SNO PRO is our project sled this year, so we’ve added a Racewerx wrap and custom front bumper and skid plate, some ROX Speed FX accessories and more. We plan more on the mechanical end, including adding Boyesen reeds later in the season.
Early ride impressions, thumbs up
A big thumbs up goes to Cat’s F 800 Sno Pro. With a good studding package and large Stud Boy Shaper 9-inch carbides up front, this sled really handles! There is zero push in the corners, which is different than what we felt on the pre-pro models with smaller carbides. This sled also stays flat in the corners, as much or more-so than our Ski-Doo X-RS. If you take into account the longer track and extra studs on this sled, it may have been the lightest in the wet weight category as well!

Our Cat XF Turbo also was a crowd favorite. It is soooo smooth and actually was the pick of many riders for the choppy stuff. The 141-inch track bridges bumps perfectly and we caught people several times arguing over who got to ride the sleds with heated seats. 80 mph feels like 40 mph here. It’s scary smooth!

We also still like our Apex XTX. This sled is freaking fast. Down the long straight railroad grades of the northwoods several riders remarked that this sled just “checked out” and was gone. Cruising at ridiculous speed is surprisingly easy on the Apex and it’s comfy as well.

The Vector also is a speed demon. In the 120-hp class we are not sure there is anything that would come close to touching this sled (stock) on long sweeping trails. It kept all the riders that spent time on it warm and protected as well.

Probably the biggest “sleeper sled” in our fleet was the large-but-not-bragging-about-it Yamaha Venture 2-up. It was a sleeper because riders who had not ridden it before didn’t expect it to be so enjoyable to ride. It is warm, fast, has great wind deflection (although a bit noisy), has a plush suspension … probably why it was our Best Touring Sled this season.

We also have to give accolades to our Ski-Doo X-RS. Our Best Sled for 2012 did not disappoint and was certainly the best big mogul, rough trail sled in our fleet. Ease of suspension adjustment and total suspension capability are not matched by any other stock trail sled currently. It stays flat, corners well, and is light too!

Ski-Doo’s GSX SE also was a pure joy to ride and was everyone’s pick on cold days. The heated seat, good wind protection, adjust on the fly rear air suspension, ample storage, and solid performance made this a contender for the overall top sled in many rider’s eyes. And yes, this was another Best Sled of ours this season, AmSnow’s Best Luxury Touring sled.

The Polaris Adventure also got a happy nod from our test team as it turned out to be extremely comfy and handy. While setting up for our acceleration tests we hauled out the majority of the gear and equipment on this sled. It was a pleasant ride on the trails, handling well and was one of our warmer sleds. The Rush 800 Pro-R also was well liked by our taller, more aggressive riders. Having an electric start on the Rush was a huge plus too.

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Ski-Doo’s racy X-RS
Early impressions, thumbs down
By and large our group of demo sleds has never been better; seriously, there is not a bad sled in the bunch. However, there are always little things we notice that tweak us a bit, and here are a few.

The Cat F 800 did not have electric start, even as an accessory! Not a single 800 from Cat this year came with an electric start option. That’s just not right. But it has been rectified for 2013. In addition, the F 800’s gauge pod went haywire a few hundred miles into our testing, at press time we were installing a new pod.

In addition, a recall affected both the F 800 and XF 1100 Turbo involving the tie rod nut on the steering linkage. If you have one of these sleds we suggest you take it to your dealer ASAP for your sled to be inspected, and fixed, if needed.

Finally, the XF Turbo liked to start in reverse, and there was a service bulletin on the reverse forks and beeper. We had to constantly turn it off and on to get that to stop. The Turbo’s hand guards were useless and at least a medium height windshield is a MUST on the Cats. The bikini-sized windshields direct cold air from your chest to your crotch. As expected, the big 1.5-inch lugged track on the 141-inch long XF Turbo makes it push a bit in the corners on hard pack trails.

Until we worked on the monoshock in the Vector’s rear suspension and dialed in the front ski springs, this sled was pretty twitchy even with power steering. After we found the “sweet spot” two days into our rides, it was much better. But undoing the collars for the springs and trying to tune this suspension on the trail on a cold day is no fun. A more user friendly system is warranted. The longer Apex XTX still pushes in corners, but the steering effort is easy thanks to EPS. Both the Apex and Vector still dart a bit more than we’d like.

The only thing that really annoyed us about either of our Ski-Doos is that the “warm-up” period takes what seems like FOREVER! The words “warm up” flash across the gauge pod screen for quite a while. They definitely took longer than the Yamaha 4-strokes and the Cat 4-stroke turbo to warm up. Oh, and the X-RS needs a bigger windshield. It’s cold.

Annoyances on the Polaris sleds included a sticky electric start. Both sleds seemed to have it. Often the sleds would seem to still be trying to start after they were running. It happened to several riders so it’s unlikely it was user error. In addition, there is still more inside ski lift on the 800 Rush Pro-R than we like. This was noticeable as we fidgeted with suspension settings along several trails and in various conditions while comparing it to the X-RS and F 800 Sno Pro. Shorter test riders still describe it as tippy.
 Sled Wet Weights & MPG
 Sled  Wet Weight / LBS.  MPG
 Ski-Doo X-RS 800R E-TEC  558  12.3
 Arctic Cat F 800 Sno Pro  562  10.7
 Polaris 800 Rush Pro-R  593  11.6
 Ski-Doo GSX 800R E-TEC  616  17.1
 Polaris 600 Switchback Adventure  627  13.5
 Arctic Cat XF 1100 Turbo Sno Pro  646  10.3
 Yamaha RS Vector  666  15.6
 Yamaha Apex XTX  706  11.4
 Yamaha RS Venture GT  760  14.7
NOTE: Sleds driven at varying trail speeds with various drivers for several hundred miles after full engine break-in. Full wet weights taken with high quality Intercomp floor scales. Complete Stud Boy stud packages for the MXZ X-RS 800R, GSX 800 SE, F 800 Sno Pro and 800 Rush Pro-R. Ice Ripper track on the Apex XTX. More info:
Mileage and Conclusions
Fuel economy was not as stellar as we had expected on our sleds, but we had quite a bit of fresh snow and the trails were heavy with traffic during the few tankfuls we tested mileage. But overall, no big surprises. Our GSX 800 E-TEC got the best mileage at 17.1 mpg, followed by two Yamaha 4-strokes, the Vector getting 15.6 mpg and the Venture at 14.7 mpg. However, our Apex XTX got worse mileage than what we had seen last year.

Please remember that these are just PRELIMINARY numbers and we will have season MPG averages in our long-term tests next season, so keep an eye.

One final mention, four of our heaviest sleds, which also had the best wind protection, got the best fuel economy. Now there’s some fodder for your evening discussions!
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THIS YEAR WE USED traction products from Stud Boy on four of our Real World Shootout sleds. We used Stud Boy’s recommended stud patterns for aggressive trail riding on each of these sleds, the Cat F 800 Sno Pro, the Ski-Doo X-RS 800R E-TEC, the Polaris 800 Rush Pro-R, and the Ski-Doo GSX SE 800 E-TEC.

More importantly we tested these stud patterns using Stud Boy’s new Super-Lite Pro Backers. These backers are designed for the rider who is looking for the lightest weight stud support and best traction and quickest stopping available. The backers include the support nut molded directly into the backer. These are available in both single and double configurations in black and white and the doubles come in 0.500-inch and 0.750-inch heights with the singles available in the 0.750-inch height only.

All Pro Series backers are 5/16-inch - 24 self-tapping thread size. The double backer is used for standard tracks using regular Power Point type carbide studs while the Pro Series singles can be used with either standard or Plus style studs on both single- and double-ply tracks. Note that when you’re installing these backers make sure you soak them in VERY hot soapy water first to help make them easier to install.

Each of our riders commented on the excellent grip and especially the stopping ability of this new stud/backer system. If you have not seen the backers, they look almost like a scoop or small shovel surrounding the stud. Tested on the race track and the trails, the Power Point studs give lightweight performance and durability for whatever riding you do and are basically the top “all-around” stud from Stud Boy.

This stud offers a 60º carbide point for superior penetration and strength. The 1-inch diameter “Track Trapping” head design provides great support. Special tapered shank and thin penetration profile, provide rigidity that ensures good traction.

In addition to the studs we used Stud Boy’s renowned single Shaper carbide up front on each of our four studded sleds. We noticed much more positive and aggressive turning ability using these bars. Used in conjunction with the new backers and Stud Boy’s recommended setups for each sled we feel we have some of the best possible turning, traction, and stopping that a stock sled can offer. No wonder we had so much fun!

On the Cat F 800 Sno Pro we used a combination of double and single backers and used 170 count of the 1.375-inch studs and the full 9-inch Shaper bar up front. For the Ski-Doo X-RS 800R Stud Boy recommended a 168 count of studs that were 1.375-inch, with single backers. We again used the Shaper Bar up front. On the Polaris 800 Rush Pro-R we used 192 count of the 1.375-inch Power Point studs with a combination of single and double backers and the 9-inch Shaper. On the Ski-Doo GSX SE 800 we used 192 count with single backers and the Shaper up front again.
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