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Long-Term Test: 2016 Polaris 800 Switchback Pro-X

Suspension tweaks make X model more appealing
RELATED TOPICS: SNOWMOBILE | POLARIS
2016 Polaris 800 Switchback Pro-X snowmobile review
Casting a wider net – The Pro-X Switchback from Polaris sports a plusher ride for the trail riders, but doesn’t give up its exceptionally responsive handling when you take to the ditches or the fresh.
Ryan Thompson – RLT Photos
The top 5% of riders. That’s who Polaris said they were targeting with the first release of the Pro-X models in 2015. For 2016, Polaris went after a larger portion of the market by softening their “X package” suspension setup. How did they do with the Switchback Pro-X?

Aiming bigger
The 2016 Polaris 800 Switchback Pro-X is still a ditchbanger’s delight, albeit a slightly more consumer-friendly version than its 2015 debut. Don’t take that to mean this sled can’t handle the rough and tumble. With a 2.5-inch-higher ride height and an increase in suspension travel compared to its Pro-S brethren, there’s lots of capability to tame moguls and big road approach jumps.

The Pro-X really made the most improvement in those typical trail ride situations. What could be a rough and somewhat ragged ride through choppy, washboard trails on a 2015 model turned into a much smoother, more compliant ride with a more forgiving suspension setup on the 2016 model. There was slightly less roll from the sled in hard cornering situations, and the sled stayed more planted in the trail overall.
2016 Polaris 800 Switchback Pro-X snowmobile review
Ryan Thompson – RLT Photos
Where consumers won’t notice a difference is in engine performance, and that’s a good thing. The 800 H.O. from Polaris is still as snappy and fun as ever. The 11-12 MPGs we saw from the engine for 2016 was a bit of disappointment, but not necessarily surprising when you consider the longer track and taller lug of the 15x137x1.75 Backcountry X track. Oil economy is very solid; we only had to fill up about half a tank every 2-3 days of riding, depending on WOT miles!

A few extra pounds
We opted to add some storage to our 2016 demo sled, as it came with next to none. The Lock & Ride storage system from Polaris that attaches to the rear of the sled adds a ton of storage space, but does give it a minivan-like appearance to an otherwise very sporty design. For those who value function over appearance, Polaris has refined this storage system. It’s easy to use, and your belongings are safe and secure.

The largest drawback to the storage system we found was the added weight, as well as the loss of maneuverability around the sled because the racks and attachments are constantly in the way. This sled was pushing close to 600 lbs. in wet weight with the added storage system. That’s 30-40 lbs. more than where we expected this sled would come in. It’s not a big hindrance on the trail, but it’s very noticeable off trail, especially when you snag your boot on the rack when jumping from running board to running board.

Still, for those who enjoy hopping road approaches and crashing through ditches, this sled delivers in a big way. It’s hard to find a more appealing sled for that type of riding. By dialing down the suspension, we feel Polaris has probably expanded their Pro-X target from the top 5% to the top 10% of riders. A good move.
Take 2!
Excessively fun! Pick up the front end off a long rolling hill with ease, or smack down a nasty mogul field. This sled is lively! Not exactly perfect for small trail riders though. – Mark Boncher, AmSnow Editor

3 Takeaways
  1. Softened up suspension, which should suit more riders.
  2. Higher seating position is not always the best in the trails, but it’s nice off trail.
  3. You will be carrying a backpack with this sled unless you purchase additional storage accessories, as stock storage is next to none. Fortunately, we had several storage options on ours with the Lock & Ride rack installed.

SPECS
Engine: Liberty 800 Cleanfire H.O. 2-stroke Drive: P85 Primary, Team LWT Secondary HP: 152.5* Exhaust: Single, 3-stage VES w/ Smart Actuator Brake: AXYS radial disc brake Ski Stance: 42.5 in. Front Susp.: AXYS w/ Walker Evans comp. adj. piggyback needle shocks (9.9 in. travel) Rear Susp.: PRO-XC w/ Walker Evans comp. adj. piggyback center shock, Walker Evans comp. adj. piggyback needle rear shock (13.4 in. travel) Track: 15x137x1.75 Backcountry X Fuel Tank: 12 gal. Rec. Fuel: 91 octane Dry Weight: 450 lbs. Wet Weight: 592 lbs.* Price: $13,499 US / $14,599 CA Real World Stats*: Top Speed: 88.61 mph 1/4 mile: 14.51 sec. Season Avg. MPG: 11.49*
*AmSnow tested
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