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Long-Term Test: 2016 Polaris AXYS Pro-RMK

Less weight, more power and good times on the new Pro-RMK
2016 Polaris AXYS Pro-RMK snowmobile review
The AXYS Pro-RMK adds more quick power without sacrificing the Pro-RMK's finesse.
Ryan Thompson – RLT Photos
The Polaris AXYS RMK was unquestionably the most anticipated sled in the mountains for the winter of 2015-16. Boasting more horsepower and an even lighter weight than its already class-leading predecessor, the Pro-RMK was sure to be a home run. However, we had to find out for ourselves whether the impressive spec sheets would translate to a great machine. So we lined up a long-term demo unit from Polaris and put the sled to the test over a whole season of deep snow mountain riding.

It’s still fun
The 2016 AXYS RMK was available in an almost endless combination of track lengths, colors, shocks and other accessories. We tested the 408-pound machine that had been featured in all the marketing materials – the 800 Pro-RMK 155. The 155 is the lightest RMK available because it has the QuickDrive system, the shortest and smallest lug track, a bare aluminum tunnel and lightweight Walker Evans shocks. In addition to the light weight, the 2.6-inch track was another major factor in choosing this machine. While 3-inch tracks are all the rage these days, they do have small drawbacks in maneuverability and getting a sled unstuck … 174 inches is a lot of track to dig out! So we played it safe with the smaller lug.
2016 Polaris AXYS Pro-RMK snowmobile review
Ryan Thompson – RLT Photos
The updated Liberty 800 high-output engine is a gem with a new lightweight crank, 3-stage electronic exhaust valves and new electronic oil injection. It feels like it generates more top end power than its predecessor, and it definitely revs out a lot quicker. The Polaris sleds felt like they lagged behind other competitors’ 800s in terms of engine performance the last few years, but the 800 H.O. engine puts it right back in the game.

Polaris hasn’t set records in recent years in reliability, but we had high hopes that the 800 Pro-RMK would be a new beginning in terms of quality and reliability. Overall, we would say the AXYS has better fit and finish than the previous machine; however, we did have a couple of small electrical issues. One time, the machine wouldn’t start and we traced the issue back to moisture in a wire connector. Then, close to the end of the season, there was an issue with exhaust power valve relays. The first issue fixed itself and the second was covered under warranty.

To be fair, for a first-year machine, these were pretty minor problems. Issues are typically resolved by the second model year. Otherwise the machine worked well, and belt life and fuel mileage were both really good. It burns so little oil it’s almost scary, but it kept running and we spent less on oil, so we are not complaining.

Overall, our experience with the AXYS Pro-RMK was highly positive. The changes have improved the machine without sacrificing any of the traits that made the old Pro-RMK so good. When it comes to sidehill technical riding, the Pro-RMK is absolutely incredible. With easy-to-initiate and stable sidehilling manners, this machine turns an average mountain rider into a good rider.

If we had to sum up this sled in one sentence, it would be that the AXYS Pro-RMK is a faster, lighter and tighter handling Pro-RMK. If you like the Pro-RMK, then you will love the AXYS.
2016 Polaris AXYS Pro-RMK snowmobile review
Hold it right there! While other OEMs have narrowed up ski stances, Polaris held steady with a 39-inch front end.
Ryan Thompson – RLT Photos
The sled is almost completely new with very few parts carrying over from the previous Pro-RMK. However, it still has firmly implanted traditional RMK DNA, and it retains many of the Pro-RMK’s handling characteristics. Aside from weight and horsepower, the next biggest change is the patented, raised AXYS RMK chassis. By raising the chassis to sit higher out of the snow, Polaris engineers figure the machine is less prone to trenching and able to get on top of the snow more quickly.

The overall geometry of the chassis is similar to the old Pro-RMK and still positions the rider relatively far back on the machine in comparison to the Ski-Doo and Arctic Cat. While the other manufacturers have continued to go with further rider-forward geometry and narrowing the front ski stance, Polaris has stuck with the same general chassis geometry and 39-inch front end for many years now.

When I first jumped on this machine, it felt really familiar; again, the rider position and overall machine layout is similar to the previous generation Pro-RMK. But once you get on the snow, it quickly becomes apparent that this AXYS is much more responsive than the old Pro-RMK, and at first it was easy to over-ride the machine. Giving the AXYS the same amount of body input as you would the old machine usually results in falling over onto your side. It was almost a deja vu situation to when we first rode the Pro-RMK back in 2010 and were comparing it to the Dragon. We quickly adapted to the quicker-handling AXYS and got used to the balance point of the machine. That’s when the sled started to get really fun. The steep sidehills are where the AXYS really shines, and we found it could hold a steeper sidehill with less chance of the track washing out.

Catch your eye
When it comes to styling, Polaris did a great job on the look of the Pro-RMK. The bodywork features a chiseled, muscular look that is accentuated with LED headlights. One of the biggest benefits to the new bodywork design is the center hood section that allows you to easily access the engine by removing the DZUS fasteners and unplugging one connector on the wire harness. Another new feature is a storage compartment on top of the dash. We wish it was large enough to fit a pair of goggles, but it works well for stashing a spare set of gloves or other small item. The fit and finish of the bodywork is spot on, giving the machine a high-quality feel.
Engine: 795cc H.O. Liberty 2-stroke Drive: P-85 Primary, TEAM LWT Secondary HP: 152.5* Exhaust: SC VES, Single Brake: AXYS RMK LWT Ski Stance: 39-40-41 in. adj. Front Susp.: AXYS RMK Adjustable w/ Walker Evans Monotube shocks (9 in. travel) Rear Susp.: RMK coil-over w/ Walker Evans monotube shocks (16 in. travel) Track: 15x155x2.6 in. Series 6 Fuel Tank: 11.5 gal. Rec. Fuel: 91 octane Dry Weight: 408 lbs. Wet Weight: 506.6 lbs.* Price: $13,199 US / $14,499 CA Real World Stats*: 1/8-mile uphill accel: 41 mph, 14.62 sec. Avg. handling course time: 38.69 sec.
*AmSnow tested
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