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2017 Race Replica Sleds

The most high-performance 600cc trail snowmobiles on the market!
2017 Polaris 600 Rush XCR race replica snowmobile
Because the 2017 Polaris Rush XCR is part Pro-X model and part Pro-S model, it is the best of both Polaris AXYS trail sled worlds. And the 600cc CFI is strong!
Replica is not the right word. That badge seems to imply somehow that these sleds are less capable than other sleds. Actually, these are the most capable, sturdy, abusable, racy and durable 600cc 2-stroke sleds for the trail.

The two remaining U.S.-based snowmobile manufacturers, Polaris and Arctic Cat, are all-in when you look at this small slice of the trail sled market for 2017. Ski-Doo, the lone Canadian manufacturer, really has changed its tune as far as its 600 “race replica” sled goes. BRP no longer offers an X-RS in a 600 motor (like they used to); instead, it quietly did a late introduction of an Iron Dog special to compete against the Cat RR and Polaris XCR. Yamaha has been all 4-stroke for seemingly forever and has not dabbled seriously in any kind of racing for a couple years now, so it doesn’t have a racer-centered sled.

We spent time on both the XCR and the RR, and these will no doubt be few and far between on the trails this winter. The XCR is a somewhat limited build quantity, but it was NOT a spring-buy Snowcheck-only model. The RR was only available in the spring for this season and had a limited build as well. We did not throw a leg over the Ski-Doo Iron Dog Special, yet, so you will not see ride impressions of that sled here; just info.
2017 Polaris 600 Rush XCR race replica snowmobile
Seat-of-the-pants initial impression was that the XCR was an absolute hoot to ride! It’s lightweight, responsive throughout the RPM range, an overachiever on motor performance, predictable in the corners, and has incredible big bump capability.
X’s and O’s for XCR
It’s new for 2017, corners like a Polaris Pro-S model, has the bump capability of a Pro-X model, and is the cheapest sled in this comparison. We’re not kidding.

The Polaris XCR is the best value in the race replica segment, as it starts at about $500-$600 less than the competition. This motor is arguably the strongest, too. An independent dyno test by DynoTech Research at our New York Shootout last year showed that this motor is putting out roughly 123.8 ponies, while the Ski-Doo 600 E-TEC and Cat 6000 motors were at 121 and 119.3hp, respectively. Originally, Polaris called this a CFI (Cleanfire injection) motor, but more recently, the company has taken to calling it what it really is: an SDI or semi-direct injection motor. The “newer” electronic oil pump is also an appreciated upgrade, as it delivers exactness that the mechanical pump couldn’t and also contributes to that desired light and smooth throttle pull.

My seat-of-the-pants initial impression was that this sled was an absolute hoot to ride! It’s lightweight, responsive throughout the RPM range, an overachiever on motor performance, predictable in the corners, and has incredible big bump capability.

The best “test rider story” I have of this sled comes from riding it through a 200-yard long set of moguls that were oddly spaced and 3-6 feet high (seriously). No wussy bumps here, just hard-core, learn-what-you-are-made-of bumps. After 4 straight days of riding, my aging self was not excited to bang sleds through this gnarly set of bumps again, but as a test rider, I didn’t have a choice. After two times through the moguls, I realized I did not want to trade sleds with anyone else riding through this test area.

The XCR was not only easy to toss around, but when I made mistakes and plowed into the face of the next mogul, I was able to use my body to manipulate super quick sled reactions and stay balanced. The upgraded Walker Evans piggyback needle shocks with Hi/Lo compression adjustment and new XCR valving and calibration were great up front, and the new 2.0-inch-diameter-larger reservoir front track shock in back helped soak up the bumps. However, it was truly the AXYS chassis and Pro-XC rear suspension with “active pitch control” that allowed for quick weight transfer from front to back and side to side. Polaris also moved the front torque arm backwards (from the mounting of the previous Rush configuration), and that really showed its worth here.
2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR ES race replica snowmobile
If you want a sled that was strictly bred from the race courses and still has racing foremost in mind, get the 2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR. It is pretty much Cat’s race sled, but available to the consumer.
There are plenty of marketing buzzwords like “mass centralization” and “rider forward” that get thrown around, but we try to explain what they really mean in terms of actual riding. “Active pitch control” is one of those terms … hopefully we explained it!

As a “race replica,” the XCR gets all the bells and whistles a racer would want, such as reinforced rail beams and solid wheels. We tested the limits of the shock mounts, suspension arms, and IQR components that were made for racing. This sled never bent, broke, or even coughed at anything we threw at it. From fun twisties on groomed trails to landing directly on the rear end off a road approach, it was solid as a rock and light as a feather.

The sled also stops amazingly well with the combination of the 1.35 Cobra track (arguably my favorite trail track of all time) and the Hayes-built and tested PRT brake system. The Hayes race rotor has more surface area and controls excessive heat generated by the brake pads constantly mashing on the rotor with extreme force and at high speed. In addition, a new “brake scoop” cools the Type 81 racing pads, which are built to better take the heat and abuse as well.

Kudos to the engineers who finally made side panels that are easy to take off using plastic tabs that turn. Also, even though this is a racer, it still has a decent windshield, and the panels and cowl are molded so the rider is well protected and warmer compared to some other sleds on the market.

I love the LED headlights too. Having ridden with several versions of LED lights on many different sleds, makes, and models, we are convinced that these are a must for anyone riding at night. The marketing material says the Polaris lights are 80 percent brighter than incandescent lighting, but field of vision is probably even more important to a rider. Of course, the OEMs don’t measure that, but our own side-by-side stationary night tests show an average of roughly 20 feet more clear visibility on each side when compared to earlier Polaris models (so 40 feet total better vision) and even better clarity in the center. The most important takeaway is that there is no longer a single beam of light to follow down the trail. LEDs mean dispersion and a larger field of vision, and that opens up a whole new world to riders at night.     

Cat Gets New Shoe and Shocks
First on the radar for Cat’s Race Replica sleds is the choice of a 137-inch track option in addition to a 129-inch version. The 800 and 600 RR sleds both have this option, and both come in the same graphics as last year’s factory race sleds.
2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR ES race replica snowmobile
A few small things we love on the 2017 Cat RR include standard electric start (YES!), quick plug-in 12V connector high on the cowl, tether, and new hand grips that keep your hands warmer and are thinner so it is easier to hold the bars.
The second big change for 2017 is moving from the FOX Float RC shocks up front to the new FOX 1.5-inch-diameter Zero QS3 Kashima-coated shocks up front. The QS3’s are possibly our favorite newer shocks on the market. Three easy-to-use clicker settings, plus durability enhancement with the Kashima coating, make these the perfect shocks for a consumer-targeted race replica sled. In the rear Slide-Action suspension, the FOX 1.5 Zero C front shock was upgraded to a FOX 1.5 Zero QS3 with Kashima coating. Finally the rear shock is still a 2.0-inch-diameter FOX shock, but it changed from a Zero RC version to the Zero QS3R racing shock with the Kashima coating.

Just Sayin’

As far as riding impressions go, the suspension calibration is slightly different for the RR version sleds than the Sno Pros – the next version down on the performance ladder.  We were also told it is not as “harsh or stiff” as previous models of the RR. In our riding experience, however, the 800 and 600 RR sleds in both the 129- and 137-inch lengths still offer a stiffer ride, even on the soft QS3 shock setting, than many other vehicles with QS3 shocks we have tested. However, compliance in trail chatter was better on the 137 than the 129.

We give Cat credit for building its own 600 motor in-house with its own engineers. This is no small task, and Cat has done a good job with this power plant. That being said, I’ll again refer to data from our independent dyno tester Jim Czekala at DynoTech Research shows that the Cat 6000 motor, is slightly down 4.5 ponies when compared with the Polaris 600 Liberty Cleanfire or 1.7 hp compared to the Ski-Doo 600 direct-injected E-TEC. (Per 2016 New York Shootout data)

However, the 6000 RR has a fantastically easy throttle pull, and acceleration is instant and smooth. The dual stage injection motor, which is Cat’s version of an SDI motor, sounds pleasing through the exhaust as well. So much of a snowmobile experience is just loving the ease of steering, positive feedback through the bars, soaking up of the bumps and confidence to ride at whatever speed you like and be comfortable. We get that feeling on the Cat RR.

A few small new things we love on the 2017 RR include standard electric start (YES!), easy-to-see coolant temp on the deluxe digital gauge, quick plug-in 12V connector up high on the cowl, tether (which we think EVERY sled should have), and new hand grips that keep your hands warmer and are thinner so it is a little easier to hold the bars.

A few things we did NOT like were the tiny 5-inch windshield (we know this is a race sled replica, but it will be used on the trails), and the flimsy and almost worthless handguards (Rox makes some really nice ones that are a no-brainer for this sled).
2017 Ski-Doo MXZ X-RS Iron Dog race replica snowmobile
If Rocky Balboa was reincarnated as a snowmobile, he might be the new MXZ X-RS Iron Dog model from Ski-Doo.
It’s Not Just a Rumor: Ski-Doo Releases X-RS Iron Dog 600!
In spring 2016, Ski-Doo announced that they would be making a 469-pound, 129-inch long, 600cc MXZ X-RS called the “Iron Dog,” named after the incredible Iron Dog cross country endurance race that happens in Alaska every year. Unfortunately, at that time, the Iron Dog name wasn’t 100% ‘officially’ finalized.

There was also some discussion about whether or not to truly release this sled. That was all quickly worked out though, and we are extremely excited to see this sled in the lineup for 2017.

This is definitely a race replica sled, with extra suspension reinforcements all the way around, high-end KYB Pro 40 shocks with stiffer racing calibration dialed into them, and stiffer suspension springs, including a new dual rate center shock spring. Supposedly, this sled is even better than the 800 X-RS and Renegade X-RS in the big moguls! With the world’s best-selling 600cc class motor in it, we can see this being a draw for more than a select few tight trail riders.

This sled sits in the REV XS racing chassis, so it has the RAS2 front suspension and rMotion rear suspension, but it gets race sled upgrades like beefier running boards with extruded edges and far forward foot position. Starting at $12,599 US, this sled is a little more expensive than the standard Ski-Doo 600 X-models, but it’s not quite as expensive as the Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR 129-incher. The Polaris 600 Rush XCR still costs the least of the three.
2017 race replica snowmobile specs Arctic Cat Polaris Ski-Doo
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