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Top 600cc Trail Sleds in 2017

Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigre and Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S will raise your snowmobile standards!
RELATED TOPICS: ARCTIC CAT | POLARIS | SKI-DOO
2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigre ES Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S snowmobiles
The 600cc class of trail sleds still offers proven engines, smooth suspensions and plenty of pure trail performance. They are not going away anytime soon!
Kort Duce photo
Hopping the bar. Not that kind of bar hopping! We’re talking sleds that go beyond what average Joe Snowmobiler defines as a standard ride. These sleds bring a little something extra to raise your riding experience bar a tad higher.

Arctic Cat’s ZR 6000 El Tigre and the Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S are two machines perfectly geared for the trail, but they offer more for a rider who’s looking to push the pace or tackle rougher terrain than their respective brand’s standard base trail sled. With engines packing plenty of pop, and suspensions not far off from their relative race-bred versions, these fine machines have what every trail rider needs … and then some.
2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigre ES snowmobile
The 2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigre’s high-end FOX QS3 shocks, revised handlebars and sharp looks left minimal room for complaints.
Kort Duce photo
Pace of 8s
There’s a belief swirling through snowmobile circles that someday the 600cc engines will fade into extinction and everyone will turn to 800cc sleds as the first and only trail option. I personally believe that’s just fuel for barstool fodder. As evidenced by the two exceptional 600cc power plants on display here, there are still plenty of reasons to like what a 600cc 2-stroke can bring to the party.

For starters, there’s weight. The last time we took a wet weight for the Cat 6000 El Tigre, it barely cleared 500 lbs. (509 to be exact). Just for comparison, Polaris’ 800 H.O. in a 2015 Rush tipped the scale at 552 lbs., and it was the lightest 800 trail offering that year by a long shot.

Now, certainly that’s not the weight difference between every 600 and 800 sled, but it does illustrate just how much it can be. And it’s one reason the 600cc class will continue to have strong support from buyers. The light weight makes them less tiring to handle on the trail, particularly when the trails get tight and choppy.

Easier handling generally means more riders can and will enjoy these sleds, from newbies to the experienced rider. Both the El Tigre and the 600 Pro-S will delight riders who want some fun power but don’t want to exert themselves as much as a larger displacement engine might require.

The common argument made is that the 600s sacrifice speed and horsepower. That is true, but only to an extent. Certainly, these sleds lose out significantly on HP when compared to the 800s. Cat’s 600 comes in at 120.5hp and 122.7hp for the Polaris 600 upon last check at our recent N.Y. Shootout (check out p. 26). That’s about 30-40 fewer ponies than you’ll find in an 800 sled.
2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigre ES snowmobile
Arctic Cat’s 600cc C-TEC2 engine is as strong as they come. The quick revs and nearly instant throttle response let you wreak havoc on the gnarliest of trails.
Kort Duce photo
BUT, you won’t find nearly as much discrepancy on the radar gun. We are continually amazed at just how many MPHs these smaller engines can pump out. In many of our exclusive shootout charts, you’ll find the 600s nipping at the heels of the 800s when it comes to mid-range speed (although the 8s usually set themselves apart slightly on both top and bottom ends).

Tracking the trail
Once you head for the trail, the comparison gets even tighter. Handling comes more into play when you’ve got more to deal with than just a straight shot down a well-groomed drag track. The lighter sleds corner with less effort than the 8s and allow a seasoned rider to be super aggressive in tight corners if they so choose. They can also be less of a handful in those suspension-crushing moguls. The El Tigre and Rush Pro-S really excel in a wide variety of trail conditions, thanks to well-thought-out shock and suspension packages.

Although my personal preference is for the longer 129-inch skid of the El Tigre, the 120-inch Rush is easy to handle when it comes to tight corners on the trail. The light weight of the Rush also helps in close quarters, making it easy to whip around when you want to whoop it up.

The Pro-Ride Indy was once Polaris’ trail staple rear suspension (and still maintains its place as a capable and affordable trail option), but the Pro-XC of the Rush has proven more capable with its Walker Evans shock package, especially in harsher terrain. It’s clearly the new standard for Polaris trail suspensions.
2017 Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S snowmobile
When it comes to predictable handling, the 2017 Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S is close to telepathic with any rider!
Kort Duce photo
The Cat El Tigre is also lightweight, and its longer track adds just a touch more smoothness when the trail starts to chatter. The Slide-Action rear suspension shines when you’re coming out of the corners, as it keeps great contact with the snow while allowing the skis to really bite. Combine that with one of our favorite shock packages in recent memory – FOX’s ZERO QS3 shocks in front and in the rear track – and you’ve got a fantastic trail setup for just about any rider, on any trail.

Most riders will find the shocks’ No. 2 setting more than adequate to handle 90 percent of their riding days. The stiffest No. 3 setting is close to what one might expect from Arctic Cat’s RR package, which is the OEM’s race performance setup. And it does come in handy on those wild days of crazy rough trail conditions and quicker pace.

What’s better from these two sleds is that each suspension setup is so easy to adjust that no one should feel intimidated to try different ride settings. The El Tigre is especially user friendly; the QS3 shocks offer three different settings, and each is clearly indicated on a switch-style clicker.

The Polaris is nearly as easy to adjust and offers many more settings to select from, but it can be a little difficult to know exactly where you’re at when adjusting because there are no indicator markings on the shocks. The Walker Evans shocks on the Rush also do not go quite as far as the El Tigre does when it gets to the ultra-high performance suspension characteristics. Regardless, the Polaris offers more options when it comes to finding that sweet spot, and it only takes a turn of the knob-style clicker to find your ideal ride setup.
2017 Polaris 600 Rush Pro-S snowmobile
Small differences can make or break your buying decision. Polaris' firmer seat and more shock adjustability options won over many of our test riders.
Kort Duce photo
More trade-offs
It’s pretty easy for me to spend an entire day on either sled here. For my daily ride, I’m buying the El Tigre. I like the longer track and the softer seat. I absolutely love its 6000 C-TEC2 engine. It’s fast to the top end, delivers instant response once you crack the throttle, is almost scarily efficient on oil, and is so lightweight for the power it produces.

Our group of test riders is split down the middle when choosing between the Rush and El Tigre. For every person in our group that shares my preference for the Cat, there’s another guy or gal who prefers the quick response of the shorter Rush skid, the firmer seat, slightly higher ride height, and more suspension setup options.

Each sled has a few nuances too. The Polaris lacks wind protection and standard storage. The Arctic Cat adds a little storage, but topping off your oil is nearly a job for two the way the reservoir is situated under the plastic. These are minor irritations considering how well each is built for the trail.

The stat that could make the most difference for buyers might be in the price column. The Cat El Tigre starts at $1,100 more than the Rush Pro-S. That said, the Rush does not come with standard electric start like the El Tigre.

It’s yet another example of a trade-off to be made when selecting the sled that will raise the bar of your riding experience.
ODDS & ENDS

35% -
Throttle effort is reduced by up to this much thanks to Polaris’ electronic oil pump.

DID YOU KNOW?
Arctic Cat’s 6000 and 8000 series 2-stroke engines utilize an Exhaust Pipe Temperature Sensor (EPTS) that takes real-time temps from the pipe and uses that info to determine ignition timing, fuel delivery, and exhaust valve control. The end result is an instantly crisp throttle response.

WHY RIDE 600?

  1. Cost of entry is less than 800s.
  2. Competitive power in most trail scenarios.
  3. Proven reliable engines.
2017 600cc trail snowmobile specs
2017 Ski-Doo MXZ Blizzard 600 E-TEC snowmobile
If Rocky Balboa was reincarnated as a snowmobile, he might be the new MXZ X-RS Iron Dog model from Ski-Doo.
SKI-DOO MXZ BLIZZARD 600 E-TEC
Another machine that ups the ante from your standard trail machine, Ski-Doo’s 600 Blizzard is a surefire crowd pleaser.

Every other manufacturer has been playing catch-up to Ski-Doo’s rMotion rear suspension since it was first introduced. The Blizzard gets the 129-inch version of the rMotion, and its trail-taming abilities are more than up to the task. One advantage the Blizzard has over others here is its 129-inch IceRipper XT track. It’s basically a RipSaw track with carbide studs embedded into the lugs. It’s not quite the same as studding with aftermarket traction products, but it does give the Blizzard a leg up over other stock tracks in icy conditions.

The 600 E-TEC is strong and confident in both performance and reliability. A flared windshield makes for a warm, comfortable ride. Adding hand guards is a little clunky with the extra width of the shield flares, but you might not need them. The Blizzard is hard to beat if you’re looking for a comfortable day on the trail.
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