Fun on a Budget: 600 Trail Sled Comparo

Wallet-friendly trail sleds with upside 600cc value action!
Sleek and style-y is what the new body panels and windshield do for the ZR 6000. It’s quite possibly the meanest looking 600cc sled made.
Rob Budrow
Most of us imagine, or have imagined, that we’re race drivers. We think we’re faster than our buddies, faster than the cross-country and snocross racers and make greased lightning look slow!

Then we wake up and realize that maybe, just maybe, we’re a little farther away from the top step of the podium than we thought – both in talent and pocket change.

Luckily the manufacturers put out sled options to accommodate us.

Here I stack up the Arctic Cat ZR 6000 129 Sno Pro with the Polaris 600 Indy SP. Both are pretty much in line with my ability, and billfold.

Both are quick and handle well. The Polaris feels lighter and is indeed shorter with a 121-inch track vs. a 129-incher for the Cat. The ride comfort goes to the Cat, but if you’re a “racer-type” that stands most of the time, well, that’s not so important.

Here’s how I see this dynamic duo stacking up.
Indy is a sure shot! At under $10,000 MSRP, you will have a hard time touching the crisp response and handling of the Indy SP with any competing product.
■ Polaris Indy SP
We often term Polaris’ Indy sleds as “value buys.” Don’t confuse value with boring or cheap. The 600 Indy SP is clearly a value leader for Polaris, but it’s a hoot on the trails too.

First, it’s 600cc 2-stroke, while a bit more noisy than some other 6’s, it kicks out the pony power as hard as a baby kangaroo trying to hop out of its mother’s pouch. Remember, this is the same 600 2-stroke engine you’ll find in other Polaris 600cc sleds, including the 600 XCR race-ready models. Believe us when we say this sled has plenty of punch, and you’ll have no trouble keeping pace with other 600s, or even 800s, down the trails.

While I love the ride of the longer-tracked sleds, hopping on the Indy is a treat. The chassis is stiff and nimble, and the 600 Indy SP is also listed with the same dry weight as the 600 Rush XCR in the Polaris catalog (449 Lbs.), so it’s plenty light to toss around.

It’s a comfortable sled that you instantly feel in control of. The seat is properly sculpted, if a tad hard, but you can wrap your legs around it and make the Indy go where you want. Carving through snowy corners is easy and goosing that accelerator pushes you back with an instant oomph that not all sleds offer.
Ride is fine and you can stand up quickly and easily to ride out the smaller rough stuff when the trails start to turn nasty. I felt fully in charge of the Indy, something I can’t say about all the performance sleds or long-tracks and crossovers.

I’d prefer a taller and wider windshield, the outer edges of my hands got cold during the ride, but with electric start and reverse, the key functions here are easy and reliable. A little more lug on the track would go a long ways for the Indy as well. It comes with a 15x121x1-inch HackSaw track, but it’d really benefit from a 1.25-inch lug both in stopping and acceleration on the trail.

I also noticed the gas gauge – old mechanical style in the gas cap – is really easy to see while riding, and that’s always a good thing!

Quite possibly the best feature of the Indy is the price tag at $9,599 US. A fully capable machine ready to carve the trails with decent power, good handling, and a comfortable ride. Isn’t that what we’re all after?
2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 SNO PRO 129
■ Arctic Cat ZR 6000 129 Sno Pro
Can you keep pace on the racy ZR 6000 Sno Pro? Sure!

Like the Indy, the handling here is light and easy, and the ProCross skis provide excellent steering in fast corners. Our test out West was in fresh snow, but with an icy under-layer. This Cat is another point-and-shoot sled in the corners.

The Cat also comes with a longer 129-inch RipSaw track with the 1.25-inch lugs we were wishing for on the Indy, which in some conditions could help smooth out the trail ride, but it didn’t always feel as smooth as we hoped. Could be that I’d just dialed in the Polaris a bit better. A Cat CrossTour, with its longer-yet track, was much smoother over the mild up and down trails.

Beyond handling well, Cat’s ZR 6000 delivers smooth power and plenty of grunt. The 599cc C-TEC 2-stroke comes on quickly, with the new TEAM Rapid Response II drive clutch system engaging smoothly to provide near instantaneous power off the line. I can’t wait to test more of these sleds side-by-side this winter to see which production version comes off the line quickest.
2017 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 SNO PRO 129
Underneath, the sled features an Arctic race suspension with Fox 1.5 Zero RC shocks up front and its efficient Slide-Action rear suspension with coupling blocks and a Torque-Sensing Link rear arm with adjustable torsion springs.

If you’ve adjusted this system before it’s pretty easy, but I find it is prone to icing up if the conditions are right. It’s not a huge problem, but it does make adjusting it more time consuming late in the day when trail conditions could be changing and there is snow and slush building up on your sled’s tunnel.

From a comfort standpoint, the Cat is easy to maneuver on and has a well-padded seat that is comfortable for long rides. But the bikini windshield is nothing more than a way to divert snow from the gauges. This is a very windy sled especially at 50+ mph. I felt the wind pushing hard on my body, so I’m sure that drag is really slowing me down, not to mention it creates a less than desirable riding experience.

On the plus side, the sled’s bars warmed quickly, and I like the Arctic Cat two-pod dash display. It’s easy to see and use. I also like the belt bag under the seat and the sled has Cat’s new body panels and windshield that not only fit well, but the panels are easy to remove and replace. Just turn a couple fasteners and the panels pop loose. Those new body panels also help improve cooling.

The Cat also has a 5.5-inch riser, so taller riders and those that stand a lot while riding can appreciate the extra bar height.
A true trail sled! The Indy strikes a balance between low and fast and tall and flickable. It is one of the last true all around ‘trail sleds’ available today for the purist.
■ Final tally
I feel faster and racier on the Polaris, but both sleds handle well and provide strong power. The Polaris’ braking is excellent and power comes on instantly. Cat’s seat is more comfortable. Both need taller windshields to be more comfortable by cutting driver wind resistance, which will make you, and the sled, faster. And faster is what we’re imagining we already are, but either of these new sleds will fully get you there!

Sure, you’re paying more for the Cat, but you’re also getting more track, more lug, more capable shocks, more storage, and electric start. Suddenly that $2,200 price difference doesn’t seem all that bad! And for the true weekend warrior who finds him or herself on rutted up trails come Saturday afternoon, it might be worth it.

On the other hand, those who are privileged to ride the often freshly groomed mid-week trails might opt to save a little money because their conditions are so plush.
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