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Long Term Test: 2017 Polaris RMK Pro Axys 174

Devouring mountains one at a time
2017 Polaris RMK Pro Axys 174
Longer than my 10-foot trailer, my wife’s car and taller than a basketball hoop! Yes, it is a big fun sled!
In my early years of riding, I never would have imagined a stock sled with an 800cc motor, 174-inch track, three-inch lug and a seat so small you have to be careful you actually land on it when you sit down!

In the old days, we would have needed power-adders and all kinds of trick parts to equal the Axys rocket. With the way this machine launches on top of the snow and takes off, the vernacular is accurate. As nostalgic as I get sometimes, this sled makes me appreciate the present and look forward to the future. The ease of handling and modern luxuries made me miss previous sleds about as much as my plastic-sack-lined moonboots.

■ Big and bad! That’s good!

The 2017 Polaris RMK Pro Axys 174 is light, nimble and very responsive. It side-hills incredibly well for such a big machine. The 15-inch wide track seems to wash out less than its competitors in steep side hills. I am sure this has to do with the narrower track and stiffer edge allowing the track of the Axys to bite into the side hill, carve out a flatter angle and keep the track more level.

We were impressed with how well the 174 handled tight trees and steep climbs. There were a few times the longer track was hard to maneuver through tight obstacles; while this was anticipated, we almost never found ourselves in an undoable situation. The sled performed in almost all conditions, and if there was a problem, it was because we were somewhere we absolutely did not want/mean to be.
2017 Polaris RMK Pro Axys 174
The AmSnow Western Team (or TTRP, Thompson Test Rider Posse) were eager to compare the stock 39-inch front end to the 36-inch front end of its competitors. Surprisingly, we did not notice much of a difference. The ease of maneuvering and balance of the sled makes it easy to navigate and didn’t leave the rider wishing away the additional three inches. Although it has a wider front end, it didn’t feel much different than its competitors. We attribute that to its taller profile.

Polaris hit a home run with their ski. In my opinion, it is the best stock ski on the market. It floats incredibly well in deep snow and no doubt plays a role in how quickly the Axys chassis comes up on top of the snow. It’s also very agile in various conditions. The skis don’t fight you like some of the others.

The 174 tended to push through turns a little more than the competitors, but this was to be expected given the tractor-trailer length of the sled. With the 174 you rely on your ability to lean and turn more than simply turning the handlebars. Longer tracks require full-body involvement, but with the Axys, this doesn’t mean a full-body workout. The machine seems to magnify your movements.

Storage on the Axys is ample. The handlebar bag, under the seat bag and the tunnel bag provide more storage than most other mountain sleds. The digital display is a favorite too. The option to quickly cycle through different screen layouts is nice; our choice feature is the built-in GPS map system. While we are an experienced back country group, we have used it more than once when we “thought” we knew our location. And with the release of the new maps app from Polaris it will be even better for 2018.

The clutching of the Axys out of the box was spot-on, and we never had any belt issues in 1500 miles of riding. This is impressive considering how hard we rode this sled in every type of snow condition, not to mention the clutch was driving a longer track which is amplified in deep, heavy, wet snow or on a steep climb.

We had several scenarios where we had to work our way up a steep drainage in tight trees and deep snow. While some of the sleds struggled, we loved how easy it was on the 174 to maneuver through the trees and stay on top of the snow without trenching and getting stuck. Several situations had the 174 breaking-trail in tight trees and bottomless snow. In these circumstances, there is something to be said about having a nimble and responsive sled that comes on top of the snow when you need it to.
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This “float-to-the-surface” quality is one of the virtues Polaris touts, so we were eager to put it to the test. The official assessment was set up on the flat in 15 inches of fresh snow. The sleds were lined up to compare their ability to come up out of the snow and level out. We ran the test three different times and switched the riders to make sure we had fair results. Each time the 174 came up on top of the snow and leveled out first of our demo sleds. Sometimes it was just by a slight margin, but it was always first. We attributed this to the raised chassis with the taller spindles as well as the approach angle of the track. And, the sled is just plain lightweight!

■ Responding to you

When describing the Axys chassis it is easy to compare it to the feel of a motorbike. I have no doubt that the reason this sled is so easy to bring up on its edge is that it is taller and narrower. The narrow panels aid in sidehilling without paneling out. In fact, every time I would get off a competitor sled and get on the Axys I would inevitably tip the Axys over on the first turn (off trail of course).

The Axys feels like an extension of your body. It responds with minimal input and incredibly well to a little pull and lean. This is in part what makes the 39-inch front end feel like a 36-inch. I rode the 2016 Axys chassis with a 36-inch aftermarket front end and it felt very tippy. Once I learned how to maneuver it, the ride was a blast. However, this year, we stayed with the stock 39-inch front end and never once regretted it.
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Just take someone that has not been on a new sled and let them loose. Those that are used to exerting strong rider input end up wobbly and often fall over. The Axys needs to be ridden using your entire body, but with subtle moves. Those that haven’t been on a sled newer than an ‘06 will need to adjust, but after a short period, experienced riders will master the sled, experience lower rider fatigue and go places they didn’t know were possible.

Many people ask if the 174 really makes that big of a difference compared to the shorter tracks. Yes it does.

If you want a sled that will go through deep bottomless powder all day long, then this is the sled for you. If you want a sled that will climb the steep chutes and make boondocking in deep tree pockets effortless, the Axys is your ride. While the 155 and the 163 will take you to most of the same places, in deep powder days, the 174 is king. And while the shorter tracks perform better in spring snow and the harder days between snow cycles, the payoff of the longer track on powder days is pronounced.
And, even in the worst snow conditions where the shorter tracks had an edge, we rarely heard anyone complain about the extra track.

Being on top in the deep powder is great, while everyone is taking a rest from digging out.
KevinThompson
Take 2!
When you just wanna be able to sit back and cruise through the deep powder, this is the sled you want. It purrs through the deep stuff with ease.

Throttle response is spot-on, flotation is incredible, but you do have to ride it in the corners as it does like to push through them. The storage for extra articles is like no other and I am always getting water, changing gloves or goggles since they are easy to get to.

I do feel like I am trying to lean over the bars to get farther forward on this sled so as to get the front end to do what I want at slower speeds. But it’s a fun sled to ride and it is a mule when it comes to busting the steep and deep stuff. This sled will stick to a side hill like a fly on poop.
 – Kevin Thompson, AmSnow Test Rider
LonnieThompson
Take 2!
This deep powder machine has loads of low-end power. It accelerates hard, right from a stop, giving that instantaneous float that Polaris speaks of. I was never disappointed, but often surprised in the deep powder.

The overall length of this chassis makes it a little less fun to ride when compared to the 155-incher. What it lacks in flickability it more than makes up in traction.
– Lonnie Thompson, AmSnow Test Rider
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