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2017 Polaris Snowmobiles Released

Growth spurt: Buy, build, lengthen and merge with the new XCR, Assault, RMK 174, and more!

2017 Polaris snowmobile 800cc motor
2017 Polaris Timbersled conversion kit
Timbersled bike/sled conversion kits allow you to use your dirt bike year-round, and Polaris is investing in their future.
Even with industry sales down in general for 2015-2016 due to low snow in many areas, and worse economics in Canada (particularly western Canada), Polaris is still gaining market share with solid products, namely the 800 Pro-RMK, the Rush and Switchback Pro-S, as well as the non-current market. The RMK is the No. 1 selling sled in all of snowmobiling right now. That is pretty impressive in its own right, but the 800cc-plus segments are also the most dominant and fastest growing in the industry when it comes to the trail, crossover and mountain markets. It used to be that the 600cc sleds had the largest market share, but now that has flip-flopped, and the 800cc motors now sell more. Polaris just happens to have the newest 800cc motor in the industry, so maybe we should not be surprised at how well their product is selling!

The lowdown on Timbersled and snow bikes
With the acquisition of Timbersled, Polaris is attempting to bring some new blood and revenue streams into the snowmobile marketplace. Expanding the footprint of motorized snowsports could be a win-win for enthusiasts, dealerships, manufacturers, clubs, tourism destinations and local economies. However, will snowmobile sales suffer if more people are converted to more motorcycle-centered vehicles? The Timbersled motorcycle conversion kits and buying of them by Polaris give this new snow experience some legs to start gaining steam in the mainstream market. Also, Timbersled basically owns the “snow bike” market and makes kits for thousands of bikes going back to the early 2000s, plus upgrades and accessories. We are excited to have new things to try!

That being said, there are inherent obstacles to overcome before the snow bike industry and Timbersled can really be considered mainstream. One is safety/regulation. Will states allow snow bike conversions on standard snowmobile trails and subject them to the same trail pass system? There are also differences between encountering snow bikes on the trail versus other snowmobiles. Also, sleds must have functioning headlights and taillights, and a lot of dirt bikes that are used for these conversion kits do not.

Finally, we all need to work together to continue to keep trails open, and that means educating new blood coming into the industry to respect landowner property rights. If the snow bike market begins to see even more growth, we will need to keep the dialogue open, because many of the folks coming in might not be snowmobilers. Snow bike sales have almost doubled in the past year, so good things are happening from a market growth perspective, and sledding needs new blood.

The guys from Timbersled assured me that the bikes are super easy to ride, even on the trail. Surprisingly, their research shows that many older folks are riding these dirt bike conversion kits because they are less physically demanding than the big 163-inch mountain sleds in deep snow. It’s easier to access unique, off-trail terrain on snow bikes, and sidehills take little effort. Snaking your way through tight trees is MUCH easier! These are great points for many off-trail enthusiasts, but on trail is still where the majority of snowmobile sales are made, and where regulation and safety for others comes more into play.

For 2017, Timbersled will offer six different conversion kits, including the new ST 120 RAW, ST 120, LT 137, new ST 120 LE, new LT 137 LE and the SX 120. The RAW kit is the “value” option with RydeFX shocks (starting at just over $5,000), and you work your way up from there. The ST 120 and 137 come with FOX Zero Pro shocks, and the limited edition (LE) models come with FOX QS3 shocks. The SX is the “snocross” kit; it has FOX QS3 shocks and a flexible track that is two inches narrower than the 12-inch standard width. The top limited and snocross versions will be well upwards of $6,000, so these are not cheap kits. However, Polaris does sell fitment kits, so you can get a Timbersled on just about any dirt bike going back to 2002.

Only the value or RAW version has a fixed front arm; all the other versions have a pivoting front arm on the suspension, and the tracks are convex so they ride more like a dirt bike. This is different from standard snowmobile tracks with hard reinforcing rods all the way across. Just like standard Polaris sleds, Timbersled kits will have Snow Check options, including frame and suspension colors. The LE models and snocross models are (for the most part) Snow Checks.
2017 Polaris Switchback Assault Rush XCR Pro-RMK 174 LE
Polaris is firing all of their guns at once! Well, maybe not ALL of them, but this OEM certainly has come out with blazing news in the last few months. From acquiring Klim, Timbersled and 509 to upping the ante with itsproduct, Polaris is fired up! And the company may be better poised now than at any other time in its history to retake the No. 1 sled sales position. We will see!

Smart moves
Polaris has learned, changed, and refined its snowmobile business in just the past couple of years. Buying some of the biggest names on the aftermarket side is a great way to expand your footprint in the snow industry, but you still have to have good sleds. Thankfully, Polaris has made smart moves on that side of things as well. There will always be things we scratch our head at, like not having a “value” 800cc trail sled this year (the Indy 800 is no longer in the lineup), but we are not opposed to fewer total models.
2017 Polaris Rush XCR AXYS
XCR is on the trail again! The newest rough trail tamer from Polaris gets an old-school name, but check out the XCR AXYS!
Trails and crossovers!
Finally, many folks got what they wanted in the crossover market! Polaris put the Switchback Assault in the new lightweight AXYS chassis!

But wait; that’s not all! For the “go fast” crowd of Ricky Racers and rough trail riders, Polaris also came out with a brand new race-ready Rush XCR. Polaris saw growth in what they consider the “ultimate/core” trail segment of the industry, and they went after it! Furthermore, the 800 Rush Pro-X as well as the 600 Rush Pro-S and 800 Rush Pro-S will all still be available. Finally, there is a new Message Center gauge that has made its way across all lines with Bluetooth, GPS, and many other capabilities.

Let’s start with the new “rider-centric” AXYS XCR. This sled will be available in a 600 or 800cc version, but we are guessing that the 800 is where the majority of sales will be! The name alone takes many Polaris purists back a few years, but this is no black-and-purple retro machine! It’s basically a 120-inch Rush with all the best-of-the-best options on it, including the Pro-XC rear suspension. The rail beams are reinforced, there is chromoly on the front torque arm of the rear suspension, and the rear pivot, there are heavy duty track mounts, solid bogie wheels, and racing rear axle wheels. A new brake rotor with more surface area, as well as new Type 81 brake pads and a new “ram air”-type brake scoop for cooling the area, are some more examples of the XCR’s racing background. Most importantly to many folks that might take this cross country racing, it has Walker Evans Hi-Lo compression adjustable shocks all the way around, with a 2-inch diameter center track shock.

In talking with the engineers, we learned that the valving is such that they want the new independent front suspension on the XCR to have the ride-height of the more trail-friendly Pro-S sleds, but with the big bump capability of the Pro-X machines (that have a 2-inch higher ride height up front).

“Think of this acting more like an off-road rally truck,” said engineer Jason Miller. “We want it to be fast around the corners, with little roll, but also able to take big hits and jumps.”

A 1.35-inch lugged Cobra track gives this a little more grip, and a 2.52-inch pitch driveshaft with a solid jackshaft help put power seamlessly and durably back to that track. There is also a beefier Pro-X torsion bar in the front end, and a Pro-X handlebar riser holding the racer bars. Polaris engineers have worked tirelessly to improve the active pitch control that helps the rider through big bumps, but allows the sled to settle into a corner and flatly hold a tight line, even in stutter bumps.
2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault AXYS
Polaris put their newer 800 H.O. motor into the Switchback Assault and finally made it available in the AXYS chassis.
2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Assault
800 Assault
2017 Polaris 600 Switchback SP 144
600 Switchback SP
2017 Polaris 800 Switchback Pro-S LE
800 Switchback Pro-S LE
In other news from the trail side of things, Polaris will no longer offer its Indy 800. However, the rest of the Indy lineup stays the same. You can get the 550 and 600 motors in the Indy variations.

The all-new Switchback Assault is the big news in the crossover market for Polaris. We were all fairly certain something was changing with the Assault, and it now gets all the upgrades that it should, being put into a 144-inch tipped-up, reinforced rail skid, and yes, the new 800 H.O. motor! We screamed that this sled should have come last year, but things weren’t ready. We can even now see the writing on the wall for a release of a Switchback Assault XCR next year! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Actually, Polaris is offering a new 800 Switchback Pro-S LE as a spring buy this year, so basically you CAN get many of the XCR upgrades already on a 137-inch Switchback (most importantly, the shocks) for 2017. Anyway, The Assault has been the best-selling crossover for Polaris basically since 2011 (both here in the States and in Scandinavia), so we think Polaris did not want to start messing with a good thing!

The new 800 or 600 Assault comes with a new IGX 144 rear suspension and the new PowderTrac running boards with more snow evacuation. The front torque arm geometry is the same as the Rush, and rear travel went up 43% over last year’s Assault. The increase in travel came from the front arm. The IGX stole lessons learned from RMK, so it has less drag off-trail and reduced bottoming. Where we are hoping to see the difference with this sled is in the corners and in the oddly-spaced stutter and square bumps on the trail. The older Assault would get out of shape, especially if you pushed too hard in bumpy cornering situations. The running boards are flatter and wider than last year’s too, with a tapered dual-angle design for maneuverability, as well as more grip and 56% more snow removal. No doubt this will be a lightweight and highly durable sled!

The front end is still the wide trail front end with Pro Steer skis, but you get your choice of a 1.35-inch lugged Cobra track or the bigger 2-inch lugged track. There’s plenty more goodies on the Assault, such as underseat storage, new Pro Taper bars and LED lights, but we’ll save our riding opinions for a future issue. We LOVE the LED lights on all the AXYS Polaris sleds too. Well played.

Not unheralded for model year 2017, there is also a new 600 Switchback SP. This is basically a toned-down Assault 600. It gets the new PowderTrac boards, IGX 144 suspension, Cobra 1.35 track, message center gauge, LED lights, FOX shocks and more. This is a 50/50 on-trail and off-trail sled for value-minded folks. Like last year, the standard AXYS Switchbacks with the Pro-XC rear suspension will have Limited Editions available for spring sales too. Options include things like a Pro-S package, Rox riser, rear seat bag, graphic wrap options, handguards and windshield combos, a bigger 1.352-inch lugged track, the same Walker Evans shocks from the XCR, Ultimate front bumper, etc.

Still a mountain king?
The RMK is still killing it in the mountains. To give you an idea, the video “Convergence” with Dan Adams on his RMK and his snowboarder buddy Travis Rice reached 5 million people, according to Polaris marketing. But there’s no denying that at 408 lbs. dry, the 155 is the lightest most manueverable mountain sled in the industry, and our Real World Powder Sled Eval data agrees (see info on pg.22). What really sets this sled apart is not just the raised design that improves lift out of powder (although that is great), or the 800 H.O. motor, or the rear skid design that keeps positive approach angles while transferring, or the 3-inch track … it is the ability to hold a consistent sidehill with predictability and little effort. Lift, control and response are the buzzwords Polaris is using for the RMK.

2017 Polaris 800 Pro-RMK 174 LE
The new 800 Pro-RMK 174 LE will compete head-to-head with Ski-Doo's Summit 174 for ruling the deep powder!
2017 Polaris 600 Voyageur 144
600 Voyageur
Polaris’ new line of mountain sleds includes an 800 Pro-RMK 174 LE with a 3-inch track. There is no sugarcoating that this was a direct response to the 174 that Ski-Doo came out with two seasons ago. Even though some people will say it is the way the market was already heading, Polaris absolutely needed this sled. It is for those REALLY, REALLY deep powder days in places like British Columbia, Canada and the deep ravines of the northern Rockies. Or, if you just never want to get stuck, then this is a good machine for you on most any mountain.

Supposedly, the new RMK 174 weighs 15 lbs. less than a shorter Ski-Doo Summit X 154 dry, and it will come with a chaincase drive instead of a belt drive. But we are just regurgitating here; we will see what things actually weigh in the next Real World Powder Sled eval this upcoming season.

The raised RMK 174 rear suspension is made to control pitch with a newer geometry for 2017, in conjunction with the new 3-inch paddle Series 7 track. This track is for soft snow, not spring snow or trail conditions, but it is Polaris’ exclusive design, and the chaincase is geared to handle the big lugs too. Walker Evans piggyback shocks are also standard, as well as the new PowderTrac running boards, Extreme rear bumper, two storage bags, and painted rails/tunnel/boards/spindles.

You will also be able to get new spring-buy Limited Edition Pro-RMKs this March and April in 155- and 163-inch lengths, with all kinds of options like Pro Taper bars, electric start, ski/snowboard racks and other storage solutions, graphic wraps and color combos, bumpers, handguards and windshields, gauges, etc.

Last but not least, a new RMK 600 144 will be available in 2017. Polaris’ entire mountain line is now in the AXYS chassis.

Utes and more
Utility is not the most exciting segment, but Polaris introduced a new 600cc Voyageur 144 for 2017 to complement the 550cc 155 and 144. Think of it as a Switchback Assault utility sled with cool features like PowderTrac boards, and value-minded RydeFX shocks. It has the AXYS chassis and Assault IGX 144 rear suspension with tipped-up rail and a bigger 2-inch track. There’s an Extreme front bumper and a rear rack and tow hitch, easy electric start, and a narrow front end with gripper skis too. Trappers and fishermen north of the border should love this one!
Ryan Thompson - RLT Photos
800 Pro-RMK 163
Polaris leads the industry in attracting first-time buyers to their products; 8.8% of its retail customers are first-timers. That is another reason that adding new products, like Timbersled, bodes well for the future mantra Polaris has been cultivating of bringing new buyers into snowmobiling.

Options include your choice of sleds in the Rush, Switchback, Pro-RMK, and SKS body styles. You can then choose your colors, wrap, and combinations including rail colorings and tunnel colors. Finally, you can choose all your options like electric start, windshields, handlebars, risers, gauges, tracks, and shocks.
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