Test Tracks: 2017 Yamaha Sidewinder B-TX LE

This turbocharged 4-stroke is more than just a crossover sled!
2017 Yamaha Sidewinder B-TX LE turbo mountain snowmobile
Ryan Thompson - RLT Photos
The Yamaha Sidewinder B-TX is more than just a crossover. This sled can easily pass for a mountain machine, but it will also surprise you on the trail with good manners.

Ponies matter
This is not a sled for the faint of heart, or anyone with a heart condition. Power is a big fun factor when riding a sled, whether on the trail or off, and it doesn’t matter if it’s 60hp or 160hp. Exhilaration is still a big reason we all ride. In the case of the Sidewinder you better have a firm grip because you are sitting on a rocket with more than 200 hp!
2017 Yamaha Sidewinder B-TX LE turbo mountain snowmobile
You can get away with a lot on the Sidewinder B-TX! Even though this is a 150+ inch sled, the great trail manners surprised even our most seasoned trail test riders.
Ryan Thompson - RLT Photos
Unlike conventional aftermarket turbos that take a second to spool before you get the boost, there is no lag in the turbo on the Sidewinder, thanks in part to Yamaha engineers creating a snowmobile engine that redefines how engines and turbos work together. Instead of one throttle body, they used three, making the 998 the fastest yet smoothest turbo I personally have ever ridden. Plus, it is the first stock 200+ hp engine in a factory-built sled.  

The very first time I put the throttle to this beast of an engine, I was amazed with its continuous, linear power. I was equally impressed with how quickly I got to 100+ mph on a sled as large as the B-TX! Even at that speed, it was incredibly stable. The only problem I had was feeling like my helmet visor was going to rip my head off every time the wind got under it.

My favorite feature of this sled is its voice. There isn’t another sound like it on the mountain. AmSnow’s western team compared it to the sound of a jet airplane. Not because it was loud (when you are on it, it is actually fairly quiet), but because it even sounds wicked fast. See a video of this pull here.

The hard part about building a great crossover sled is trying to find that sweet spot between great handling on the trail and giving the rider confidence when boondocking, swimming in deep powder, or climbing mountains. The B-TX did not disappoint in any of these areas, as it is well suited for high-altitude riding (there’s no loss in horsepower with elevation gain like you see in some boosted 2-strokes). And, while it is equipped to give you a good ride on the trail, the B-TX’s gnarly speed and potent power makes it seem more at home in the hills. On this sled, not taking an opportunity to ride a wheelie up an open hillside almost seems shameful.

I would argue that this snowmobile has a crossover ratio of 80/20. It’s 80% mountain sled, and 20% trail machine by my observation. The trail riders in our crew may disagree, but that’s what we mountain guys want in a “crossover.”

B-TX in the hills
In the mountains and off trail, the B-TX surprised us in a very good way. In the west, we tend to look at anything under a 150-inch track length to be too short, mostly because on a steep-and-deep powder day, you do not want to be the guy everyone has to dig out.
2017 Yamaha Sidewinder B-TX LE turbo mountain snowmobile
Not only did the Sidewinder B-TX impress us with its handling, but it also took us everywhere the longer and lighter mountain sleds could go – and much faster!
Ryan Thompson – RLT Photos
This is where the Sidewinder B-TX really appealed to me as a mountain rider. With the manageable 153-inch track length and 2.25-inch lugs, this sled could be used 100% off trail as a mountain sled if needed.

My western team put it through the mountain paces. Not only did it impress us with its handling, but it took us everywhere the longer and lighter mountain sleds could go – and often much faster! For a turbo, it performed well while boondocking through the trees, although you had to be careful not to give it too much throttle, as it does have a tendency to wash out.

As anticipated, the extra weight was noticed more on a sidehill than anywhere else. With a 38.5-42.5-inch adjustable ski stance, it holds a good sidehill once you find that sweet spot ... despite being a bigger machine than the 2-strokes.

With the extra weight and its lower front end stance (7 inches of front travel), we expected it to push a lot of snow in the powder. With every crack of the throttle, however, it sprang to the surface of the deep snow. And when flying up the mountain, our skis never touched the snow (to our happy approval).

On the trail, we rode in less than stellar conditions with numerous icy corners and harsh bumps that could shake your fillings loose. Still, this was the sled EVERYONE gravitated toward once we got on the trail.

The FOX Float EVOL shocks and the dual shock rear suspension surprised the heck out of the not only the western testest riders, but also the trail team. With these shocks properly adjusted, the sled handled the bumps with ease, never once bottoming out on us.  

The 153-inch track handled incredibly well for such a big sled in tight turns. Of course, compared to a 121 or 137 it pushed slightly more in the corners than the shorter (trail only) tracked counterparts. But again, the adjustable ski stance helped to alleviate some of this problem.
2017 Yamaha Sidewinder B-TX LE turbo mountain snowmobile
Off-trail ski sailing! One flick of your thumb and the skis of this sled will be up sailing in the air once you get off trail in the powder. The raw power of this 998cc turbo 4-stroke will have you popping tail-standing wheelies 'til your heart’s content.
Ryan Thompson – RLT Photos
One of the biggest improvements we noticed was with the ski itself. Unlike the previous model year Vipers that tended to dive in deep powder, the new Yamaha mountain ski handles incredibly well off trail, keeping the nose up when you let off the throttle. Additionally, the wide and deep keel design really made for the ultimate crossover ski.

Track speed ultimately is what sets this sled apart from its competitors. We found ourselves looking for any venue where we could open the throttle and churn some snow! The sound of the engine and the precision of the sled at the business end of the throttle pull were intoxicating, addictive and simply screamed quality, smoothness, and a refined ultimate performance. It’s like the difference between driving a 1981 Civic and driving a Mercedes on the Autobahn.

Several times, we found ourselves hard on the brakes. As heavy as the Sidewinder is, it had a nimble deceleration with the best brakes in the business from Hayes.

Seeing is believing
Another nice feature of the B-TX is the new LED lights, which pump out some serious light for night riders and provide the look of cool “eyes” on the face of the machine. We always say it: All sleds should have the best LED lighting available to make nighttime riding safer and more enjoyable.

If you are looking for a sled that you plan on keeping around for the long haul then the 4-stroke Sidewinder is a great choice. Reliability has been a proven virtue over the years with pretty much all of Yamaha’s 4-stroke engines, and while time will tell with the addition of the turbo, there is no reason the Sidewinder should be any different.

One area that could improve is the sled’s storage. Typically, backcountry riders need ample space to stow items, as our backs are laden with avalanche gear. It’s nice to have storage for food, on the sled. The Sidewinder comes with enough storage for most trail riders, but as a mountain rider I would like a little more. Then again, I like to eat … a lot.

Cost is almost always the biggest factor for the average person deciding on a snowmobile purchase and the B-TX sells for just under $17,000 US. While the initial cost may be more than some of its competitors, the 4-stroke engine is likely to last much longer and require less maintenance.

One thing is certain: You WILL spend a lot less on oil, and for most people, it will be the closest you will ever come to warp speed. But wow, 17K? Guess it is worth the second job in the summer!
+ Pros
Blow-the-trees-down fast! Great performance sound. Surprisingly good on trail and off trail. Versatile for a big sled. 4-stroke ease of ownership.

- Cons
Heavier than other sleds this length. Purchase cost is high. Not much for color options. Little storage.
Engine: 998cc EFI liquid triple 4-stroke HP: 204.1* Drive: YSRC Exhaust: Turbocharger w/ 3-1 stainless steel pipe and muffler Ski Stance: 38.5-42.5 in. adj. Front Susp.: SRV-M w/ FOX Float 3 EVOL shocks (7 in. travel) Rear Susp.: Dual Shock SR 153 w/ FOX Float 3 EVOL  center shock, FOX Float 3 EVOL R rear shock (15.5 in. travel) Track: 15x153x2.25 in. Power Claw Fuel (tank/octane): 9.8 gal. / 91 octane Dry Weight: NA Price: $16,949 US / $19,699 CA
*AmSnow Tested
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