Long Term Test: 2017 Yamaha Sidewinder M-TX 162

Superman stock! Turbo Sidewinder feels faster than a speeding bullet
2017 Yamaha Sidewinder M-TX 162 snowmobile
We spent eight months riding the Sidewinder in all sorts of conditions, and it did not fail to impress.
There were about 18 inches of new snow, the trees were fairly tight, and it was getting dark. We had been riding in a very steep drainage and knew that at some point we were going to have to turn and go up to the top of the ridge. As we approached another group of riders, we realized that getting ourselves out of there was not going to be an easy feat. The group we came upon was riding sleds from other manufacturers (newer models), and some even had turbos. All had been trying to get out of this drainage for some time, with no luck.

That’s when AmSnow test rider Kevin Thompson turned his sled up and began his attempt to get out of the drainage. He headed up through the trees, stumps and half-downed timbers on his Yamaha Sidewinder M-TX. It was a technical climb, about 300 yards up, and not for the faint of heart. We all joked that he entered the phone booth, put on his cape and literally flew like Superman straight up the hill!

Hard-knock life

Reversing an incorrect reputation for the 162-inch Sidewinder is not easy. Mountain riders talk of its weight and paint a picture of this sled being akin to the bumbling Clark Kent. But, I’m almost convinced this sled could go fast enough to turn back time. Our test rider Kevin came up and back out of that gnarly drainage three different times on the Sidewinder that day, while it took the entire rest of the crew almost a full hour to make it to the top just once.

We spent 8 months riding the Sidewinder in all sorts of conditions, and it did not fail to impress. The amount of power this sled generates is amazing. It has a very linear power band, which means the 204 ponies do not come on unexpectedly or all at once. The power is very smooth and builds fast – wicked fast. Although it can take the track a while to hook up, it flat-out flies once it does.

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. The Sidewinder is a 4-stroke. Yes, this inevitably makes the engine heavier than the 2-strokes. But if your only argument is weight, then you probably haven’t ridden one. The power-to-weight ratio on this monster makes it feel lighter than you think.
2017 Yamaha Sidewinder M-TX 162 snowmobile

The 998cc Sidewinder is the first 200+hp stock sled ever built, and it has a ton of arm-pulling torque. This muscle is not to be underestimated. Rider fatigue can be real if you are out of shape. It takes some serious strength to hang on and drive 204 ponies. So “cowboy up” and ride!

I honestly think that the Sidewinder generates so much track speed that it actually creates lift. Many times we had it trenched, but it usually only took a ski tug and the power, speed and lift created by the track did the rest. Even with some pin and wiggle, the Sidewinder came out of some pretty sick holes on its own. Get really stuck and you are going to be working for a bit, but that rarely happened to us.

A lot of people think the Sidewinder has a 39- or 40-inch ski stance, but in fact it has a 36-inch front end. Combined with the PowerClaw 3-inch-lug track, new chassis and FOX EVOL shocks, this really makes it nimble and able to carve and hold a sidehill. It can also boondock surprisingly well for a turbo. The zero lag and linear power make it easy to maneuver through trees and in areas where you have to be on and off the throttle.

Compared to the previous Vipers, the Sidewinder’s new design makes it feel more spry and sure underfoot. It feels ready to rip the moment you stand on it. The first thing you notice when going from another sled to the Sidewinder is that it feels like an Indy 500 car. I don’t know how else to explain it, other than it just feels like it is going to be really fun to ride and is more than ready for you to be aggressive with it. In fact, the more aggressive you are with this sled, the better it responds, and it will take you places you never thought possible.

The only issue we had all season was that we were going through belts about every 130 miles. We took it in to the dealership and had the clutch re-aligned, and we haven’t had any issues since (about 400 miles so far).
2017 Yamaha Sidewinder M-TX 162 snowmobile
We also tried, and liked, the Mohawk skis from SLP on this sled over the stock Yamaha skis. The Mohawks floated the front end more and didn’t dive in deep snow or push in turns.

We also found we had some problems bending the aluminum skid plate on the belly pan, so we took a plastic skid plate and fitted it to the bottom. This seemed to help with the lift on the sled, and it rode better in deep snow.

As the season progressed, we noticed the Sidewinder was the sled of choice for many of our riders. There was never a shortage of people asking to ride it. We never heard anything super negative from any of the test riders who tried it, either. In very technical, steep climbs, whoever was riding the Sidewinder was able to get up and out, almost without fail. Often you would hear someone from the back of the group say, “Get on that Yamaha and see if you can get up through there!”

Straight speed

We also put the stock Sidewinder up against every brand of sled, with and without turbos on them. When racing stock 800s and the Ski-Doo 850 in long, steep, straight uphill drags, the Sidewinder was the clear winner 100% of the time.

The true test was comparing it to other turbo sleds. It wasn’t until you got into the range of 10-12 lbs. of boost that the 800s (with an aftermarket turbo) started to beat the Sidewinder. The exception was the 850 with 5 lbs. of boost. That sled could outpace the Sidewinder. There is something to be said about the Sidewinder’s impressive out-of-the-box capabilities, with no clutching, pipe, or any other upgrades.

The Sidewinder redefines what is possible in a stock machine. It won’t be long before you see more of them on the mountain, feeding the speed and power obsession that so many crave.
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