2017 Ski-Doo Summit X 850 E-TEC: Kodac Courage!

The brothers Thompson play musical chairs in the new 850
The camera makes us do fun things! Like taking tough lines to challenge your skills and determination

Thankfully, in our group I hold the camera, and people usually look at our Western Test Rider Lonnie Thompson when they say, “Hey, do you think the 850 would make it up that?” This year, we had a serious case of K.C. (Kodak Courage) as the 850 provides confidence to climb and jump just about anything.

Living up to the hype
The combination of the camera-based courage and the 850’s climbing capacity made for some great pics this year. While Lonnie attributes all the social-media love to his rugged good looks, the fact is, the 850 made us all look good. It is the choice sled to learn on in the mountains and the perfect sled to let loose on too.

Ski-Doo did not just tweak a previous model with the Gen 4 platform, they threw out the playbook and gave the engineers at BRP some serious wiggle-room. Having met the engineers and getting to ride in the backcountry with them, they obviously put their heart and soul into every aspect of this sled. A huge shout-out to the people behind the scenes!

The new Gen 4 platform is a completely new sled. Having received the most hype and talk in the 2017 lineup of sleds, the AmSnow West Team members were eager to throw a leg over it. Lonnie said it best, “Our first rides of the season resembled a game of musical chairs. When the 850 shut off, it was a mad dash to get behind the handlebars. The ride was so fun the sled was passed around like a piece of gum at a teenage game of spin the bottle.”

It became clear we needed to establish rules if we were going to remain civil. We decided us test riders would rotate the sleds each full ride. The premise was you had the vehicle for the whole day unless there were some extenuating circumstances, or specific conditions that we all needed to try - like unicorn snow. This allowed time for muscle memory to be established, and kept us from fighting.

The power behind the new 850 is just awesome. We love that Ski-Doo kept the 2-strokers going! The 850 E-TEC engineered in unison with the pDrive primary clutch has set a standard for higher horsepower motors in the future. This combination has also lowered motor vibrations more than any big bore twin we’ve ridden. The 850 is incredibly crisp and reacts almost instantly through the entire range of power, no matter the load on the motor. For an entire season, this machine put a constant pull on our arms and smiles on our faces.

The running boards offer you a larger foot platform, both wider and stronger than previous models. When jumping from one side to the other, we never worried about finding footing. Snow build-up is a thing of the past as the boards sifted through the snow without additional drag. This is a big deal in deep snow and really makes a difference.
2017 Ski-Doo Summit X 850 E-TEC
Chassis, tracks and making our own tracks!
The Gen 4 chassis is two inches further forward, and this makes a difference in foot pressure response. At first, we fought the sled with our anklebones buried into the side of the tunnel. However, as we learned, we eventually took a wider stance, which allowed for maximum leverage with minimal input. The centralization of the mass is noticeable, instead of being offset like previous platforms. BRP have now distributed the weight evenly—including the crankshaft which means less rider fatigue and wrestling the sled, along with greater predictability.

The only modification we made was a lower riser. With the new Summit ski stance being 35.2” on the narrowest setting, the riser that accompanied our demo gave us too much leverage. Ski-Doo sent us out a lower riser and this proved to be a positive change in over-correction. The 165-inch track and three-inch lug is the Swiss Army Knife of tracks, functioning effectively in many conditions. The lighter redesigned track handles like a 150 class track-length and takes you to destinations that belong to the longer footprints.

This year we experienced above average snow, and early on we had bottomless dry powder with little to no base. From there the weather couldn’t decide if it was winter, spring, or fall. With the weather acting crazy, it gave us a great opportunity to test the track in many different snow conditions - including ice. I’m not talking about that hard snow you get early in the morning on a spring ride that goes away by noon. It was “get your ice skates out” ice. Other than Elsa’s “Frozen” wonderland (which only a studded snow cross track would perform in), we found this track to be impressive in almost every other situation.

Even in the late spring snow we were surprised how the 3.0” lug stayed standing and carved out traction. This surprised us since the track feels softer than previous models. The 3.5” pitch allows for more mass behind every lug, allowing it to get a better grip. This is part of why the sled feels quick; it hooks up.

2017 Ski-Doo Summit X 850 E-TEC
The response of the sled from the bottom end through the top was impressive with the combination of track and factory clutching. In the past, when getting ready to counter steer and pull a sled around on a steep side hill you had to adjust for the lag that you get on the bottom end. This was not the case here. Clutching out of the box was spot on.

This sled was put through every imaginable scenario: big hits, drops, steep side hills, super long wide open pulls, unicorn snow, ice and spring snow. Through all this (and over 1700 miles of hard riding) we went through only one belt and never battled overheating. There were never any A-arm or spindle issues, and we never experienced any hiccups with the bulkhead. And, after a hard day of riding, when we came back down the trail, the KYB suspension simply sucked up the bumps like they were not there.

A few people asked us about fuel and oil consumption. Fuel economy was better than other 2017 800s and oil consumption was more than we expected, but not excessive. We thought once we surpassed the break-in period we would notice a significant change. While there was a difference, it was not as significant as expected.

Overall, the Ski-Doo Summit X 850 E-TEC is versatile and provides a quality ride for a great range of abilities, and broad set of conditions. It is the multi-tasker of sleds.
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