Long Term Test: 2017 Polaris Switchback Assault 800

Back in Black
2017 Polaris Switchback Assault 800
Bullets come in many shapes and sizes. This particular one has a 144-inch track on a tipped up rail. The 800 Switchback Assault is surprisingly quick and extremely nimble.
Sit back on the track, cause you’ll be taking no flack, and nobody’s gonna catch you once you hit it and braap! Cause it’s back! Yep, it’s Back in Black!

Ok, so I’m a big AC/DC fan, if you couldn’t tell by the headline of this article, but I am just as big of a fan of the new Assault… and yes, the 2017 demo unit we had all last season was black!

■ Pre-pro to full production, what we learned

First off, this sled is faster than we anticipated after riding the pre-production version last spring. It was dangerously close to being as quick in our ¼-mile acceleration testing as the Ski-Doo 850s. There is a HP difference between these 2 twin liquid motors (the Polaris Liberty CFI 800 and the Ski-Doo E-TEC 850) of about 10 HP, depending on which dyno test you look at. At our New York Shootout, Dynotech tested the difference to be 7.9 HP. Still, the Switchback Assault was only hundredths of a second behind in the ¼ mile. That’s fast, and the power-to-weight ratio is very positive for the Assault. The new IGX 144 rear suspension in the Assault is also efficient, with little resistance.

We hoped we could change the ski-stance on our demo sled even though we knew the literature said you could not. Looking at the ski bushings it looks like you can easily pop them out and turn them around to run a wider ski-stance. Rest assured, you cannot. These are pressed in and the stance is 100% set at 42.5. That is a bit of a downer, but an easily adjustable ski-stance is something that certainly is an easy fix, and one that would give this sled even more versatility.
2017 Polaris Switchback Assault 800
There is also a pretty big difference in off-trail capability between the 1.35-inch lug Cobra track and the 2.0-inch lug Series 4. Where you notice the difference is in slow off-trail scenarios. You need to keep your momentum going with the 1.35-inch lug track in order to not get stuck, where the 2.0 will not trench as much and allow you to climb out of a hole and back up onto the snow. That being said, we would only prefer the 2.0 lug if we were riding off-trail more than 70% of the time.

Trail handling for a sled that sits tall, and has a 144-inch skid, is VERY good. It is not as good in tight trails as we were hoping it to be, but the only other off-trail crossover that you can be as aggressive with in the trail corners is the Ski-Doo Backcountry X 146. The Assault has fantastic rider positioning too. Mobility-wise this is the top off-trail crossover. It is so easy to move this sled around, whether you are trying to do a fun side-hill in the deep snow, or really lean and throttle through a trail corner.

We are also BIG fans of these running boards. We know we said that before, but for clearing snow out and for combating ice-buildup, these are possibly the tops in the crossover world. Being able to have your feet comfortable and move around is an extremely important thing that often goes overlooked. Anyone with 10 pounds of ice in each stirrup can tell you that their riding experience is severely limited.
The biggest surprise with this sled was how good it was on fuel. It was the best on gas in our entire fleet of eight trail/crossover sleds and five mountain sleds. With a large 12-gallon tank, and getting 13+ mpg, no matter the condition, or how heavy-handed we were, this sled had more range than any other in our fleet. That’s great to know because most Assault riders will be spending a good amount of time in the backcountry. Knowing that you can play out in the deep stuff and then get great trail efficiency gives riders a solid piece of mind that you won’t run out of gas somewhere in the wilderness.
Take 2!
This was my favorite sled out of the 2017 AmSnow Demo Fleet. The sled rides more like a 137 and doesn’t feel like a 144. Corner push is minimal for a 144 and it bridges the bumps very well. The Walker Evans Shock package rocks! Powder riding is a blast on the Assault, and the Cobra track really rips and hooks up on groomed trails. This sled was significantly faster than the short-track XCR in side-by-side trail testing, Real World radar testing, etc.
– Butch Veltum, Test Rider
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of AmSnow.com are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Sign up for our free newsletter
By signing up you may also receive reader surveys and occasional special offers. We do not sell, rent or trade our email lists. View our Privacy Policy.