Pony Up! Touring Sleds with Serious Power

Touring sleds with touring tech and power. Too good to be true?
2018 Arctic Cat XF 9000 Crosstour
Are you one for exploring new terrain? Maybe you want the very best in new tech? Or could you be the person who simply loves to sightsee one minute and then set a new personal best speed on the lake on the way back home?

If you answered affirmatively to any of those three questions, these are the 2018 sleds for you! Ski-Doo’s Renegade Enduro and Arctic Cat’s XF 9000 Crosstour and its sibling, the Yamaha Sidewinder S-TX DX 146 will all perform in any of those scenarios. All have their fair share of pace, performance and an element of practicality you won’t find anywhere else in the industry.

So whether it’s new terrain, tech, or time trial records you seek, read on to get the low-down on some of AmSnow’s favorite single rider touring rippers.

■ Where tech meets power

It’s well documented the dynamic 998cc Yamaha-built triple turbo engine, used by both Cat’s XF 9000 Crosstour and Yamaha’s Sidewinder S-TX DX 146, is one of the most technically advanced engines in the snowmo-biz.

We won’t get too technical here, but will say that the feature of this engine that’s wowed us the most over the past two model years is how Yamaha engineers designed an electronic bypass system that re-circulates air pressure in a way that it’s constantly building on the intake side of the three throttle bodies, and created a very short distance between those throttle bodies and the intake valves.

To the person behind the bars it means you never have to wait that extra second for the engine to spool up the power generated from the turbo. In other words, you’ve always got a crisp heaping load of HP waiting for you at the tip of your right thumb… 204 ponies is what Dynotech Research tested it at.

While Yamaha takes credit for the engine in both sleds, the chassis (per the Arctic Cat-Yamaha partner supply agreement) is mostly Arctic Cat. This elongated version of Arctic’s ProCross chassis houses a 146-inch track that soaks up trail turbulence extremely well, and provides a silky smooth ride atop a well-cushioned seat.

The front end - on both machines - feels stout, and is well enough equipped (Arctic Cat IFP 1.5 or Yamaha 1.5 aluminum HPG shocks) for the vast majority of this consumer segment. I will say a set of FOX’s QS3 calibrated for this sled would be a great addition to either one.

Skis are one of the biggest differences between the Yamaha-Arctic Cat sibling sleds. Yamaha employs their dual keel/double runner Tuner III, while Cat uses a deeper single keel/dual runner ski setup.

Both keep their respective sled straight and true, and resist the annoyance of falling into ski ruts fairly well. Cornering is another issue, at least in stock form, where both skis have room for improvement. But a lot of that depends on how aggressive you ride the sleds.
2018 Ski-Doo Enduro 800 E-TEC
A 146-inch track has a huge contact patch that meets the snow and a ton of power being delivered to it from the strongest engine in the snowmobile market today. That can lead to some pushing through tight corners if you’re a little more aggressive on the throttle than the typical rider. That’s especially true on the Arctic Cat with a 1.35-inch lug compared to a 1.25-inch lug on the Yamaha. Still, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with the right set of aftermarket add-ons.

The Cat ski can be more aggressive once you switch out the stock carbides, but so can the Yamaha, which does have the advantage when it comes to versatility. That’s because the Yamaha ski is a true two-carbide setup. You can mix and match different carbide/runner combinations until you find one to your liking.

The pieces we really like about both the Yamaha S-TX DX and Arctic Cat’s Crosstour are the extras. Tall windshields on fast sleds are a good combination for trail riders. Solid digital displays that are clear and easy to read are also nice to just glance at when you’re at warp speed. Arctic Cat’s Crosstour even comes standard with mirrors, which you’ll need because you’ll usually find yourself out in front with that 4-stroke turbo.

Adding even more comfort to both sleds here is a heated seat, 12V accessory outlet, LED headlights, and a copious amount of stock storage. There’s even a plug for a heated helmet shield.

Then there’s the 4.3-gal. auxiliary fuel tank that brings the total fuel capacity of both the Yamaha and the Arctic Cat up to 15 gallons! That’s nearly 50 percent more than a lot of other sleds on the market. That means more time adding up the miles and less time standing around the gas pump, and who doesn’t like that?

■ 2-Stroke Counter Offer

No. The Renegade Enduro from Ski-Doo does not come in the Gen4 chassis/850 E-TEC combo, yet. It does offer two 4-stroke (900 ACE and 1200 4-TEC) and two 2-stroke (600 H.O. E-TEC and 800R E-TEC) engines. For this article, we were given the 800R E-TEC version.

The sled is in the capable REV-XS chassis. That fact doesn’t change just because the newer Gen4 platform came into existence. The Enduro had to be in the back of Ski-Doo engineers’ minds from the very first time an rMotion rear suspension went into the Renegade lineup in 2013.

While the Renegade and Enduro are marketed as crossovers, the rMotion was developed to ride the trails regardless of its length. And the features of the 2018 Enduro speak primarily to the trail, and those who love to watch the odometer spin. Sure, there are some off-trail capabilities, but we’ve found it’s imperative to keep your revs up to maintain positive momentum when you dip your skis off trail. In fact, the only truly off-trail feature we can find on this sled is the upgraded heavy duty XC front bumper.

If we’re comparing sleds to Harleys, the Cat Crosstour/Yamaha S-TX DX would be more of a Road Glide, while the Enduro is more akin to a Street Rod. Handling on the Enduro is much more playful and aggressive thanks to its shorter track length, and pre-studded Ice Ripper XT track. What it loses in top-end straightaway-speed to the other two sleds it makes up for ripping through tight trails.

The RAS 2 on the front end is supremely built for the trails, dialing out body roll and tracking true through rough patches. The 800cc twin 2-stroke E-TEC motor was cream-of-the-crop status in the industry until Ski-Doo launched the 850 E-TEC in MY2017. Regardless of its second fiddle relegation in the Ski-Doo lineup, the 800R E-TEC is still arguably the top engine option in the 800cc engine class, where the rest of the 2-stroke competition resides as well.
2018 Yamaha Sidewinder S-TX DX 146
Comfy cockpit! If you are looking for a comfortable place to hit triple digits from, look no further than the Sidewinder S-TX DX. A well sculpted windscreen and plenty of heat around your hands, feet and seat make for an enjoyable ride on cold days.
Where the competition gets snug between the high-powered Crosstour/S-TX DX and the Enduro is in the extras you get when buying this sled. The Enduro offers similar creature comforts to the other sleds here like a taller windshield and heated seat. Both those features are great upgrades from Ski-Doo’s other standard offerings, but they don’t perform in the field quite as well as the versions on the YamaCats. We found the flared windshield on the Enduro didn’t offer quite the wind protection to our hands we would have liked, and the heated seat was not quite as consistent (although we find the 4-stroke powered Enduros better in that regard).

The seat is quite comfortable and a bit narrower than a Sidewinder or Crosstour seat, which makes for easy long distance days. The bar riser is lower on the Enduro, which taller riders may find hindering when standing up.

But the tech spec that really steals the show for us is the Air Ride rear shocks in the rMotion suspension. The shock setup offers five distinct preload settings easily selected with a rocker switch on the left handlebar. You can adjust on the fly, no stopping to adjust the suspension to changing conditions. We were wary of this feature. It seemed too gimmicky to us. But after significant seat time in varying terrain, we’re believers. It’s not a Ski-Doo ‘X’ package, but for the vast majority of trail riders it’s pretty slick.

Up front you can easily adjust to conditions as well with the Pilot TS adjustable carbide ski. You do actually have to dismount the sled to change the settings here, but a simple half-turn of the adjustment knob at the base of each ski spindle incrementally raises or lowers the carbide from the ski keel. Notches easily show you which setting each ski is at. We strongly encourage you to keep them the same!

While this type of adjustment feature is cool, it does provide ample opportunity for some tomfoolery from your riding companions if you’re not on your game!

■ 2 or 4?
So which do we prefer? Usually a high horse rocket sled like the 9000 Crosstour/Sidewinder S-TX DX tickles our fancy. Then again, the adjustability options and overall lighter feel of the Enduro hit the spot as well.

For the majority of our test staff, the Enduro won out by a narrow margin, but we would welcome any of these into the AmSnow test fleet.
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