Yamaha SR Viper LTX SE / Arctic Cat XF Sno Pro
I KNOW, I know, these are 2 separate sleds, but they are soooo close that I had to put them together as my Best Sled choice. Both have the famously powerful, economic, and reliable Yamaha Genesis engine in them and also have the newest version of the ProCross chassis from Cat. This is the best of both worlds and something us media types have been asking for, for years. Kudos to Cat and Yamaha for coming together to make it happen for the consumer! In addition, the 137-inch length track is simply an excellent do-everything length. Buy a bigger lugged track and take this sled out West in the bigger hills and deeper powder, or leave the 1.25-inch lugged RipSaw on it and have as much fun on the trails as your short-track brothers. This length handles bumps well, rides smoother and makes more sense for people who want to do-it-all with one sled and not sacrifice much. – Mark Boncher
Ski-Doo GSX LE ACE 900
MARK’S RIGHT, the Yamaha/Cat can be a blast and crossovers make sense for riders who want an all-in-one sled. But I’m thinking of the newcomer and family trail riders, and Ski-Doo’s GSX with its new adaptable ACE 900 is my winner. I like the ACE in its other platforms too, but to me the GSX makes the most sense. You have the plush ride and big windshield, but the zippy ACE 900 and its 90+ horses make it a hoot on the trails. This sled is light and maneuverable so any rider can handle it and enjoy it, ALL weekend. Its new intelligent Throttle Control and Learning Key are brilliant, making it adaptable to riders of all experience levels, plus the throttle pull simply can’t get any easier, making this a gem for younger folks and those with smaller hands. It’s also a 4-stroke, so no oil to futz with and it’s cleaner. Let’s see, peppy, adaptable and comfortable – I call that hitting the trifecta for a family sled. – Mark Savage
Best New Tech
Ski-Doo drive by wire/learning key/iTC w/ ACE 900
THE NEW ACE 900 and its accompanying technologies are the next step forward for Ski-Doo’s cutting edge tech department. There is no throttle cable here; it is a drive-by-wire system so resistance on the throttle is nearly zero. Doo also offers a learning key that can govern the machine’s speed so that novices can learn without fear of getting into trouble with too much power. Then there’s the intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) that allows riders to choose the throttle response rate that suits them. Great tech to help young snowmobiling families!
Most Improved Mountain
Arctic Cat M 8000
THERE’S NO DENYING that the competition in this segment is whisker-thin close, both Ski-Doo and Polaris being our top mountain sleds the past two seasons. But Arctic Cat did the most to improve its M 8000 this year, with a slew of changes cutting an estimated 17 lbs. Changes include a higher capacity fuel tank, more compact seat (with storage) and a ton of small weight-saving chassis tweaks. Weighing less, but featuring its same great 800 H.O. engine the 2014 Cats are going to be a force to be reckoned with again. Ski-Doo and Polaris won’t let loose of this market easily though as they keep refining and improving reliability and durability on their mountain mashers. But this year, we recognize Cat’s M sleds due to their quantity of changes and improved performance.
Yamaha SR Viper / Cat ZR 7000 LXR (121-inchers)
AGAIN, DON’T SHOOT us for technically picking 2 sleds, but this is the best 4-stroke engine on the market. It sounds good, is efficient, powerful, and lightweight (for a 4-stroke). Now it’s in one of the best trail chassis on the market in the 128-inch long ProCross chassis (or SRV chassis if you’re a Yamaha fan). The significant difference is the clutching on these two sleds, so we consider both to be top of our 4-stroke heap this year.
Best Sport Trail (600s or comparable)
Polaris 600 Indy SP
YES, WE THINK this sled is a better all-around sled than the 600 Rush. We had this sled as our best Sport-Trail sled last year and nothing has changed for 2014. The Rush has its place as a big bump eater, but the Indy SP slices up the trails like a surgeon and gives traditional guys and gals a standard tunnel and rear suspension. We were impressed last year by the feel and handling of this sled and that has not changed … neither has the value-based price! Good work Polaris!
RUNNERUP - The Ski-Doo TNT 600 E-TEC. It’s tough to beat in tight twisty trails. Small, big, long, short, narrow or wide sleds all will be chasing this rabbit’s tail through tight corners and stumps, rocks and other trail obstacles. This one could easily be No. 1 here, with a few more ponies. Its cornering ability, rMotion rear suspension, and E-TEC direct-injection 2-stroke engine are tough to beat.
Best High-Performance (800s)
Ski-Doo X-RS 800
IT’S HARD NOT to name this the sled of the year every year if you are an aggressive trail rider. The X-RS moved into Ski-Doo’s new XS body styling this year and is still a sharp corner cutter, fantastic mogul masher, has the best suspension (rMotion) of any current trail sled, and is fuel/oil efficient … the complete package, including comfortable and easy to drive!
RUNNERUP - The Arctic Cat ZR 8000 Sno Pro RR, is a undiscovered star among trail runners. Some consumers were leery of this sled its first year out, but now realize that it handles superbly, has class-leading power, is comfortable and its aggressive styling really trips our trigger. Our best High-Performance sled last year, the RR and its race-engineered FOX Evol X adjustable shocks, and aggressive handling deserve some honors this year too.
Best Trail Luxury
Ski-Doo GSX 1200 or 800
NO LIE, we’ve picked the GSX consistently among the top two trail luxury sleds for years now. This year we give the top two spots to the GSX, with either the Rotax 1200 4-TEC 4-stroke motor, or the Rotax 800 E-TEC power plant. There’s not much we don’t like with the GSX. Handling, power, comfort, luxury, and a long list of standard goodies, like push-button reverse, electric start and a new LinQ storage bag earn these models our top rating.
Arctic Cat XF CrossTour 1100 Turbo
This 141-inch machine is more of what we call an EnduroVenture crossover. We coined the term a couple years ago, but this crossover/luxury trail/utility sled comes with a rack, additional storage a large windshield, and several off-trail features. CrossTour is made for long days on the snow. It may be traversing powder fields all day, heading cross-country to your favorite lake to fish, or racking up 300+ miles on the trail, but with a turbo, this one is fast, fun and versatile.
RUNNERUP - Is the Ski-Doo Freeride 137. It’s at the other end of the spectrum, more off-trail focused for the aggressive rider. It rides in the Summit mountain chassis and is race-bred. It loves to be jumped, banged, tossed and abused in the deep snow and its shorter length makes it perfect for Midwesterners, Northeasterners and our Canadian friends living east of the Great Lakes. Freeride has the awesome and efficient 800 E-TEC engine, quick-disconnect swaybar, vertical steering post, and more.
Yamaha Viking Pro
We don’t spend a lot of time on utility sleds, but when we do, it is the Viking Pro. We appreciate the workhorse attitude of Yamaha’s V.P. An articulated rear suspension makes backing up easy, plus the engine and well-padded seat will please anyone hauling wood or setting traps. High quality and the ability to be a workhorse is exactly what you want, and expect, in a utility machine.
Best New Engine
Arctic Cat 600 C-TEC2
THE NEWEST CLEAN and efficient 2-stroke engine on the market, and the first one that Cat has strictly built themselves, debuts this year in the sassy ZR El Tigre 6000. This dual-stage injection 600cc engine is what Cat loyalists have been seeking for several seasons and it should prove to be as fuel efficient (or more) as the naturally aspirated 4-stroke that Cat has been using in its place. (Details in Olav Aaen’s Tech Notes column, p. 76.)
Best 2-Up Touring
Ski-Doo Grand Touring SE w/ eDrive2
Riding 2-up has never been as smooth or as comfortable as on the new Ski-Doo Grand Touring with its new eDrive2 secondary clutch. The 1200 4-TEC engine is primo and Doo’s SilenTrack and SilentDrive system help keep this one quiet for the driver and passenger, while limiting vibrations. In back, the air-controlled rMotion suspension provides a plush ride 24/7, plus SE comes with tilt steering and a heated seat.
RUNNERUP - Just a tad behind is the Yamaha Venture GT a fine sled if you like to see the countryside without any wind chill and with excellent seat comfort. Venture is a quality ride, built like a Mercedes sedan, with all the reliability and longevity as well. Plus its 4-stroke motor is clean and efficient.