2003 Yamaha VMAX 600 ER
Not a lot of change. Not a lot of need.
The snowmobile industry is tough on design engineers. Every year, we expect to see a lot of changes and upgrades to the previous year's models. If a sled doesn't change from one year to the next, we tend to overlook it as a serious option. About every other year, we all have come to expect a full-blown chassis change on top of all the other changes. It's hard to do that and not burn through engineers.
Yamaha is starting to break free from that rapid development program. This year it rolled a number of models over directly from last year. Not even the colors and decals changed. Our instinct is to dislike an unchanged sled, but when you consider that the cruiser market isn't a big dollar segment, and the fact that the Vmax 600 is more or less Yamaha's intro sled, the carryover concept doesn't seem like a bad idea.
The Vmax 600 ER uses Yamaha's tried and true 600 triple-cylinder engine. It is more dependable than snow and smooth as silk. A turn of the ignition key calls the sweet sounding triple to active duty.
In many ways, the Vmax ER is an SX-R with electric start and reverse. It uses the same power, the same chassis and the same suspension geometry. The big difference is in the shock and spring calibrations. The Vmax uses gas bag hydraulic shocks, which are generally a little more supple and don't stand up as well to continual, heavy, aggressive pounding. What they may lack in abuse resistance, they certainly make up in general trail riding comfort.
"I liked the Vmax 600's ride," commented Test Rider Steve Ingram. "It was just nice and comfortable. If I was just in the mood to cruise, this would be one of my top choices."
Yamaha also put the aggressive 1-inch Camoplast nipple track on its midsized cruiser, for improved hookup in varied conditions. It's actually a deeper lug than its SX 600R sport sled.
Our crew commended Yamaha's sport cruiser for its comfort features. "The taller windshield really kept the snow and wind from hitting me in the face," added Test Rider Les Pinz. "The handlebar warmers are nice with their separated controls. I would only suggest that the controls be put on the handlebars, where they are easier to find."
The Vmax 600 ER is the least expensive cruiser in the 600 class at $7,099. Ski-Doo's Legend 600 Sport carries a $7,349 price tag. Polaris priced its 600 Classic at 7,599 and Cat's ZL 600 EFI esr lists at $7,899.