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2012 Polaris 600 Switchback Adventure long term test

Emphasizing comfort and cargo
Hard-sided Saddlebags give Adventure the edge on long hauls, plus it handles easily and delivers a comfortable ride.
Always a fan of the Switchback, we came away from last season impressed with Polaris’ new Adventure model.

Some might consider it gimmicky, what with tacking on the cargo rack and storage system to a standard 600 Switchback and giving it a new name. But there’s more to the Adventure than that and its 136-inch track ... and all of it is good for us serious trail riders. Not that it’s ONLY the trail riders who can use this sled. I’m just sayin’ …

Comfort and Joy
First, don’t pooh-pooh that cargo system. I’m a guy who likes to lug along my water bottle, maps, an extra drive belt and sometimes various gloves, a baseball cap, tow rope, extra tools, duct tape, camera, coffee table, couch, lamps, the kitchen sink and … I’ll think of a few other things if you give me a minute.
This sled’s hard plastic saddlebags are awesome. You can pack a lot of stuff, including additional clothing layers and many of those first few items I mentioned. The rack in back also will hold 45 lbs. of extras too, so you can take a spare jerry can with gas in case you’re packing on miles and not sure about gas station locations en route.

The bags are easy to open, easy to take off and have zippered liners too.

But to me comfort means not fighting the cold unnecessarily and the Adventure helps out there too with small wind deflectors on the cowl’s sides. That keeps your legs and lower body warmer. Plus we opted for the mid-height windshield (you can pick low, medium or high) and it did a pretty good job of keeping your upper body shielded. I’d probably go to the high shield if I was buying the sled.

The Adventure’s seat also is a good blend. It’s narrow enough up front to be easy to move around on, and a little wider in the middle, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the ride. Some riders found it a little firmer than they’d like for a long ride, but the shape and functionality are good.
OFF TRAIL the Adventure is extremely capable with its 136-inch track and 1.352-inch lugs.
STylish? Sure, but you’ll likely never see your sled from this angle. Still, Adventure is a good-looking sled with light handling, a comfortable ride, plus electric start and push-button reverse.
Likewise the Adventure doesn’t wear you out to ride it a full day. The new IFS front-end with its new spindles, control arms and bushings lightens the steering compared with earlier Switchbacks. I felt it was easy to manage, even if not as light and easy as a few competitors. This Polaris handles well in corners too with the skis staying flat and the sled feels less tippy than some Pro-Ride based models. Push was minimal in turns.

Ride was more comfortable than some Pro-Ride models, but the Adventure has the same stretched outside-the-tunnel progressive rate rear suspension. However it is not aggressively tuned. This one uses a FOX IFP front track shock with a Walker Evans compression adjustable shock in back. We were able to dial this one in pretty quickly and well enough to suit most of our riders.

Traction is good, possibly due to a little more heft on this sled and plenty on its tail with the aggressive 136-inch Cobra track’s 1.352-inch lugs. This sled does amazingly well in the deep snow, so is a great trail blazer on any morning with fresh powder coating the trails.

There’s also built-in tunnel protection so if you want to bump up to a 1.75-inch lug, or bigger studs you’re not prone to damaging your sled.

A powerful 600
Most of us can put up with a few missteps in other parts of our sled so long as we have ample oomph from our engine.

We like the 600 Cleanfire’s low-end torque. The Switchback charges hard out of turns and feels quick on the trail even though it’s considerably heavier than a short-track Rush. There also was an 800cc spring-buy model for 2013.

We noticed our Polaris engines also drank less oil this season, and it’s certainly not because we were going easy on the throttle. The Cleanfire engine uses sensors to adjust its performance based on both altitude and outside air temps. That helps it run smoother and more efficiently.

That said, several of our riders commented that the exhaust tone for both our 600 and 800 Polaris motors seemed much louder than competitors’ sleds. That’s particularly noticeable when you get off the sled after a longer ride and wait for your ears to readjust.

Then there’s the matter of fuel mileage. While we were seeing less oil use, gas consumption remained a bit high compared with other sleds, but on par with what we’ve experienced recently with Polaris 600 motors. The 600 Adventure averaged 12.06 mpg for the season, after a break-in period. Our 2010 Rush 600 from a couple years back garnered 12.4 mpg, our 2012 Rush 800 Pro-R averaged 11.42 mpg, our 2011 Rush 800 was 12.6 mpg, and our 2011 Switchback Assault 800 managed only 11.0 mpg.

Still, there are other pluses with the Adventure. At $10,999 it comes with electric start and push-button reverse. Granted our test sled’s electric start was noisy and did not always disengage as quickly as it should have, seeming to try and start the engine after it was already running. But electric start is an appreciated feature nonetheless.

We also liked the solid cowl-mounted mirrors. Unlike those mounted on a windshield these don’t vibrate as madly while the sled is running. Other goodies include a 12-volt outlet and RCA outlet for your helmet.

We enjoyed the Switchback Adventure, a good choice for trail riding, especially folks who go long distances and want to take a fair amount of stuff with them. Handling and ride are good and the engine is strong, albeit a bit thirsty, but it takes fuel to make power! Ergonomics were good too and the long track allows you to go off trail with confidence, or to do some trail blazing.
Butch 2010
“The bags are great and this is a good trail sled. My hands got cold though and a bigger windshield would be nice. There was no reverse beeper either.”
Butch Veltum, AmSnow test rider

“The suspension was awesome and really ate up the bumps on the trails, loved the acceleration too. The ski lift was annoying when cornering though. I also found the electric starter loud, the seat a little hard and the exhaust tone much louder than the other manufacturers’ sleds.” – Ryan Veltum, AmSnow test rider
2012 Polaris 600 Switchback Adventure
599cc Liberty liquid twin Cleanfire 2-stroke HP: 123.5* Drive/Driven: Exhaust: SC VES, single Ski Stance: 42.5 in. Front Susp.: Pro-Ride w/FOX (IFP) shocks (9 in. travel) Rear Susp.: Pro-Ride w/FOX (IFP) and rear Walker Evans comp. adj. shocks (14 in. travel) Track: 15x136x1.35 in. Cobra Brake: Phantom, hydraulic Fuel Tank: 11.0 gal. Rec. Fuel: 87 octane Dry Weight: 525 lbs. Wet Weight: 627 lbs.* Price: $10,999 US / $11,999 CA PLUSES: Good & light handling, comfortable ride w/decent wind protection, great storage system, plus electric start & reverse. REAL WORLD STATS: Top Speed: 80.09 mph 1/4-mile time: 15.11 sec. Season MPG Avg.: 12.06* *AmSnow tested
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