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Real World 2015 Snowmobile Reviews

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Facing up... to the Real World stats, performance and ride impressions! That’s what we do for you, our readers, at the Real World S.O.!
Let’s clear the air... This is the Real World, baby! And we ride in it everyday! Ideal conditions don’t include wind gusts, blinding snow and temperatures dropping faster than the green flag! All these conditions happened at AmSnow’s original Real World Shootout. A drifting track, 25-plus mph crosswinds and teeth-chattering temps was the hand Mother Nature dealt us. We know the weather doesn’t always cater to us snowmobilers, and that, my friends, is what the Real World is all about.
For scores of seasons we’ve been showing our loyal readers what each of our demo sleds can do on any given day. These are consumer stock sleds with the only performance modification this year being our Stud Boy Power Point trails studs and Super-Lite backers paired with 7.5-inch Shaper Bars. A common setup you’ll see parked in front of any watering hole.

Setting the pace

While the acceleration testing only happens on one day, the entire process of getting to that day is a long, painstaking and often bloody process (no joke!). It starts around mid-November when our test fleet is ready for pickup from our dealers. After we’ve filled the corral, everything is filled to the top with liquids and weighed on state-of-the-art Intercomp racing scales. Those are the same scales used by racing organizations all over North America to verify vehicle weight, including the past 19 NASCAR Cup Champions.

Our Western Editor, Stephen Clark is also hard at work with Mountain Test Rider, Josh Skinner, doing their own wet weight testing of several mountain sleds and putting them through a series of break-in rides.

After wet weighing, we personally stud the higher-performance trail sleds to ensure safety on the trails, stopping, a good hookup on each radar pass and confidence. More than 800 studs were installed across six sleds this season. That is why we said this can be a bloody process, as installing that many studs is bound to cause a couple bloody knuckles.

Once sleds are weighed and studded, it’s time for the real testing to begin. We spend the next 300-400 miles making sure engines and suspensions are broken in correctly for fairness come radar run time.

These initial miles were difficult as late arriving snow forced us to hold off on the some of our break-in miles until just a couple days before the Shootout. After several full 16-hour days of riding, each of our seven test sleds had well over 300 miles. And we’re not just talking heat laps around the lake.

Our sleds are put through a grueling march through twisting trails, mogul-filled ditches, power line runs, lakes and more. We took care of business on the crossovers with a few powder carves through the trees and meadows too. Pride is taken in the time it takes to break these sleds in the right way, according to manufacturer’s recommendations. It’s not always easy, but it’s what readers ask us for… that’s Real World numbers and testing!

After our break-ins are complete, we go through a point-by-point inspection on all the sleds tightening tracks, checking hyfaxes, inspecting studs, carbides, chains and more. All fluids are topped off again before our Real World acceleration runs. After all, every snowmobiler usually starts the day with a full tank.

Only after checking every detail on our sleds do we set up our 1/4-mile test track. Enough width is given on the test track to ensure every sled has a fresh takeoff. We add an additional 1/4-mile of extra straightaway for shut-down and to hopefully ensure we get a full throttle pull on each machine. Each sled is properly warmed up prior to their two passes. The better of just two runs is kept.

Long-time readers will remember that usually early season gas mileage numbers are reported with Real World testing as well. Typically, mileage numbers are averaged over the course of five or more full tanks of gas. This is done AFTER break-in because most machines see a fairly significant jump in MPGs. However, due to the late snow this season, break-in was delayed and therefore we didn’t feel we had enough reliable data yet to report fuel mileage numbers taken after break-in. Mid- season MPG numbers will be reported on amsnow.com. BUT, don’t forget you’ll get FULL-season MPG averages in our Long-Term test articles in upcoming AmSnow issues.
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800 to go, please
The 800cc engine has become the ‘go-to’ engine. The crossover segment has also seen steady growth, so it makes sense that we would pit Ski-Doo’s Renegade X-RS 800R E-TEC, the Polaris Switchback 800 H.O. Pro-S and Arctic Cat’s XF8000 Sno Pro against one another.

Ski-Doo’s 800R E-TEC and Cat’s 8000-class motor from Suzuki have been known rippers for the past few years with minor tweaks each season. The Polaris 800 H.O. was a relative unknown as a ‘first-year engine’. It felt strong in our pre-production rides last spring, and it proved it was strong by taking the win at our New York Shootout (See Feb. 2015 issue), but would it hold up in the tough Real World testing?

Given the conditions, it’d be difficult for any sled to blow us away with a super top speed on this particular day. With strong crosswinds, it did not take long for the track to start to develop small drifts which we knew would hamper the sleds ever so slightly. However, it did not stop us from being impressed with the 2-stroke powerhouses the OEMs produced for MY2015.

Polaris’s new 800 H.O. in the Switchback Pro-S took the honors as the fastest sled, posting the day’s top speed at 96.63 mph, nearly 2 mph faster than its short-tracked relative, the Rush 800 H.O. Pro-S. The Ski-Doo Renegade X-RS 800 E-TEC pulled a none-too-shabby 93.89 mph. Arctic Cat’s XF8000 Limited showed strong as well, topping 91 mph. The Ski-Doo Backcountry X 800 had its runs hindered by the increasingly blowing snow because in both runs the radar gun could not pick up the sled for a full 1/4-mile. It was, however, very impressive off the line with the bigger lugged 16x137x1.75-in. track. It bears mentioning that the Backcountry X was our only non-studded sled, but still pulled the quickest time off the line going 0-30 mph in a very impressive 1.74 seconds.

Examining the charts for the 800s clarifies that Polaris’s new 800 H.O. engine is here to stay and will be a major player going forward. You’ll also notice a clear distinction along OEM lines when it comes to determining quickness vs. speed. The Polaris 800 sleds claimed the top MPH awards in each section of the track. The Rush posted the top speeds in 660 and 1000 ft., while the Switchback took over on the top end with the best 1/4-mile and the overall top speed of 96.33 mph. (See charts below.)

Where it gets interesting is when you look at the times and find the Ski-Doo 800s took all the top honors in the quickness category. The X-RS posted the day’s quickest time in the 1/4-mile at 13.13 sec. and was quicker than every other sled at each timing interval with the exception of the aforementioned Backcountry X between 0-30 mph. Most impressive was the X-RS’s 0-60 mph time which beat out every other sled in the group by nearly a full half second!

As far as which is better, being fast or quick, the jury is still out. Either one will give you barstool bragging rights, but it’s an interesting development along OEM lines.
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A side of 125(ish) hp
We had more than enough fun stuffing our faces with the 800-class sleds, but what could be better than completing a full plate of testing with what’s becoming a very intense competition between the 600cc 2-strokes and Yamaha’s 4-strokers? Nothing could be better!

Cat’s ZR 6000RR was lined up against Yamaha’s Viper R-TX LE. Both are what we consider each OEM’s race or rough-trail suspension packages. Both utilize the 129-in. Cat ProCross chassis. The 6000RR uses the much-admired new 600cc C-TEC2 2-stroke while the Viper employs the equally-liked Genesis 4-stroke. Let the fun begin!

The pure brute strength of the Yamaha engine showed well here, outrunning the RR across the board. However, it was not a lopsided affair. Less than 2.5 mph separated the two at top speed. Again, weather interfered and prevented us from getting a 1/4-mile time or speed for the Yamaha. The results we did get were wider than one might expect from a sled using the same chassis, but the Viper holds a slight horsepower advantage according to our dyno testing at this season’s New York Shootout (see Feb. 2015 issue). Of course, at the New York Shootout the Viper also showed strongly.

What is incredibly encouraging for 4-stroke fans is the wet weight testing. Yamaha was quoted in several recent issues on making big strides in closing the weight gap between 4-strokes and 2-strokes. Neither Yamaha nor Arctic Cat publish their sled’s dry weights, but luckily AmSnow brings you the wet weight of our demo sleds!

If you look back at last season’s Real World Shootout (Spring 2014 issue). You’ll see Arctic Cat’s ZR 6000 El Tigre was 98 lbs. lighter than Yamaha’s SR Viper. Hop in your DeLorean and come back to 2015, and you’ll see the gap between a comparable 6000RR from Arctic Cat and Viper R-TX LE is just 37 lbs! That might be the most impressive number from our Real World Shootout!
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Early season positive impressions
After our pre-production test rides a year ago, assumptions were made that 2015 would be a fantastic year to be a snowmobile consumer. The full production version of the sleds have had very few early season disappointments.

All our test riders were impressed with Polaris’ new AXYS sleds in both the Rush and the Switchback. The sleds feel light (duh, they are!) and handle very well. Our early impression favors the Switchback slightly more than the Rush simply because the longer track absorbs the trail chatter a little better. The two Polaris machines were also easiest on oil consumption in the early going. And the new LED headlights are a great upgrade as well.

There was little doubt in our mind about Ski-Doo’s Renegade X-RS. Their race package in the 137-in. skid length has been everything we’ve hoped for. It’s smooth, snappy and an ideal all-around sled. We were all pleasantly surprised with the trail capabilities of the Backcountry X as well. You hardly notice the wider track on the trail and the longer paddle on the track really hooks up well. Of course, we all knew this would be a great sled off trail. Keep watching AmSnow.com for more backcountry riding on this bad boy!

Yamaha has made huge strides in handling. Moving to the dual-runner ski has really quieted this sled down for 2015. The 4-stroke Genesis feels as strong as ever when you get behind the bars, and the LE suspension is a fantastic addition to this machine. It’s more than capable of tackling the big bumps on the trail.

Arctic Cat’s trail and crossover lineups are also keeping pace with the rest of the pack nicely. The 6000RR is an extremely fun sled for the trails. It’s quick and agile, which is exactly what you want on a winding trail ride. This sled just feels sporty! Stand-up riding is also very comfortable thanks to the taller bar risers on the RR. The XF8000 is a very smooth operator with a slightly higher engagement that will certainly get your attention. It’s got a nice strong throttle pull as well.

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What needs improvement?
What about those previously mentioned early season disappointments? I think I speak for everyone when I say Old Man Winter has been our biggest by far! We’re really nitpicking when it comes to the sleds here, but there are a few things we might change.

The Arctic Cat 6000RR is a very cold sled. That’s expected given the sporty prospects for this sled, but in sub-zero temps with strong winds, it’s not going to be a long day for anyone. A bigger windshield will be put on this one for sure. The XF8000 seemed to dart a bit more this season. It was more pronounced for some riders than others, which makes us believe it’s more of situation where we just have to dial in the suspension and ski pressure a bit more to our liking.

Uncharacteristically, the Ski-Doos have been our heaviest oil consumers, especially during break-in, but also after. Heavier usage is obviously expected during the engine’s break-in period, but they are definitely using more than last season at this stage of the game. Increased oil usage by the Ski-Doos has been seen in a couple previous years, but never quite this pronounced. Also, the break-in time required to get that built-in ‘break-in countdown ticker’ down to ‘0’ seemed like it took forever! The 2015 800R E-TECs took 400 miles to clear their break-in countdown... a long time for a 2-stroke! For some, that’s a quick weekend. For others, that’s a full season. Hopefully Ski-Doo has something in the works to cut that number down for MY2016.

The Yamaha is a bit on the cool side as well, especially at high speeds. This sled is a little more work to drive at pace through tight, winding trails.
Our issues with Polaris come more on the tech side than the performance side. Our 60th Anniversary Edition Rush Pro-S came with the upgraded color dash display with GPS, diagnostics, Bluetooth, yadda, yadda, yadda. BUT, it does NOT come with electric start. That should be the first ‘bell’ added when adding bells and whistles to a spring buy sled.
The dash display is fairly intuitive for users, but it has a small timeframe for recording your trips with the GPS. At around 230 miles our screen displayed a ‘memory full’ message you had to stop and clear. Day one of our Shootout break-in ride consisted of more than 300 miles for myself. Good thing we knew where we were or we’d still be 70-plus miles from camp!

If that’s all there is to complain about at this point, you’d have to agree that MY2015 is a great time to be a snowmobiler!
Conditions have a big effect!
TO GIVE OUR readers an idea of what changing conditions can do to speeds and times, we compared our two most similar sleds from 2014’s Real World Shootout to 2015. Same track, different conditions, different results.
 COMPARING YEARS - 2014 vs 2015
 timed speed results  2014 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 EL Tigre 2015 Arctic Cat ZR 6000RR 
 Top speed (mph  87.94  82.82
 ¼-mile (mph)  13.89  14.31
 1000 ft. (sec.)  11.38  11.66
 1000 ft. (mph)  86.33  81.65
 660 ft. (sec.)  8.58  8.74
 660 ft. (mph)  79.24  78.05
 0-30 mph (sec.)  1.67  2.01
 0-60 mph (sec.)  4.38  
 AMSNOW’S REAL WORLD STATS (SPEEDS, ELAPSED TIMES & WET WEIGHTS)
 timed speed results  Arctic Cat ZR 6000RR
(588 Lbs.)
 Arctic Cat XF 8000 Sno Pro (622 Lbs.)  Polaris Rush 800 H.O. Pro-S (552 Lbs.) Polaris Switchback 800 H.O. Pro-S
(567 Lbs.) 
Ski-Doo 800R Renegade Backcountry X (572 Lbs.)  Ski-Doo 800R Renegade X-RS
(599 Lbs.) 
Yamaha Viper R-TX LE
(625 Lbs.) 
 Top speed (mph)  82.82  91.01  94.74  96.63  89.41  93.89  85.13
¼-mile (sec.)  14.31  13.87  13.33  13.42  NA  13.13  NA
 ¼-mile (mph)  80.98  85.80  92.55  93.20  NA  86.49
 NA
 1000 ft. (sec.)  11.66  11.42  11.00  11.11  11.10  10.75  11.37
 1000 ft. (mph)  81.65  87.58  92.64  91.69  87.54  91.11  84.46
 660 ft. (sec.)  8.74  8.65  8.41  8.49  8.36  8.12  8.56
 660 ft. (mph)  78.05  80.16  85.66  84.47  81.65  84.74  79.72
 0-30 mph (sec.)  2.01  2.00  1.91  1.99  1.74  1.90  1.87
 0-60 mph (sec.)  4.48  4.19  4.15  4.19  4.08  3.62  4.25
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