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Red Light, Green Light: 600cc Trail Sled Comparo

Six riders, two 600cc sleds, only two opinions
RELATED TOPICS: ARCTIC CAT | POLARIS | SNOWMOBILES
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR 129
Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR. Willing to race, but just as fine to track up the trails. The RR version of the ZR has top shocks, in the Fox 1.5 Zero Kashima coated coil-over bump tamers. The tri-hub rear wheel design is also standard here.
Agree to disagree. That’s pretty much the consensus our six test riders came to when we compared two hot 600cc class trail sleds; the 2018 Polaris 600 Rush XCR and the Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR. Hey, some like it hot, some like it cold, and the AmSnow test crew is no different.

Both sleds more than serve the needs of their target market – the aggressive trail rider who dabbles in the occasional crosscountry race or local snocross. The subtleties of each are what have our crew at odds with each other.

Ride along as we dissect what had our riders leaning towards their choice of 600cc performance trail sled.

■ Going for the green
The 6000 class C-TEC2 motor from Arctic cat has impressed me since day one. It’s never lost that ultra-light, playful feeling zipping down the trail or across a frozen lake. It revs quickly so you’re ready to rocket off the line or out of the corners.

The rigidity of the ProCross chassis is great for the aggressive style riding this sled is designed for. The tapered tunnel design gives the pilot a freeing ability to move about the sled, picking out those aggressive lines. I feel how Cat’s wide A-arm design in the front end keeps the sled more stable, gives it an edge in tight trail cornering at pace, while the Polaris just didn’t give some of our riders quite that supreme confidence.

Arctic Cat’s SlideAction rear suspension is a direct result of years of race-day R&D by some of the most notable snowmobile racers in history (notably Kirk Hibbert and Russ Ebert). Its action maintains full front arm travel, enabling the skis to stay engaged with the snow as you rail the trails. And when your skis remain in contact with the snow, it means you remain in control of your sled. Keeping full travel in your suspension means more comfort and control when trails get nasty.
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR 129
Cross-country racers will immediately replace the stock low windshield on the ZR 6000 RR with a larger one that actually blocks the wind.
Outfitting the ProCross chassis are FOX 1.5 ZERO QS3 Kashima-coated shocks over the skis and in the center of the rear skid. A 2.0 ZERO QS3 Kashima shock sits in the back of the skid. Extremely capable, yet extremely simple is how I would describe this shock setup.

You can spend hours dialing your suspension on other sleds with 20-plus settings, or you can click your QS3 shocks to setting “3” and know you’re getting a race day calibration that meets the expectations of Arctic Cat’s top factory racers. You’ll find that setting capable of taming the gnarliest of trails.

Backing down to setting “2” or “1” progressively softens up the suspension for a plusher ride. I find myself in either of these two settings most frequently as they remain very capable in a wide variety of conditions. Truth be told, my riding companions probably dictate my preferred setting more than the terrain. It’s all about how hard you’re going to push yourself on a given day.

The ergos of the RR sleds have improved over the years as well. Most recently, updated handlebars came about for the 2017 model year. A much more user-friendly thinner bar diameter and thinner grips that improved the capabilities of the hand warmers again lends itself to a feeling of comfort and control. The 5.5-inch riser they sit atop is also a great height for someone around six feet tall to easily transition from sitting to standing.

If you’re more the sit-down style of rider, you’ll like the plushness and rounded sculpting of this seat instead of the more abrupt lines of the Polaris. It’s got just the right amount of grip, or slide, to it as well.

Electric start is standard here. I won’t bother addressing the windshield, as this is a sled styled for handling the race track, not 230-mile days of railroad grades.
2018 Polaris Rush Pro XCR
Polaris Rush 600 XCR. The Rush might be a little shorter at the old standard trail length of 121-inches long, but don’t let that make you think it can’t hold its own! This sled is lightweight, strong all the way through the powerband, and a great value.
■ Savage gets testy
Simply put, I feel racier on the Rush 600 XCR (not that all our test riders did) and I think it’s because of the shorter track and its supremely easy adjustability that lets the rider dial the suspension in to his or her preferences.

The XCR is quick out of the blocks. Power comes on instantly from the Liberty 600 Cleanfire engine, which by the way has a new center gear oil bath to improve its lubrication. That aims to add more durability to the crankshaft, and let’s face it, if you’re jamming that throttle regularly trying to outdo your riding companions, extra crank life is a good thing.

Polaris has created an electronic oil pump that eliminates a power-robbing gear drive and improves oil delivery, aiding durability. Not that the throttle was stiff before, but this system also cuts throttle effort by 35%. Benefit No. 2!

Many folks enjoy the growl of a 2-stroke, but this one is particularly growly at lower cruising speeds. Settle in above 40 mph and everything calms right down.
Handling is first-rate too. The Pro-Steer skis, with a reshaped keel and shortened skag, reduce steering effort. There are redesigned ribs atop the ski too boosting torsional stiffness to create more precise steering. This was one sled that I could point anywhere I wanted on the trail, no matter the snow conditions, and feel it was going where I aimed it.

Grip was good from the 15x121x1.35-inch Cobra track and the race-perfected Walker Evans Hi-Lo Speed compression adjustable piggyback shocks create the ride or handling you want. There’s a WE 2-inch diameter front track compression shock and rear WE clickers to dial in your “race” setting.

Since Polaris knows we’re all going to be pushing this one a little harder, it also has added a chromoly rear pivot and front torque arm. Other reinforcements include stronger rail beams and solid bogey wheels, in case you start banging around more off-trail or over serious moguls.
2018 Polaris Rush Pro XCR
More predictable in the really big bumps is just one reason many riders choose the XCR.
Finally, XCR loads up with a Polaris race rotor, a brake scoop and Type 81 brake pads to keep the brakes cooler when you crunch the binders. These rotors have a bigger surface area that absorb heat from brake pads to allow for more consistent performance and even pad wear. And the pads themselves will withstand higher temps.

You won’t have to put up with high temps while riding though; the XCR remains a cold sled with a small shield and no standard electric start, although push-button reverse is standard.

The seat, while well shaped, is harder than that on the Cat, so you tend to feel bumps a bit more. The seat surface though is fairly grippy.

There is a 3.5-inch riser, so standing or sitting you’ll be able to find a comfortable position, unless perhaps if you’re extremely tall.

I like the LED headlight on the Rush XCR and semi-rigid storage bag under the seat too.
stat box 600cc Arctic Cat Polaris
■ The verdict
Like we said in the beginning, many of our riders agreed to disagree. I liked the Polaris, our Senior Editor liked the Cat. But just like so many barstool debates, even trying to settle this argument on the snow won’t really produce a concession from either side. We like what we like, and that’s OK.

The major differences of opinion can really be narrowed down to three areas: track length, shocks and ergonomics.

If you like a little smoother ride through the smaller stutters, the ease of mindless front shock adjustment, and a little bit more mobility on the seat, then you’re probably going to be in tune with the Arctic Cat ZR 6000 RR.

If you’d rather take extremely nimble cornering over the smoother ride, a firmer seat that holds you in place, and more shock settings to select between, then you’ll probably get in line for the Polaris 600 Rush XCR.

Neither one is the wrong choice.
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