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Utility Comparo: More Play, Less Work

You'll love putting your time in on these bad boys!
2019 Arctic Cat Norseman X 8000
It was good to be the boss while it lasted. Especially since being the boss meant you got to pick which sled you wanted!

In all the jobs I have had throughout my life, from working at a water park, to remodeling homes, to sales jobs, to marketing jobs, to my time at AmSnow, I always enjoyed either having a fun boss, or being the fun boss. Well, this group of utility sleds will allow whoever the foreman of the family, or club, or business is to have plenty of fun. I sure did!

Truly, these sleds are also for the practical dad, or north country camp-owner with lots of land, or Midwest farmer, or ski-resort owner who likes speed and versatility as much as they enjoy getting projects or jobs done. We are talking about the brand-new Arctic Cat Norseman X 8000, the Polaris Titan XC 800 and the Ski-Doo Expedition Xtreme 800 and they are all part of this club.

Arctic Cat Norseman X 8000

We are sure that there are people who predicted correctly, and then reminded all their friends, that Arctic Cat was going to put their 152.4 hp C-TEC2 dual stage injection, highly efficient 2-stroke liquid, twin cylinder motor into the Norseman for 2019.

The 6000 motor was standard in this sled last year, and that just wasn’t going to be enough, especially after last season’s big utility release when Polaris introduced the all new Titan 800. Ski-Doo already had their foot firmly in this new Xtreme Utility category with an 800cc machine so that meant that Cat needed to step up and get more ponies into this market segment.

Cat certainly stepped it up and this sled is all that it should be to stay competitive with any other utility, or versatile play/work sled. Among other things, this sled is warm, made to pull, and made for all the snow that Old Man Winter can throw at it. The big 14-inch windshield could show a drive-in movie on it, and will just about keep a family of four warm behind it. A mountain grab bar allows for lots of maneuvering getting on, off, and standing in different positions. This is ultimately more important on a utility sled than what mountain riders often use the bar for.

Getting back to the deep snow capabilities, this sled has the monstrous, ProUte - 10/8 skis. These aren’t the greatest trail performance skis, but you could stack firewood on them five feet high and they wouldn’t sink into the snow. The skis are 10 inches at their widest, and they taper down to a still super wide 8-inches. They are meant for flotation in the deepest snow. In addition to the skis, this sled has a big 153-inch Cobra track with 2.25-inch lugs. That long track with bigger lugs means this sled gives up more than others on top end, but makes up for it in pulling and deep snow capability.
2019 Arctic Cat Norseman X 8000
The big long track rolls around the Xtra-Action articulating rear suspension, which is a typical feature of utility sleds, not performance sleds. They are notoriously good for soaking up bumps since they are so long (when not at lightning speed and due to less performance-oriented shocks). You can lock this articulating rear section of the track for more footprint, or unlock in other scenarios … like going in reverse to turn around in deeper snow.

Push-button electric start is something this sled has over others, and the hand grips are super warm. We love that on every sled, but particularly on a utility sled when you get off and back on frequently. You want, no, you need nice warm grips. You certainly don’t want to have to grab a pull cord when your fingers feel like they are gonna fall off after grabbing a huge walleye through a hole in the ice.

A rear storage bag and rack are standard, but we expected a more thought-out and marketed accessory grouping for this sled. Ski-Doo has had their LinQ system and Polaris has their Lock and Ride Versa system for a while and both are well established. For the most part, the Norseman delivers what it says it will … solid power, deep snow and towing capability, and backcountry accessibility.
2019 Polaris Titan XC 155
Polaris Titan XC 800
Making friends wherever it goes, the Titan XC 800 was the surprise sled for many of us hardcore trail and crossover riders last year. Heck, it surprised many of our mountain riders! Each ride we took on it had us enjoying ourselves more. For model year 2019 there are few changes, but the same extremely balanced and rider-intuitive sled reaction that was there for 2018, returns … with some BNG (bold new graphics).

This 155-inch sled has a 20-inch wide Cobra track with 1.8-inch lugs, but you would never know it when you are cruising down the trail. It is steady, surprisingly nimble and plenty fast. I am not sure you need a utility sled to go over 80mph, but this one will. It will probably go 80mph pulling a wounded sled behind it! In all seriousness, the tunnel is pretty darn wide to allow for that 20-inch track so it takes a little while to get used to performance-riding with your feet so far apart, but it can be done, even by height-challenged folks like me!

This year, the new baby blue and hi-vis colors give this sled the look of a tweenaged pop-band, but I can’t throw any stones because half of my snow wardrobe are these colors now. It is probably the most popular combo in the last two years, so at least people will match! Honestly though, we can’t understate the deep snow and pulling capabilities of this sled with its articulating rear suspension. Bounding through three feet of powder pulling a sled of 500 pounds and a rider on the back is no problem.
2019 Polaris Titan XC 155
Fox QS3 spring coil-over 3-position adjustable piggyback up front are part of the edge you get over many other pure utility sleds. The usefulness of features like the Power Boosting Regulator that produces the most electrical power possible, even at idle and low RPM, means that you can still charge devices, run accessories, jump start sleds or do whatever you want with top electrical power. Plus, like we talked about on the Norseman, keeping your handlebar warmers nice and toasty is important and this regulator will do that at idle. So leave your sled running while you cut down that tree blocking the trail, then get back on your sled to some cozy hot grips!

The Polaris Lock and Ride system allows for a lot of cool options to be added like a huge storage box and rack, or there’s a 2-up seat and backrest. We have hauled big power inverters in the rack, and all kinds of gear in the box. The 1200-pound tow capability plus these options make this sled an RV on the snow. The alpha transmission means you have hand adjustable options of high, low, neutral and reverse. Just make sure you are in the right gear before you grab the throttle as it takes some getting used to!

The 14-gallon fuel tank is great, but the deep-snow focused windshield is not; we’d opt for a larger option. However, we like the Gripper skis and the PowderTrac running boards really shed the snow through big holes.

Having a radiator on this sled cannot be overstated. There are plenty of times that low snow conditions make places inaccessible. Sometimes going over low snow is not an option for people, and this is one of the best equipped sleds to handle unpredictable conditions.
2019 Ski-Doo Expedition Xtreme
Ski-Doo Expedition Xtreme 800
Since 2016 we have been enjoying the Expedition Xtreme 800. Our article that year was titled “Not Just Hitches” and this sled embodies that sentiment still today. Not a ton has changed on this sled in four model years but if you read on to the 2020 Sneak Peek, you’ll find some good news!

, this sled was the absolute most fun you could have on a utility sled. Things are changing though, and if we were to guess, the boys up in Valcourt have not forgotten about this sled. Could it possibly be coming with a new ACE turbo option, or maybe an 850 E-TEC motor and redesign?

This was the first Xtreme utility sled to raise the skis to the sky and fly down the trail like a rocket-propelled Spruce Goose! But it is not just the 150+ hp, second in the line of three Rotax-designed direct injected motors that made this sled special. It was the fact that Ski-Doo mated it, and correctly calibrated it, for the XU chassis to make it both burly and bad to the bone.

At $14,499 this sled ain’t cheap, but nothing in this group is—heck, nothing in the utility market that has more than a 550-fan motor is a “value” model per se. But when you are 80 miles out in the bush in Northern Ontario, the woods of Maine, the plains of Northern Minnesota, or a super squall in the UP of Michigan and you need a tow, well, I guarantee that a guy who shows up on one of these, with its 20x154x1.75-inch massive footprint and synchromesh transmission, will be a friend for life.
The KYB Plus R rebuildable/revalvable shocks up front on this sled and the KYB Pro 36 easy-adjust rear shock in the SC 5U rear suspension still set this sled apart as an overall package from other machines on the trail, as far as a well calibrated “fun factor” shock package goes. Yes, it’s not new, but these shocks are some of my personal favorites. In addition, the RAS 2 front end has a very loyal following that often sparks bench racing conversations of being better in certain flat trail situations than the new RAS 3. It will be interesting to compare this niche sled in particular, especially in the utility chassis, if Ski-Doo decides to upgrade it to the Gen4 chassis.

A steel braided Brembo braking system stops this big machine, but the 1.75 track is a little different than the new 1.6 and 1.8 lugged tracks out there. Honestly, I would go with a 1.6-inch Ice Ripper track if I had my choice on this sled, but until I get the call to be the product manager at Ski-Doo, the 1.75 works well in an array of conditions both on trail and off.

The fuel and mileage discussions have gotten more interesting as of late, and those conversations mean more to some of the utility crowd than to the mountain or performance-trail crowds. But putting 91 octane, at a higher cost, into all three of the 2-stroke sleds in this comparo means more dollars at the pump, unless you go 4-stroke. The cost per mile is always going to be higher even on a direct injected 2-stroke because oil, maintenance and longevity come into play. That being said a 12-gallon tank on this direct-injected motor gives this sled a longer range than even larger tanks on EFI sleds on average.

More positives include a radiator with fan, large mountain grab bar, DESS tether, electric start and standard rack with hitch. I would personally take the Pilot skis off and replace them with Ski-Doo’s DS2 skis, and put a larger windshield on, but that’s just me.
Comparison Test Polaris Titan SkiDoo Expedition Xtreme Arctic Cat Norseman
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