Snow Shoot 2014 : Philippe Soucy's best picks
Looking at the snowmobile evolution from one year to the next, we can see that manufacturers bring refinement to their products and push back the limits of development with new technologies. If many agree that 2013 offered major improvements from each manufacturer, the 2014 production does it again mainly with new engines and with expertise agreements in order to increase the performance of the products.
First, Arctic Cat shows a strong beginning with a new engine and a new design, the 6000 C-TEC2. This is the first engine designed and produced by the Minnesota manufacturer.
Also, Arctic Cat developped a partnership with Yamaha engines in order to take the best from each one of them and produce a sled up to their reputation.
This snowmobile is built on a lightweight and high performance chassis equipped with one of the most reliable engines on the market. For the first time in snowmobile history, 2 manufacturers will offer a very similar model that will show their own characteristics.
Ski-Doo also introduces a new 4-stroke engine, the ACE 900 equipped with a new technology that manages the acceleration process. Three modes are available : the ECO mode reduces the fuel consumption and still offers fair performance, the STANDARD mode offers a linear acceleration and the SPORT mode offers quicker accelerations to extreme riders. So, the 90 hp edition will deliver higher performance than the ACE 600, but will not compete with the 4-TEC 1200 market.
After three years as a test pilot at West Yellowstone, I am happy to present to you my Snow Shoot 2014 best picks. Even if I personally prefer the crossover snowmobiles, you will see that all my choices for each manufacturer are part of almost every segment of the market.
With the new Genesis engine from Yamaha in the ProCross chassis and with the new 6000 C-TEC2 engine, I knew that I was going to have a hard time to pick my favorite model for 2014. Especially because I usually prefer the crossover machines with aggressive track and 2-stroke engine. Yes, I knew I would have to compromise. Also, my unconditional love for the M 8000 is an important element, as the pictures taken with this bolid are always outstanding.
I chose 3 models and to my greatest surprise, they were all equipped with a short 128 in. tunnel. But, which one would please me the most ?
ZR8000 Sno Pro
With a very successful brand new look in green/white and orange/white (my favorite), the ProCross chassis of the ZR 8000 Sno Pro is really remarkable. The riding position is great with an exceptional handling on trail. I even had the chance to ride in powder snow and go side-hilling on it. The ZR 8000 Sno Pro is equipped with the Fox Float suspension package that is very efficient in bumps. Even riding off-trail with a Ripsaw 1.25 track, I have been pleased with the comfort and handling of this machine. Besides, the 800 H.O. engine still offers a good performance in this chassis.
XF 7000 Limited
I also liked the new XF 7000 Limited, very noticeable with its orange/black colours. Most of all, I liked the 137 in. tunnel that fits the ProCross chassis. I also liked the performance of the 1049 cc engine that offers good responses on trail. However, its weight makes it a little special to ride off-trail.
El Tigre Arctic Cat
Finally, I chose the new black/green ZR 6000 El Tigre. Its vintage look and graphics are very nice. Its new 6000 C-TEC2 engine offers exceptional accelerations. This El Tigre is very versatile in all conditions thanks to its overall lightweight. Its strenght and performance were happily surprising in powder snow. Pictures say it all !!! So, my Arctic Cat best pick for 2014 is the ZR 6000 El Tigre.
Philippe's Arctic Cat best pick for 2014 is the ZR 6000 El Tigre.
Once again, Polaris sets apart with their capacity to listen to their customers and to growing market segments. After the re-introduction of the Indy model in 2013, I knew that for 2014, Polaris would develop entry-level models. For the third consecutive year, the 800 Switchback Pro-R with a 136 X 1,75 X 15 in. track caught my attention. Once again, the performance of this machine has really impressed me.
However, due to my aggressive type of riding and my passion for off-trail riding, I had a crush for the new 600 Indy Voyager.
The combination of the 144 X 2,0 X 15 in. track with the 600 Cleanfire engine is perfect for me. The 600 Indy Voyager will be the only snowmobile to compete directly with the Ski-Doo Tundra market. This one was the only sled available in the utility category with increased lightweight and performance in deep snow.
At the end, I chose the 800 Switchback Assault 144. I love its black/red look and refined finish. This edition offers outstanding handling. It sticked so well to the surface and reacted so precisely to my requests that I felt like this machine was an extension of my body. T
Switchback 800 assaut 144
his snowmobile is also very flexible with a progressive action of the suspension on moguls. Pure joy !
The Indy model is also offered in the performance category : the new 800 Indy SP. I am sure it will be very popular in the Province of Québec next season. It is equipped with the powerful and efficient 800 cc engine and is offered at a very fair price for this category of sled. This is perfect to attract new snowmobile fans and keep a high performance level. This shows once again that Polaris can fulfill our expectations, up to their reputation !
Ski-Doo is back in 2014 with almost the same lineup than in 2013, so I had a good idea about my favorite models. But the introduction of the new ACE 900 engine a few weeks before we left for the Snow Shoot changed it all. Before I arrived in Montana, I had a preference for the Renegade Backcountry X E-TEC 800R or the Summit X 154 E-TEC 800R. But, after my latest off-trail rides and with the new technology of the XM chassis that revolutionises the mountain sled industry, I was very eager to see the integration of the Freeride into the new XM platform for 2014.
Effectively, I just adored the new ACE 900 engine in the MX Z TNT. When I started on the groomed trails, I found the ACE 900 very different. But after a few kilometers, I was seduced. With the electronic throttle, we really felt like having nothing under our thumb ! The ACE 900 produces a very soft and pleasant sound and it will sure be very popular in the Province of Québec. Its new technology offers three modes of acceleration while keeping a very good performance. Once we got on our playground (in deep snow!), I impressed myself with maneuvers I considered impossible on a snowmobile with a short tunnel and a 4-stroke engine !
Ski-Doo Grand Touring
We had just started our tests on trail when we stopped to take pictures and to switch our machines when one of my companions suggested that I try . «The feel is just incredible», did he say. So, I piloted the Grand Touring and after just a few kilometers, I knew what he had meant. With its new silent powertrain, I just felt in love with this snowmobile ! The sound is so soft that we can hear the skis biting the trail. The combination of the ACE 900 with this new system is very surprising. Once again, Ski-Doo improved a model by introducing a new technology.
After many thoughts, I came back to my priorities and concluded that my Ski-Doo true best pick was the new Freeride E-TEC 800R. The addition of the Freeride into the XM platform is just incredible. Rigidity and robustness are the main characteristics of the Freeride. And believe me, I put it to the test many times ! To my greatest surprise, the tMotion suspension of the Freeride remains flexible in turns. But when it is time to face moguls or a bigger jump, the 2014 Freeride is very efficient. Look at the pictures and you will understand.
This Japanese manufacturer offers only a few changes in its models. As they say, «Why change a winning formula ?».
However, I could not wait to ride the new SRViper X-TX SE made in partnership with Arctic Cat. The good old Nytro has always been one of my favorites, as I had the chance to be a tour guide on this machine. And once again, my passion for off-trail riding was pushing me towards the FX Nytro X-TX 1.75. I had a hard time choosing between these 2 models, and finally, I chose the SRViper X-TX SE after riding in bumps and off-trail.
It offered more stability and its suspension was better with the ProCross chassis. Still, I must say that it was a pleasure to have so many good options at Yamaha’s.
Best Pick Yamaha
I hope my best picks will also be yours and that it will help you choose your 2014 snowmobile. For more details on all 2014 new models, please refer to our Buyer’s Guide full of photos.
Have a great season !
Philippe Soucy testing the new Snowmobiles