Polaris is creating its own kind of anarchy in the snowmobile biz… and it’s welcomed!  Polaris has continued its upward trend for another year with hot sleds in all categories, and they are offering new options each year… not just BNG (Bold New Graphics). But like all the other OEMs, there has been consolidation of total offerings in their lineup. Polaris has kept the best and right ones though!

Trails on rails

For the second straight year, Polaris is making all 850 Liberty Patriot powered sleds Snowcheck-only for hungry spring buyers.  The same 4-year warranty that was introduced last year applies again for 2020, and that is good news not only for big mileage trail riders, but hard pushing off-trail riders too, who spend lots of time chugging through big snow at WOT (wide open throttle).  There is more big news in the trail though for Indy lovers, as Indy now covers an even larger portion of the market.

It’s the 40th Anniversary of the original Indy, which was the pillar of the Independent Front Suspension evolution in snowmobiling… and yes, we will continue to use the evolution theme throughout this narrative. The new Indy Adventure 137 40th Anniversary Edition and the Indy XC 137 bridge the gap between the on-trail Pro-S sleds, the Switchback Assault off-trail crossover sleds, and the Switchback XCR big-bump and off-trail crossover machines. We rode the 137-inch Indy sleds a lot, and all these are going to make a huge dent in the market share of other OEMs in this market segment. They just work like advertised. That being said, we scratched our heads at a 40th Anniversary Edition sled that did not come standard with electric start.

The Indy 137-inch trail sleds have, or can have with accessories, what almost all riders crave. From awesome add-ons like a heated passenger seat, extra storage bags, and ice-ripper 1.25 lug optional track, to the new standard ES model battery charging port (on the right-side tunnel). Plus, the Pro-CC 137 rear skid with Walker Evans Velocity needle compression adjustable rear shock, and more durable bogie wheels, makes for a trail-reliable, and bump taming experience.

As an example of options that other OEM’s may not be doing, but one that makes sense, Polaris is offering options of 600, 800, and 850 motors (Snowcheck). The Roseau, MN based manufacturer is also giving track options for Snowcheck again this year. 129 and 137-inch Indy XC buyers can get the Storm 1.5-inch lug for aggressive riders, and a little more off-trail capability (this rider’s personal favorite with a 2-stud per lug pattern). But buyers can also choose the Cobra 1.25 standard trail track, or the Ice Ripper XT 1.25 lug (available on 120-inch sleds too).

Then there’s slightly more value options in the Indy line, like the Indy SP 600, which is a powerful little trail ripper in its own right, and available in 129 and 137-inch versions. There are not too many sleds in the last 10 years that compare with the tossability of a 129-inch Indy 600. In and out of the corners, this is a dream, and up to 85mph it will stick with any 800cc sled, trust us.

The crown jewel for Polaris in the trails is the Indy XCR. The sled has been proven on cross-country courses and throughout North America. We have too many quotes from test riders to print in this quick overview, but the 129 (actually 128-inch) sled has more options than we can mention… and the Indy Switchback 137 we think is even better! Three engine options from 600, 800 and 850cc, Three track options (Snowcheck) that include a 1.25 Ice Ripper, 1.35 Cobra, and 1.75 Backcountry, allow you to make this sled what you want it to be.  That’s a recurring theme across the Polaris sled lineup, you can basically make what you want.

The Rush Pro-S also returns in the 600, 800 and 850 models. This is one of the very few 120-inch sleds you can buy new anymore, and the only model you can get in this short trail length, in several engine options. If you are looking for a new sled that will rip the tight trails, carry a top of the line shock package in the Walker Evans adjustable package, and have proven reliability, then look no further.

Don’t forget about the Indy Evo that was introduced last year, or the EVOlution kit that pushes this sled past the governed 50mph of the standard EVO. Plus, for 2020 there’s the all new RMK EVO 144 with a 1.75 Backcountry track. Check out STV (Snowmobiler TV) for proof as to how this sled carves through the powder. At 420 pounds dry weight, this sled is light, and has a large footprint, tall lugs, shallow angle of attack from the track to the rails, and stays up on top of the snow… but billing this as an RMK is still kind of a stretch IMO, which is why we mentioned it in this section.  Rocky Mountain King just doesn’t equate to a 550-fan sled.  Nomenclature and semi-personal bias aside, we very much appreciate the underlying initiative by Polaris with this sled. There is a 12-year-old who will be crying tears of joy somewhere in Montana this year when this sled rolls in at Christmas.

There’s much more we will talk about the Indy suspension, semi/trail-crossover expansion, and mainstream market segment machismo in later issues, but from our own test rider experiences, these aforementioned sleds are where we see Polaris really powering forward.

In-between is right where you need to be

Polaris, like everyone else for the last ten years, has had more focus on the crossover market, but Polaris has (again) evolved and found their happy place very well. The Assault and Switchback models are some of the best performing sleds in altering snow conditions on the market.

Three sleds in particular that out-punch their projections are the Switchback XCR 137, the Switchback Assault 144 and SKS 146. The Switch XCR comes in the 6, 8, or 850cc options and this sled is an under-reported super-sled off-trail.  I pity the fool who thinks his buddy is going to get stuck when they stop, and he parks behind this sled.  I’ve watched this sled rally out of more snow than you would ever think a 137 with a 1.35-inch lug track would go through.  Disclaimer: the roost from this sled is like standing behind a jet-boat on launch. But you’ve got 1.25, 1.35, and 1.75 snowcheck track lug options for this sled, so there is versatility, and even more roosting capability here that’s not offered in some competing sleds. Like we said, don’t be scared that the 1.35 lug is not enough, the throttle is your friend! Hayes race brakes and Walker Evans hi-low compression adjustable, coil-over shocks (that can be easily clicker-adjusted) give stop-on-a-dime performance and a super plush ride. You can make changes to handle 60-foot triple jumps, or make this sled a touring overachiever.

The Assault Switchback 144 has been this guy’s personal favorite boondocking sled for lots of years. Available again in 6, 8, and 850cc versions, this is the fastest and lightest Axys chassis crossover sled, with less rolling resistance in the IGX skid than any other machine in the Polaris lineup. The track speed, plus the perfect balance for tight tree slaloming, and all the goodies that Polaris gives standard, make this sled an incredible buy.  You get LED headlights, Powdertrac hybrid running boards, and more… this sled seriously has it all. You can rip the rivers, lakes, and trails with Walker Evans Piggyback Needle shocks sucking up any aberrations, then hop off-trail and go 90% of the places that an RMK can go. Track options include a 1.35 or 1.6 lug Cobra track, or a 2.0 Series 4 deep snow focused track. The only downfall of this sled is that you can’t adjust the ski-stance.

HOWEVER, you can adjust the ski stance on the SKS 146! From 39-41 inches, this is the next step up for the off-trail focused boondocker that’s not ready, or needing to take the step into an RMK. But this is only available in the 8, and 850cc Liberty motors. This sled is a mini-RMK, but actually works better in places like Northern Ontario; Quebec; the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; upstate New York and Maine; Northern Minnesota, and plenty of other places across the plains and lower elevations.  There’s an SKS 155 too, but we’re still more in love with the 146.

Relax, Khaos is the new standard

The biggest news from Polaris for 2020 is the intro of the new Khaos all-mountain RMK sled. Walker Evans Velocity hi-low speed compression adjustable shocks, and a new Khaos rear suspension are the main factors that set this sled apart from Polaris mountain sleds that have come before it. Available in the 800 or 850cc motors, the 36-38-inch adjustable Pro- RMK React front suspension, in combo with the new rear skid are working better on this model on side-hills, big hits, re-entries, and technical terrain than any other non-modified RMK we have ridden. The Powdertrac XT boards evac snow promptly, and make technical moves easier. Plus, you get a 2.6 Series 6 or 3.0 Series 7 snowcheck track option.

The engineering goal with the geometry of the new rear skid, boards, track, front-end and rider positioning was to make the sled more playful, and for it to take less effort to ‘flick around’. Better transfer with the skid, lighter steering effort on sidehill, better predictability through varying conditions and opportunities, all make this sled the next generation of bad-boy RMK.

Utility and touring

Polaris has it all covered with every market segment squared away. In the Extreme Utility segment, the Titan is still a massive force. The Titan SP, XC, and the Adventure extreme touring sled are all workhorses utilizing the Liberty 800cc motor. The touring and sport utility markets are handled by the Indy LXT, Voyager 144/156 and Indy Adventure 144/156.

Sidebar:  850 Patriot Changes for 2020

There were plenty of refinements made to this motor pre-emptively by Polaris. Again, this motor has a 4-year warranty, so owners shouldn’t be in much trouble here, other than possibly parts availability… which has been good. There is a new PTO bearing and retainer ring, a new water temp sensor, a new screened internal check valve, new oil feed for the center main bearings, and stated improved piston life.  Furthermore, there is better sealing in the crankcase, new larger mag engine mounts, and new software/calibration.

By Mark Boncher