There is not much new that can be written about the 2019 Indy 850 XC that hasn’t already been covered in snowmobile magazines, internet outlets, or TV shows. All the big news has hit, so talking about the new Indy’s Patriot 850 engine, the most powerful 2-Stroke ever produced by Polaris, is old news. Even the new Pro CC rear skid is yesterday’s headline. So instead of focusing on that stuff, let’s take a look at what this sled is like after half a season on the snow.
Just like when we first settled our cheeks on the seat of the 850, this sled is still an impressive machine to ride, but what has developed over this season is just how much fun this sled is to live with. I should first qualify that statement with the fact that this sled is designated an XC, which is quite different to the defined ride experience of a Pro-S.
The XC in Indy means Cross County, and this sled is bred to perform in the rough conditions found in Cross Country Racing. Pointing the ski tips to knee deep whoops, all one has to do is grab a handful of throttle to hike the skis in the air then let the Pro CC rear skid deal with the consequences, which it does quite well! Then when skis do settle in to engage the crests of the moguls, the Walker Evens shocks out front do an equally satisfying job of absorbing the terrain. In these conditions the Indy XC remains composed and predictable, allowing the rider to stay on the gas.
However, these “XC” qualities do limit the on-trail characteristics just a bit. Driving hard into a corner, the sled seems to change direction quicker, with more precision when the skis are loaded under braking. Misjudge this braking distance, forcing you to lift off the binders and roll the corner, the XC develops some under-steer. Additionally, getting back to throttle is a balancing act through mid-section of the corner. Pickup the throttle just a little too quickly and the Indy XC will transfer weight off the skis, promoting a mid-corner push. Corner exit is where things get interesting with the power of the 850! The instant the Indy is pointing the right direction, you can get hard on the throttle, which will loft the skis, pull at your arms, and put a huge smile on your face.
Truth be told, this isn’t the fastest way to get through a turn… back to back with a Pro-S, we believe the Indy XC is just a bit slower. Riding the Pro-S, it’s noticeably more composed at speed and throughout the corners, allowing a rider to maintain a faster average. However, I also believe the cure to this issue on the XC is a limiter strap adjustment, and full coupling on the rear arm to help keep the front skis planted and limit weight transfer. Knowing these adjustments would probably help cornering abilities, doesn’t mean we know for sure, because we never actually made the adjustments on the XC. Even though a planted feeling snowmobile is faster, its not as fun, and we just simply didn’t want to neuter the hooligan factor of the Indy 850 XC.
There is one other drawback to the excessive (yet fun) weight transfer of the XC, and that’s night riding. In the dark, the headlight seems like it is rarely pointing down the trail. On-throttle the light is pointed at the trees, then under braking, the area just in front of the sled, about feet 10 out is lit perfectly, but not much else is. Going in hot to your first corner at night can get spicy in a hurry if you are not prepared for what essentially feels like the lights going out!
Experiencing the 850 Patriot on a number of rides so far this year has also been as good as a new chassis. Back to back with other 800 Indys, the 850 has got a blanket over the 800 Liberty. The 850 just has more, everywhere in the power curve. Which should be obvious due the extra CC’s, but it’s the speed that the new mill builds that is the most exciting. Instant comes to mind as a descriptor, and here too, the 850 eclipses the 800. The downfall of the 850 in this chassis, is the speed at which the mill puts the power to the ground, and also exaggerates the weight transfer over the 800 equipped models.
We are not sure if the excessive weight transfer quality of the Indy XC is a strike against it or for it. We know the sled can be made faster if we tuned the ski lift out of it, but we don’t want to because we would be sacrificing some fun factor. Ultimately, we are not going to change a thing, because if we do, it would be like stripping the soul out of the Indy. Buyers of this sled should want and expect an exaggerated ride experience. If you want a sled that is fast, composed, and somewhat dull to ride, get a Pro-S. For those riders who prefer a solid dose of hot sauce injected into their ride, go Indy XC all day long.
By Jeff Steenbakkers