That was the reaction I got from several of our riders this year when asked if they needed an 850 after they finished riding these two 600cc class snowmobiles this year. The newest entrants into the trail-focused 600cc class are the all new Polaris VR-1 in the new Matryx platform and the Ski-Doo MXZx in the Gen 4 platform. These two punch waaayyyyy above their weight class and honestly, handle the trail better than their 850cc compadres in many instances on the trail.
We put these two sweet and sassy little ponies through the paces this year, side-by-side, and in the words of Loverboy, we were ‘Lovin every minute of it’! For those of you who are not children of the 80’s, you can find it on YouTube. (insert smile emoji here for the younger readers)
Polaris smacks one out of the park!
Ok, ok, let’s just calm all the Polaris faithful down a bit because I know you’re all going ga-ga over the new 650 Patriot motor. On second thought, go nuts! This thing is fantastic! Modeled after the 850 Patriot, there’s plenty in common, but from a rider’s standpoint, the throttle pull is extremely smooth and it’s never doggy. Top speed is better than the 700 class sleds many of us still remember riding, and it doesn’t care if you keep at WOT, or WFO for those of us who cursed with joy when we first took it out on a wide open lake. The twin cylinder, liquid cooled, Cleanfire injected sled still has the the3-stage VES exhaust with a single pipe, and it actually sounds smooth.
Polaris even went a step further with this sled by dropping it into the all new Matryx platform. At 467 pounds dry weight, this sled is one that you can really toss around, and it likes it! Polaris touts a ‘class-leading power-to-weight ratio’, and so far, we don’t have reason to deny that claim. Albeit with 50+ more cc’s than others in this class, by all means, it should have the best ratio. That said, using carbon fiber and rigid-aluminum, plus structural bonding, as well as space-age computational fluid dynamics for air flow… well, this sled is more than just light and fun, it is well engineered.
The Matryx platform was derived from lessons learned on the race-track and LOTS of rider feedback. The biggest difference in rider feel, in my opinion, is the 4.8-inch narrower console which is 3-inch narrower at the knees. I am not a big person, so with shorter legs comes less mobility on many sleds. Being able to lean to keep that front ski down in the corners is imperative, and this sled allows very good maneuverability and cuts down on fatigue when riding hard for long periods of time. Skinny side panels and a right-size windshield also help with movement and give a good ‘bubble’, where the rider can relax and be well protected from the wind.
Up front is the Polaris IFS front suspension with WER Velocity shocks. WalkerEvans makes an incredible absorber, and these are some of the best yet from one of the world’s foremost off-road shock manufacturers. In back is the Pro-CC rear skid withWER shocks as well. A 2-inch diameter front shock and a Velocity rear shock. This is a super playful machine and you can easily transfer to bring up the front end and toss it around. Plus, buyers had three different track options-a 15x129x1.25 Ice Ripper XT, or the Cobra with 1.35-inch lugs, or the Storm with 1.5-inch lugs. With the Storm track, this sled actually does VERY well off-trail. If you know how to ride in deep snow, this sled is a blast out in an open meadow or ditch-banging and jumping berms. Even at altitude, this sled was one that many of our riders gravitated towards over some of the 850 sleds in open play areas.
We would certainly suggest the option of electric start, and this comes standard with PERC reverse. Options also included a tall windshield or a mid-height shield with handguards… the mid-height is more of a small shield, so this is a question of form versus function. Finally, you get the all new 7S digital display. This is hands-down the nicest in the industry as it comes with Ride Command, touch screen, GPS, and all the bells and whistles. We love the Bluetooth and USB connectivity in addition to all the wayfinding options. But equally as nice is all the gauge configurations to see multiple read-outs of engine temp, elevation, mph, tach, etc… and it’s big and easy to see.
BOX OUT Rider Comments
This sled sets the benchmark for easiest to ride track trail sleds in 2021. Adding the extra 8” track length, it will perform even better than its AXYS predecessor.–Jason Kawczynski, always comparing ‘track lengths’.
MXZx 600r set the bar
for many years, riders have been hard pressed to find a trail machine equal to the MXZx. This year is no different. If you want a sled that you can put just about anyone on, and they will have a good time on the trail, the 600r powered MXZx is absolutely a go-to sled for a majority of our test riders and their families. I ‘accidentally took a wrong turn on one of our test sessions so I could spend a good 30 minutes just riding this sled by myself around a long loop of twisty, turny, sweeping trail… and I’ve been riding sleds for almost 40 years. If there has ever been a true 600cc motor sled that can hang with 800cc sleds, itis this E-TEC direct-injected 2-stroker. Our little red demo sled had insanely smooth power, and with a 30% improvement in throttle response, that power was always there when you wanted it. A big reason this sled is as silky as it is, on and off the gas, is the drive primary clutch and the QRS secondary. The pDrive may be the best drive clutch in the industry. The liquid cooled twin motor winds out to 8100rpm and is happy as a clam holding that speed for miles on end. This sled is soooo lightweight as well, and at457 lbs. claimed dry weight, it is even lighter than the new Matryx.
Like the Matryx, this sled also came with three separate track options including the Ripsaw and Ice Ripper with 1.25-inch lugs, and the Ice Ripper XT with 1.5-inch lugs. Again, I personally like the 1.5-inch lugs as it makes the machine a little more usable off-trail. Also, with all the accessory options afforded by Ski-Doo’s LinQ system, you can make this sled pretty versatile with hardly any work involved. From extra gas cans to storage, to 2-up seats and more, this accessory platform is still setting the bar for the industry. You can also change ski stance from 42.1 inches to 43.9 inches. This is nice for both trail riders and folks who venture off into the fluff every now and then.
Also new on this machine for 2021 is the rMotion X rear suspension. The rMotion already set the tone once for trail performance, and Ski-Doo is doing it again with an upgraded version. More travel and a new adjustable angle, longer front arm gives the rider the ability to put more pressure on the front skis, or relax it for a more playful ride. You could also get the quick-adjust system on this sled that easily allows you to change the rebound and shock damping, just by turning a cam or knob on each side of the system that is mounted on either side of the running boards, behind your feet. Shock absorption comes from HPG Plus shocks over the skis, and in the center skid shock, while a KYB Pro-36 with easy adjustment is in the rear.
Also new is the Pilot X and TX ski. While the debate among our test riders continues on which system (quick adjust TX/TS skis, or Pilot skis). Either way, the more rigid and more aggressive ski does help with some darting, but the Pilots were always pretty darn good at cornering… now they are better if you can believe that. A large runner plate and more progressive runner angle, along with a tipped up end all work together for better loose snow handling, and more consistent grip and predictability. One of the things we love about this sled, ski and the whole package, is how it can track through stutter bumps in aggressive corners and hold an edge. When you see your inside ski just ticking through the bumps in the corner at a consistent level, you know you’ve got it right.
Finally, the adjustable riser can move 4-inches forward-back in four different locations. This is a really easily adjustable and superbly finished feature that you don’t get on any other sleds in the industry, from the factory. There are plenty more little things on this sled we can point out that we like from a service focus and fit/finish focus, but that’s a long list!
End of the day
at the end of the day, the Polaris Matryx is the newest sled on the market and has lots of upsides. The MXZx is tried and true, with tons of upgrades and options too. It may come down in price, and the Ski-Doo is a little bit less expensive for comparable options, but you can’t go wrong with either. If I were to pick one for only the trails, I would go with the MXZx, but if I were to pick one for all-around, almost everything riding, (but mostly trails) I would pick the Matryx. Just my own two cents so we don’t sound like people who can’t make decisions!