Back in 1984 the first Phazer captivated the snowmobling world’s imagination with its innovative styling. Now, 23 years later, Yamaha is going to screw up everyone’s stereotypes and impressions of what a mountain sled should look like, what it should cost and, gulp, how light a four-stroke snowmobile really can be.
As mighty and as powerful as the RX-1 and now the Apex 4-strokes are, they are heavy sleds. Now here we have a 4-stroke mountain sled that claims a dry weight of under 500 pounds. Seriously. Yamaha knew they had to shatter the weight thing once and for all, so where the Apex and Vector lines are street-bike based, the Phazer models are dirt-bike based. We’re talking engine heritage and chassis construction. The Phazer models are powered by a new 2-cylinder 500cc 4-stroke that is more or less two of their 250cc dirt bike engines morphed into a single motor with EFI, high compression and a knock sensor. This ain’t no cheap motor, this is first class high end stuff right out of the gate. Five valve heads let the screamer spin up towards 12,000 RPM, with output shaft speeds geared down to sane levels for drive belt transmission performance.
According to Adam Sylvester, Yamaha Snowmobile Product Manager, the first priority in designing this model was to make it as light as possible without sacrificing strength. Second was to give it a level of handling and responsiveness not found on other liquid-cooled mountain sleds. Third was to tweak the throttle response to give mountain riders more squirt when they hit the gas. Fourth was to maintain the sled’s value. The last piece was styling to make it look as sleek and nimble as it is.
Sylvester continues, telling us the Phazer Mountain Lite’s first two design mandates, light weight and nimble handling, are closely related. Their engineering department began with a lightweight 2-cylinder engine and proceeded to build the sled around it – literally. The engine is buried down into the belly of the beast, as low and as centered as possible. The tube-style chassis is strengthened with Yamaha’s exclusive controlled flow die casting technology, providing a very rigid chassis without a lot of weight. That rigidity allowed the suspension engineers develop a very precise handling suspension setup.
Besides the mass-centralized compact chassis, the Phazer Mountain Lite also has Yamaha’s new sport rider-forward ergonomics. The narrow, YZ-style seat and wide bars are tall and forward to put the rider into a sport aggressive posture for instant inputs and feedback from the chassis, which works awesome in wide open powder bowls when you just want to carve and toss the little bitch from side to side.
One objective was to develop trend-setting styling, in the same tradition of the original Phazer. Yamaha stylists went to work cutting all of the empty space out of the sled. If it didn’t serve a purpose, a gap was eliminated and the outer body work moved inward. You can see this in the hood and bellypan, but it is best executed in the front end. Never before has a snowmobile been designed with a naked front suspension. It’s somewhat common in the sport ATV market. The same holds true for the styling cues on the seat and exhaust. Style-wise the Phazer Mountain Lite is a very good blend of ATV, dirtbike and snowmobile.
Don’t be so quick to judge this “little” mountain sled until you have the chance to ride one for a day. Right away, riders see the “80 HP” rating and they think they know how it’s going to work. Uh uh uh. Not so.
80 HP is the peak rating, and this is a four-stroke. That means it makes power across a fairly wide range of engine RPMs, so you don’t have to spin it that high to get it going. While the peak power is more like a 500cc 2-stroke, the bandwidth is more like a 600cc 2-stroke. The bottom end pull could even be more like a 700cc 2-stroke, for a while at least. It flattens out on top instead of continuing to peak, but getting there is actually surprising.
Gearing and calibration do wonders for this little scooter as well. It is geared down significantly from their short track cousins, and the amount of lift and acceleration afforded are met with a reduced top speed and a calibration that really is aimed at off-trail operation.
The front end styling gives one the impression that something is missing, but your eyes quickly adapt to the naked front suspension. We’re not so sure about how this will carve through certain types of wet snow, but it does look rather, well, futuristic. Minimalist, as well.
Riding the Phazer Mountain Lite, you have the sensation of the sled being a true _ size of “traditional” snowmobiles. This is a new sensation from a 4-stroke Yamaha. Up to this point, the 4-stroke Yamahas have been stellar groomed trail cruisers, and the Phazer models are on the other end of the spectrum, being so much smaller, lighter, and agile in comparison. You actually could forget it is a 4-stroke, as it shatters the mold of what we have come to expect from 4-stroke sleds up to this point.
Churning though the deep snow, the engine stays smack in its wide powerband, and the EFI system keeps the little 500 twin humming along smoothly and in tune, all the time. The Camoplast Maverick track is a whopping 144” long with 2” lugs, seemingly overkill for an 80 HP mill, but let that tell you something – this little thing will likely surprise you at where it can go and what it can do. Through the trees you will rule the roost, it’s climbing where it’ll lose ground speed, big time.
Built on a 14” tunnel, ala Firecat logic, the Phazer is narrower and agile, a real boondocker’s delight. There will be a great number of riders who just like playing in powder, not needing to climb to great heights to get their fix, and they will be attracted to the Mtn. Lite in droves. It is about as close as one can get to the flickability of an M-Series Arctic Cat in another brand. There is however, a sway bar up front, which provides stability going down a forest road or trail, but out in the deep it is not really all that noticeable. The balance afforded is well distributed.
Of all the new Phazer models for 2007, our staff agreed that the Mountain Lite was the most impressive of them all. The narrow nature and agility were best suited for the playful riding in deeper snow, and the throttle response gave us impressive capability to flick it around in and out of spots that would usually require greater effort. The sled made you feel like a better rider, a true sign of excellence. Yamaha built this sled to let people go out and ride for not a lot of money and just have a good time.
The 2007 Phazer Mountain Lite is available in one color package – White and Sliver – and retails for only $7,199.