Moving targets are more difficult to hit than sitting ones. Maybe this is the theory Ski-Doo is following for 2012. While the XP platform is going to be on year five in 2012, Ski-Doo continues to hone and advance their sleds to new heights each time around. The past few years it has been accelerating their engine technology that the rest of the industry is still trying to catch up to when it comes to two-strokes. Now for 2012 they are going to put the screws to them in the rear suspension wars.
2012 brings us what appear to be the same XPs and XRs as we are familiar with, but look deeper and we see continued improvements. The big one that is going to get the most coverage is a new rear suspension called the rMotion. This is quite simply Ski-Doo’s response to the Polaris RUSH, and its progressive rate technology. In a way it not only validates what Polaris is doing, but does its best to take it yet another step forward.
Instead of going with the radical design of the RUSH, Ski-Doo opted to give us a progressive rate suspension inside of the tunnel. While this approach does not give us the same rigid backbone into the bulkhead that Polaris does, it keeps the center of gravity lower, and keeps the familiar seat, storage and tunnel that we’re all used to.
The rMotion broadens the performance envelope, it adds easy adjustability, and most importantly it gives you both a great ride and capability all at once.
But this new suspension package is only offered on the Spring-only MX Z X-packages and XRS packages. It is not offered on any other models, or at any other time. Aggressive riders and heavier riders will benefit most from the rMotion, but all riders should find it works across a wider range of conditions, so the appeal is broader than one might first think. They are X-packages, so keep that in mind. If you sit down and never exceed 40 mph on your trail rides on smooth trails, you are less likely to think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Yet there is so much more going on with Ski-Doo for 2012. They’re given the Freeride its own model badge, no longer a Summit. Instead of one, now there are three Freeride models to choose from. The Freeride was born from the demand for a tougher chassis upon which to build a wild-child sled. Guys were taking old race sleds with beefed-up chassis and suspensions and making mountain sleds out of them. Less for powder hounds, more for jumpers and those bending things. Now they come in 137, 146 and 154 inch track lengths. They’re ONLY offered as Spring-only models, so if you want one sign up now. They come with just a base white coloration with gold hardware so you can give them a wrap of your choosing.
And we can no longer rip Ski-Doo for no-storage seats. The X-package and XRS sleds that always used to have the taller seats with no storage compartment in the rear for aggressive riders now have a small storage space down in the rear of the seat. Aggressive guys won’t be landing their butt on the trunk, as the opening is at the rear of the seat so there’s no trunk per say. Neat improvement, at least there’s enough room to carry an extra pair of gloves and a water bottle, better than nothing.
Even if you don’t go for the new rMotion suspension, sleds with KYB Pro 40 or Pro 36 shocks have a new compression damping adjuster. A bigger knob is easier to adjust, even with gloves on, and they’re located so you can get at the knob. Imagine that.
The sleeper sled in the 2012 Ski-Doo line-up is going to be the GSX SE. You know, the decked-out 1200 trail sled? Now you can get the GSX SE with an E-TEC six or eight. For trail riders, these two engine options are very welcome. But you might ask, isn’t the GSX SE on the XR, or four-stroke chassis? Yes it is. Even with the E-TECs, it is the XR platform. But, the resulting sled is a mind-bender on groomed trails. The 1200 is nice, but the E-TECs make this sled very sporty, lighter up front, more responsive, with a super-smooth Air Control Suspension and lighter steering effort. We’re telling you, if you are a long distance trail rider then this sled is going to be one to consider. The GSX LE still comes as an XP with the 600 E-TEC or an XR with the 1200, but we found the SE with the 800R E-TEC to be the over-achiever. This will be the best ride for 2012 that nobody knows about. If you are a sit-down trail rider, pay attention. You want to try one of these.
Then we have the 600 ACE four-stroke. Introduced for 2011, few realized what Ski-Doo had here. Oh, it only has 60 HP everyone would say. Yah, and it still goes 75 mph. And it gets 30 mpg. And it has light and easy steering. And it is so quiet. And it doesn’t smoke. The throttle is so linear. Predictable. Can you really have fun on a sled like this? Ask anyone who bought one of these. Maybe this isn’t the a-typical SnowTech reader who would buy a 600 ACE as their primary sled, but Ski-Doo sold the crap out of them this past winter, and dealers are ordering gobs more of them for 2012. It is the snowmobile for anyone and everyone. It does not scare you, does not intimidate you, is predictable, and responsive. For those just looking for a smooth, reliable, quiet and easy to ride snowmobile that doesn’t need to be constantly worked on, this thing is a home run. Riders who have been out of the sport for years are finding the 600 ACE to be exactly what they wanted, and at a decent price. OK, it doesn’t snap your head back when you crack the throttle, but that’s the point. Put your kids on it or anyone that isn’t an expert rider like you or me and they will love the sled, love the sport, love you and me. It puts the fun back into their reach, instead of hanging on for dear life trying to manhandle a big heavy powerful beast through the woods. Change the oil once a year, watch the runners and hyfax, add gas every 250-300 miles. That’s about it.
This past winter Ski-Doo was pretty stingy on the 800R E-TEC engines. Now for 2012 they’re opening the flood gates, making it available on so many more models, and yes, in season. This past winter you pretty much had to step up and order one early on or you didn’t get one. This time around it is a bunch of graphic wraps that are going to be spring-only, now offered on most any X-Package sled. Yep, MX Zs and Renagade X sleds, too. There are plenty of wild wrap kits to make your sled more unique and, well, obnoxious. That’s what the younger riders want, a sled that looks radical and different and just plain crazy. Last fall the graphic wraps offered as optional kits sold out quickly, so they knew they were onto something.
2011 was also a year of major refinement for the Summit models. They really have been working well, at least once the 800R E-TECs got through their break-in period. Getting 500 miles on a mountain sled isn’t always that easy, so quite a few Summit riders didn’t get to appreciate their 800 E-TECs until they got some time on them to get them broke in all the way. Once they got there, the oil economy got better and the power came on full tilt. Now for 2012 the tweaks continue as X-packages get a taller 2.5” PowderMax II deep lug track, along with a race-style “minimalist” handlebar package (less is more). The Summit Everest is gone, with the Summit SP being the primary “in-season” Summit. And for those who want more for less there is a new Summit Sport with the 800R PowerTEK engine, a 154” track sled that retails for $9,999 US ($10,999 CDN). In the mountain sled game, this one screams value. Still too much cash? There’s still the 600 carb version of the Summit Sport for even less.
The rest of the line-up for 2012 is very familiar. The (Spring order only) MX Z XRS and X-packages get the new rMotion suspension, with or without the Quick Adjust option that puts the knobs up on both sides of the tunnel. The MX Z TNT and MX Z Sport models are the aggressive rider sleds that see full-season duty on dealer floors.
The longer-tracked Renegade models and their spring-only Renegade X packages continue the 137” track length for added stability and deep snow capability, with added storage/cargo capability. For those seeking even better deep snow capability and spend less time on the trail, the Renegade Backcountry and Renegade Backcountry X give you the taller 1.75” lug tracks, now with a 1.5” option for the Renegade X.
For two-up touring the Grand Touring SE and Grand Touring LE return to haul you and your best friend across the trails in comfort and style. For those on a budget, the Grand Touring Sport models scream value in three versions; 600 ACE, carbed 600 2-stroke and 550F fan-cooled two-stroke. Ski-Doo still sells gobs of these sleds, that’s why there are so many to choose from. While the typical SnowTech reader might shake their head at a two-up, there are many riders who would not consider anything other than a two-up. Touring from destination to destination, day after day, is the norm in many parts of the world, and is becoming more and more popular as the average age of snowmobiles continues to increase and the trail systems get better and better.
Finally, Ski-Doo has 100% of their 2012 model line-up built on their REV-X platform. The last sled to be converted is the Skandic SWT, now on the REV-XU chassis. This work horse realizes a 52 pound weight reduction with the conversion, and lets the beast riders sit in a far more comfortable position. Just imagine a 156” track length that is 24” wide. TWENTY-FOUR inches wide. Talk about a monster foot print! It comes with the fuel-sipping ACE 600 for maximum economy, or the more powerful 600 H.O. E-TEC.
The way Ski-Doo sees it, they pretty much have a sled for every rider. They should, with what looks like 141 different sled combinations being offered. Instead of a single sled doing it all, they offer so many sleds that are very specific in what they do best. You want ride quality and protection? They got it. You want big bump capability? Got it. You want fuel-sipping economy? Got it. You want flatland deep snow capability? Got that, too. How about deep snow mountain climbing? Or maybe mountain free riding? Check. Utility and ski hill duty? Yep. Two-up touring? For sure. Or how about just plain sit-down trail riding on groomed trails? Going left and right, through the bumps, railing around the corners, blasting across the lake, and having fun? Yep, they’ve got that too.
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