If you are a deep snow mountain rider, especially a Polaris mountain rider, you undoubtedly have heard about the new for 2016 Polaris PRO-RMK models built on the new AXYS platform. You have heard the hype, listened to the Polaris-paid riders, and maybe even have read some magazine articles and ride reviews on these new sleds. But seriously, how many of you have seen one in person, or even less likely, how many of you have even ridden one yet?
We had some limited time on them for a couple of days at a photo shoot at the end of February but the snow conditions were dismal and very limiting in being able to truly determine the capabilities of the sleds. But, not soon after that, our western test riders were able to hook up with Dan Adams (one of the Polaris western riders) and we got some super-valuable seat time on the 2016 RMK and SKS sleds in fairly decent snow conditions for an entire day so we could give you a better indication of how they really perform. Snowmobilers want independent verification of a new product before they go buy one. Consumers know better than to listen to factory-sponsored riders, as they are supposed to tell us all is good and everything rocks. That is their job. But what do the industry experts think of the new RMK? Is it the real deal?
As far as we can tell, the 2016 Polaris RMK can truly claim the throne as being the Rocky Mountain King. Our test riders logged well over 2,000 miles on a 2015 Switchback 800 production sled, so we know firsthand how potent the new 800 engine is, how wicked the throttle response is, how easy it is on fuel and oil, how quiet it is, how much fun it is to ride. Our test sled never missed a beat, it ran strong and pulled incredibly hard. We were pleasantly surprised at how well it performed, consistently, and eliminated any and all complaints we have voiced over the past several years with how weak the older 800 engine was compared to the Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo 800s. The new Polaris 800 is right there with peak power, and through the midrange it hits even harder.
Even though our seat time on the 2016 RMK models has been limited that’s not to say that we haven’t had the chance to take a very close look at the new AXYS RMK, as we have analyzed it very closely. The substantial improvements we noticed when looking at it were:
Engine: The AXYS RMK gets the same 800 H.O. engine as the AXYS short tracker had this year. We have a lot of time on these engines with no problems. This engine is very strong (about 10 horse better than the CFI-2). It revs quickly because of the lightweight pork chop style crank. And, it accepts aftermarket mods very well. It is going to be a nasty weapon in the AXYS RMK chassis. This engine is awesome.
Handlebars: The new bars are narrower in overall width and narrower in the center section. This was a big complaint for riders of the Pro-Ride RMK as its bars were too wide and too tall. It looks like the AXYS RMK bars are the same height as the Pro, but they narrowed the center section and the overall width to keep the weight of your torso from being so far over the sled when in a bad, nasty off camber position (usually pointed downhill).
Chassis & Spindles: The spindles are taller to allow more ground clearance. The entire chassis is a raised version of the AXYS platform to provide an additional 2” of ground clearance to reduce drag and keep more of the sled out of the snow, and to stay on top of the snow. It does have a higher center of gravity since it sits taller, but with a deep snow sled this is completely acceptable as it tips up easier and is more easily maneuverable. The entire chassis is rigid for a reason, to provide a shorter response time to rider inputs. They don’t want a pivoting suspension, they don’t want a flexible track, they want the rider energy to be translated to vehicle action, quickly, putting more power to the snow. Polaris tells us over 90% of the parts on the sled are new compared to last year’s RMK, so while it looks similar in many respects, these are truly new sleds in every way that matters.
Running Boards: The running boards appear to be similar in design to the Pro, but they are taller (more track and suspension exposed) to allow more ground clearance. This should make the sled even more unstoppable in the deep snow and it also will keep the running board from contacting the snow as early when sidehilling. This will make sidehill maneuvers easier.
Rear Suspension: The big changes here appear to be a longer front arm and new lighter weight rails. Polaris tells us it has increased the motion ratio and is using lower spring rates, thus they are using suspension geometry instead of high spring rates to better control the weight transfer and vehicle pitching. The ride quality in the bumps should also be better.
Steering: The AXYS RMK keeps a vertical steering post similar to the Pro RMK. It is different than the AXYS short track models.
Track: The new 2.6” Series 6 and 3” Series 7 tracks should be quite the weapons. Time will tell. It is about time they catch up in the track department. They pretty much had to come with the 3” lug height for those playing in the bottomless powder to compete with what Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo are doing.
Weight: It is slated at 408 pounds (155”), but it gets the AXYS silencer which is much heavier than what the Pro-Ride RMK had. The stock AXYS silencer weighs 17, but Starting Line Products can take off 10 pounds with their silencer, and a total of 13 pounds with their complete pipe kit (including silencer). That puts the sled at 395 pounds with a pipe kit on it. Breaking the 400 pound barrier is totally awesome for a sled with this much technology (and track length). Bring on the deepest powder snow you can find, this sled will tackle it like no other.
We recently spent some time on a several pre-production 2016 Polaris machines, including the RMK Pro 155” and 163” 2.6” as well as the SKS 155” 2.4”. Special thanks go out to Dan Adams for giving us the opportunity to spend some additional time on these new machines. We will just go ahead and answer the main question everybody has been asking – yes, the new 800 motor is the real deal. It is stronger and it is very noticeable. How much stronger is it? This is essentially the same engine supplied in the 2015 AXYS short track models (which we have extensive experience with) and is easily on par with the other two 800 twins currently on the market. The new 800 is “punchy” through the midrange, quick to respond and accelerate, and does not flatten out on top. It responds very quickly and lifts the sled right up and out of the snow, what Polaris is calling “instantaneous lift” and it is VERY impressive in this regard.
The new AXYS RMK platform is noticeably light and very easy to maneuver, which is no surprise to anyone. The 2.6” track worked well in the wet spring snow and out preformed the 2.4” track that was mounted on the SKS by a large margin. We would have liked to have spent some time on the new 3” track Polaris will be offering but unfortunately one was not available for our spring testing, which would not have been ideal conditions for this powder-hound track anyways.
The main thing we noticed is how well the new AXYS RMK holds a side hill. The new chassis sits taller and is extremely narrow, allowing the rider to hold a much steeper side hill without washing or panning out. The very back of the running board was one of the first things to drag, but we had to lay it aggressively into a very steep hill to make this happen. This sled is a joy to ride in technical areas, especially in tight trees on steep side-hills. Truly a boondocker’s delight.
The narrower handlebars are also a welcome change, but both the SKS and the Pro RMK we rode had the tall version on them, which we felt were still too tall. We would have preferred the mid height bars (6” rise). Keep in mind most of our test riders range from 6’ to 6’ 3” in height. Riders who stand less than 6’ may want the shortest bar Polaris offers. This tends to be a very personal preference item, so be sure to customize your sled to what you prefer, as it is easy and inexpensive to do so.
The rear suspension of the new AXYS RMK felt very much like a 2015 Pro RMK from a ride quality standpoint. Even though this new AXYS RMK has a raised chassis, the stability on the trail was actually very similar to what we are used to with previous models. If anything, it felt a bit more stable and predictable, which isn’t logical with the higher center, but that was what we felt.
We truly believe the RMK is the better deep snow sled of the Polaris line-up with its carbon fiber over-structure, 10% lower ratio Quick Drive system (chaincase on the 3” track), single rear cooler and lack of idler wheels. Its lightweight package is quick to respond to rider inputs in all snow conditions. If you do not have to ride a lot of trails to get to the deep snow, this is the model to have. If you have a lot of trails to ride to get to the deep snow, consider the AXYS SKS model instead as it offers an added front cooler and extra idler wheels to help in moderate snow conditions with a chain case drive system for more gearing options.
Where all of our riding on the new platform so far has been in spring type or limited depth snow conditions, it will be interesting to see how our opinion varies with these models in the deep mid-winter snows. We are excited to get on the new 3” track and put it through its paces against the 2.6” version. Polaris indicates the 2.6” is better suited for a far wider range of snow conditions and that the 3.0” is a very condition-specific application, something like 20% of the time, for those who have the ability to pick and choose the days they want to ride (with the deepest, freshest snow).
Polaris calls their RMK the Rocky Mountain King, and if the production sleds perform as good as we expect them to they should be able to rightly claim the throne. The days of building one chassis for both trail sleds and deep snow sleds have blurred into vastly different versions of similar construction, as commonality reduces production costs, but make no mistake, the new AXYS RMK is built very specifically for deep snow and sidehilling with features and capabilities that will make you a better rider. In the hands of an expert or a novice, you will go further, execute maneuvers easier, and look better doing it.
PRO-RMK models with the AXYS platform include the 800 PRO-RMK 155” ($13,199) and 800 PRO-RMK 163” ($13,599). If you want the 3” lug height track that will run you $600 more than the standard 2.6” lug track. There’s also the (125 HP) 600 PRO-RMK 155” that retails for $11,899.
From the November 2015 issue of SnowTech Magazine
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