Looking at the 2016 Ski-Doo models you will notice a brand new entry in the MX Z family, or maybe the return of an old favorite – the MX Z Blizzard. For 2016 the MX Z Blizzard is the top-level in-season MX Z model. If you want the very best feature-packed sleds Ski-Doo has to offer, the only way to get one is to order it in the Spring. This would be the MX Z X-RS and MX Z X-package sleds. For the rest of us, the MX Z Blizzard is as close as we can get to the Spring-only X-package.
The 2016 MX Z Blizzard is similarly equipped as the MXZ TNT package, but adds traction and adjustability. Out back is the new rMotion 129” rear suspension from the MXZx race sled, which not only improves acceleration and braking, but helps bridge bumps for a smoother, more controlled ride. Wrapped around the rMotion 129” is a standard Ice Ripper XT track, which has carbide studs embedded in its 1.25” lugs for additional control in icy conditions. Up front is the new Pilot TS adjustable ski. Turning a knob on the spindle raises and lowers the carbide runner, so a rider can choose just the combination of cornering bite and steering effort as conditions or their riding style changes. Four Rotax engines are offered, the 800R E-TEC, 1200 4-TEC, 600 H.O. E-TEC and 900 ACE, and it comes in a Black/Ski-Doo Yellow coloration inspired by those 1970s legends. This is the top in-season MX Z package.
But wait – it wasn’t too many years ago that Ski-Doo offered both MX Z Adrenaline and MX Z TNT models as in-season MX Z sleds, but combined them into one model. So for 2016, they come back with two in-season models, which really does make perfect sense. Buyers and dealers both wanted an in-season model that was closer to the spring-only X-package. The Blazzard is that model, closer to an X-package while leaving the TNT as the lower-cost less featured mainstream machine, and then we also have the MX Z Sport models as the value sleds in this segment. Gas cell shocks for the Sport, non-adjustable high pressure KYBs for the TNT and Blizzard, with adjustable & rebuildable KYB shocks for the MX Z X and even higher-end versions for the X-RS models. Instead of using the engines to drive you to a higher end model, it is the shock package that is the key driver.
That being the case, let’s focus on the shock package of the MX Z Blizzard. We find HPG Plus shocks at all four locations. These are high quality KYB lightweight rebuildable high pressure gas shocks. These are non-adjustable shocks, but do offer an incredibly wide range of performance with outstanding ride quality and bump absorption capability. Perhaps more importantly is the suspension packages they are mounted in, with the new 129” rMotion in the rear and the RAS 2 suspension up front.
One of the features on the MX Z Blizzard that has previously only been offered on a Spring-only package is Ski-Doo’s multi-function analog/digital gauge from the X-packages. This is the analog speedometer and analog tachometer complemented by the customizable three-zone LCD screen. Lesser models still come with the gauge that has the smaller LCD display down at the bottom, showing trip and odometer functions.
The other feature that is only available in-season on the MX Z Blizzard is the new Pilot TS ski package. This radical new concept enables the rider to dial in the amount of ski bite for conditions and riding style in seconds. A knob adjacent to the ski leg raises and lowers the carbide runner. There are 20 clicks of adjustment over a .5 in./12.5 mm range.
Maybe you are thinking what we did when we first saw this. Another knob, it’s just a gimmick. We really thought this was the case when we first saw it. Then we rode it. For over 1,200 miles last winter. It is no gimmick. It is a wonder we have never had something like this before. Instead of a round or square carbide runner bolted to the bottom of the ski, this is more of a skinny blade runner that slides up and down in an open slot in the ski bottom. The knob up top that you crank on lifts or lowers this blade, so it sticks out further (aggressive cornering) or pulls it back up (easy steering). You can pretty much dial in the exact amount of steering bite and effort you like. Depends on the snow, depends on the temperature, depends on how hard the groomer packed the trail last night, you decide how razor-sharp you want your handling to be. No kidding, if the sled turns kind of hard you crank the knob a few clicks and it turns easier. If you are pushing through the corner a tad more than you’d like, give the knob a crank and your cornering is more precise. The difference this adjustability affords is amazing!
Yet another feature that is a sweet match to the Pilot TS skis is the standard-issue 129 in. Ice Ripper XT track. This is the tried and true RipSaw I pattern, with carbide studs embedded in track lugs for added grip in icy conditions. Lug height is the standard 1.25” for excellent performance in a wide range of conditions. With the ability to dial in the cornering bite of the front end, having a pre-studded Ripsaw track is a perfect match, making this an incredibly capable trail sled right out of the box.
One of the reasons people buy a Ski-Doo instead of another brand is because of the accessories. Seriously. From plug and play electronics to the unmatched LinQ cargo attachment system, Ski-Doos’s accessories are a major driver in snowmobiler’s purchase decisions. The sleds are prepared from the factory for easy installation of accessories, including the pre-drilled holes for the LinQ cargo system & skid plates to the side panel vents, auxiliary LED light, GPS receiver, 1+1 seating system, alternative windshields and more.
The cargo capability is high on our list. The lever-lock system of the LinQ cargo bags and gas cans is so good that we mount adapter plates on sleds of other brands so we can use our Ski-Doo cargo bags and gas cans. No straps, no hooks, no little pins dropping lost in the snow, just a single lever that locks the gear in place, quick and easy.
Or how about the windshields. Not only the number of accessory windshields to choose from, but the ability to change them in seconds. No screws or push-pins to dick with. You pull the windshield off and push a new one on. If you roll the sled, the windshield often times comes right off instead of being destroyed, yet another advantage.
Or, how about the seat. If you don’t like the seat, you pull it off in what two seconds and can mount a different one in about the same time – two seconds. OK, maybe three. Try doing that on another sled, ha. Seat height is a very personal thing for each rider, but on sleds of other brands you are really handcuffed into the seat height the sled comes with. Not a Ski-Doo, you can pop a seat off and on so quickly that it makes the others look like antiques.
No review of the MX Z Blizzard would be complete with a discussion of the world-class engine choices. SnowTech test riders have logged thousands upon thousands of miles on each of these engine packages, with the exception of the brand new 1200 4-TEC with intelligent throttle control.
The Rotax 800R E-TEC engine features the industry’s most advanced 2-stroke technology with direct fuel injection, not semi-direct, not throttle body, not dual stage through a slotted piston. It is direct injection, the cleanest and most advanced 2-stroke fuel delivery on the planet. It pumps out more than 160 horsepower while delivering up to 19 mpg fuel economy. It offers excellent oil consumption (for this power level) with a light easy throttle pull, linear power delivery and virtually no smoke or smell. And the icing on the cake is the electronic fogging mode – preparing the engine for the off-season is easy with the built-in automatic summerization function.
Maybe you only need 125 HP, but still like the lightweight of the 2-stroke? The Rotax 600 H.O. E-TEC engine continues to be the 600 cc-class benchmark for fuel economy, oil economy, smoothness and ease-of-use. It gets up to 21 mpg trail fuel economy. Virtually no two-stroke smoke and smell and easy starting. Preparing for the off-season is easy with built-in automatic summerization function, just like the 800R.
New for 2016 is the updated 1200 4-TEC engine with iTC (intelligent throttle control). Instead of a steel cable attached to the throttle lever and a butterfly valve in the carb body, the throttle now cranks on a rheostat (variable resistor) that electrically tells the sled’s microprocessor not only how far open you have the throttle, but how quickly that opening is changing, so it monitors both time and position. The sled’s computer then opens the carb throttle with a stepper motor, for quick and precise control of the engine’s airflow and power delivery.
This is an inline three-cylinder high performance four-stroke with EFI that delivers 130+ hp and broad torque throughout the powerband. Adding the drive-by-wire intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) quickens the engine’s response, especially when blipping the throttle. Like the previous 600 & 900 iTC models, it includes three driving modes (Sport, Standard, ECO), a Learning Key and rotating finger throttle. Fuel economy is improved, now up to 19 mpg in ECO mode – five percent better than the previous configuration. Owners of previous 1200s will also notice a throaty performance sound from the new lighter weight muffler, required to fit the 1200 into the REV-XS body (replacing the wider REV-XR plastic).
And then there is the 900 ACE engine. For a large number of snowmobilers, this is the PERFECT engine for a trail snowmobile. No, it is not the fastest, no it is not the lightest, but if you want to ride your sled for thousands and thousands of miles without worrying about where your next tank of premium fuel is going to be found, without worrying if the pistons are going to hold on for another year of riding, then you had better ride a 900 ACE and discover what we already know. No other snowmobile in the industry offers what the MX Z Blizzard 900 ACE brings to the party, which could be the best trail sled in the world right now today.
The 900 ACE is an inline triple four-stroke with EFI uses Rotax Advanced Combustion Efficiency Technology to deliver 90 hp with excellent fuel economy (up to 21.8 mpg) and ultra low maintenance. It also includes drive-by-wire intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) with three driving modes (Sport, Standard, ECO), Learning Key and finger throttle. The key here is that the 900 ACE brings us 4-stroke durability with an even lighter package, so riding the MX Z Blizzard with the 900 ACE is as close as a 4-stroke has ever felt to riding a 2-stroke. For some of us this is a very important attribute – we want the durability of the 4-stroke but do NOT want all of the extra weight, and the handling issues that brings with it. Remember, this is a snowmobile, floating over snow, not a street bike rolling on hard pavement, so lightweight agility remains a critical factor for many of us. The 900 ACE is as close as we can get to that holy grail right now. Add to that the ability to run plain old 87-octane fuel with ethanol, and how it will run with little more than oil changes for thousands and thousands of miles, and we have a winner. Oh, let’s not forget the rMotion rear suspension, RAS 2 front suspension, the Pilot TS adjustable skis, the Ice Ripper XT track, or the LinQ cargo system. If riding groomed trails is what you do, rough ones, smooth ones, we dare you to find a better machine.
How much is all of this goodness going to cost you? The 2016 Ski-Doo MX Z Blizzard 800R E-TEC (160 HP) retails for $13,149. The 1200 4-TEC iTC (130 HP) sells for $12,699, with the 600 H.O. E-TEC (125 HP) priced at $11,849. The 900 ACE (90 HP) goes for $11,499. The 2-strokes are lighter, faster and more responsive, the 4-strokes are heavier and more durable. All are quiet and easy on fuel.
From the November 2015 issue of SnowTech Magazine.
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