The XCR was born in the ditch lines outside of Roseau, Minnesota with the sole purpose of winning cross-country race events. The “red rocket” is what the original XCR 440 was known as when the 1997 version was first released – with XCR standing for “Cross Country Racer”. The XCR name was later used by Polaris marketing as way to sell sleds, but those machines with their three cylinder engines were not what the original XCR’s represented – cross country terrain machines.
Now with the Polaris race sled specifically designed for SnoCross racing, Polaris wanted to build a cross-country race sled based on a consumer platform. Its purpose was to return Polaris back to its glory days in true cross country racing with the I-500 and the Alaska Iron Dog race garnering more attention in the past five years.
Enter the 2017 RUSH XCR, the first race-ready AXYS-derived model. SnowTech Canada racked up 1,500 miles last winter on an 800 RUSH XCR and punished this machine through every imaginable riding condition, snow or no snow. When it was all over this sled lived up to its heritage and reputation. Nothing broke, bent or wore out except the carbides. Even the original drive belt looked as good as new. Bullet proof? You bet it was! Fun to ride? Absolutely.
This is a consumer race sled and it is meant to be driven hard. We have seen the RR Cat and X-RS Ski-Doo come with full race setup in the past only to be de-tuned for unhappy consumers who complained about the firm suspensions. The XCR is cut from the same cloth, so if you put your money down, make sure you are honest with yourself. If you’re a Gabe Bunke wanabe and ready to run the I-500 then sign up for one. This sled is meant to be ridden hard and not meant for leisurely cruises on a Sunday afternoon on a washed out trail. The suspension will punish you and you will be cursing to yourself under your helmet. But, treat the sled rough and abuse the crap out of it and it will respond to you every move and make you look better than you really are.
The XCR is available in both the 800 H.O. and 600 engines. The sled is decked out in Polaris red just like it was back in the 90’s. The red color makes a statement wherever you ride and you better be able to back it up on the trail.
Stutter bump performance
Brake is easy to modulate
800 H.O. motor
Easy remove body panels
Cool handlebar heaters
Difficult to adjust rear coil spring
Boot interference with chain case (most annoying)
One trip to dealer for re-flash for faulty exhaust valve servo
Inside Ski Lift
The best Champ 440 race sleds that sit 2 inches off the ice will still generate inside ski lift under power exiting a corner. The AXYS XCR with a center of gravity 12 “ inches off the snow controls inside ski lift with just a slight lift. The AXYS does position you farther forward, thus putting more of your weight on the skis. The longer front torque arm of the PRO-XC suspension also transfers more weight to the skis when the sled is accelerating out of a corner. The less rigid sway bar (.438”diameter vs .531” on PRO-S) combined with 100lb/in spring rate vs 80 lb/in made this sled corner like it was on rails. In those off-camber washed out corners the smaller diameter sway bar allowed the front end to act more independent of each other to keep both skis in contact with the trail. The setup for cross country racing from the Polaris factory race team is to run without a sway bar and use 120lb/in coil springs.
The Pro Steer skis that have been around now for a couple of seasons features a reshaped keel and shortened skag for reduced steering effort. Redesigned ribs atop the ski increase torsional stiffness for more precise steering. The front of the keel is known to wear out quickly so by installing a shim kit in the ski saddle you can tip the front of the skis up slightly. This takes out most all of the darting and reduces ski wear considerably. I never studded the track due to the low snow in my area all winter and found the 4” of carbide from the factory to be just right to prevent oversteer.
The XCR version corners as flat as any sled on the snow today. I can now get on the throttle sooner coming out of a corner without having to worry about drifting wide to hold the line or have the inside ski lift unexpectedly. This sled rails!
As soon as I received the sled I headed to my local rail line where traffic is heavy and the stutter bumps keep coming at you like waves on a lake. I weigh 200 pounds with all of my gear on . The rear Walker Evans comes out of the box with a 130lb/in coil spring which is the same as the PRO-S. Compression damping from the factory was set at position 4 (High Speed) from full soft and position 7(low speed) right in the middle of the low speed damping setting. The results? It was good but still harsh. Further dialing of the damping settings down to position 4 (low speed) and leaving the high speed at 4 resulted in the rear suspension sucking up the stutters by the big Walker Evans out back. All winter at setting four on the rear arm the XCR would settle in and eat up stutters and spit them out. No BS! The rear arm travel to shock motion is more compliant in high frequency stutters than the Pro-Ride, no question. It’s a difference you can feel immediately. Is it perfect? The short answer is No! I still believe that this suspension can still be made to work even better. With the Switchback XCR version available in 2018 my guess is the ride will be even better.
With a coil over shock on the rear arm, the spring and shock have the same motion ratio as they move in unison. In contrast, the rMotion by Ski-doo allows the torsion springs and rear shock to move independent of each other, giving the Ski-Doo an edge in stutter bump ride quality and performance.
Big Bump Performance
The question is always asked. If the AXYS platform was so good why don’t the pro cross country teams race them? Well, in 2017 the pro cross country teams switched to the AXYS chassis from the Sno-X chassis. The reason? The PRO-XC rear suspension with improved big bump performance and minimal inside ski lift, as well as greater top speed.
You can run the XCR with abandon over big drifts, moguls and road approaches and if you can hang on, the sled will be there right with you. This winter I ran everything you can imagine and more than I should of. The sled came out unscathed but my heart rate soared. This sled is better than 95% of all the riders that out there.
Sitting on the sled you’re closer to the fulcrum of the sled. Remember riding your Indy or Edge and sitting right up on the gas tank to go through the bumps faster? The AXYS chassis naturally positions you right in the sweet spot where the sled pitches less and flies flatter off most any size bump. The sled moves under you without throwing you all around. The lighter weight is not only noticeable under acceleration but as it reacts beneath you through the bumps. This is the best production bump sled Polaris has built to date, hands down. The big 2” Walker Evans mounted beneath the longer front torque arm is a sucker for punishment and just keeps taking it with no blown seals. Polaris has put a 150lb/in coil spring and I did not touch the high speed setting of 4 and the low speed setting of 7 all winter.
I ride fast and am not shy to hit road approaches under speed and stand up and hammer down as fast as I can stay focused. Let’s just say if you can ride faster and harder than me then the shock package has a lot more adjustability for you.
Straight Line and Stopping
Now in its third season, the 800 H.O. always brought an ear to ear smile when I nailed the throttle. The 1.35” Cobra transferred the 150+ ponies to terra firma right now! The big twin shakes rattles and rolls when idling but once the RPM’s climb the vibration is cancelled out and the engine just pulls. Mid range is phenomenal and equal to any 800 class sled on the market. Polaris clutching is seamless. The 2.52” track pitch and 9-tooth track driver ensures no track skipping and puts more lugs on the snow. Yes the track weight is up compared to a 2.86” pitch track but the XCR is a zero – 100mph sled. You have such a huge lead going over the bumps and through the twists and turns at speed that the turbo four strokes need their 180 ponies to catch you on the far side of the lake. On the upside, oil consumption was minimal and fuel mileage (while not class leading) was respectable for this much fun.
Going fast means having to stop fast and the XCR comes with a larger diameter brake rotor with external cooling duct and high temp P81 brake pads to reduce brake fade. Brake modulation with two fingers was all it took to keep the sled under control when needed. The annoying part of the harder brake pads is the brake squeal. It does announce your coming when you hit the binders. I also found the parking brake lock to be a bit of a struggle to activate at time.
Yes, storage has always been an issue with the RUSH models, and this continues with the AXYS RUSH. Polaris designers are getting more creative and the under seat bag and available windshield bag both worked great and looked good. In all versions the AXYS platform better addresses the storage issue with new bodywork and redesigned chassis. The hood borrows the REV XS idea of an integrated storage compartment between the handlebars and windshield for your wallet and cell phone. The area is heated by hot air rising from the engine and the central location is less prone to sled pitching which means your valuables don’t get tossed around as much. The new rear seat storage bag is integrated with the seat and is perfect for holding a water bottle and ball cap. Tools to remove the clutch, change plugs and store a spare belt are all located under the hood. The AXYS now takes storage more seriously.
Although the 800 RUSH XCR may look similar to a PRO- S or PRO-X the differences are plenty. Standard equipment to improve durability and handling are the following upgrades:
Chromoly rear pivot and front torque arm
Reinforced rail beams
Reinforced front track shock mount
Solid track wheels and IQR axle wheels
Improved brakes with race rotor with improved surface area
Brake scoop to direct air onto the brake disc
High temp brake pads to reduce fading
Walker Evans Hi/Lo compression adjustable shocks with valving setup for endurance racing (between the Pro-S and Pro-X)
IQR Handle bar and 3.5” riser (right off the IQR Sno-X race sled)
120” x 1.35” Cobra track with 2.52” pitch and 9 tooth track drivers
The Polaris RUSH XCR is a serious race-ready snowmobile designed for serious riders, featuring premium components and aggressive suspension calibration compared to its lesser Pro-S and Pro-X brothers. It begs to be ridden fast and hard, and rewards you for it. A sled of this caliber is not for the meek or timid, nor is it for those wanting to sit down and putt-putt slowly down a choppy trail. Rather, this is an expert-grade snowmobile designed for experienced riders using it in demanding conditions. In that environment it excels, and will not disappoint.
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