The big news from Polaris for 2017 is found in the new AXYS-platform Switchback Assault 144 models now on the AXYS platform. Here we continue to find the magical combination of 144” track length and tipped-up rails for a sled that can do it all. You can rail around the corners on packed trails, defying the track length with the tail end of the track lifted up slightly off the hardpack, making it act far shorter than it actually is. You can pull off trail and have all of the length of the 144” track giving you excellent flotation and snowability. We have long told you about how we continue to find the 141-144” track length to be the ideal length for a true 50/50 crossover, and with the tipped up rails we now believe this could be the very best crossover sled ever offered for the widest range of conditions.
We’ve been riding several different Switchback Assault sleds over the past week and can confirm these sleds are the real deal. Both the 600 & 800 engine packages are dialed to the teeth, perfectly matched to the 144” AXYS platform. We hammered them long and hard for several days and have zero reservations as to their performance and capability for those seeking a sled that will give them the best of both worlds – on-trail ride and handling with off-trail flotation and capability. With the tipped-up rails it handles every bit as good as a 137” sled, but with the longer track length it truly outperforms any 137” sled, regardless of lug height. Length trumps lug height when it comes to off-trail fresh snow capability, and this is where the Assault really shines.
We also find new Pro Taper handlebars with regular 45-degree ends, not the wicked hooks from before, and a normal fuel gauge as well in an all-new “Message Center” gauge pack that is quite impressive in its own right. We also find traditional warmer controls and switches back up on the left side of the handlebars, doing away with the Spartan switches down on the console. New Powdertrac Hybrid Running Boards have been designed specifically for crossover riders, as the design allows for maximum snow clean-out & strength with 56% open space. Up front it is wider & flatter for comfort when sitting & better positioning when standing while the rear of the running boards have a tapered, dual-angle design for improved mobility & snow clearance.
If there was a weak spot on the previous Switchback Assault models it would have been in the rear suspension’s on-trail performance. With the 2017 AXYS version we now find a new IGX 144” skidframe that shares front arm geometry (with the longer front arm and 43% more travel for reduced bottoming) from the 137” Switchback models for excellent ride quality, mated to a new rear arm for ideal crossover geometry. The rear shock actually mounts to the front arm and now delivers progressive rate geometry, not as progressive as the 137” Switchback but far more progressive than what the earlier Switchback Assaults have had. While this is technically an un-coupled suspension, the way the front mount of rear shock is located on the lower portion of the front arm provides some degree of dynamic coupling. The result is an excellent balance of off-trail lift and capability while being able to attack rough trails and provide surprising cornering capability as well.
Where the previous Assault was a great sled off-trail but was lacking some on-trail, this new version is now just as good on-trail as it is off-trail. All in all, the Switchback Assault is a more refined machine that could easily be the single best snowmobile Polaris has ever built. Seriously, we like it that much, it is that good. Actually, calling it a 50/50 doesn’t do it justice as it performs so well both on and off that we maybe we should call it the 100/100 crossover sled. This is as close to a no-compromise sled as there has ever been, Polaris flat out nailed it with this one. If you’re looking for the premier 50/50 crossover sled, here it is.